how i decide whether to use a new tool

How I decide whether to use a new tool for my work [PMP #203]

It seems like every day there’s a new tool coming out that supposedly helps you to get more done and be more efficient. And if we’re not careful, shiny object syndrome tempts us to try these new tools because we feel like that’s the answer to better productivity. In reality, the tools we use really aren’t as important as the principles and HOW we actually use the tool.

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That said, whenever I’m tempted by a new tool or app, I think through the decision very carefully. The most important tools in my tech stack have basically remained the same since starting my business. Little apps that aren’t important can be changed quickly. For example, I recently started using Clean Shot for screen recordings instead of Loom or Dropshare. And this was a pretty simple switch. But I’ve been using core apps like my email (Apple Mail), task manager (Asana) and CRM (Pipedrive) for years.

Recently I was tempted to sign up for Basecamp’s new email service Hey. And this got me thinking about the process of signing up to a new tool and how I go about making the decision. Basically, I conduct a simple cost/benefit analysis to determine whether the effort of switching is worth the hassle.

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Here are some of the things I think about:

What new benefits am I going to receive which I’m not getting at the moment?

The first thing I consider is what am I going to be gaining by making the switch? Switching because an app ‘looks nice’ isn’t enough. Yes, design and usability is important. But more than that, what real benefits will I gain by switching that I don’t have right now?

Looking at Hey, there are some features that really interest me:

  • The ability to screen first-time senders.
  • Adding comments to messages.
  • Better privacy from trackers.
  • And a completely new way of managing email using their Imbox, paper trail and newsletter feed.

This all looks exciting and there are many features that I’m not currently enjoying the benefit of.

What will I be losing by moving away from my current tool?

On the flip side of the coin, I then look at what I’d be giving up if I made the switch.

Right now, I use Apple Mail for my email and I really like the synergy you get within the Apple ecosystem.

  • Great integration with my calendar and contacts.
  • It’s fast, reliable and ‘just works’ really well. I’ve tried many Mail apps in the past and Apple Mail’s reliability keeps me coming back.
  • And being able to triage and archive mail from my Apple Watch is super handy.

But the biggest thing I’d be giving up is my email history. Currently, Hey doesn’t have a way to import your email history to their service. It’s a fresh start. And while I see some benefits in this, for me, not having this history is a big turn off. If anything, I’d be making my email process slower by having to switch between tools to send email and look up old threads.

And that’s why I’ve decided to continue using Apple Mail for now. The benefits of Hey just aren’t quite strong enough to get me to switch (right now). I’m also very happy with my current email process. I’m not drowning in email so I wouldn’t be switching to Hey to solve a problem. I’d only be switching for a better process and right now my existing process is good enough.

How much work will it be to switch to the new tool?

After doing the above cost/benefit analysis, if I conclude that the pros outweigh the cons, I consider what it would take to actually make the switch.

A few years ago, I decided to make the switch from Mailchimp, which at the time I’d been using for about 5-6 years to ConvertKit. After Mailchimp made some changes to their service, I decided that ConvertKit was a better fit for my business long-term. There were also some automation features in ConvertKit that really interested me and would give me options that I didn’t currently have.

When it came to actually make the switch, I planned out the migration very carefully. I made a list of all the signup forms, automation sequences, groups and tags that would need to be updated. This helped me to get clarity on how much time and effort it would take to make the switch.

With other tools I use, I’ve set up automated workflows using Zapier. Switching to a new tool may mean having to rebuild these Zaps which adds to the cost of migration. So in a way, the more I automate my own systems, the better any new tool has to be to get me to switch.

My advice here is to take it slow. The excitement of a new tool can cause us to rush the process. But it’s well worth taking your time to plan the migration and prototype how your processes are going to work in the new tool.

How can I make the transition easier?

Finally, it’s worth thinking about what you can do to make the switch even easier.

When migrating to ConvertKit, they offered a complimentary migration service. This saved me a lot of work and was a big contributing factor to my decision.

I also signed up for Brennan Dunn’s Mastering ConvertKit course so I could hit the ground running and take advantage of all that ConvertKit had to offer. Ultimately my motivation to switch providers was to get better at email marketing and this course helped me to do just that.

In my consulting business, I get approached all the time by people telling me they only use a fraction of the features that Asana and Pipedrive have to offer. If you switch to a new tool and only use a small percentage of what it can do, is it really worth the hassle of switching?

And that’s what goes through my mind before switching to a new tool. The above process gives you a sense of why more core tools haven’t changed in years. My existing processes work very well and for me to switch to a new tool it really has to offer significant improvements to my productivity or business that I’m not currently getting.