How our Melbourne-based digital consultancy works from home using cool cloud-based tools
By Jo Stanlake - March 24, 2020
As COVID-19 continues to throw our regular routines and supermarket visits into disarray, there are so many ways your team can stay productive and motivated throughout periods of home isolation.
We know there is a stack of recent content on this topic but, as a digital consultancy, we wanted to share our experiences of working from home. Because the truth is, apart from the team coffee runs, not much has changed! In fact, there have been a few benefits. As a team we’re saving 75 hours a week in travel time (sometimes on super crowded trains) and one of our Directors has noticed via his smartwatch that his stress levels are down 15 points. Plus we can pet our cats at the same time as posting cat memes.
So how do we set up for this? At BlueRock Digital, we take advantage of many of the same tools and solutions that we implement for our clients. We’ve been using cloud-based systems for many years, and they have always provided increased efficiency, visibility and flexibility for our business. While this has made our transition to working from home a smooth process, we understand not all businesses are in the same boat.
Given our experience in cloud-based solutions, we wanted to offer some insights into the ways we work and the systems we use. And with a very uncertain future ahead of us, now may be the time to consider how you can best use these tools to help your business run smoothly, no matter where you are.
Let’s start with a software that’s probably familiar to most people: Microsoft’s Office 365. When we say Office, we don’t mean just Word and Excel. There are so many components to 365 that many users would not be taking full advantage of. Here are some programs we use on a daily basis.
While we use Outlook for our client email communications and locking time into each other's calendars, Microsoft Teams is where the real collaboration happens. We begin each day with a team video call, outlining the prior day’s wins, priorities for the day ahead and anything else that requires the team’s attention. And we laugh at our work-from-home outfits and hair.
Microsoft Teams is easy to use, allows us to share files quickly and message one another with comments, questions or bad memes throughout the day. Our newly founded ‘Meme of the day’ competition keeps up morale and allows us to get a buzz from ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’.
Microsoft’s cloud file management offering, OneDrive, allows us to keep tabs on each other's work and pick up where others have left off. By accessing Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more online, we’re never the ones panicking when someone trips on the power cord (unless they hurt themselves). OneDrive allows us to have version control, which means we’re always up-to-date and can go back and recover whatever is needed.
Microsoft Power BI
A tool that has been extremely valuable to our small business is Microsoft Power BI. As a collection of software services, apps and connectors, this business intelligence system allows us to bring together multiple data points in extremely useful and visual aggregated dashboards. We leverage Power BI for our cash flow forecasting, revenue/sales management and team/project performance, and use it as a talking point in many our team meetings.
WorkflowMax is a project management software, which seamlessly integrates a number of operations for our business. From quoting to invoicing and all the job management in between, we’re able to track and report on every aspect of our client work for better visibility on our people, profit and performance.
By establishing retainers in WorkflowMax we ensure that we meet the requirements of our clients. Each staff member is able to track and report on every minute of work, meaning we can review what took longer than expected, what was completed ahead of schedule and perhaps where staff need further training or support. Timesheets and budget tracking become a pretty quick and easy process, and data pipes through to our Microsoft PowerBI dashboard so we have a clear view of monthly revenue and costs.
WorkflowMax also integrates seamlessly with Xero (which we’ll touch on later), which lets us spend more time doing valuable work with our clients, rather than caught up in admin.
We’ve got dashboards to measure, track and forecast our sales, marketing and finances, but when it comes to our people, many businesses fail to set up a system that’s objective and data-driven. Yes, people are people, not sales figures. But that doesn't mean you can’t use technology to collect more accurate data and more powerful insights.
We use Everperform, an automated performance measurement technology, to keep our team all working towards the same goals.
For BlueRock Digital, using a tool like Everperform makes data collection easy. Each week, the team receives a targeted one-minute pulse survey to collect performance data and peer feedback (ongoing feedback throughout the year provides opportunities for continuous improvement).
This is coupled with a comprehensive EOFY appraisal that measures motivations, satisfaction and performance. When it comes to performance reviews, this information provides a starting point to kick-start conversations around performance that are both meaningful and actionable. We’ve found that measuring what matters to our team drives more engagement in our work and a happier team!
Work shouldn’t be chaotic, whether we’re in the office or working from home. Luckily, Asana keeps us on task. As far as we’re concerned, Asana is the ultimate digital kanban board and we use it across all our teams as well as with clients to give them visibility on project timelines and deliverables.
Asana encourages us to be collaborative, easily manage our daily workload and prioritise tasks. On the content side, we move tasks through production stages, from ideation and drafting through to review and publishing (this blog post will have gone through that exact process).
This also helps when team members are away ill - we can instantly see their scheduled work and reassign any tasks that are urgent. Asana empowers us to work together. And who doesn’t get a kick out of ticking off a list?!
Where would any of us be without Google? As marketers we leverage Google’s analytics and ads platforms every day, but we also use the G Suite to connect and create. As with Microsoft’s cloud-based software, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides help us collaborate in real time.
We often lean on this solution to sync up with clients who are already using G Suite. In this scenario we can be collaborating live with the client, making changes that are visible to both parties as they’re discussed. This saves us and our clients huge amounts of time…and time is money! And money has never been more important.
We’re HubSpot groupies at BlueRock Digital. Not only do we use it ourselves, but we also implement it for our clients for fantastic results across sales, customer service and marketing. If you want your business to grow, HubSpot is a great place to start.
And the best part is, the CRM at its core is completely free. Of course, while each part of HubSpot’s marketing software works great independently, it’s even more powerful together.
We help businesses get established with HubSpot and enable them to take full advantage of all the perks that come with the software. As it’s cloud based, any of our team can access it anywhere. We use HubSpot to maintain our client database and send out any marketing communications. When we need to act fast, HubSpot is there to make sure we have the tools to get the job done.
Last but certainly not least is our go-to accounting software, Xero. Xero has all the time-saving tools you need to grow your business. Xero lets us run our business on the go, reconcile in seconds and with no security compromises. Xero works in real time, so we can see live financial updates to understand our real-time cash position.
Our wider BlueRock team is full of accountants and bookkeepers, and we have dual access when needed so we can best take care of our clients. Xero ensures we’re extremely accurate and can track every expense in our business to a cent!
While there is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud-based systems architecture, many of these solutions will be perfect for your business and super easy to get started on.
If you’d like professional advice about the cloud-based systems that BlueRock Digital offers, BlueRock Digital is a Melbourne-based digital agency and consultancy that is keen to help you achieve your business goals. But you’ll have to jump on a Zoom video call with us! Please get in touch with our BlueRock Digital team.
BlueRock Digital is part of the entrepreneurial advisory firm, BlueRock, a community of professional services businesses working together to find new opportunities to help businesses grow.
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