A recent tech memo in Associations Now titled “Work Smarter” by Layla Masri stated “No matter what size office you have or what role you play, efficiency is vital to effective teamwork.” The article then named a few essential tools for a busy office. We couldn’t agree more and decided to come up with a list of OUR top tools that we could not live without.

The 5 tools have the following things in common that are important to associations and business alike:

  • Contextual - Related conversations are grouped together so you can quickly come up to speed and information is always in one place.
  • Cut Down on Emails - Forget emailing back and forth. These tools allow multiple people to discuss and collaborate in one place so you can get your nose out of your inbox and get some real work done.
  • Tagging – Get the attention of the people you need, where you need them.
  • Helpful for Remote Staff - If you have remote employees or even in-office employees who occasionally need to work from home, these tools make communication and collaboration easy.

We’ll walk you through what we love and what we find challenging about the 5 Work Tools that every association should consider.

Google Apps

Our company uses Google Apps which includes Gmail, Docs/Slides, Sites, Drive (cloud storage for docs) and Hangouts. Described as “an all-in-one suite to communicate, store and create,” Google Apps allows our staff to collaborate and stay connected anywhere, anytime. Google Apps models each of the various “apps” around efficient ways to collaborate and communicate.

What We Love: Google Docs allow you to tag people in a comment and this automatically alerts them via email. Real-time changes and collaboration eliminate versions.
Challenges: Staying on top of organization can be challenging at times. Using proper naming conventions and removing or archiving old documents helps to keep the most frequently used documents at your fingertips.

Basecamp

Basecamp helps you wrangle people with different roles, responsibilities, and objectives toward a common goal: Finishing a project together.” We use basecamp sites to organize communal efforts around departments, initiatives and planning efforts. It helps to keep all of the information related to those items in ONE place. Making use of the daily email allows you to roll up the related posts in a simple digest, allowing you to stay in tune with each item.

What We Love: 37 Signals, the creators of Basecamp, have made this tool simple and intuitive. People can get up and running with little to no training–allowing you to get to work faster.
Challenges: With each post you have the option of selecting who receives an email message about your message, allowing you to target the discussion to a smaller group of people. However, the default is to update everyone on the discussion so you have to be mindful of this in order to avoid unnecessary email.

Jira

JIRA is a tool used to capture and organize issues, assign work, and follow team activity. It is great for managing tickets through a phased process. We use JIRA to track work, bugs and even interview candidates through predefined steps.

What We Love: The tool is very visual and allows you to see where work stands.
Challenges: It can be difficult for a non-technical user and many administrative functions like permissions need to be properly managed and set.

Hipchat

Hipchat rocks for contextual conversations. This messaging tool uses two concepts to organize messages. They have “Rooms” and 1-to-1 chats. Rooms can be created to house all conversations related to that topic. For example, you can have a general room like “Sales” for department specific rooms or have a room created for a specific event. You can tune in or out of conversations simply by entering or exiting the rooms you are interested in. People can also tag you and doing that will send that person an email notification.

What we love: All of the chat history is searchable. You can share files with people you are chatting with. The mobile app rocks too!
Challenges: Unless you exit out of rooms and manage your settings, the updates can be overwhelming at times.

Chatter

Chatter is Salesforce.com’s productivity and social app that connects people and ideas. It is like an internal Facebook for your company. By virtue of being on the Salesforce platform, Nimble AMS customers have access to Chatter. Chatter allows you to follow individual people, be part of a group and to see all related interactions in a news feed. At NimbleUser, we use Chatter for company announcements, to gather internal subject matter experts, gather feedback and for social reasons like organizing our Community Sourced Agriculture (CSA) for the upcoming season.

What we love: You have the ability to have a weekly or daily digest so if you are too busy to follow posts, you can receive an email and can scan for the posts that you are most interested in. Chatter cuts down on email. It also runs through Salesforce 1 on mobile devices and many of our staff use it to stay in touch when they are on the road.
Challenges: Updates can quickly become buried if there is alot of activity on a particular day. That means there is always the chance that a staff member could miss out on an announcement.

What tools can’t your association live without? Thirsty for one more? Check out our blog on Evernote, the ultimate note taking tool.

About Nimble AMS
Nimble AMS is an enterprise class association management system (AMS) built on the Salesforce Platform, the world’s leading and most innovative customer relationship management (CRM) system. Contact us to learn more.