34 apps we use to run our agency
Originally posted on Ideas by Crema - Medium Sept 20, 2018
You clicked the post so strap in. This ones a doozy!
We are a your modern tech company. We don’t pay for servers. We have very few hardware assets on hand, and we utilize the“cloud”. We subscribe to SAAS. We have very few software licenses that live in-house. Why? Because we invest in people, and the tools change on a pretty regular basis.
This might seem a bit ironic because we build tools as an agency. And we do build great tools. Platforms, apps, experiences, and more that help people to do good work. Our apps and our tools help their teams and clients create automation, focus, efficiency and value. This is why you’ll see below. We subscribe to a LOT of tools. Each with a lazer focus on what they do best.
On to the apps:
Communication and Management
We can credit Asana as being one of the best tools that Crema has invested in in our company’s history. For many years we used Basecamp, Trello, and others, but Asana became our tool of choice, given its flexibility. Having one task in multiple projects made it a tool we could customize to our team. Allowing customers to reply to comments via email made it a great tool to bring in clients.
We continue to use Asana on a daily basis, though our development team has struggled to use it as a true backlog management tool that lives close to their repositories of code. Also as Asana has grown, as a planning and collaboration tool, its gotten slower and heavier to use. We still turn to Asana, but as a development management tool, we’ve moved toward other solutions.
The is one of the newest tools in our arsenal. Zenhub just recently released a platform that expanded on their original browser extension. The product sits directly on top of Github. This is brilliant since we use Github for managing our code repositories. The tool allows us to manage a backlog of epics and stories that correlate to github “issues”. Similar to Jira, Trello, and others, you can then manage the swimlanes of a Kanban or Scrum board. (Whoah.. That’s getting a bit nerdy there) It also helps us to track our story point estimations and velocity as an agile development team.
What modern company doesn’t use Slack? Don’t need to spend too much time here except to say that with Slack and Asana, we have completely removed email internally. Even within our client collaboration, we bring our clients into shared Slack channels. This allows them to be part of the team.
We LOVE zoom. For years we tried Google Hangouts, and then invested into Cisco and GoToMeeting, and spent years worth of asking forgiveness for late connections, bad connectivity, and overall poor experiences. We felt like we were using the old man’s tools, when we should be living in the future. We’ve been on Zoom for about a month, and are blown away. Call quality is great, screen sharing works perfectly. We have all our conference rooms set up with Zoom Rooms, and iPads so you just walk in and tap to go, and air-playing from our MacBooks just works!
Ok, so this one is tough. I honestly wish there was a better solutions, but Lucid Chart still has it with the diagramming tool. Small things like the ability to stick your lines to node, and adjust the path. Or change the shape after you set it in place. These seem so straight forward, but other diagraming tools, that really are much more pleasant in design don’t have the function and power that Lucid Chart still offers.
Sales & Marketing
We kinda love this new email automation tool. We have been long time fans of MailChimp, a brilliant tool for automating newsletters and large email blasts. But as we’ve continued to experiment with content marketing, the automation set up in Drip is just good! We are not Leadpage users, but I’m sure if you synced that world to Drip it would be magical.
Another marketing and sales tool…. We first bought into Hubspot because they are they tool that does everything. Which we should know better, but it has served us well. Our favorite features have been the Sales CRM and email and website integration which allows us to track who is visiting our site, all the way through. Cool. That being said, we are on our way out from Hubspot. If I’m really honest, I just got word that even though we pay month to month, we have a year contract. Instead of being cool about it, like most SAAS companies, Hubspot basically said, deal with it, you’re stuck with us till April. An additional $800/month. Hoping to move to ProsperWorks in April for a fresh CRM that lives on Google.
You are here! And we do use Mdium as the platform for all of our blog/publication. We are exploring new names for our publication. If you have ideas, let us know!
Keeping content coming out of Crema is a full time job, but we don’t have a full time roll for that job yet. Buffer for business helps our team collaborate on making sure that new and sometimes repurposed content is always flowing out of our social doors. We are also giving Buffer Reply a try. I’m not sure we need it. We aren’t a marketing agency ourselves, so it would just be for our own social media activity, and that is another cost, that maybe we can save.
Collecting surveys and information doesn’t have to be ugly, and with Typeform, its not. Setting up and posting a form is easy and the user experience is gorgeous. That all being said. Google forms new design is not too shabby. But otherwise the other players in the space feel like apps from the year 2001.
Crema.us is hosted on Webflow. We have a very strong love/hate relationship with CMS or web builders in general. Short and long of it is that I have a team full of developers. They could build an AWESOME website experience which would mean we would go custom. We have done that several times, but given that we are always iterating on our language, team, and well… everything, not having a CMS is not an option. Why not Wordpress? We use to buildWordpress sites like crazy, but always found ourselves either just editing a template or fighting the Wordpress environment. Webflow does have a great site builder. Feels a lot like the early days of Squarespace. But there are still a lot of limitations to the platform. Its where we are today, and has allowed our marketing and design team to build on and iterate on the site without keeping the dev team from building the incredible product experiences they work on every day.
Lucid press has been an awesome tool for us to spin up what we call “Charters.” Before handing over a Panda doc, we want to make sure that we cast a clear vision for what we think we can do for our clients. No signature needed, but have fun reading out testimonials, our youtube videos, and more.
Getting your contract signed is a back and forth ordeal, and who knows if they even opened it, and even though there is an expiration date, no one pays attention to it. Panda doc to the rescue. So much of contracts is the same material over and over. Plug in the client’s name, info, and detail of their projects and send it for a signature.
Design and prototyping
I honestly can’t remember the last time we opened Photoshop. My background was in Illustrator and then Fireworks with Adobe, but no one can deny that Sketch is the leader in the product user experience community. Lightweight, fast, and a great ecosystem of plugins and integrations. Oh, and CHEAP!
If you’re looking to show off your web or mobile designs, sync your Sketch file up to Invision. With Invision Craft you can even build your links and hotspots right in sketch. Keep the newest version up to date with this great integration. Biggest complaint though they really only offer web and mobile portrait options. With so many screen sizes, environments, etc. It would be great to have some more flexibility. Lastly, we’ve been waiting for a suit of animations tools that would be super helpful, but nothing yet.
Principal is a common companion for the Sketch community. We use it to mock animated experiences that can be shared with the client, the dev team or as a way to test new ideas. There are some beautiful examples of the Principal animations all over Dribbble.
Ummm.. I mean we still open it. Mostly for photo editing, and any random print layout pieces we need to produce. Also, we do use After Effects and Premiere Pro for our YouTube work. Adobe is still a staple in the creative industry. An investment, but with Create Cloud, it helps.
This has been my new best friend. I’m good at somethings, but spelling and grammar is not one of them. Though it doesn’t catch everything, it catches all the right things and just works! I haven’t yet upgraded to the Pro version, but am seriously thinking about it .
I learned 10 years ago that good repository management for our source code is a must. Our team lives and breathes git management. They do a great job of managing branches of code, and committing our work to the correct environments. We could not do what we do as a development team without it.
Heroku has been an awesome managed hosting solution for us for years. We work with a lot of early stage ideas and ventures and the dev ops and server admin overhead is not yet worth the investment as we are sprinting to get platforms up and out and validate traction. Heroku handles its own instances of AWS and allows us to deploy app environments quickly. It also scales up and down for traffic quickly. Draw back? It gets expensive!
We put Intercom on most of our apps. It is an awesome tool for engaging with potential customers on a website, and then setting up custom triggers to engagements within an app. It also helps to service as a great repository for the total number of users in your app and how active they’ve been.
We build ReactJS apps, and rather than going through some of the pain of submitting the apps through the apps stores just for testing, we utilize Expo that allows us to test our mobiles apps quickly with no long approval process.
Firebase offers brilliant mobile app environments quickly. Provided by Google. Its great to put the pieces in place that we don’t need to build over and over.
A long time user of Dropbox, but with Dropbox Company/teams we’ve taken advantage of it as our central place for all our design and ops files and resources.
Dropbox nailed it IMO with Dropbox paper. A few highlights. Connect it with your calendar and have the perfect collaborative space for meeting agendas and notes. Write articles, comment, share, etc. Super clean, and lives right alongside our files in dropbox. Biggest flaw we find is that occasionally things don’t sync quite right, and there is no suggestive editing like Google Docs. But its just so clean!
Again. I can’t imagine the world where we go back to Microsoft office suite. As you’ll notice. None of that is here, and I’ve heard some licensing horror stories that makes me even happier that we are all in on Google.
Google Calendar, shared calendars including rooms and events.
Gmail or Inbox. Personally I use Inbox, but Gmail has been reliable for us for years.
Google Docs. Though we are using Dropbox Paper a lot more now, Google Docs has been a powerhouse for collaborative writing.
I hate tracking hours. Everyone here knows it. But here’s why we track time. We don’t do fixed budget projects. We work through time and duration engagements. So as long as we know who’s on the project and for how long, we can report on the time and value that the client is receiving from Crema. Also tracking time is a brilliant way to measure the use of your time, and where you can gain efficiencies.
Because we sell the time of our teams, we need to be able to forecast which team members will have the time to work on things. Our project management and sales team does a bang-up job
You gotta pay the bills. And quickbooks makes sure that we get paid, and that we pay our bills.
Geekbot is a great Slackbot that we use for daily standups. It prompts each person to say what they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today and what is blocking them.
This is one we made! We use Slack’s Emoji reaction to score the culture engagement. We put points to each emoji, and see who is winning the office.
In order to cut down on moving from one app to another, or missing something that happened. We set up triggers for our apps to talk to one another. Using authorized apps or API token keys we can connect data through the different SAAS platforms we use.
We are in the business of people, we just happen to build apps. 15five is a brilliant tool to keep a gauge on the overall culture of our company. A weekly survey that reports back to each person’s manager. How do you feel? Are will as leadership being clear with our vision? What could we do to be better? Then give virtual high-fives to your peers, and managers can flag an comments for follow ups or one on ones.
1Passwords for Teams
Well as you can tell we use a lot of apps, and a lot of tools, so we need to make sure that we can manage secure access to all these tools. 1Password has been a great way to both share
What products are you using to run your company?
Let us know in the comments below. Have an app we should try? We probably will! Let us now. OOOH have an product you want to build? We do that!