When you start your company, there are key items you need to figure out before you can hit the ground running. You need a way to communicate with other parties, a way to communicate with your team, a way to create information (e.g. docs, spreadsheets, etc.), and a way to track progress. I know, what about emails, accepting payments, websites, social media accounts?! Sure, that is all helpful. But start with the basics. If you can't talk to your team, what's the point of having a website? We've compiled a list of our must-have applications for the workplace both for in-person teams and for remote workers.
Check out our top 10 list below for the applications your start-up needs to be successful.
Google has done a great job of getting new companies off the ground quickly and without breaking the bank. For just $6 (as of July 2020) per user per month, you can get your company a real email address, access to cloud storage, and the ability to create and edit documents collaboratively via their G Suite offering. Google makes the set-up process seamless, so you can be up and running with the core things you need for your business in minutes. Remember when setting up a custom email address took days if not weeks?
How we’re using it: We use G Suite for email (Gmail), docs, spreadsheets, presentations, and general cloud storage. We typically use Google Docs for documents that we need to collaborate with other people within the company on or share externally. For longer-term documents and information, we’ll move it to Notion. G Suite is the backbone for general tools and collaboration here at Xoba.
If you need to set up video calls, look no further than Zoom. With an easy set-up and a really good free tier, you can get your company onboarded in minutes. They have all of the necessities like screen sharing, recording, etc. out of the box. They even have nifty features like custom backgrounds to improve the experience and hide your messy background. If your team is remote, or you need an easy way to communicate with your customers or external parties, Zoom is the best tool for the job.
How we’re using it: We use Zoom for all meetings internally and externally. Zoom does a great job integrating with our calendars and Slack. If we need to spin-up a meeting quickly, Zoom allows us to do that. Our team is remote, so we heavily rely on Zoom to have all of our internal meetings. We’re constantly talking with customers, and with Zoom, we get to see our customer’s reactions when we tell them about a new feature we’ve just released as well as allow them to share their screen and give feedback.
Email is great for long-form communication and keeping a record, but when it comes to making quick decisions or giving updates, it fails. That is where Slack comes in. Use Slack to enable real-time communication between your employees, post updates, and stop your employees from spending all their time in their inboxes. If decisions are made in Slack, our advice is to make sure that conversation is documented in a different source (e.g. Google Docs) that can be easily referenced at a later date.
How we’re using it: All of our short-term communication happens in Slack. Rarely do we use email to communicate internally. If we need to have a conversation with an external party, we do so via email. The Xoba Slack has team-specific channels (e.g. Engineering, Marketing, Product, etc.) and initiative-based channels (e.g. beta, website re-launch, etc.). If we find ourselves having too long of a Slack conversation, we will hop on a Zoom call or meet-up in person. If there is a long discussion in Slack where a decision is made or follow-up action items are needed, we make sure to ‘export’ the conversation and outcomes in Notion.
Now that you have email, documents, real-time communications, and video communication set, you need a great tool for internal documentation. Notion is a very powerful all-around tool for your organization. They’re calling themselves the operating system for organizations, and they’re spot on. You can use it for documentation, to-do lists, a team calendar, an external help center, company pages, and the list goes on. If you’re looking for an application that acts as the ‘center’ of your organization, look no further than Notion.
How we’re using it: Notion is our favorite tool for internal documentation and communication. We hold all of our company notes, meeting notes, interview notes, processes, etc. in Notion. Often, we have a conversation in Slack and it should be documented, so we’ll take that conversation and save it in Notion for future reference. When we have a new employee join Xoba, all of the company-related onboarding information (e.g. Mission, values, goals, etc.) is in Notion. This creates a central place for our employees to reference when they first join.
If you don’t have a large development team, or just want to try something out, Zapier is a great way to build integrations and automation out of the box. For example, if you want to update a sheet when an email is submitted on your website, Zapier enables you to do that in a few clicks, rather than having your engineering team build it. Zapier is one of the leaders in the no-code movement that enables individuals outside of engineering to build integrations and workflows between their applications. If you’re looking to test a workflow, Zapier is the tool for you. If you find yourself relying on that integration or need something more personalized, you can have confidence going to your engineering team with the ask since it’s been ‘battle tested’.
How we’re using it: We use several applications and sometimes we want data to sync across those applications, or we want to build out a workflow. Our favorite ‘zap’ is the connection between our web application and Slack. Every time we have a new user sign-up Zapier sends a message to our Slack space and we get to celebrate as a team.
When spinning up a new website, the first tool you should integrate with is Google Analytics. If you’re always asking questions like ‘How many people came to my website today?’, ‘Where did my visitors come from?’, then you need analytics. Analytics are key to your business and help you understand what is working, what isn’t working, and gives you insights you may not have had before. Google Analytics is a great free tool that has a ton of support across the board. If you’re using a website building tool like Wordpress, Webflow, or Squarespace, they have Google Analytics baked in, so it’s easy to get started.
How we’re using it: We use Google Analytics as our go-to platform to understand our web traffic. This is our marketing and product teams’ number one tool to understand how we’re acquiring visitors, what they’re doing on our website, if they’re signing up, etc. This alongside Mixpanel (see below) are the analytics backbone to Xoba. Using Google Analytics helps us understand where we should double down, where we should investigate more, or where we need to stop investing.
Google Analytics is great for website analytics, but if you’re building a product (e.g. a web or mobile application), Mixpanel will really help you out. You can collect specific actions and behaviors in your application. A common use case of Mixpanel is just understanding how many users you have active in your product on a daily or monthly basis. Or if you have just launched a new feature and want to know how often it is being used, then Mixpanel is the product to use. Amplitude is another solution in this space. Here is a good write-up of the differences between the two products. It really comes down to what type of data you’re looking to track, the type of product you’re offering, and your budget.
How we’re using it: We use Mixpanel to collect usage data on our product. We use this data to understand our customer’s usage patterns, measure our goals, and pull-out insights from our product. At our All Hands, we look at our Mixpanel dashboard to see how our product is performing and discuss what we need to do to improve a specific metric or area of the product.
If you need graphics for your blog post, Instagram ad, or anything in general, Canva should be your go-to tool. It has the power of Photoshop without the need to be a tech-savvy individual. Within minutes you can create graphics for your needs that look like you paid a professional. If you’re bootstrapping, just getting started, or can’t afford a designer, Canva is the solution for you.
How we’re using it: We use Canva anytime we need a graphic for an email, blog, or ad. With all the great templates and guidelines, we can create a few different options quickly and get feedback from the team. It’s great because before we would either have to have a Photoshop license and someone who knew how to use it, or we’d use Powerpoint. With Canva we can create high-quality images and we’ll never look back.
At any stage of a company, alignment is super important. Knowing your goals and your progress towards them is key. Asana is a great way to keep track of projects, tasks, initiatives across your organization. We love that it can be set up in minutes and doesn’t require much to get started. You can use it simply to track day-to-day tasks across teams and even view overall progress towards a big launch.
How we’re using it: We use Asana to track projects, initiatives, and one-offs across the company. Every Monday, we review the progress towards our company-wide initiatives and projects at our company All-Hands. Then, each team does a breakout session where they review the goals and relevant tasks for the upcoming week. This allows everyone to have a clear understanding of what needs to get done for the week, who is going to own it, and if anyone needs to lend a helping hand.
You have all of these great applications, but no way to get visibility across all of them in a single view. Xoba is your company's knowledge engine that allows you and your team to discover information across your SaaS applications from a single view. Instead of having data in silos, use Xoba to enable you and your team to uncover more information and do more.
How we’re using it: We use Xoba every day in our normal workflow. We access Xoba via the web application, the browser extension, or Slack. So regardless of where we’re at, we can get quick access to the information we need. Even if we know the information is in Google Drive, we rely on Xoba to get us there more quickly. Rather than navigating to all the different applications just to use the search bar, we use Xoba to speed up our productivity.
There are so many applications available today that it’s hard to select one. If you’re looking for a way to take notes, there are hundreds of options. Here’s our advice: don’t look for a tool and see how you can use it. Rather, define the problem you’re trying to solve, and then work to find a solution that fits your needs. You’ll end up with more applications than you ever intended to use and you’ll undoubtedly have information everywhere, it’s inevitable. That’s why we built Xoba. We’re on a mission to break down the silos of information within your organization and make information accessible, actionable, and secure.