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Blog title image "There's an app for that, but do you need it?"
From lead management to turning on the office coffee machine, there’s an app for everything these days. When a task or process is time-consuming or difficult, it can be easy to jump straight to looking for something to do it for you. It’s worth taking time to pause and assess whether it’s something that you actually need an app. This blog post shares advice on what to consider when deciding whether to add another app to your tech stack.

 

How do you know if you have a problem that needs a solution?

If your process or task is something that’s done on a regular basis and takes up a lot of someone’s time, then it’s probably worth looking for a solution. If it’s something that only happens once a month, or less, it might not be in your best interest to buy an app that will help. This is especially true if the current process is frustrating, but doesn’t take too long. Another question to ask is if the process is business-critical. Are you not getting invoices out to clients on time, or is it taking longer than you would like to write and format emails? Think about the task/process and ask yourself:

 

  • How important is it to the core of the business or organisation?
  • How often does it happen? Is it frequent or only once in a while?
  • How long does it currently take and how much time could be saved with an app?

Is a new piece of software the right solution?

To get the answer to this, start with the why. Before you consider buying an app, take some time to understand why you need it. What problem are you trying to solve? What pain point would it ease? Fully understanding the problem gives you the best chance of finding the right solution. I like to use the Five Whys technique to get to the root of a question. The Five Whys are a common business technique first coined Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s. In his book Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production as “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.” Many businesses use the Five Whys systems to analyse a hose of problems in different ways. For our purposes, we’re going to keep things simple, if you think you need a new app, ask yourself why. Then ask why again 4 more times to find the nub of the issue. To illustrate, imagine that your problem is creating and sending invoices. It’s a labour-intensive process and sometimes mistakes are made or you don’t get paid on time. Let’s break that down using the Five Whys technique.

 

Problem statement: Creating, sending and following up on invoices is a labour-intensive process and sometimes we make mistakes or don’t get paid on time.

Why:
The invoices are created manually, which takes a long time to create and sometimes people make a mistake. The follow-up process is also manual, which also takes time and means that we sometimes miss late payments.

 

Why:
  1. The information isn’t all in one place, so I have to copy and paste the information from different places.
  2. I have to manually format them.
  3. I keep a list of the invoices and whether or not they’ve been paid in a spreadsheet. I go through all of them once a week and check against payments made to use so I can either mark them as paid or follow up with the customer.

 

Why:
  1. I have to type get the customer details from the CRM and the sales information from the project management system.
  2. I copy an old invoice and add in the new information, it takes time to delete all the old information and paste in the new information.
  3. There’s nowhere else to track invoice information and I don’t know how to automate the process of sending out an email when the payment deadline has passed.
Why:
  1. We store the customer information, and the payment information in different places.
  2. We don’t have a template invoice.
  3. There’s nowhere in our CRM where we can store invoice or payment details. I don’t know how to connect the spreadsheet to my emails.
Why:
  1. Our CRM doesn’t have the ability to store things like deal or project information, only the customer’s personal information.
  2. I haven’t had the time to learn how to make a template in the software we use to create the invoice
  3. There’s no integration between my email app and the spreadsheet app I use.
Getting new invoicing software is one answer to this issue, but the answers to Five Whys above show us some different options. One way to make the process more efficient would be by having a single source for all client information. If so, a new CRM might be the answer. Creating a proper template will also speed up the process of creating invoices in this case. With some apps, you can create a form for document templates. Complete the form with the relevant information and it will create an invoice using your template. For sending reminder emails, you could look for ways to automate this process. Some email apps have automations and workflows built into them. You could also consider an automation tool like Zapier or Microsoft Power Automate to connect your apps.

Do you need a new app? What can you do with what you already have?

Before deciding to invest in new software, take a look at what you’re already using and see if there’s a feature that could help you with the problem at hand. If you haven’t already, take some time to document all the software that you’re currently using. Also, include any software you’re not using but do have access to (e.g. it’s included in a package, you got the licence and forgot about it, etc). If you don’t already have your apps documented, our blog post How to review your apps and choose the best software has some great tips.
 
You might find that an app that you use for one task has some built-in features that will help you with another. For example, Airtable and SmartSuite are database apps that also have forms and templated documents. You may also find that some apps have automations built into them that will help you save time. Calendly allows you to add workflows to your events, like automatically sending emails to meeting participants before or after your call. Project management apps like Asana and ClickUp allow you to create automated workflows, to speed up the process of task creation and approval.

 

 

Summary

Before you download or subscribe to new software, ask yourself ‘Do I need a new app?’ To answer that question:

  • Figure out how much resource it currently costs you to do the process or task?
  • Ask the Five Whys to get to the heart of the issue.
  • Investigate your current tech stack to see if you already have a solution.

Whether or not you need a new app will depend on what you find when you dig into these points, and on your priorities. You might be time-poor but have a decent budget, or you might have flexibility on how something can be done, or it might need to be an exact process. The final decision will be up to you, but I hope that this post has given you some tips on how best to make that call

Reduce your overwhelm with our automation training programme

And finally, if you’re really keen to reduce your overwhelmand  transform your business using automation, then visit the Solvaa Automation Academy. Our signature training programme, ‘Simple Automation Blueprint: Zero to Hero’ is aimed at anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of business process automation from the experts – a sure-fire way to recession-proof your business.

It’s an 8-week blended learning course with on-demand videos, templates, resources and weekly group coaching sessions. And it’s more than just a Zapier course (although we do show you how to use Zapier like a pro) as you’ll learn about Process Mapping, Business Process Improvement and Business Process Management too – principles that can be applied to other areas of business too!

Whether you are a complete novice or have been using Zapier for a while, our programme is for you. It’s perfect for individuals and teams in micro, small and medium-sized businesses, including solopreneurs, consultants and freelancers. You’ll have access to our experts and can participate in live calls where you can ask all your burning questions, as well as hands-on workshops to keep you on track with implementing your new skills. We run regular cohorts so there will be an opportunity for everyone to participate.

Our head trainer, Kelly Goss, is a specialist in business systems, process improvement and automation, and one of less than 100 Zapier Certified Experts in the world. Kelly has many years’ experience in optimising systems and processes, and implementing automations for clients and is now passing on her knowledge to students through our trademarked ‘4-Step Solvaa Automation Methodology®‘. 

Find out more via our dedicated Solvaa Automation Academy website.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

This blog post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. This helps to support our work and allows us to continue providing valuable information to our readers.

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