Issue 2, Oct 2014 - Leveraging on Technology

How Leveraging On Technology Changed The Way My Company Runs

By Koh Niak Wu

If you are one of those people who are in constant need of being connected to the World Wide Web, the good news is, you can (and no, I am not a nomophobe but I know a few of them). Unlike yesteryears, the entrepreneurs of today live in a world that is so rich in technology that it will almost be a crime not to leverage on some form of it. There is an app* for almost anything conceivable by the human mind some of which are extremely useful and others completely useless (if you have time to kill, check out Pointless Game on the Google Play Store).

Our company is lean, operates virtually and we want to keep it that way. To do that, we’ve had to put in place some pretty strict procedures that help maintain our structure and continue to standardise and streamline our business processes. As we started off, things were a little messy but we are continuously putting in effort to improve the way we want to work and that conscious effort is important.

In order to do the stuff the way we do it, there are three things that I find useful:

1) House all communication in one place
We live in a fast-paced world of hyper-connectivity and one in which everyone expects a reply even before the Send button is hit. Held hostage by that beautiful device that fits comfortably in the palm of our hands, we have chat groups in, for example, Whatsapp, WeChat, LINE, Hangout and Telegram following which there is a compulsive need to respond to every whim and fancy of the gentle ‘ding’ and the not-so-subtle vibrate. Search or retrieval of messages can be a rather enjoyable task thereafter if you remember where that conversation took place. #21stcenturyhobby

To hopefully prevent some form of repetitive strain injury from continual messaging (although I suspect I am already suffering from it), we’ve moved our communication over to Slack. Slack is a web / mobile app that houses all communication in one place, is instantly searchable and available wherever you go. Just to be clear, I mention Slack only because we have benefited from its features. What works for us may not be entirely suitable for you so please carry out a trial before going full steam.

2) Managing projects the Scrum way
If you are one of those people that juggles multiple projects and will develop allergic reactions to the paperwork involved expected of project management techniques, this section may be handy. 

Keeping track of a work breakdown structure or the tasks each of us are working on can be daunting especially if there is a precedence relation. We’ve all had our fair share of project management with the help of a certain software that, like us, consists of a basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms, i.e., the cell. Such a sheet is meant to be live but believe me, it ain’t easy keeping it so.

In comes Trello, a web / mobile app that makes it easy to organize anything with anyone. Trello uses a paradigm for managing projects known as kanban, a method that had originally been popularized by Toyota in the 1980s for supply chain management. Coupled with Scrum, these tools come in pretty handy when a problem cannot be fully understood or defined and helps us focus on maximising the team's ability to deliver quickly and respond to emerging requirements. We exist in dynamic times and variabilities cannot be easily addressed in a traditionally predictive manner.

3) Easily gather everything that matters
In 2008, there was a great article in The Atlantic titled “Is Google making us stupid?”. Well, I think it is but it had other positive effects (I suppose that’s what one calls a collective good). We are constantly bombarded by information some of which contribute to our learning, and others that simply occupy precious grey matter real estate. Thankfully, we humans are adaptable and I look forward to developing some awesome neural filters as we evolve.

While we wait for all that evolutionary stuff to take its course, Evernote will have to do as, in their words, it helps us organise our lives. Evernote is a very powerful productivity tool and volumes have been written about it. I will only touch on one.

As a non-power user, Evernote’s Write, Collect and Find beautifully summarises how we should focus and categorise what we read or in CEO Phil Libin’s words, to use it as your "external brain.” It really is just that. With a neat calendar integration, notes are coupled to calendar events and relevant information can be easily stored and annotated (of course, there is always Pocket but that’s a story for another day).

I am among one of many who are making a change in how we want to get things done in a company. What are you doing for yours?

*The number of applications for smart devices has surpassed 1.2 million in each of the two largest app stores. There are an estimated 2.3 million individuals working as mobile app developers worldwide. 33% (about 760,000 people) are located in Asia (source: Vision Mobile, Developer Economics Q1 2014: State of the Developer Nation)


About the writer:
Dr Koh Niak Wu is the founder of Cosmiqo International Pte Ltd and an Adjunct Faculty of Operations Management at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business. During his free time, he refrains from responding to every whim and fancy of the gentle ‘ding’. 


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