Last week I delivered the annual Technology Showcase for the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC). We talked about creating digital content on a shoestring, about some of the technologies that can help you rev up your Internet marketing efforts, and about a number of different productivity tools. In preparing for this last part, I had two minor epiphanies.
The first is that the focus I typically have on helping individuals and small organizations leverage technology is somewhat misplaced. We are all small organizations now – whether we work as solo entrepreneurs or cogs in a big organizational machine. We all have the small organization of “me” to run 24/7, and it’s a more complex affair than it used to be. If we want to get by, much less thrive, we continually have to tap resources beyond ourselves, and often beyond what the organizations we work for provide.
The second – which I quickly realized is related to the first – is that many of the “tools” that I suggested to the group are at least as much services as they are tools. They make use of a technology platform – indeed, they are only possible because of a technology platform – but fundamentally they are about other people helping you do your work. They are technology tools that make the world the talent pool for organization “me.”
Here are some of the ones I covered in the AENC session. If you have favorites of your own, please comment and share them. These are all paid service, but the amounts involved are relatively small and I have found all of them to be very high value.
Send your receipts off to Shoeboxed and they’ll scan them, categorize them, and put them in a secure place online so you can download them in PDF, Excel, Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Evernote, Quicken, and CSV formats. Plans start at $9.95 a month.
Need more administrative support than just some receipt and business card scanning? TimeSvr offers a full personal assistant package for $69 per month. The surface covers basic tasks like scheduling and travel arrangements and also provides up to 8 hours a month for complex time consuming tasks (long web searches, transcribing, etc.).
Need skills (or time) you don’t have to get a project done? Elance provides a marketplace for locating, managing, and paying contractors to do pretty much anything you can think of. It’s one of several of these sorts of services that have been around for a while, but it happens to be the one I have used the most. The Elance system has grown to provide an impressive array of tools for vetting potential contracts and has even established credentials and certifications for its providers. And Elance is not simply short code for “off shoring” – there are a large number of U.S.-based providers in the network.
Even minor technical problems can create a major time sink. If you don’t have a technical team to turn to – or the one you have is stretched way too thin – Experts Exchange can be a great resource. For $12.95 a month you get access to a huge pool of techies that can help you solve pretty much any problem you can describe.
Just finished that big proposal or report and don’t have anyone to give it a good thorough proof read? Submit your document to Gramlee and the editors there will check it for spelling, grammar, punctuation, brevity, structure, readability and overall professionalism. The service works by your purchasing a certain number of words – starting at $4.95 for 250.
Need a new logo and not excited about the time and expense involved in working with the typical design firm or freelancer? At LogoTournament, you can turn the whole process into a contest. Describe what you want and watch as dozens – possibly even hundreds – of designers compete to come up with the best logo. Within a few days, you pick a winner and pay $250 for it.
Not really sure if your Web site is doing what it should for you but can’t afford complex and expensive user testing? UserTesting.com is one of the best services I have seen come along in quite some time. Simply fill out a brief questionnaire – including demographic information – and indicate how many testers you want to have kick the tires on your site, starting at $19.95 for one. You’ll get a recorded screencast – audio and video – of each tester trying to accomplish the task you indicate. Believe me, it is eye opening and will give you immediate ideas on how to improve your site!
So, there you go. Whether you are a single staffer at a very small nonprofit or a manager in a department of 50, you have to get the things done that keep organization “me” moving forward. Now, time to stop reading blog posts and start putting some of the above to work!
Hedgehog & Fox
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