Our 4 Favourite Lockdown Apps | Totally Tight Tech

Simon Ellis | September 7, 2020

It’s been a year – amiright? At the tail end of 2019, I was trying to put a seminar day together to be entitled ‘2020 Vision’. It would be a three-parter to help get people prepared for the year ahead in brand, commercial and financial terms. 

Call me naive, but I admit I wasn’t planning on including preparations for dealing with a global pandemic, working from home or dealing with an economic crisis.

In hindsight it seems serendipity stepped in to save my blushes – we didn’t get enough interest and decided to postpone it.

Having said that, there were other things that we had put in place at EllisJames that have helped us immensely during lockdown, or rather ‘The Great Lockdown of 2020: Where Everything Ground To A Halt and Yet We Still Managed to Put On Weight and Become Alcoholics’.  

Again, I’d love to claim that I anticipated COVID-19 and these were the plans we made in advance, but I can’t. We put these things in place over the last two years or so, and they happened to prove enormously useful throughout this tough time. So I thought I’d share them. 

Bear with me and a range of alliterative puns, as I invite you to read: Three Things That Thaw us Through: Part 1

Totally Tight Tech 

As designers, you might imagine that we carry around powerful Macbooks and work on 27” Macs. Well, you’d be right.

The eminent power, portability, excellent screens and reliability of Macs meant that within a day of having decided to abandon the office (a week ahead of the ‘official’ lockdown), all members of the EllisJames team were safely ensconced at their homes and working at full capacity. 

App ecosystem

For a long time though, we have been seeking the best app ecosystem for our budget, needs and ambitions for client collaboration and engagement ie. it wasn’t a plan put in place in case of a pandemic. But the decisions we made over the last 12 months have really stood us in good stead going into and throughout lockdown. Here are our 4 favourite lockdown Apps:

Our 4 Favourite Lockdown Apps

Box.com

File sharing and collaboration was enabled through our cloud solution. We’ve been using Box for cloud storage and file sharing and highly recommend it. It’s got all the security measures you’d want, and in terms of service and functionality, it’s got it covered. But it really came into its own during lockdown, when we could effortlessly and automatically sync files with each other, ensuring great collaboration and painless handover from one team member to another.

Our 4 Favourite Lockdown Apps Clickup

ClickUp

For project management we use ClickUp. We’ve been round the houses with tools like these, starting a few years back with Trello. The ‘card’ layout didn’t suit us back then and we were looking for additional functionality not offered at the time. We then migrated to Monday.com. A massive step up, but again, we were looking for more, including a more reasonably scaling pricing structure. 

What we really wanted though, was the ability to offer our clients more visibility and ease of collaboration. Research led us to ClickUp, which on the face of things looks a lot like Monday. But ClickUp allows us to share individual job boards with clients, who can comment on work and ideas and share resources and documents.  The brand experience of living with ClickUp has been great too – the team behind it are clearly on a mission to provide the ultimate management platform, adding improvements and new functionality (often in direct response to user suggestion or request) on a weekly basis, and delivering an engaged relationship with their user cohort. Many others could learn from their example. 

ClickUp is also highly customisable, way beyond what we’ve needed to do, but even so we’ve been able to create templates for our Project management, 90-day Missions, digital marketing and even CRM activity. 

Office 365

Office (365)

Yeah, strange one this. As a convert to the Mac world, I didn’t think I’d ever be typing praise for a Microsoft product. For too long, Microsoft seemed to be resting solidly on its ubiquity, falling way behind the innovation curve that myriad smaller independents were powering along.

We do a LOT of PowerPoint presentations, so we’d been aware of some interesting (and loooong awaited) improvements to that app, such as SVG support and better font embedding. We were already using Exchange for our email, but last month our IT provider urged us to migrate to an Office 365 platform instead. 

We didn’t expect much from it, but in a short space of time an app ecosystem for email, calendar, secure chat and video meetings has been rationalised from four apps to just two, with better integrations and performance to boot. 

Four Microsoft naysayers from EllisJames have installed Outlook over Mail, and become firm advocates of the revitalised Office landscape. Where for the last four years we have communicated through Slack, we now collaborate and chat through Teams instead. 

Integrations have been a mixed bag in our experience, seldom offering more than minimal data transactions between the apps we use. However, Outlook really excels with excellent in-screen integrations with Box, ClickUp and Xero, our cloud accounting platform. 

Xero

Xero

It’s worth mentioning Xero. We migrated to a cloud accounting platform over the course of the first quarter of 2020, completing the process a matter of weeks before lockdown. Again, this was a strategic decision made back when ‘facemask billionaire’ sounded as ridiculous as ‘garlic bread’, but has truly delivered during the last eight months. 

Xero has brought together our accounting with our estimating and invoicing processes, so we’ve rationalised two apps into one, and improved internal processes and client experience too.

The take away

We set out to ensure we were using technology to the best extent within our business, and that strategy has paid off more than we could have anticipated.

We wanted to:

  1. Improve our processes so they were seamless, easy to learn and delivered excellent customer experience
  2. Be superbly organised, because we recognise none of us are particularly details oriented. We needed technology to enable administration to be as interesting and rewarding as possible, so we had more mindspace to crack on with the creativity
  3. Maximise collaboration among ourselves and with our clients
  4. Underline our capabilities within the Aerospace and Defence sectors with reassuring levels of security and data management
  5. Create an app ecosystem that could scale with the business with minimal onboarding
  6. Ensure we had excellent continuity measures
  7. Find ways to integrate apps to maximise their value.

Next week we will continue with The Three Things That Thaw us Through: Part 2: The Daily Digital Dial-in. 

Thanks for reading! Please Like and Share.

Si