Corporate IT strategies, small but perfectly formed edition
October 14, 2019 4:22 AM   Subscribe

You are a small (say under 50 people) company. What software tools do you use on a daily basis to get things done?

I'm a manager in a professional services firm with fewer than 50 employees working out of one location. I'm in the middle of updating our IT strategy, but so far we're mostly just deciding to replace things as they wear out or upgrade software which is no longer supported to the new version of that software - in other words, we're just rolling along in a steady state without really changing much.

Currently everyone has a desktop PC running Windows and MS Office, and an iPhone. We're going to change this a bit so that more people have laptops with docking stations to allow more mobile working.

We use some software which is specific to our industry, and we're looking at that separately. I'm more interested in finding out in general terms what hardware and software set up well-organised small companies use to get things done these days, ie to collaborate and manage workflows and documents. Does everyone in your organisation have a laptop, or an iPad with a detachable keyboard? Do you use Slack, or Dropbox corporate? Do people take iPads with Apple pens to meetings and make notes in Notability? These are just the things I've heard of - I'm sure there's lot of really good stuff out there I know nothing about.

I'm sorry the scope of this question is very broad. I feel I'm in the 'you don't know what you don't know' box at the minute, and I figure if I can get some ideas about what solutions people actually use, I could start thinking about whether it would work for us or not.
posted by meronym to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It all depends on what line of work you are in, what compliance requirements you have, the technical know-how and savvy of your team, etc.

You can break this down into a few core areas that you, as an organization, first need to define:

1. Do we have any data compliance requirements?
2. Do we have any SLAs that we need to meet, which would then drive uptime and availability?
3. How mobile is the workforce?
4. What are your corporate data retention/recovery requirements? Think in terms of recoverability: what's the most amount of data you could afford to lose, and the most amount of time you can afford to be 'down'?

These questions will drive the architecture and platform that should be put in place. Don't worry about iPads or laptops in meetings until you've tackled the bigger fundamentals.
posted by tgrundke at 5:40 AM on October 14, 2019

For context, I'm part of a small team within a medium-sized company. Our team functions like its own company in a way, so I can give perspective as to which of the "company-wide" tools we take advantage of.

Organizational Infrastructure
  • From a hardware perspective, everyone in the company is issued a MacBook Pro, the specs of which depend on your job needs. Our open office has no assigned seating and there are monitors available everywhere that you can hook into.
  • Google Gsuite is the central pillar of the organization. Docs, Drive, Meet, Messaging, Calendar, etc. Everyone synchronizes on this and I have to say it works fairly well with one major exception: Our organizational policy doesn't allow us to invite users outside of our company domain to collaborate on documents or share Drive folders. This is super annoying and I guess for security reasons.
  • Dropbox Corporate is also available, and because the policy is less strict, allows us to share docs with anyone outside of the org, I use this instead of Google Drive for the most part.
  • Teamwork for project management.
  • A corporate Lastpass account, giving people access to various web services.
  • Dialpad for "soft-phone" use. Personally I don't use this, but phones are still a major part of the core business as well as the need to have voicemail.
  • Concur handles both customer invoicing as well as employee expense reports, and it's fairly terrible at both.
  • Salesforce for "sales-y" stuff, I guess? I know that our company has a homespun system that does a lot of what SF does, so I don't think we use it as much as other companies.
  • There's also a suite of HR related things: ADP, Benefits Portal, etc.
Our team infrastructure
  • Slack. Our team was ahead of the curve and adopted it 3 or 4 years ago. The larger organization adopted it last year and we're trying to hold onto our fiefdom as long as possible. Personally I think Slack is *not* well suited for more than 8-10 people. Unless its organized and managed well, it tends to become a bit of a shitshow in terms of creating distractions, extraneous notifications, terrible search capabilities, etc.
  • Jira. To help our tech folks keep track of issues.
  • Github. We do a lot of web production work, so this may not apply.

posted by jeremias at 5:46 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I work for a large company, so I can't really answer your question well, but I will say that getting an enterprise license for a password manager (we use 1password) has been a game changer for both our convenience and security. No matter what else you do, I would strongly recommend purchasing and even mandating the use of one.
posted by mosst at 5:59 AM on October 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

At 50 people, you poll your staff dedicated to IT support and select the tools that you have 2+ people on staff to manage.
posted by bfranklin at 6:08 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

At my (sub-20-people) software company, we used HipChat for IM/IRC functionality until it got bought up and the pricing changed, at which point we switched to a self-hosted open source option, RocketChat.
posted by 4th number at 6:28 AM on October 14, 2019

We use RocketChat too and despite a few quirks, it works pretty well.

We have home-built tools for tracking out sales demos and a separate system for client updates - we all rely on these tools being used regularly so if a client contacts a sales person they can see the last client service interaction and vice-versa.

We also all work remotely, so having multiple ways to connect (RocketChat for IM, email, texting, voice, etc.) is key. We all have land lines and cell phones (company pays for both).

We have a hands-on meeting with all staff each Monday afternoon (we're less than 10 employees so with closer to 50 this might be impossible) but it's a great opportunity for us all to be made aware of what's going on. We have a specific agenda checking in with each area of the company, set aside time for us to jointly problem-solve any issues we uncover, keep each other posted of upcoming vacation for coverage, etc.

There are a million tech solutions to communication but having live voice time with each other on a regular, scheduled basis is really critical for us.
posted by Twicketface at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2019

slack, jira, rocketbooks, Gsuite, confluence
posted by nikaspark at 1:52 PM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’ve had both professional and volunteer experience lately making these recommendations. :-) Here’s what I’ve converged on.
  • Everyone should have the same type of laptop. What it is matters less than making it easily interchangeable and replaceable. (I like MacBooks, Surface tablets with keyboard are also pretty good IME.) Encourage everyone to use cloud storage heavily so laptops are essentially disposable.
  • Google Gsuite is probably the best overall email + productivity suite out there. The exception is if you rely heavily on some MS Office features that would be hard to port or give up; then use Office 365. Pick one or the other, don’t try to use both.
  • Slack for your general chat needs.
  • Zoom for video conferencing.
  • Enforce 2FA for access to all of the above. I like hardware Yubikeys, but for the intersection of all of the above, Authy is fine.
Everything else is difficult to determine without knowing industry or more detail.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 6:40 PM on October 14, 2019

Every employee that I know who uses concur absolutely hates it.
posted by bilabial at 8:44 AM on October 15, 2019

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