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Work Accelerators vs. Productivity Tools

At Obie.ai, we have aspired to deliver tools that make internal support teams, HR professionals and remote workers more productive, eliminate blockers and generally get things done faster.

83% of office workers feel their employer isn’t providing them with the appropriate technology they need to perform their job

ServiceNow Study

Take for example, one of our favorite daily-use tools, Trello. We use Trello for more than just Scrum – we use it as a life planning tool. It helps us stay on track with our goals and makes us accountable to the team for deliverables. You might say, it’s a tool that guides us to productivity.

But we are beginning to ask ourselves a deeper question. Does it really accelerate our work? One could argue that it keeps us organized and on top of things, which enables better execution, but in the same breath, it isn’t really a work accelerant.

To this end, we would to delineate tools that enable “productivity” and tools that “accelerate work”.

Work Accelerator: a definition

A work accelerator is a tool that reduces or automates routine tasks related to knowledge capture, reuse and discovery. Work accelerators do this by eliminating, consolidating or replacing the steps required to get a job done by using:

  1. Different knowledge mediums (eg. video vs text);
  2. Connecting/Integrating software via API;
  3. Using intelligent technology (AI/ML) to enhance predictions

While Trello keeps us productive, it doesn’t accelerate our work according to our definition. But there are tools that do and we thought we’d share a list of our favourite tools that go beyond productivity, and truly accelerate work. But first, let’s start with the one that we built with the Work Accelerator definition in mind.

Obie

Searching for, accessing and sharing documents, knowledge or files in the workplace, is one of the most glaring and costly productivity pitfalls in the modern workplace.

51% of employees avoid sharing documents because they can’t find them or it would take too long to do so.

Igloo 2020 State of the Digital Workplace report

Whether this difficulty is caused by knowledge storage silos, inadequate search, annoying application switching, file-sharing limitations, or any number of restrictions, collaboration is severely stifled by this problem.

The Obie personal browser extension accelerates work by creating a single, universal access point for searching, accessing and sharing any internal file, document or knowledge that is frequently reused by you or members of your team. This limits context switching and reduces shoulder-taps by connecting all of your disparate knowledge stores like Google Drive, Dropbox, Confluence, Box, Github and more, to a single source of truth so that you can get the knowledge you need to complete your work or the task at hand.

Besides our own, here are a list of work accelerators that we love.

Loom

Writing detailed instructions or explanations in an email or internal message is a time-waster that we no longer have to tolerate. Loom helps accelerate communication by making it easy to record an instructional video with screen sharing in far less time than it takes to write the equivalent text. Besides the audio component, the video can contain a demonstration with a screen-share, which dramatically increases viewer comprehension. In a lot of ways, Loom’s video messaging is the prototypical example of a work accelerator. Instead of writing a message, attaching pictures and spending 15-20 minutes, you can record a 3 minute video in a single take and send it on its way. They make it even more convenient by offering a browser extension that is ready and waiting for you right in Google Chrome’s extension tray. That is true work acceleration.

Streak CRM

Everyone knows that CRMs are a LOT of work to keep up. They have tremendous value to sales and customer support teams, but building them is a frustratingly significant investment in time. That is where Streak differentiates in the CRM space – it saves you time when building your CRM. A big part of the work involved in building and maintaining a CRM is the transfer of data between your email to your CRM software. When they merge, you remove a big part of the job. This is another great example of a tool that is accelerating work. Streak has a Chrome Extension too.

Troops

Did you think we were done with CRMs? They require a tremendous amount of maintenance, so it makes sense that there are tools that help solve CRM problems. Troops is one of them that fits into the work accelerator category. Troops works with a specific stack: Salesforce + Slack. Troops automates updates in Salesforce directly from Slack. You’ll get updates directly in the flow of work and give you insights on the Sales process without having to switch tools. This is a great time saving work accelerator.

Calendly

Booking meetings by email can be very tedious. Fortunately, Calendly delivers an elegant solution: eliminate the back and forth by anticipating that one party will have to make their schedule public. This accelerates an individual’s work by eliminating the time required to communicate their availability and allows you to stay on task with zero effort. A fine example of a work accelerator.

Docusign

After any protracted sales process, the fun part comes when the parties put pen to paper and sign the contracts – or so it would seem. Before Docusign, that usually involved meeting in cafes, sending illegible faxes, shipping by registered mail/courier or in other methods from days gone by. Docusign made legal processes more efficient and less costly, not just with technology, but with attention to the parts of the execution process that prevented moving on to more productive work.

The concept of a work accelerator is much like taking productivity to the next level. By investing in tools that accelerate your work, you will be spending less time on low-value, repetitive tasks and more on those that generate high-value outcomes.