Increase the productivity of your online e-com store with these 3 essential tools
We all realise how important excellent organisation is in business, since keeping your business organised is one of the best ways to boost productivity. Therefore, having access to the right tools to help you with this is a real asset. Using them will allow you to build a good foundation for your e-commerce website. Fortunately, business management tools and tools to boost efficiency and productivity have come a long way in recent years, as has business planning and accounting software.
There are many such tools available for free. Upgraded versions of these tools can be relatively inexpensive and worth the investment because of the overall advantages for your business. Project management tools can make it easier to collaborate on products, open more effective communication channels and facilitate document sharing. These are just a few of the many functions project management tools can help improve. It is important to remember that it is more than possible to run a sizable business using only free versions of business and project management tools.
So, if you’ve ever wondered how to increase the productivity of your business, this is the article for you. First of all, we will talk about the advantages of using cloud services, document repositories and live documents to make sure your business is well organised. We will then go on to discuss how to use them and go into more detail about the software companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have to offer.
Next, we will talk about some of the best known project management tools out there and highlight some of the benefits of using them. In the final section, we will look at business planning and accounting software and discuss how it can increase the productivity of your business. By going through these three steps, we hope that you can give your business a great boost so that you can make the most of your e-commerce business.
Let’s dive in and find out more.
Cloud Services, Document Repositories and Live Documents
Even before your website goes live, it’s very likely that you will need to share and store documents. As we all know, email inboxes can quickly become packed with different threads relating to different documents or topics. This means inboxes become unwieldy and inefficient. It can also be tricky to remember the keywords needed to find the correct thread, document or attachment. This is where cloud services and document repositories come in. A document management system is designed to store, track, manage and control the flow of files and documents. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best know ones and detail their features and benefits.
Google Drive vs Microsoft OneDrive
It entirely depends on your individual business needs when deciding which of these would be most suitable. The table below presents a short comparison of Google Drive and One Drive, so you can see at a glance which might best fit your business.
$3.99 per month. This has a limit of 25 users per domain with a storage limit of 5GB per user.
$1.99 as one off payment. This can cost up to $50 a year for each user if you upgrade to the premium version.
This is integrated with Word Document, PowerPoint Presentation, One Note Notebook, Excel Workbook and Excel Survey, as well as Plain Text Documents.
This is integrated with all Googles applications, including Sheets, Docs, Documents, Forms and Slides.
Offers 5 GB of storage at no cost.
Offers 15 GB of storage at no cost, divided between Gmail, Drive and Photos.
Accessibility and Use
OneDrive will run on all operating systems save Linux. Users are able to access their files from anywhere, with all devices connected to a single server. Mobile users can get access through Android, Windows Phone or iOS.
Supports all desktop users on Windows and Mac, save only Linux. Mobile users can access it via the app.
Features and Services
Cloud storage, business collaboration, mobile application, cross-platform synchronisation and data loss protection. There is also compatibility with Mac and Windows and you can share documents using the Group Sharing feature.
You can share or store any files on a secure platform. You have the ability to save Gmail attachments, scan documents, use Google Photos and Google Search and can work offline. You also have the benefit of lots of integration with third-party apps. In addition, you get excellent storage and communication tools. For storage there’s Slides, Docs and Sheets, plus Sites for collaborative purposes. On the communication side you have Hangout, Google+, Gmail and Calendars.
There is not option to password protect links, but you can share folders and files from anywhere. You can also monitor and control what is shared using the ‘shared’ page. You can share via email or generate a link.
You cannot audit what you share with Google Drive, and nor can you password protect links. However, you can share documents in folders and as separate files.
By referring to the information given in this table you can get a good idea of some of the key advantages of using both OneDrive and Google Drive.
Let’s take a brief look at what Apple iCloud and Dropbox can offer as you work to set up your own e-commerce platform.
By using the iCloud you can sync all your data across devices so you have access to all your documents and contacts from anywhere. This makes doing business faster, easier and more efficient, ultimately increasing productivity. Using the iCloud also cuts down on this risk of losing documents and enables you to work easily from anywhere.
Dropbox offers particular benefits for small businesses. It provides you with a secure place to store significant files and lets you store larger files easily. It is also easy to share files with colleagues and contactors, provided they have an account. You even have the option to lock files with a password for added security. It gives you excellent access, both on desktop and mobile. You can also access files online if you’re on the go. All users are instantly updated when files are added or removed. You can easily retrieve deleted files using the undo button, sparing you any anxiety over mistakenly deleting files. By using Dropbox to manage your documents, you will undoubtedly be able to work and collaborate more effectively and productively.
Another thing you should consider when choosing a cloud service is the usefulness of live documents.
What are Live Documents?
Live documents are exactly like normal Word documents or Excel spreadsheets that you would open on your computer except with some added benefits. These include:
- Auto-saving – which ensures you never have to worry about losing all your work.
- Many people can access the same document live, edit it and make changes.
- Every version of a document is saved, so if you want to work on an earlier version of a particular one you can.
- You can easily pull documents up on any device whether you have it on your hard drive or not.
You can use live documents to coordinate with web designers and copywriters. They also let you work on a document and then pass it on to a colleague for further work. By making delegation easier, your whole workforce can work more efficiently. This has the effect of boosting your entire team’s productivity.
Project Management Tools
A pen, a notepad and some checklists can go a long way in business. However, there are some very handy tools you can use to help manage projects. Even if you just transpose your checklist onto one these tools and then use the basic interactive features, you will find it is a more effective way of keeping track of tasks, allocating resources, attaching files and delegating work if you have any other team members or contractors working on a project.
Let’s look at four of the most popular project management tools available today.
Trello uses a highly visual medium to offer you a platform in which to collaborate on all types of projects and tasks. It has drag and drop capabilities and a user-friendly intuitive interface. However, it may not be the one to go with if you’re working on more complex projects. It lacks time-tracking features, reporting functions and Gantt charts. You can add these features by paying a premium for plug-ins or apps, but this may not be the most cost-effective solution to project management.
Despite these limitations, this interactive cloud-based app is eye-catching and good for collaboration. You can create board for projects which consist of individual cards that give more detail on a project. They detail things like the team members involved and checklists. Some of the advantages of using Trello include the ability to upload files from Google Drive and Dropbox and the ability to follow metrics that are of most interest to users. Above all, this tool allows for easy collaboration.
Asana is a mobile and web application created to help teams organise, manage and track their work, allowing people to collaborate mote effectively and boost productivity. Users can create projects, assign work to team members, set deadlines and communicate with each other. It also includes reporting tools to track your progress. Teams have reported up to a 45% increase in productivity when they use this software. You can try out the premium account for 30 days for free, and gain access to extra features. However, the free account allows for up to 15 users who can create an unlimited number of projects.
Those running small businesses can do a lot using the free version, but as you expand it may be necessary to upgrade to the premium version. This software works best when you’re online, but when you are offline you can still view quite a lot of information and create new tasks, which can be very useful if you’re working on the move.
You can use Monday to produce boards and create pulses (rows), so that you can give your team more details on a project. You can assign tasks, with status pulses, pulses showing each task’s due date, and include time-tracking metrics. The interface is relatively easy to use, but the functionality does have limits. There is no PDF mark-up, for instance.
However, this project management tool is helpful for growing business as it allows for better prioritisation of tasks and improved communication with other parties thanks to the sharable boards. You can also improve your understanding of the flow of project management through the use of Gantt charts. It also means you can keep things in one place and easily share files thanks to Dropbox and Google Drive integration.
Basecamp is an online project management tool which is cloud-based. Its key features are its to-do lists, forum messaging, and milestone management. It also offers time-tracking and file sharing capabilities. It’s simple to create a project on Basecamp. Once a project is started, you can add your team members to a project and delegate administration roles. You can create to-do lists to divide tasks between your team members, send emails and hold discussions. You can devise a project management calendar to keep track of your project and schedule meetings and events. You can create documents using Basecamp too. You can utilise different project views, either by date, by progress or by whether tasks are open or closed.
Using this tool should help you significantly increase your team’s efficiency and productivity.
Business Planning, Cash flow and Accounting Software
Business planning, cash flow and accounting software is often overlooked. It is very useful, however. These tools can help you keep an eye on cash flow and costs. When starting out in business, it’s vital to understand the difference between cash flow and profit. For the avoidance of doubt, profit is whatever is left over once costs are deducted from a business’s revenue. Cash flow is the sum of money available within a business at a given point in time. It depends on the influx and outflow of money.
However, you should not stop planning your business when you can monitor profit, revenue and cash flow. It is typical for a lot of businesses to compile a business plan for an investor, or to get a bank loan, only for them to be put in a drawer and never seen again. A proper business plan is never truly finished though, as it should be constantly evolving and changing as your business grows.
This is why it’s a good idea to have a live business plan, using software like LivePlan, with the added bonus of integrated accounting software like Xero, which can be very handy for boosting your business’s productivity. LivePlan is way to create a live business plan, which was devised with small businesses and entrepreneurs in mind. The step-by-step plan makes it easy to create a professional plan, with budget and sales forecasts incorporated into it. You can provide investors, lenders and your own team with a simple one page overview of business model, making communication easier and increasing efficiency. By using LivePlan together with Xero, a cloud-based accounting software solution for small businesses, you can increase the productivity of your e-commerce website even further. Xero lets you manage invoices, purchasing, expenses, bookkeeping and much else from any commuter or mobile, making accounting processes quick, easy and simple.
We hope that by following the three simple steps outlined in this article, you will be able to plan and run your e-commerce store effectively, boost your productivity, work smart and get the most out of your business. Be sure to visit Simple Shop for more useful hints a tips for running an e-commerce website.
*Disclaimer- We do not receive any sales commission for mentioning or promoting any of the above-mentioned companies or products. These have been suggested based on first-hand experience, and as we strive to give our customers the best value possible, we are more than happy to share our best practices also.