To Jill Duffy, contributing editor of PC magazine, “the meaning of productivity is highly personal, but ultimately, it’s about achieving goals. It’s about making the most of your time so that you have time and energy left over to do more.” And that could just as easily mean making more money or making more time to recreate with your family.

Apps have laser-targeted productivity at the most granular level. From organizing and sharing files and avoiding traffic jams, to  planning meals and maximizing your run, bike, hike or walk; there are even apps that tell you what clothing to wear.

For founders and entrepreneurs busily scaling their operations, collaboration and project management are your bread and butter. So we’ll take a glance at five apps that can help jack up your business to that next level. And there’s no better time than this year to give them a try if you haven’t already.

Trello

 

 

Among the better known project-management tools today, Trello is highly adaptable to any type of project. It utilizes “boards” on which vertical lists, each containing cards, are placed and can be scrolled horizontally. Boards can be combined with other Atlassian tools by way of “Power-Ups” that connect to dozens of other apps, including your own. A menu on the right is “mission control” from where everything can be managed. Trello is available on your browser and mobile devices, even when you’re offline. Pricing ranges from free to $9.99 per person per month for Business Class to $20.83/person/month or less for Trello Enterprise.

 

Basecamp

 

 

 

 

Boring status meetings and chaotic email chains could be a thing of the past with Basecamp, a project & task management tool now available on the web, iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. Basecamp’s central concept is placing everything a team needs to know, everything it’s accomplishing, every bit of information they need in one place. The Home screen is topped with an “HQ” for company-wide communication, dedicated spaces for your teams to work together, and private places to manage your company’s projects. For every HQ team there are six core tools: To-dos for tracking work, a Message Board for posting announcements and updates, a Campfire chat room for quick casual chats with the team, a Schedule for posting deadlines and milestones, Docs & Files for organizing all the assets everyone needs, and Automatic Check-ins to get regular insights from the team. One plan, one price with everything included: $99/month.

 

HipChat

 

 

 

Another powerful tool from Atlassian, HipChat provides self-hosted group chat, video and screen sharing. This real-time, team-messaging web app is platform-agnostic (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux) and allows you to cut ties to sluggish internal email. Its functionality resembles Slack but at a fraction of the cost per person. HipChat provides unlimited group chat rooms, file sharing and storage, file and link previews, per-room notification settings, searchable chat history, and appearance and theme settings. As you would expect, Hipchat integrates with other Atlassian tools like Jira Software, Confuence, and Bitbucket to further synergize teams. Pricing ranges from $10 per year for small-scale operations (10 to 2,000 users) to $72,000 per year for enterprise-scale operations (3,000 users and up).

 

Leankit

 

 

 

As those familiar with lean manufacturing know, kanban (“signboard” or “billboard” in Chinese and Japanese) is an inventory-control system for supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota in the 1950s. Kanban was introduced to improve manufacturing efficiency. Now comes Leankit, the first kanban software for lean product management. Described on its website as a “visual project delivery tool,” it “enables all types of teams (…) to apply Lean management principles to their work,” visually tracking projects from planning to completion. As you would guess, it’s well-suited to engineering, manufacturing, IT ops as well as to all other types of project management. Cloud-based, hyper-scalable and responsive to mobile devices as/ well as desktops, Leankit smoothly integrates with other tools and applications to make it easier to visualize, manage and execute your work. Internal communication and visualized metrics are built right in. Leankit’s three-tiered pricing ranges from $19 per user per month (Select) to $32 (Advanced) and more for customized Premium service.

 

Zapier

 

 

 

Zapier is a web-based service (as well as the corporation that makes it) that allows end-users to leverage the web applications they use. Zapier integrates with more than 1000 web apps and services, including Facebook Lead Ads, Slack, Quickbooks, Google Sheets, Google Docs, including all the other apps discussed here. Zapier automates routine workflows, such as file sharing and notifications, all launched by user-defined triggers. Users can keep data consistent across web apps like Evernote and Dropbox, synergize apps like Slack and Yammer by “wiring” them together. It’s an immensely powerful system that cuts users free from the routine in order to focus on the spectacular parts of their work. Pricing has three levels: Free forever for personal use; $20 per month and up for business; and $250 per month and up for teams.

tekMountain, an important innovation center in southeastern North Carolina, looks at productivity in terms of what you—the founder, innovator, investor, entrepreneur—are looking to achieve. Come talk with us about how collaboration and project-management apps can synergize your business.

 

This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, Kelly Brown and Bill DiNome with lead writer Zach Cioffi .

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