Apps: The final frontier. These are the voyages of small business owners everywhere. It’s an ongoing mission to explore strange new applications, to seek out new and better ways to get things done. To boldly go where other small business owners are afraid to travel: The future!
How Many Apps Do You Need?
There are two kinds of people in this world.
- People like me who love to research apps just to see what is out there.
- People who just need a solution for something.
Most people fall into the second category, so I am going to focus on that.
Do we want one app that does everything? At this point, I think we’ve seen why we don’t. We will generally wind up with an app that does many things but doesn’t do any of them really well.
We want apps that focus on a core function. An app that does one thing and does it really well. It’s just like how we run our businesses. There may be many things we can do really well, but to achieve greatness, we need to focus on the one thing that we do better than anything else we do. The same is true for apps.
Let’s take CORE, for example. Its native apps for Android and iPhone focus on, essentially, four core areas that are very much intertwined: time tracking, project management, billing, and accounting.
Shafat Qazi talks about the importance of keeping it simple, with as few apps as possible. You don’t want to have to use two apps for something that should be combined into one. There’s a balance that needs to be achieved here. It’s time to build your ecosystem. In order to do this, you have to define what you need. In order to define what you need, we need to break your business down into the major areas where applications / solutions are needed.
Resources for Choosing New Apps
Here’s a mind map I created that will help you to see the general categories of apps, and then the many apps within each that you can choose from:
View it on the web: Applications That Help Run A Business
- Accounting Applications
- Document Management
- Productivity (General)
- Project Management
- Social Media
These are the major areas as I’ve defined them for my own business. You will want to look at each area and see which ones you may need a solution for.
How to Research Apps
The first thing to do is list each of these areas and take an inventory of what you are currently using.
Hint: a GREAT app for this purpose specifically is Workflowy.
Then the research begins. You’ve identified what areas you are covered for with apps. Now you can see where you do and don't need an app.
In each area where you have identified that you need one, you can start your research. Where, you ask? A good old fashioned Google search can go a long way. You can also join my Facebook group, which talks about apps and strategies for small business. It’s called, “Between Wall and Main.” Use the search, for example, for “project management” and you’ll get a ton of conversations about a ton of apps that many of us use.
At the end of the day, you have to start taking from free trials. That’s the only way you’re going to know for sure, whether or not an app will work for you. I have been known to run multiple apps simultaneously, so that I can test out live use cases. This is how I ultimately choose ActiveCollab over Asana.
When Do I Switch Apps?
Along the way, and long after you’ve chosen your apps, you will hear about newer apps. You will wonder if you should try them. There is nothing wrong with that. If you really get sold on the idea of trying something, the best way to do that is to use it alongside your existing one. Use it on a few use cases and see how it works. See what you like better about that one versus your existing solution.
The “Organic” Method of Choosing Your Apps
As I was writing another article recently, it occurred to me that there may be a much more practical way of choosing apps. It will likely be a byproduct of whether or not the app addresses your needs well. Nonetheless, there is another way of thinking about this that may help making your decisions on apps much easier. Choose your apps based on which ones you simply enjoy using the most. That’s a novel concept, right? When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Whether you’re an app junkie who wants to try everything like me, or you’re looking for fast answers to your questions about which apps to use, you’re going to need to try something and form your own opinions about what works best for you. There is no one size fits all solution and there never will be. Spend your time and do your research. Hopefully the resources I’ve provided above will help you come to a decision more quickly and with less pain.