April 3, 2017
Company leaders share the tools that streamline their workday and improve their business.
It’s easy for leaders to say they’re serious about using technology to remake their businesses. Yet all too often, they focus only on strategy and keep their distance from the tools and apps that can keep them current and spark new ideas for commercial use. In our most recent CEO Survey, the majority believe they have strong digital skills but fewer actively experiment with technology in their personal lives.
Being hands-on doesn’t just give you insight into how to apply technology to your business, it also puts you in the shoes of customers and employees, forcing you to think about the user experience.
So, beyond the artificial intelligence (AI) tool in your smartphone, what other technologies can bring business insight—and help you streamline your workday to boot? Some of the CEOs we work with use these tools on a daily basis:
1. Track tasks with Asana
To-do lists on sticky notes don’t cut it in the corner office. Although some people say it is overly simplistic, Asana is a task management system that lets you set priorities, assign projects to others, and otherwise simplify the complexities of the C-suite. Says the CEO of a creative services company, “It’s helped us stay on track with multiple simultaneous projects, and it allows me to seamlessly manage remote teams.” Adds a health solutions CEO, “It helps me keep both my professional and personal life in order.”
2. Get the team together with Slack
Slack has emerged as a collaboration tool of choice for many digitally savvy CEOs. Says the CEO of a VPN service provider, “This app allows me to easily communicate with my team, share files, reduce the number of emails, and set up daily reminders—all immensely helpful in managing a fast-growing startup. One of my favorite aspects of Slack is the ability to easily integrate other apps I use for work and to view everything in one dashboard.” Similarly, as one communications CEO says, “The integrations make it one of the most powerful collaboration solutions available: beautiful UI, easy to pick up, and hugely informative. It’s a central support to the way we communicate in our teams.” Power users caution, however, that it’s important to take a break from Slack to reenter the real world from time to time.
3. Visualize ideas with MindMeister
Although this software category has a relatively steep learning curve, mind-mapping tools like MindMeister can help make ideas more concrete. Says the CEO of a company that provides search engine optimization (SEO) services, “When I explain our services to potential clients, it can be difficult to get them to visualize everything that must be done to rank their sites. With mind mapping, I can actually show them everything we do. Plus, when I work with freelance talent, I can show them a mind map that details exactly how I expect them to approach their work.”
4. Keep on task with StayFocusd
Even CEOs find the lure of social media, online games, and other web distractions too tantalizing to ignore. As a workaround, the CEO of an app company says she uses the Google Chrome plug-in StayFocusd to keep her, well, focused. “When working from home, social media can be a major distraction. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can’t be accessed for the remainder of the day.” Got a social media emergency? The only real override is to use a different computer.
5. Streamline scheduling with AI
Artificial intelligence is ramping up, and many CEOs are adopting AI tools as virtual assistants. One example is Amy, an AI scheduler. As the CEO of an online crowdsourcing company says, “We run an efficient ship and can’t always hire new team members. But my time is still at a premium. Amy gives me the benefits of a personal assistant without having to add headcount.” Similarly, the CEO of an education services company says he uses artificially intelligent Amazon Echo all the time, “for getting the news, getting quick queries answered, managing my calendar, controlling lights, and more.” Remember, of course, that AI tools remain far from perfect and require significant oversight to avoid embarrassing issues.
6. Simplify purchasing with Wocket
Company credit cards are easy to issue but difficult to juggle in a wallet full of plastic. The CEO of an internet company uses a new smart wallet called the Wocket. The device has a touch screen on one side that can be used to select the card desired on a transaction-by-transaction basis. Inside is a single piece of plastic that “becomes” the selected card each time it’s removed from the wallet. “It makes using a company credit card easy, and one card can be shared with all of the employees,” he says. “Company purchases are very easy to track and to keep organized. This really became a time and money saver once we started using it.” Tools like these may not be ready for the enterprise, but smaller organizations can likely experiment more freely.
7. Keep fit with Strava
Lastly, leaders know they’re only as good as their health allows. The CEO of an electric bike manufacturer ensures he’s staying fit by using Strava, a social network for athletes. “It’s a fitness tracker but also has a lot of great sharing tools, so other people [like my employees] can keep me accountable.” If you don’t mind everyone in the office knowing your waistline measurement, that is.