In the first of our ‘Latest from LeftBrain Labs’ series, Alan Avins, Chief Technology Officer at LeftBrain, shares his top workplace tools to manage tasks, communicate effectively and automate workflows.
Slack is often underrated. Created as a productivity platform that enables companies to communicate, both internally and externally, it increasingly replaces the need for email. You can create Slack channels to organise your conversations into certain topics, chat informally and quickly with colleagues, search conversation history and pause notifications when it’s time to go home. But more than that, the capacity for integration is incredibly powerful. For instance, you can set up Slack notifications if you want to be alerted to activities happening on other platforms, such as certain emails being received or contracts being signed. With a little developer knowledge, you can also set up commands using the ‘forward slash’ feature, allowing you to get private reminders in certain channels or set up public flags to alert a whole group of people. All in all, it’s a brilliant place to be for everyone and everything in your company.
Notion is another software that is often perceived as a simple workspace platform, but actually has the functionality for incredibly complex tasks and integrations. Keeping all your wikis, documents and projects in one place, your team can work together from a centralised knowledge base with a range of template documents to choose from. Recently I was working on an internal project, gathering data into a Notion doc table. I then turned that table into a database, and could calculate the progress and profitability of certain projects based on varying criteria. Notion renders intranets a thing of the past, making it possible to host all of your company’s data on a cloud-based, secure platform that is accessible to staff from any location.
On the surface of it, Dropbox is a way to store and share unlimited data on the cloud. It enables document tracking and backup, signing and signature requests, analytics and controlled document access. You can have access to your files anywhere from any device, and work on materials when offline. Dropbox also has real-time video collaboration tools, which means teams can work together on a single file simultaneously, with an additional replay plugin for video focussed teams.
Zoom makes video conferencing easy and accessible from any device. With native Google Workspace and Office 365 integrations, it enables you to sync meetings with your calendar and ensures robust encryption and password protection. I always advocate for standalone products as opposed to embedded ones, as they have a team of people dedicated to developing better features and improving that specific service. Zoom offers enterprise-grade video conferencing, with noice cancellation for surround sounds and voice isolation when using Apple Airpods Pro. Their whiteboard feature is really useful, enabling teams to brainstorm ideas and collaborate together during a call.
Zapier is the glue that sticks these services together. With zero knowledge of APIs and web hooks, you can integrate all of these platforms and set up no-code automated workflows. For example, you could create a to-do list in Notion, which is automatically updated every time you respond to a Slack message with a specific emoji. Or if there’s a repetitive workplace task that you’re constantly having to do, such as saving email attachments to Dropbox, Zapier makes automation a possibility. I often say “nothing is off limits” with Zapier, providing the opportunity to turn tedious tasks into one flawless procedure.
If you access lots of different services, passwords will inevitably end up being re-used which opens you up to cyber attack. 1Password allows you to use a unique, randomly generated password for each service, protecting you against dictionary attacks and other common password hacks. All of your passwords are stored in a vault and accessed with one password, so you obviously need to make sure that your password is very secure and not used for anything else that may be breached. You can also grant secure guest access to specific passwords, which can expire after an allocated time.
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