Virtual Frontier

Choose The Right Tools & Workflow Management

Episode Summary

In this week's special #AskTheCEO session, Manuel and Daniel will give you some background when it comes to choosing the right tools and improving your workflow management. Digital tools can be a great help to improve your business activities and workflows. But it is crucial how we select those tools and implement them. This is where the biggest risks and traps are waiting.

Episode Notes

How many different digital tools you are using in your company? How often do you implement new tools to your stack? What effect does the toolset have on your workflow management? Do you feel increasingly overwhelmed by the flood of tools in your everyday life? When you want to get more clarity on what tools to use and how to select them best listen up and see what the next CEO Q&A session here at the Virtual Frontier can do for you.

Every week one specific business trend is examined and explained in compact and in detail. 



00:00 Intro 

02:40 How many tools Manuel has in use?

05:50 Don't use Slack for documentation?

09:40 Did you find a new tool?

12:10 Avoiding the cost traps when choosing tools?

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Episode Transcription

[00:00:10.460] - Dani Guaper

Hello, and a very warm welcome to a new episode here at the Virtual Frontier. The one and only podcast about remote work and the future of work actually produce 100% remotely. It's lovely you have found the way back to the show. If you just joined recently, hit the subscribe button right away so you never miss a new episode


[00:00:29.940] - Dani Guaper

Todays topic of our Q&A  session is "Five steps to select the best digital tools." how many different digital tools you are using in your company? How often do we implement new tools to your stack? Do you feel increasingly overwhelmed by the flood of tools in your everyday life? When you want to get more clarity, what tools to use and how to select them best, listen up and see what the next CEO Q & A session here at the Virtual Frontier can do for you. See you in just a moment on the other side.


[00:01:15.810] - Dani Guaper

Hello Manuel,  welcome to a new Q&A session here on the Virtual Frontier. Our topic today is the usage and implementation of digital tools in your workspace, in your workflows. Why we have come to a topic. A lot of people that work with you, coachee's, whatever are asking you constantly, what tools are you using, Manuel to be successful in your business and get there what you want. But on the other side, when I was preparing this episode today, I could find some statistics that showed that productivity overall has dropped since the year 2007, constantly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


[00:02:05.760] - Dani Guaper

And on the other side, the number of devices that we are using, the number of digital tools have increased tremendously or exponentially. And I think we have a very tools fixed mindset when we think about solutions of business cases, whatever. But how can we be more efficiently and increase their productivity and ultimately achieve our business goals with the wise use of tools? And so that comes to my first question today. Manuel what tools are you using?


[00:02:42.490] - Manuel Pistner

Yeah, that's a good. I mean, it's really shocking. I didn't know that since 2007 or so that productivity really dropped every year. That's crazy. I have to research that. But back to your question, which tools I use? I really use a lot of tools. I mean, when I look back in 2018, we had over literally over 120 tools. We did really like a list of all tools that we were using. And I don't share that because it's not good to have 120 tools. So what we did all the time is we just try to solve problems with introducing new tools.


[00:03:21.040] - Manuel Pistner

Whenever we had a problem, we decide. Okay, let's see which tools are out there that we could use to solve this problem. And that led to the scenario that we had, like, 120 tools. It's a nightmare. It's a nightmare of complexity. It's a nightmare of cost. And it's a nightmare for people because you have, like, an overlap of usecases like you have one use case and five tools. People have no idea which tools to use. But the most important tools, I would say, is to manage your work. Now, especially when you want to work remotely and you want to get rid of your office.


[00:03:55.840] - Manuel Pistner

Maybe you need a virtual office and the office is also just a tools to do your work and to foster concert communication. Now you need a tools that replaces this. And I'm not saying that you need, like video calls to constantly being online because that's just very stressful. And I'm pretty sure that this is one part which leads to a drop of productivity when you introduce new tools that just disturb and interrupt people more than they bring structure and efficiency to their work day. So the most important tools is something to manage your day to day activities. Like, I don't know Trello, Click up, Jira, Asana any tool that allows you and your team to be on the same page to see which work needs to get done, how to do it, who does it, how much time it takes and to properly plan the work.


[00:04:41.300] - Manuel Pistner

I would say this is the number one tools and then number two thing is to really use it properly. Because when you start to introduce a chat tools, what will happen? People won't use the work management tool anymore. They will communicate their tasks via "Slack" or "Teams" or whatever it is. And that's a big mess because then you have no persistency. You have no transparency about progress and results and which work item has which status. But it's so easy. It's so easy just to use a chat tool and write something there.


[00:05:13.270] - Manuel Pistner

Can you do this that. But if you have a team, then this is just like the total mess of unstructured communication, and it won't give you the data that you need to see if your team is on track or not. So work management is the number one tools that you have to use it correctly. That's that's the result.


[00:05:34.270] - Dani Guaper

That reminds me of what you just mentioned about a couple of years ago when we worked already with Slack. But we had a big team of over 100 people and we had a paid Slack account, which was costing us several thousand of euros  per month. And I remember our head of operations was constantly remembering us. Don't use slack for documentation because that was happening in this time that everyone was just like putting info into Slack and communication and documentation was not done properly because that should be done in a different way where everyone has access to it.


[00:06:18.120] - Dani Guaper

Ryan and then we cut this huge cost. We switched some of our Slack channels and divided it and had a much better result. And I remember or I can see right now how over the last couple of years our documentation site has got much, much better because people stopped to use the "Slack" tool  as a place of the documentation. Do you remember that?


[00:06:45.960] - Manuel Pistner

Absolutely. So true. Yeah. Yeah. I really remember that. That was painful because, you know, if you introduce "Slack" and you always get the behavior that you tolerate. I mean, it's easy to put, like, documentation if we can even label it like this in "Slack". "Slack" is a tool for chatting, right. But it's so easy to write something in an unstructured way. But this fosters the behavior that people use that tools for any kind of purpose. Task management chatting, which is made for but also documentation, which is not made for task management, is also not made for.


[00:07:22.210] - Manuel Pistner

So these tools can lead to, like, a culture of unstructured work habits, which leads to a culture of low performance. Because to get the efficiency you want, you need to do the right things right. Or in other words, people need to do their work properly, using the tools correctly to get a result they need to create for the business. But if you introduce a tools and all of a sudden it's okay to ignore the other tools and just use this one tool because it's so easy you are at risk to really change the culture without the intention to change it, and then your productivity drops and cost increase. That's what we experienced.


[00:08:03.650] - Dani Guaper

How you can validate in the first place the real need of a new tool. Let's say.


[00:08:12.160] - Manuel Pistner

Start from the usecase. So either you... So a tools always has just a purpose to make the work you want to do more efficient. But before you introduce tools, you should know what you want to do, which type of work you want to do. For example, what we do so often and what people confused all the time. You can introduce Trello or Jira and you name it a project management tool, which it isn't. It's it's a ticket tracking tools. It's a work management tool, but you have no project management tool there, because to project management, what you need is management of time, scope, budget, quality, change, risk.


[00:08:55.880] - Manuel Pistner

That's all not part of Jira, but people so often confuse that and just use Jira for project management tool, and then they don't get a result because you cannot manage the risk there. You cannot manage the budget there. So knowing what you really want and then find a tool that makes this type of work, you want to get done more efficient. That is, I would say, the right case. Instead of finding a tool and doing what the tool tells you to do with the structure it provides and then analyzing.


[00:09:27.260] - Manuel Pistner

Okay, now we have a good tool. We're doing something very efficiently. But how does this align with the work we want to get done? That's the wrong approach.


[00:09:37.190] - Dani Guaper

Or probably the worst case would be you just find a new tool while browsing the web and say how I could implement this tools in my company, right?


[00:09:49.800] - Manuel Pistner

Because it's so nice yeah.


[00:09:50.880] - Dani Guaper

But it looks so nice and it's so fresh and everyone is using it right now. Probably right. If we have gotten to this clarity and how you should really like select the new tool for the company, like, what steps should you proceed while selecting a new tool?


[00:10:08.860] - Manuel Pistner

Yeah, that's a really complex thing. But number one is to really have your usecase defined. What exactly do you want to do, then? See if the test the tools make a short list of tools that you can find on Google for this usecase and then host are really a big problem.Because many of these tools, they have a very low entry barrier. And then you have hidden costs. Because what happens so often when we introduced an accounting tools five times five times, you can imagine how much money that cost. And how much of a frustration that creates in the team because they have to change the tools all the time.


[00:10:47.260] - Manuel Pistner

Why that happened is because we were looking for tools that claims for itself. We are accounting tool. So there are many. Now we find some. We tested them and the decision was, oh, that looks nice. Quick check. Oh, it does everything we need. Introduced it has low costs, and then we worked with it. We worked with it. And then we saw it doesn't have cost centers, for example. Which was what happened. It didn't have host centers, but we need cost centers. So after working a month with this tool, we decided, sorry, it's not for us, but we already introduced it.


[00:11:24.610] - Manuel Pistner

So we change it. Find another tools that provides cost centers. And now here comes the thing we had. We had Euro and US dollar as currency for outgoing invoices. I checked that. But they don't have it for incoming bills. No multi currency just for outgoing in was an incoming bills. We realized that after a month. So I had to change the tools again. That was like a nightmare. And then we had another tools that was great. So they had all these features we started with onboarding.


[00:11:56.990] - Manuel Pistner

It was like ten Euro per set, pretty low. And then there was one thing features missing. And then we had to upgrade to Enterprise, and then it was 35 per seat, which was way too expensive for ten people just for doing accounting. And these are the traps you can really avoid when you have a real clear before you introduce the tools, make a test run for two months. I mean, that's a cost. You have to consider that you run this tool in parallel, but it's a lower waste of money compared to what I went through when I jumped on a tool, thought it's the right one, it wasn't and then  change the tool again. So the step number one is to really write down your use case with all the details, with all the detailed features you need for this use case. And then really understand their pricing model. Really understand the pricing model. Support is a very important thing. Test their support. How well is their support? You can have the best tools if you have crappy support and you need help. Big problem, right? Yeah. These are, I would say, and of course, if you have, like, legal constrictions, like we have restrictions.


[00:13:03.760] - Manuel Pistner

I mean, like, we have GDPR compliance in Germany. Of course, you need to make sure that the tools supports that. I always look for integration with "Zapier"  because using "Zapier", you can automate so much. And yeah, that makes working with these tools a lot easier when you want to integrate it with other tools. That's what I would say.


[00:13:27.900] - Dani Guaper

Very interesting insight, especially about the complexity. Right. As you just mentioned, with this accounting tools, then you think in one place. I have everything in place, and then you just find out there's still something hidden in the process or you need a different kind of you need a different kind of package or different kind of seats, and they will increase the cost exponentially.


[00:14:01.820] - Manuel Pistner



[00:14:03.260] - Dani Guaper

There's another point in this topic about the tools autonomy. You have probably some teams. They use different tools than others and how you bring that together in a company. What are some benefits of allowing this teams to use their tools as they needed and how you could foster that a in your company. So it's done in the right way. And there's not cases just explained by you where costs, explosions or tools doesn't do what you need or doesn't interact with other teams.


[00:14:46.080] - Manuel Pistner

I would never, ever do this again. I mean, we did that in the past, and that's how we ended up with 120 tools, as everyone could decide which tools they love. And there are so many tools you can love because there are so many tools that are really nice. But if every team or even worse, if every team member ends up with their own tools and their own accounts, you have no compliance. You have no legal compliance. You have no management when people drop off and they take the account with them, all data is locked in in the tool.


[00:15:15.700] - Manuel Pistner

You have no central support. If there is one person that introduces a tool and then other people get on boarded and you need support, nobody can provide support because nobody knows the tool and has access to it. So that increases complexity and friction exponentially. I would never, ever do this again. We did that. I would never, ever do it again. So I cannot give any advice how to do that well. My advice is don't do it and have a central management of a tool in the same way as there is one person that manages your office centrally typically. I think you are better doing with this approach. Centralizing the infrastructure. Because it's critical. It's so critical for your business that you have the right tools updated, get support. They are compliant with your legal restrictions. You cannot... I mean, you can let a person choose a tool, but rarely a person can oversee all the other parts that bring the complexity into the game. So I would never do this.


[00:16:16.940] - Dani Guaper

Yeah. So probably if there's a new tools introduced, it should go through a process that, for example, head of operations is involved and everything, and they can verify if the use of the tools make sense, and if it fits into the company structures and then all that right. Probably that would be a way to to.....


[00:16:38.970] - Manuel Pistner

Maybe there is already a tools supporting this specific use case. So people should use this tool. That's how you can... I mean, it's like if you are in a relationship, whenever there are problems and you drop the relationship and decide, I find another partner, you will never end up with a very good, strong, stable relationship. The same with your tools and your workflows. Whenever there's a problem, you say the tools is crap, I find another one. You will never get better with a tool.


[00:17:06.480] - Manuel Pistner

You will never get better with your workflows like that. If you hire and fire employees and whenever there's a problem, you fire the person. The same with the tool. That's not how it works. You want to decide for one tool that supports your use case and get better in using the tool. And that's only possible if you have it centrally managed and keep people accountable to work with this tool.


[00:17:28.070] - Dani Guaper

All right. That brings them already to my last question, and you kind of answered already, but we can dive deeper into that. What are some key success elements when implementing digital workplace strategy?


[00:17:47.740] - Manuel Pistner

The first thing is a plan. Really know if you rent in your office, you also create a plan. So which room is made for what and who will sit where. You need to same for your virtual infrastructure, which tool for which use case? Who manages it? Who gets access, et cetera. Make data plan first and then make sure that you have training for people that get on-boarded so that these people get trained properly how to use the tool. Because your business is still individual and the tools they need to be used in a way that it is aligned with the purpose of your business, of the teams and every role.


[00:18:26.450] - Manuel Pistner

If you just have a tool and ask people to use it, let's take Jira or any other task management tool as an example. If you just ask people to use it somehow, they will end up using the tools as they want it. But that's not how your work flows through the company. And then it's hard to integrate people, and it's hard to really get quality. Because if everyone uses tools differently, there is no standard. So having the blueprint of your tool landscape with the use cases you want to manage, and who provides training and onboarding, and also who manages the accounts.


[00:18:58.850] - Manuel Pistner

The security is an important thing and it starts with not allowing to share passwords via email or slack. There are tools like Last Pass or I know there are other tools where you can manage passwords and share passwords in a secure way. I highly recommend using these and that's another tools of your tool landscape. And then really not just have the tools and say, okay, guys, here's new tools use it, but make training available for them so they use it in the right way.


[00:19:33.360] - Dani Guaper

Okay. Anything else you would like to add to this whole topic of selecting tools using tools the right way so we can round up the session for today and leave some good impressions for our listeners?


[00:19:49.970] - Manuel Pistner

Yeah, absolutely. As most, people are still always so interested in which tools I use. I put a link below the show notes to a tool guides that we have at Flash Hub. You can use that to get some inspiration of which use cases are there and which tools we use. I think that will answer the question best.


[00:20:11.830] - Dani Guaper

Right. Okay. Thank you, Manuel, for taking your time today for this Q&A session and see you next week on our new episode.


[00:20:22.090] - Manuel Pistner

Thank you, see you next week. Bye bye.


[00:20:24.390] - Dani Guaper

We hope you found the session helpful. Head back to our in-depth blog article on how to create a optimal workflow management with the right techniques and tools. Let us know in the comments how many tools you are using and how you decide what tools to implement. We do care, so share your thoughts in the comments or drop us a message one moment before you leave. Hit the subscribe button, give us a thumbs up and share it around with your friends and colleagues. Sign up also so for the free business builder training on  and learn more about how to scale with your business at any time. Work with global top talent and make work better. On behalf of the team here at the Virtual Frontier I want to thank you for listening. So until the next episode, keep exploring new frontiers.