I have been self-employed for 16 years as an independent trader, now a translator. Prior to this, I was an Access developer and business analyst, but I retained a passionate interest in business management tools.
I regularly overhaul my management architecture, to try and find the best configuration to manage my business and my information flows. I’m constantly on the lookout for useful, innovative, practical tools to manage my emails, my orders, plan my production, execute orders and get some useful statistics to manage my business.
Use software management tools to run a complex business across multiple dimensions – administration, marketing, strategy. Running a business is complex and requires many thinking hats. All the more so when you are self-employed and you have to ask yourself what services to develop, in what order and relying on what resources.
This task is greatly facilitated by organization and task management tools, especially when the tool is visual.
The decisions that business people make and where to put their energy are essential for the good health of their business and yet are often taken alone.
Decisions for what to do now generally fall into two categories: production and development. The challenge is to get the balance right. Use Decision Software Tools to help you make those important choices.
Choosing the priority work
There are obvious and immediate things to do, but the priority is generally production, fulfilling customer orders because it represents short-term cash-flow.
We may choose to work for the future, creating production capacity (see Effectiveness), but sometimes it’s not apparent when and how to switch between today work and development work.
Organisational decision-making is then about what activities to do today, whether current or for the future, when to change focus and how to balance effort across all the domains which crave attention.
Interest in Management Methods
There are the tools but also the theoretical side – the theory of management. I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject and I’m particularly interested in Getting Things Done (GTD), which is a method of management promoted by David Allen. It provides simple concepts such as Next Action to help focus the mind on what you can actually do next, rather than procrastinating about the workload.
I read with interest theories such as Eisenhower decision-making, a simple way to think about your priorities and tasks in terms of a simple grid of urgency against importance.
I looked carefully at How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen, a single book for the Harvard Business Review which set me on course to find Purpose, to think about objectives and how to measure whether diverging or converging with a path towards those objectives, and the ensuing internal discussion about whether I am setting myself SMART objectives (Single Measureable Achievable Realistic Time bounded).
I was interested in Kepner Tregoe, a handy guide to defining, monitoring and controlling projects, a subject of keen interest as I have been involved in quite a few development projects.
The Right Business Management Tools
Today my focus is on finding the right tools to manage my business – the right business management tools.
I also have over the last 10 years been keen to model the way I see my business operating and use it as a basis for improvement. The model, together with measurements, invites reflection on whether the objectives I set are achievable but also whether they are the ones I want.
So there is a constant reflection, analysis and reanalysis of the current system, situation, trajectory, desired outcomes and likely outcomes of the current trajectory.
But experience has taught me that to maintain, update or change that trajectory requires action inside or outside a project. If the reflection is to be beneficial, then organise work-related actions as efficiently as possible into current production and future production capacity. See Effectiveness.
Business Management Tools
One significant conclusion that I’ve made is that – although there are surely other ways to do this – that the organisation of tasks, actions, objectives and outcomes is helped by the tools that we use.
But whatever the configuration of business management tools that you use to organise your business whether it be SAP or Excel, the important thing is to keep an eye open on whether your configuration is still appropriate.
Is your software configuration is still appropriate?
Are you capturing opportunities and transforming them into orders?
Do you have a systematic process for capturing opportunities and transforming them into orders?
Is your organisation responding to market demands and if the market changes, is your organisation flexible enough to respond?
If you wanted to respond to changing the changing market, how would you do it, how would you change the trajectory of your organisation?
These might seem like hypothetical questions. If you are a plumber, you might not ask yourself whether there are opportunities in hairdressing and convert – probably too radical. But you might look at new technologies in the plumbing market and decide that technology x is more efficient, take a training course and then look at whether that has made you cost savings and improved your turnover.
The point here is about flexibility, and whether your capacity to organise and your state of mind allow you to take on new projects. I believe that this flexibility of mind is aided and assisted by the business management tools that we use. Can I enter a new project in my software, and start to consider its impact on current work? Just consider it. If I feel that I am very disorganised I would probably not even consider new projects and therefore pass by a new opportunity.
Setting and Achieving Objectives
So the business management tools help but with what? The effort of planning, setting objectives, organising your time, your actions and next actions are within a context of professional achievement and satisfaction.
What satisfaction to fix an objective, determine where I want to be in the future and put in place actions to get there, evaluating the pitfalls, planning contingency actions, acting in project mode while still managing current professional and personal priorities.
I urge you therefore to look at the business management tools discussed here and to read about GTD and the measThisurement of trajectory. I advise you to think about your configuration and whether it is optimal, the changes you would make to your situation and your life and how you could put those changes into practice.
Business Management Tools
Knowing what to do depends on having a clear understanding of the domain in which we operate. This knowledge is key to developing the desired outcomes that D.Allen talks about in GTD.
We aim to assist businesses to understand both the current domain and the future domain and to help focus efforts towards the desired outcome.
Our focus is on the use of software decision-making tools in the management process and techniques to support your analysis process.
The classic kanban. Here in Odoo you can easily slide the blocks from column to column, organized by horizon (GTD).
Each card includes a timesheet to track the time spent on each activity or period.
The downside is not being able to structure cards and subtasks.
The visual environment in Ayoa
What is appreciable about droptask is to be able to create links between tasks and visualise the dependencies between them. This relationship between items provides perspective and allows you to stand back from the tasks in hand.
Each task can be broken down into sub-elements with a checklist.
If an item becomes too complex, it may be converted into a category
Similarly with Todoist
The advantage of Todoist is to be able to incorporate many items: projects, tasks and subtasks, but in a less visual way.
Toodledo is excellent because its mobile app is very efficient but the online desktop tool is less user-friendly, having many columns, a task cannot be opened in its own window.
The mindmap is a tool to identify subjects to develop but does not present a visual sequence.
On the other hand iMindQ included an interesting feature that can transform a mindmap into a schedule:
It’s important to present items in sequence, as Microsoft Project does. Enterprise Architect is used to model environments but can also present activity sequences.
Moh.io is sorely lacking – it no longer exists. Looking for a buyer for this superb modelling technology between Evernotes.
We use the following business management tools to measure and analyse business activity. Our vision is that management applies to businesses of all sizes. We hope to apply our experience of information systems to help small businesses analyse their performance and organise their development.
We use Simplemind for mindmapping to focus on specific areas, for design and pulling information together.
We might engage in more formal design using Enterprise Architect by Sparx Systems helps us to design our future business system in UML. A systems design tool is of particular use when working for a third party or customer.
And finally we use Odoo ERP is the operational backbone which qualifies leads, which then turn into orders. Orders convert straight into invoices. The whole system is used for accounting and providing business management data.
Business management tools are software which help to manage your business, fix objectives and plan for change.
If you are a small business owner, you would be well advised to read as many books as possible on techniques to manage your business. You will probably find that the greatest challenge is the one that you least expected.
You may have expected to just be able to exercise your trade or provide your services, without considering all the roles you would have to take on.
Keeping work and life in balance
If you want to keep your business in proportion with the rest of your life, you will need to be organised.
We discuss methods for organising your time and priorities, analysing your activity, setting objectives and planning to bring desired outcomes into reality.
If you like the idea of seeing your business keep pace with your environment, then you should find some material of interest here.
Many thinking hats
The greatest challenge in management is to address the multitude of roles that business demands. This means defining them and getting them to work together to fulfil orders and generate future business.
Much of this is about determining and organising priorities to meet objectives. The best way to do this isto lay down tasks and determine the areas on which to focus.
The overall objective is to apply industrial techniques to productionise, make a profit and sustain business development. We hope that you find what you are looking for.
The most interesting common factor between these tools is the visual presentation. The spatial presentation of activities, tasks, priorities makes them clearer, more obvious.
The aim is to raise awareness of the scope of each project, the evaluation of the resources it needs, its implementation and its execution. This visual presentation is intended to better evaluate projects to succeed.