Learning Hub

Who Needs a PA? Free Online Tools for Managers

As a manager you need the right information delivered in a succinct and timely manner.

It’s easy to feel bombarded by the different data sources competing for our attention in the modern working environment. And while the Internet is undoubtedly a rich source of information, comparatively little has been done to connect the vast number of tools available in the form of websites, apps, RSS feeds, etc.

Essentially, the Internet has no centre and though we call it ‘the web’ there is relatively little lateral movement.

In reality, it’s more like a series of islands and our browser is the boat. So how can we best navigate it?

I’m finding the simple approach of IFTTT is co-ordinating my work on the web and leading to greater efficiency – something every manager can appreciate.
IFTTT logo
IFTTT.com (It’s pronounced as it’s spelled – like the word ‘sift’ without the ‘s’) is designed to address this disconnect between web tools.

IFTTT is an acronym for ‘If This Then That’. The service allows you to create tasks which are set to be performed if a certain event occurs, almost like a very literal personal assistant.

This turns out to be extremely useful. There are an endless number of combinations. For example, ‘if a Financial Times article discussing my industry is published, then send it to my email address’ or ‘if I check-in with Four-Square then add it to my calendar’ for a handy diary entry. Want to backup your documents instantly? –  ‘if a document is saved in DropBox, then save it in Box.com’.  Avoid missing a meeting by setting up ‘if anything changes in my calendar, then send me an SMS notification’.

Simplicity is clearly the objective. In fact the entire site looks like it was designed by Fisher-Price. The layout could not be more basic. The text and graphics are huge and there are few click-ables. Don’t let the simple appearance dissuade you from the power of the tool. As more functions are added and the user-base creates new recipes, IFTTT will continue to evolve into an increasingly useful tool for managing the sea of information we all need to navigate on a daily basis.

Are there any managers using IFTTT.com now? Please add a comment and share your recipes.

Matthew Kelleher is the Library Manager at IMI. His interests include information management technology, human-computer interaction and online learning.

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