Technology Meetup Recap: Task Management/Staff Communication Tools

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During the Technology Meetup held on Tuesday, November 12, bookseller attendees heard from fellow booksellers about the tools they use for staff communication and task management. Guest speakers included Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore, Laura Heaberlin of Flying Pig Bookstore, and Candice Huber of Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop.

Justice, who uses Slack and Trello, shared these key points:

  • Justice came to using Slack after struggling to communicate with her staff through e-mail alone.
  • Slack works for her store’s particular culture. It connects people who don’t regularly see or talk to each other because of their schedules, and helps all staff members feel like they’re part of the team.

    • Employees are encouraged to use Slack as soon as they begin working for the store.
  • The store’s Slack is divided into channels based on subject. Fountain has a general interest channel and a finance channel, among others.

    • The finance channel only includes two people and is locked to protect sensitive information.
  • Staff can discuss a variety of different ideas from wherever they are.
  • There’s also an add-on called “HeyTaco!” which gives users five tacos at the beginning of each day that can be given to anyone on the team for any reason. Tacos can be turned in for a reward, such as a paid day off or a comped lunch.

    • At Fountain, Justice noticed that staff members rarely turn them in, they just like giving and receiving them.
  • Slack also integrates with Google Docs and Trello.
  • Trello was recommended to Justice by Jill Hendrix from Fiction Addiction; Fountain uses Trello to manage all aspects of its events.

    • The store works with 150 authors a year, and this tool ensures that everything gets done.
    • Web ads, images, and graphics can be kept in one place.
    • Checklists for each process, including post-event, can be created.
    • Booksellers can keep track of items they might like to purchase for the holiday season.
  • Justice added that communication and task management tools are only as good as a store’s culture. The same boss that is going to expect employees to answer an e-mail at 3:00 a.m. will expect someone to keep their Slack on. Justice herself encourages her employees to turn it off when they’re not at work.

Heaberlin, who uses Asana, shared these key points:

  • Asana is an integrated task management system, or, Heaberlin said, a fancy to-do list. She began using it with her folk duo, then incorporated it into her personal life and Flying Pig.

    • Flying Pig uses the free version of the software.
  • Asana’s task management list can be accessed from anywhere via a mobile app or an internet browser. 
  • One of the most important functions of Asana is how it works as a communication tool; at Flying Pig, Heaberlin and the store’s owner only have overlapping shifts once a week, so they use this tool to keep in touch.
  • Tasks can be simple things like deleting a special order or getting an electronic order confirmation, or it can be used for more complicated things, too.

    • For more complicated tasks, there is a “details” window. For example, if a phone call has come in for the owner, Heaberlin can make “Missed phone call” the task, and fill in the caller’s information in the details window.
    • Tasks can also be subdivided. If Heaberlin was trying to decide what books she wanted to order for Christmas and planned to ask each person on staff, she could create an overarching task with the books that she’d like to have, then subdivisions for each staff member.
    • Tasks can also have a due date, which is helpful for keeping track of backlist orders. Tasks can be one time or recurring; for example, Heaberlin has a task on the first of every month to check on outstanding invoices.
  • Tasks can also be assigned to other staff. For example, if an e-mail comes in that one person is more equipped to handle, the task can be assigned to that person. When it’s completed, users receive a push notification.
  • There are also projects that can be used to organize tasks, similar to the way channels work in Slack. Tasks can be moved between different projects.

Huber, who uses BiTrix24, shared these key points:

  • Huber uses Slack for communication, and has tried different tools like Trello and Asana, but found that BiTrix24 is a service that meets all her needs.
  • The service is free and can be connected to Google Drive.
  • It has all of the project management functions that other services have, as well as task management, a chat room, and the ability to create a wiki for each project.
  • Huber described the service as a one-stop shop with a simple interface.
  • Tubby & Coo’s doesn’t have any paid staff, but Huber said that she does have people who help on a regular basis that she needs to be able to communicate with.
  • Huber created a wiki for the store, which has all necessary information included in it for temporary workers to read over. They can also use the service to communicate with each other.
  • Huber said the service is ideal for information-sharing and for gathering information in one place, from documents to conversations to information about different things going on in-store. It acts as an “information depository.”
  • BiTrix24 is helpful for the store’s publishing arm as well, as it has a customer relationship management module that allows users to track the entire course of the project. This means new authors can see what stage of the process they’re in.
  • The service is customizable and flexible based on how each user works individually.

Technology Meetups are part of ABA’s ongoing education initiative for independent bookstores; Technology Meetups take place one Tuesday per month at 2:00 p.m. ET; ABA’s Marketing Meetups are held two Thursdays a month at 11:00 a.m. ET. A video recording for this session can be found on ABA’s Education Resources page on