Choosing Solutions

Tired of getting the ‘latest, greatest’ app, tool, etc., and finding it’s more frustrating than fruitful? Sheridan Stancliff, owner of SheridanInk, a premier marketing agency and project manager supreme helps us do our due diligence.

As we buy new gadgets, take on new clients, adopt new responsibilities and projects, it can sometimes be a daunting task to figure out exactly how to keep organized and be the most efficient in our jobs as we can be. Apple has ingrained it into our heads that “there’s an app for that” and in most cases, there is. What they don’t follow up with is finding the right app for that – whatever that may be.

Sure, I can decide I need a calendar application and Google “calendar apps” and download the first one I find, but is that one going to do what I need it to?

To save a great deal of time – and protect our fragile sanity – take the time to do a little prep work for your search.

Spend a few days making notes as you work, jotting down your wish list of features and capabilities that will make your world a better place.  One would think this would be the default way to approach it, but it’s often surprising how often we want to just get something done and forego the legwork.

Over the last few years as my business has grown, I have had to re-asses current solutions I use and how I can evolve from there. Will my current application allow me to expand over a network? Does it already have features I will need eventually, but perhaps not now? Will it sync with my mobile devices or perhaps be cloud based so I may access any of the information remotely if needed?

For instance, my initial invoicing app turned out to be way too basic for my expanding needs. It was a great app to start with, but stalled out as I found myself needing more and more capabilities, billing options and accounting requirements. As a small business without an accounting department (oh, how I wish I had one, though!) I had to do some research and talk to people about where I wanted to take my business and what I would need to have in place to make it all the more efficient and easy to get there.

Again, back to the lists. I jotted down basic needs then a few other wish list items. Once I had written out the requirements, the search was much easier.

I found a few solutions for my basic needs, and soon discovered that they were fairly similar in many aspects, so I began to prioritize functions and needs. With my list, I was able to quickly weed out a few options that didn’t meet the basics, then choose based on user interface and more in-depth functions – and how it would be able to expand with my business.

In another scenario, I was working on a collaborative project involving a group of seventeen main clients and additional one to be added later. I needed to figure out a way I could not only maintain a group calendar (utilizing google calendar) but one that would let me also maintain my own calendars, create to-do lists, reminders, scheduling and a few other odds and ends… and let me sync with my iPad, iPhone and desktop machine. iCal just wasn’t a powerful enough tool to handle all of that.

Rather than just downloading whatever calendar app I stumbled on, I was able to narrow down my options based on what each solution did or did not provide.

(For those that are curious, I chose BusyCal for Mac)

Before I had settled on my final solution, I made the mistake of just downloading a number of calendar apps without really making a plan. It ended up being a waste of time and a bit of money as they were just not the right fit. It also added to my frustration level when things just weren’t working as I wanted.

BusyCal allowed me to sync numerous Google calendars, set to-do lists and reminders, coordinate with my contacts for birthdays and other special days and also gives me a 5-10 day weather synopsis (bonus!) Since its interface was much like iCal, just amped up a bit, it was simple to migrate over without having to start from scratch as I would with other apps. The cost was reasonable and they give a 30 day trial. All in all, app success!

So in a nutshell:

  1. Evaluate current solution and make notes about what is and is not working for you.
  2. Make note of additional features and functions you need to make life easier
  3. Conduct your search and weed out options that don’t meet your basic criteria.
  4. If solutions are similar, download evaluation copies and give them a thorough run-through

It may seem simple – and it is – but in our impatience and time-crunched days, we sometimes forget that the little time spent prepping can save a whole bunch of time later.

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