Just a decade ago, business planning, project management, and reporting lived locally on office computers. Files were emailed or handed out on burned CDs, which seems ridiculous and archaic--even though it wasn't that long ago that technology began to evolve at such a rapid clip.
Many companies still use the decade-old method of saving local Word or Excel files with statuses, milestone dates, or vital communication. Why is this? In many cases, getting on board with the latest technology takes time: time to learn new software, time to migrate processes, time to get everyone on the same page. With due dates and limited resources, a transition like this may be in limbo indefinitely. Additionally, people are often in the dark about their options, they know no better and end up using a personal productivity tool like Excel for an enterprise need.
As someone who has been immersed in building a cloud-based PR Measurement solution for the past several years, I'm hyper-aware as to the importance of finding technology that leverages the "power of the cloud", but ultimately makes our jobs a little easier.
Fortunately, the latest cloud applications are easy to learn and simple to integrate, all while providing robust scalability. If you've considered bringing business processes to the cloud world, now's the time to do so -- and here are 7 leading applications that can ease your transition:
#1 - Basecamp
The cloud is the key to getting an entire project team on the same page. Basecamp's cloud-based project management tool delivers this. With both web access and app, Basecamp offers a variety of project management functions. Projects can be broken down by individual tasks, related discussions can stay on thread between involved team members, files can be shared, and dates can be tracked. Daily recaps and dates/milestones are all accessible by team members to keep everyone on the same page. From communication to tracking, Basecamp takes project management and modernizes it into today's online digital space.
Anaplan's "planning cloud" offers a scalable solution that makes it attractive for large enterprise planning needs. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers listed Anaplan as the platform for Enterprise Planning and Performance Optimization in her 2015 Internet Trends report. The software is built on a multi-functionary platform that caters to business areas such as sales, operations, HR and finance. HP, an early adopter of Anaplan, uses the startup's enterprise software for its sales and territory quota planning worldwide. "HP is committed to making the sales process as seamless and effective as possible for our partners and our internal sales force," said Sue Barsamian, Senior Vice President, Indirect Sales, Enterprise Group, HP. Barsamian is referring to HP's 25,000+ sales people and 1.4 million account entities. "In the past, we were breaking Excel. Now we use Anaplan to help us manage and optimize resource and sales quota deployment in real-time."
#3 - Asana
Productivity often comes to a standstill when one team member asks the other, "Did you see my email about that?" Asana re-envisions how people work together on a project by replacing team communication and statusing with project-specific platforms known as workspaces. Within workspaces, individual projects can be created to house tasks. Tasks contain updates, notes, messages, and other updates, which can then be streamed to a dashboard via the cloud or the recently released Android app.
#4 - Google Docs & Spreadsheets
Google's free suite of office software has two major advantages over the standard Microsoft applications. First, they're free, and second, they're cloud-based. The latter advantage is particularly useful in the age of smartphones, as the related apps mean that people can access and edit files anywhere. Other features include revision tracking and real-time chat/editing between multiple parties. Spreadsheets and word processing will always be a part of business, but Google's free tools make them an anywhere/anytime resource available to an entire team at once.
#5 - Hootsuite
A significant part of modern business strategy focuses on social media. Hootsuite is your Swiss Army Knife for this. By combining multiple networks and profiles into a single dashboard, planning and management can be consolidated into a single path, saving time and effort. In addition to simplifying the posting process, Hootsuite allows for a single-screen overview of multiple platform streams, as well as internal task notifications for team members. Finally, Hootsuite comes with both free and premium analytics capabilities to dive deeper into all of the data flowing through the dashboard. "Social channels are a key part of both our new client prospecting, as well as our ongoing engagement and support with our existing customers," said Sean Safahi, CEO of Bold. "Cloud-based tools, like Hootsuite, allow us to gain productivity and collaborate across the team, to ensure that we're delivering topical content in a timely fashion."
#6 - Salesforce
Salesforce has gained a reputation for being one of the most robust customer relationship management tools available, and for good reason. The cloud-based Salesforce CRM tool provides an in-depth view of customer data, all with a clean and intuitive user interface. Contact databases can be categorized, filtered, and amended with critical data that drills down into customizable reports for both reviewing and planning ahead. Salesforce also provides internal employee tools for communication, success tracking, and status updates, giving managers a complete perspective of the lead-and-sales equation. "As a Salesforce Cloud Alliance Partner, iTalent is focused on helping our clients maximize the value from their Salesforce investment," said Renee La Londe. "More importantly, iTalent is proud to partner with a company that is giving back philanthropically and focusing on hiring more women."
Dropbox solved a big problem for businesses -- big as in transfer options for large files. At its core, Dropbox provides secure cloud storage, so files too big to be emailed can be sent and retrieved via a notification rather than a clunky and unsecured mechanism like FTP. Beyond that, Dropbox offers advanced features such as upload via email, upload via app, and regular sync abilities to act as both a backup and a delivery device.
These seven tools all have one major thing in common -- they're all cloud-based. By utilizing cloud applications, all types of data -- whether it's business modeling with Anaplan or social media stats with Hootsuite -- your entire team winds up on the same page with real-time data. With all of the advancements in technology, it's this one very human factor that takes the biggest leap forward, and it's the biggest reason to start using the latest business planning tools available.