How many apps have you downloaded and hardly used? How many tools have you trialed and never really integrated? Mobile apps save small business employees about 725 work hours per year, and 92% of small businesses are using at least one cloud-based tech tool. From CRM and cloud-based accounting to productivity and social media tools, there's a lot on offer.
The thing is, that there's a lot written about the time savings of using technology effectively, but not a lot of information on just how much time we waste on trying tools that just aren't a good fit. Perhaps this is because we would just rather forget about how frustrating it all can be.
So, the question is- how do we choose the right tool, and how do we do that without the headache?
Many of our partners are working from home right now, and we guess you are too. Liquid working, fluid teams, and project-based working; all of these scenarios are more and more commonplace. Whether you are running an in-house Admissions Team, or a private agency recruiting students for study abroad programs, the chances are that remote working is here to stay for many of us.
It's easy to jump for a technological solution that seems like a good fit. Watching a YouTube ad for any number of excellent digital tools, you might hear them describe challenges you are facing and you shout "Eureka!". You sign up on the spot and start trying to tackle the issues you've been having with remote teams and project deadlines. Perhaps you're working with student recruitment and you can't easily access the office right now to get paperwork and are looking at an off-the-shelf CRM solution to move things online. We would advise against this. A top-down approach to tech integration means starting from the surface and looking at the symptoms, rather than the causes and contexts. A top-down approach to anything at all is rarely a good idea. In every context, from NGO's to small businesses, a bottom-up approach will ensure any new solution is based on an open appraisal of what your values are, what is important to your organization, what experience you want to deliver for your clients, and how your team is used to working and communicating. It might feel like time you could be spending attacking the surface problems, but doing things this way will pay dividends. We understand that the situation is pressing, and organizations need to automate just to survive right now, but as a recent survey by Dell has illustrated, businesses can rush into this without really making sure the tech solutions they choose are a good fit for who they really are. By revisiting your core organizational values and reflecting on the dynamic and culture of the team around you, there is a greater chance of getting things right the first time.
How does your team feel about change? What kind of digital skills do they already have and what training gaps can you identify? Can you allocate resources to address those gaps, and how long will that likely take?
How does your team work together? Bearing in mind that remote working is looking like a pretty permanent feature of the landscape. Take a look at all of the processes they use, and sketch them out visually. What could be automated? Where is work duplicated? Where are there risks of error, or delay for your students and partners? What are the critical issues that need to be solved and what would the solution ideally look like? Involve the team as much as possible in these discussions, as buy-in will also help with adoption when you do make the change. The only way to make change even more unpopular is when you impose it. There is a bewildering array of apps and system tools out there, with such a range of pricing and functions, that it takes a great deal of time to make the choice. A colleague may have recommended something, but what are the chances that this tool is equally right for you and your team? We don't mean to sound negative, but to present the challenges in a realistic light. There is a reason that change management has it's very own subject in business schools; there are a lot of moving parts to consider and anticipate, and there will likely be some level of resistance whatever you choose. Look at what your organization needs, and not what will be popular.
Now that you have a clear sense of alignment between your core values, culture, and processes on one hand, and the solution you would like on the other hand, it's time to put them together (not for applause- that only happens if everything goes well!).
Armed with this information, deciding on what and how to integrate a technological solution will be a bit easier. You may for example see a great product/service, but realize that the support is limited and you'll have to wait in line on the tech support hotline or chatbot for any help. Great fun. You might also see that something you were considering actually offers a lot of stuff you don't need. If you are an education agent, focused mainly on recruiting students for high schools, you may not need 50% of the functions available on the CRM. Save yourself time and money in finding something that actually fits. Inefficiency is very expensive. If you are going for a technology stack, rather than a single tool, they have to work together. Integration is the keyword, so if your social media scheduler doesn't get on with your CRM, and neither of them like the SEO plugin on your website, then things could get tricky.
Ok, you've got your tech, and the team is on board. What comes next is all about being realistic. How much time do you really need to be able to see ROI? What planning is in place for any training gaps which come up? What are the feedback structures to check where things need improvement?
It's just not realistic that everything will go perfectly, so planning around eventualities and managing expectations is key. Even something relatively simple like using Trello as a way to manage projects among your remote team means really working through a lot of basic things first, like how to name boards and files, how to manage deadlines, and how to categorize projects.
And then there are more complex things like optimizing HubSpot to manage and track your growing number of leads aiming at boosting conversions.
So much of this is just not possible to plan out in advance. If you plan to go it alone without the support of experts, you may have to plan for productivity to actually slow down before it picks up again, and to keep a watchful eye on deliverables that slip through the cracks.
Many institutions just don't have the time or the resources to navigate these transitions themselves. Education marketing and recruitment organizations were already under strain, where they were either paper-based or using less than optimal CRM or internal processes. The Covid-19 pandemic just tipped that pressure up a notch, and many organizations are laser-focused on just surviving. We are here to help. NEO Academy does not just design and implement a bespoke CRM and automate your sales and marketing processes, only to then disappear into thin air. We understand that the success of your business can depend on making sure this works well, and that means developing a relationship. That's why we have a track record of working to empower our clients and partners to automate and implement bespoke marketing and recruitment strategies, and offering full in-house training and support to help you move forward independently. We also offer a range of integrated solutions to boost your leads and conversions while you focus on your clients. Take a look at what we can do for education organizations, and contact us for an informal chat to discuss your needs. We promise - no headaches.