How to Evaluate a Productivity Tool for Your Business

A productivity tool can be a practical and useful resource for any entrepreneur.

But with so much variety to choose from, how do you choose the right productivity tool for your needs?

Selecting a tool at random can be fraught with potential pitfalls, while spending an inordinate amount of time analyzing facts and figures can be insane.

In many cases, the best course of action is a middle ground approach.

Here are five guidelines to follow when evaluating a productivity tool for your business.

Identify the problem you want to solve

Productivity tools are designed to solve problems. It is important to note that not all tools can solve all problems, and not all problems can be solved with all tools.

That is why it is crucial that you clearly articulate the problem you want to solve in your business. You will be more successful in finding a tool that meets your needs.

Clearly state your problem in a statement, such as “I don’t have a reliable way to create, organize, and store to-do lists.” Your solution will naturally be the opposite of your problem statement.

Once you have identified your problem and solution, you can brainstorm the features you would like to have within the tool. If you’re feeling really creative, you can divide your favorite features into must-have, nice-to-have, and extra lists.

The next step is to search for tools that solve your problem and have the desired functions.

Consider room for growth

A good tool will not only meet your current needs, but also your future needs. A tool shouldn’t be so restrictive that it has to be updated or replaced in a few months.

Look for a tool that positively enables growth and expansion in your line of work. Some common items to consider include data storage, reporting, information classification, device sharing, and number of users.

You should also assess whether or not the tool has planned feature updates, software patches, customer service, and technical support updates in the coming weeks and months.

Investigate integrations with existing tools

Check if a tool integrates well or works with existing tools, programs and applications in your business.

Find out if the integrations are internal, require a third-party app, or are under consideration for future updates and releases.

If you’re using a free or trial version of a tool, consider running your own integration tests. Hands-on experience is a great way to examine the functionality and limitations of features.

Sometimes what appears to be a simple task can be more complicated in action, and vice versa.

Discover the details of the user interface

No matter how flashy or well-designed a tool may be, you’ll be less likely to use it if the user interface is jarring, awkward, or confusing to you. A tool you don’t like will be a tool you won’t use!

Be careful to evaluate the user interface of your tool. Layout, screen readability, colors, font size and type are all good places to start. Check the ease of data entry using a keyboard, mouse and dictation. Look for the tool’s ability to sync data and back up to cloud and/or local storage.

Similarly, determine the tool’s ability to classify, update, search, retrieve, run reports, and archive information on desktop, tablet, and smartphone versions.

Accurately track potential tools

It’s a good idea to keep a written record of your productivity tool research. Doing so will allow you to objectively review your notes both now and in the future as your business grows.

Any tracking method will suffice. You can enter details in a spreadsheet or write notes by hand in a notebook. Keep track of potential tools as well as their unique features, facts, figures, and considerations.

If you’re using a free or trial version of a tool, consider each and every aspect of your interactions, from the tool features you love or hate, to the user interface and your customer service experience. client.

You can then use this information to help you finalize your decision when selecting a productivity tool.

Opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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