Inside bits.co: Office Management Software That We Love (And Use Every Day)

The first few days at a new job are always a whirlwind of new people, new routines, and new computer software. When I started at bits, that meant learning a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of new computer software.

While I’ve never shied away from novel technology, I’ve also never worked somewhere that is so cutting edge—once I got over feeling like a bit of a digital dinosaur, I was pretty excited. Technology really is a game-changer, and I thought it might be helpful to give a snapshot of how we run things internally at bits.

  • Basecamp is an online project management platform that we love and have been using for years. It’s a place for everyone, including clients, to collaborate, communicate, view documents, and share ideas. We like to use basecamp rather than email when communicating with clients about specific projects—it helps keep everyone in the loop. We also create internal to-do lists for each project. In addition to helping us keep track of each and every thing in a project, it’s really satisfying to cross items off of a list.
  • insightly is a robust online customer relationship and project management software. It’s our favourite way to analyze and keep track of upcoming opportunities. We set up each opportunity with a 4-part timeline—evaluate, meet the client, complete proposal, and await confirmation—this allows us to visually manage opportunities from the dashboard and make sure we don’t take on too much at once.
  • Since basecamp only lets you assign a task to a single person, we also use insightly for more complicated to-do’s that require multiple people and multiple steps. It’s hard to find one program that does everything and is still user-friendly, so we decided to use both.
  • Momentum is a free app for Google Chrome that really steps up your home page. Along with a great little to-do widget (we really like our to-do’s here, if you didn’t notice), you get a beautiful photo of nature and an inspirational quote, both of which change daily. It really helps to start your day off with a smile. And since everyone gets a different picture, you can peep over your coworkers shoulder if you need an extra dose of inspiration.
  • Toggl is a time-tracking program that we use to track staff time on client projects and internal work. It’s super easy to use and has exact start and stop times. You are also able to input the number of hours allocated to a project, so you can see if you are on budget at a glance.
  • We used to use Harvest, and while we were happy with it, we really like Toggl’s reporting capabilities. It makes it easier for us to create accurate quotes for new business opportunities, which we consider a must!
  • CloudApp is a nifty little application that allows you to quickly share a screenshot or a recording of your screen. You take your screenshot, it uploads to the app and creates a short URL, and then you just copy and paste to share with anyone you please.
  • 1Password is the most practical thing ever. You choose a single master password and it automatically creates and stores passwords to everything. And I do mean everything, from your website logins to your passport information, all just a speedy command ⌘ backslash away.
  • Google Drive is classic, and we use it to share documents and comments among our team. I’ve just discovered that you can download the Google Drive app so you have instant access to your documents on your desktop (remember, slightly technologically challenged over here). You have to manually add every shared file into your My Drive folder online for it to appear in the desktop version, so not quite perfect, but close.
  • TeamGantt is our most recent software investment. It’s yet another online project management program, but it’s very different from basecamp and insightly. ‘Project management’ is really a phrase with a thousand meanings when it comes to software. We use it to schedule our projects and allocate resources—AKA our team members—to each project. It creates lovely Gantt charts that allow us to visualize our projects’ critical paths and see when our team is available to start new projects.
  • It took a lot of research and playing around with different programs before we settled on this system—OmniPlan, OpenProject, and web2Project were our other main contenders. While it’s hard to pass up open source and inexpensive software, we like the intuitiveness of TeamGantt. It’s easy for everyone to learn, it’s attractive (I find there is something inherently frustrating about using ugly programs), and importantly, it has a dashboard view where we can view all of our projects at once for easy scheduling. There are a few things missing, like splitting tasks and customizing each employee’s workweek, but I’ve discovered there is no magic unicorn for project management software.
  • Skype is another classic, and definitely a mainstay at bits. We use the chat function to keep in contact remotely, share files (and paste CloudApp URLs, of course), and we have a big bits team chat that we mostly use to make each other smile. Video conferencing is also great for communicating with clients and remote team members. And our huge computer screens mean our guests’ faces are life-size!

For more tips and tricks, check out Productivity: How to do it better at work, where we focus on being efficient and productive at work in a broader sense. As for programs, these are our picks. What are your favourites? We are always up for learning new things.

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