Are you and your team struggling to get the most out of your software? Do you feel like you’re paying way too much money for what you’re getting? Are you thinking about switching tools for the hundredth time?
If your software isn’t living up to expectations, swapping it for something new is a tempting solution.
But in many cases, the issue isn’t the app itself or its features. The issue is how you’re using the app.
In this post, we’re going to explain why, more often than not, you don’t need to switch software to get the results that you want. Instead, using automation to connect your tools together will create consistency, trust, and confidence among your team.
My Experience with finding the right task management tools
Any modern company uses lots of SaaS tools.
And no matter how many you’re using, it’s always tempting to add more to the stack, or to try and switch out your tools for better ones.
Before I launched XRay.Tech, I founded, ran and eventually sold a digital design agency called Checkmate. At Checkmate, we went through just about every single task management app there is.
We used Basecamp. We used Asana several different times. We tried Monday.com for a while. We used apps that I can’t even remember anymore.
In the end, none of them really made a difference.
Now, don’t get me wrong. My team at Checkmate was a group of talented, motivated people. They had no problem getting their work done. But the task management apps we kept cycling through had very little to do with that. And ultimately, the apps didn’t give us what we were really looking for.
Me and my leadership team weren’t just trying to get people to stay on task or stay busy.
We wanted to get a high-level view of every project. We needed to see how work was getting done so that we could capacity plan and quote upcoming projects.
We wanted to give clients realistic timelines, and we wanted to prevent our team from having to crunch to get things done.
We always struggled to find that balance, and switching tools really didn’t help.
Building a project management system to fit our strategic goals
Today, at XRay, we’re using a custom task management system in Notion, based on Thomas Frank’s ultimate task template.
And now, we’re able to get those exact insights that I was always looking for at Checkmate.
But the key difference here is not that we’ve switched to Notion instead of Asana or Basecamp. What really matters is how we create and manage tasks, and the systems we’ve built around task management.
It’s not the app that really matters; it’s how we’re using it as an organization, and how we make it fit into our workflows.
3 Questions to ask yourself before making a switch
Before you make a switch - before you ask your team to migrate all of their data and to start over from square one - consider these questions:
• What do you want to get from the app that you’re not getting now?
• What process do you and your team use the app for?
• And could you build any no-code systems to support consistent use of the app?
Exploring these questions will often prevent you from needing to make yet another switch that will cost your team’s time and resources.
You really don’t know how green the grass is on the other side of a tool transition. And if you do need to try a new app, getting the answers to these questions will help you to actually pick the right one for your goals.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these questions, and how they can guide you to the right decision.
What do you want to get from your app?
First, what do you want to get out of the software in question? Try to go beyond just the basic functionality of the app.
For instance, with our task manager, we obviously want our team members to be able to create tasks and track their progress. But the larger goal was to be able to gather data on how our team works.
How long does it take to complete a project? How much of our time and resources are we devoting to each of our clients and members? Are we able to meet our projected timelines for project completion?
These were the data points we were really looking for.
Ultimately, most task management apps offer the features to track projects and tasks, and to sort them by client, project, and status.
So the real issue is less with the tool that we were using, and more with the way we’re using it.
How does your team use the app now?
At XRay, we’ve made sure to create a standardized process for task creation and management. We’ve made a clear distinction between tasks and projects, and we’ve made an extremely simple way for anyone on our team to create a task.
Because ultimately, the biggest problem I encountered with task management apps at my old company wasn’t missing this feature or that one.
It’s that team members wouldn’t know if the work they were about to do constituted an entire new project, or if it was just a new task within a project.
It was often too much of a hassle to just make a task, so they wouldn’t always track the work they were doing. Which, in the end, undermined our big picture goal of tracking how our entire team works.
Making sure our team knows exactly how and when to create tasks at XRay has made our task management system much more successful.
Example: getting the right data from a CRM
For another example, with a CRM, you certainly want to be able to track the progress of every lead and deal that you interact with. But the real strategic purpose of having a CRM for your company is likely more about the metadata that the CRM can gather for you.
You want to know how many of your leads are closing, so you can see if your team is meeting your sales targets.
You want to see the source of each lead, so you know which channels are giving you the best referrals.
Virtually any CRM can do this, but the key is to ensure that your team is entering every lead correctly and promptly.
Otherwise, you’ll end up in the same situation my old company faced with task management: your app might be just fine, but it will be missing the data that you want it to collect.
This topic of data creation - whether that data refers to tasks or leads or something else - takes us neatly to the last question I want to address today.
Building no-code automations to support your app
What no-code systems can you build to support your team’s use of the app?
This can certainly be a trickier question, but it’s the sort of thing that we specialize in at XRay.
There are a few different ways our team can create tasks, but the primary method that we encourage actually starts in Slack.
All we have to do to create a new task is to write a message in a relevant channel.
Then, we just react with a custom emoji that corresponds to the team member we want to assign the task to. We even have a backlog emoji if the task isn’t ready to be assigned yet.
We’ve set up an automation in Make and Airtable that will then take that message and create a task with it in Notion.
It will automatically add it to the project that we’ve associated with the channel, and it will assign it to the correct person. It will also fill in other fields with our preconfigured defaults, like setting a due date 7 days after the current date.
We like this system because it’s quick and easy to use, and it keeps everything visible for our whole team.
The automation also ensures that all of the vital information is present for every single task that we create. It dramatically reduces the number of uncategorized or miscategorized tasks that would make our data meaningless.
Creating consistent, reliable processes with workflow automation
Workflow automation tools like Zapier, Make, and Airtable aren’t just about saving time. They also help you to create standardized, reliable processes like our Slack task maker.
They ensure that your team creates complete and useful data, and they let you use your apps the way you want to.
To revisit our CRM example, you might want to create a simple Airtable form that your team can use to enter leads. This way, you can ensure that every lead is created with all of the required information, and none of the essential fields are skipped.
To make things simpler, you can also exclude any fields or attributes that you aren’t interested in tracking.
Simple automations for tasks like data entry can help to make sure that your team is using each app correctly, which in turn can help you to accomplish your big picture goals with the app.
Before making a switch, try rethinking the way you use your software
We all use a long list of software every day to do our jobs. As we start to get frustrated with the apps at our disposal, our first instinct is often to switch to something new.
But in many cases, you just need to rethink how you’re using your software. What do you want to accomplish with it? How is your team using it? Can workflow automation help them to use it more consistently and correctly?
More often than not, answering these questions will save you and your team from a costly software switch.