There are a glut of software tools, mobile applications, websites and learning portals.
The quality spectrum of these tools is as broad as the tools themselves and the industries they serve. It could be safe to say that the Pareto Principle applies to software applications as much as it does to business in general.
In fact, studies show that the average smartphone user only really uses about 30 apps per month. From my personal experience, even that statistic sounds high.
The overabundance can be overwhelming and cause more than attention overload, it can create counterproductivity that flies in the face of most apps’ intended creation (Facebook, Instagram & Tiktok excluded, of course).
The best and most sticky software products have a few things in common.
Features of the Most Prevalent (& Sticky) Software Tools
I chose this title carefully. There is a reason the most prevalent (& sticky) tools also include the best features (or is it the other way around?). Having great features (and perhaps the right marketing for ample market penetration) typically produces greater market acceptance, which helps provide the revenue to add more features–and the cycle repeats. Here are
- First (or early) mover advantage. I’ve been told many times before that “first mover advantage” is a misnomer. It is often NOT the first mover that has the advantage, but the first mover combined with several other gritty features can be very helpful. If not the first mover, it certainly helps to be early. Do you think Microsoft Excel was the first spreadsheet. Hardly, but they were still early in computing (and they owned the platform for distribution). Were they the best at first? No, but they were good enough and they came included, which means it was hard for others to compete. Could you imagine trying to create your own “me too” spreadsheet company today with the likes of Google and Microsoft as your competitors. Early movers enjoy the advantage of market penetration and entrenchment, which is difficult to surmount even for a subsequently superior product.
- Industry agnosticism. The best tools can be used across industries. Spreadsheets (can you tell I like them?) are used by churches and financiers alike. Every company has projects and therefore could possibly use project management software. Most larger organizations include a sales team and customer accounts that need to be tracked, charted and reported and hence need a CRM. The most prevalent software products are used across industries.
- Pain points prevented! The best and most prevalent products prevent pain points (alliteration unintended). Does it save an organization ample money (not just in the cost of the product directly by in the product’s indirect association to productivity increases)? Today’s up-and-coming software products provide money saving related to disintermediating human intervention through automation. Massive productivity gains equate to large increases in revenue or decreases in overall cost structure. In most cases, such productivity gains help free up time for the higher-functioning tasks that make organizations flourish.
- Developers unite! Yes, all the great platforms include a community where new ideas and opportunities are created to bring fresh ideas and better ways of doing things. Kanban operations are built on the idea that quality comes from continuous improvement. Nowhere is this more true than in the software market. Things are always in a state of flux and change. The best platforms are truly platforms where outside developers can create an actual community of contributors where existing models and methods are questioned and where new practices help to push a growing ship of ideas and code forward. Platforms are just one of the reasons why the future of software development is not customization in the true sense.
My Most Frequented Tools & Apps
What follows is likely atypical from most mobile and internet users. I deleted the Facebook, Instagram and a handful of other apps on my phone several years ago, so my most frequented apps may sound more like those of a boring, bean-counting accountant than most. However, I try to stick to applications, websites and tools that include features that add value and time-saving to my life. With kids, family and other healthier distractions than work, I can’t afford to waste time on the trivial.
I’m a big fan and regular user of all things Microsoft Excel. As such, I need a regular quick reference for things like hotkeys, functions and other quick-fixes for all things Microsoft Excel. While I have several websites I frequent for reference, my one bookmarked site that garners the most attention is ExcelTraining.com. The site includes things like an easy to navigate list of keyboard shortcuts, an exhaustive list of Excel functions and a complete list of Excel formulas. As my proficiency has increased I find myself referencing it less frequently, but my desire to stay current in Excel keeps me coming back for the simple list that is easily referenced.
The site also has paid options which I have never used. I’ve found that the more ubiquitous the product, the more easily free information is available to you on YouTube or elsewhere. Excel is something even the basest of individuals working in business should have a keen awareness of. Hence, a good reference for the basics is always a great help and a must.
When it comes to remaining productive, Asana is my hands-down favorite app for project management amount teams. It works for nearly any project. I have personally used it in managing content marketing projects, preparation for raising growth capital, software development, website development and even personal project management where a larger project can be broken down into discrete chunks. It’s been especially great at managing projects run by remote teams (both before and after COVID-19).
I also don’t call out Asana lightly. I have used other project tools like Basecamp, Jira and even hybrid-communications tools like Slack. I just find Asana to be my personal favorite.
If there’s one software tool that have a good proficient and overabundant understanding of it’s customer relationship management (CRM) tools. I’ve worked with numerous other paid and open source CRMs. Some of the open source ones like SugarCRM and X2CRM include very customizable fields and sections, marketing automation tools and email/calendar integration. However, the downside is the lack of commercial support, backups and overall integration with other applications. In one of my businesses, we also use Outreach.io, an email and contact automation tool that ties directly into SalesForce. It is a productivity game changer for our sales and marketing team whose equal is not yet available on any of the open source platforms.
Salesforce also includes added applications (some free, some paid) and the ability to develop, enhance and customize to a company’s individual needs.
I’m a finance guy at heart. I like the numbers and thrive off the analyzation of how to improve them. Quickbooks collates all our companies’ financial data including accounts payable, accounts receivable, credit cards, Paypal, bank accounts, etc. Not only does it bring together all of our financial data. Netsuite needs an honorable mention here as well as it can combine more ERP management into the financial side of a business–something entirely lost on the SMB audience with Quickbooks. As such, the financial tools used for financial accounting and reporting are heavily dependent on the size of the organization and the ultimate goals of the data you need to make critical business decisions.
The features that may be important to one may be entirely lost on another. Some may be more interested in marketing tools, while others are drawn toward finance, the arts and even mobile games. I have always gauged the stickiness of a software product with the following queries:
- Does the product have a real commercial need?
- Does it add value to the user?
- Does it delight (or better yet, entertain) while doing 1 & 2?
If you get the first two, you have a winner. If you are able to nail all three then you have yourself a market leader and a sticky product that is not going away anytime soon.