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Is your CEO hands-on with technology? Seven tools to spark innovation and boost productivity

By Tom Puthiyamadam, Global Digital Services Leader, PwC

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

It's easy for leaders to say they're serious about using technology to reinvent their businesses. Yet all too often they focus only on strategy and fail to leverage the tools and apps that could keep them current and spark new ideas for commercial use. And being hands-on with tech provides another key benefit: it puts you in the shoes of customers and employees, forcing you to think about the user experience.

So, beyond the AI tool in your smartphone, what other technologies can bring business insight—and help you streamline your workday to boot? Here's what some of the CEOs we work with use on a daily basis:

1. Track Tasks with Asana

To-do lists on sticky notes don't cut it in the corner office. While some cite its over-simplicity, Asana is a task management system that lets you set priorities, assign projects to others, and otherwise simplify the complexities of the C-suite. Says the CEO of a creative services company, "It's helped us stay on track with the many different projects going on, and allows me to seamlessly manage remote teams." Adds a health solutions CEO, "It helps me keep both my professional and personal life in order."

2. Get the Team Together with Slack

Slack has emerged as a collaboration tool of choice for many digitally savvy CEOs. Says the CEO of a VPN service provider, "This app allows me to easily communicate with my team, share files, reduce the number of emails, and set up daily reminders—all immensely helpful in managing a fast-growing startup. One of my favorite aspects of Slack is the ability to easily integrate other apps I use for work and view everything in one dashboard." Similarly, as one communications CEO says, "The integrations make it one of the most powerful collaboration solutions available. Beautiful UI, easy to pick up, and hugely informative. It's a central support to the way we communicate in our teams." Power users caution, however, that it's important to take a break from Slack to re-enter the real world from time to time.

3. Visualize Ideas with MindMeister

While this software category has a relatively steep learning curve, mind-mapping tools like MindMeister can help make ideas more concrete. Says an SEO services company CEO, "The thing that I always have a hard time explaining to potential clients about our services is getting them to visualize everything that needs to be done to rank their sites. With mind-mapping I can actually show them everything that we do. Plus, when I work with freelance talent, I can show them a mind-map that details exactly how I expect them to approach their work."

4. Keep on Task with StayFocusd

Even CEOs find the lure of social media, online games, and other web distractions too tantalizing to ignore. The CEO of an app company says she uses the Google Chrome plug-in StayFocusd as a workaround—to keep her, well, focused. "When working from home, social media can be a major distraction. The Google Chrome extension lets you set specific time restrictions on certain websites with a 10-minute default option. Once your time has been used up, the sites you have selected to block can't be accessed for the remainder of the day." Got a social media emergency? The only real override is to use a different computer.

5. Streamline Scheduling with AI

Artificial intelligence is ramping up in a major way, and many CEOs are adopting AI tools like the now-in-beta Amy, an AI scheduler, as virtual assistants. As the CEO of an online crowdsourcing company says, "We run an efficient ship and can't always hire new team members. But my time is still at a premium and Amy gives me the benefits of a personal assistant without having to add headcount." Similarly, the CEO of an education services company says he uses artificially intelligent Amazon Echo all the time, "for getting the news, getting quick queries answered, managing my calendar, controlling lights, and more." Remember, of course, that AI tools remain far from perfect and require significant oversight to avoid embarrassing issues.

6. Simplify Purchasing with Wocket

Company credit cards are easy to issue but difficult to juggle in a wallet full of plastic. The CEO of an Internet company uses a new smart wallet called the Wocket. The device has a touchscreen on one side that can be used to select the card desired on a transaction-by-transaction basis. Inside is a single piece of plastic that "becomes" the selected card each time it's removed from the wallet. "It makes using a company credit card easy, and one card can be shared with all of the employees," he says. "This makes managing company purchases very easy to track and to keep organized. This became a real time and money saver once we started using it." Tools like these may not be ready for the enterprise, but smaller organizations can likely experiment more freely.

7. Keep Fit with Strava

Lastly, every leader knows he or she is only as productive as health allows. The CEO of an electric bike manufacturer ensures he's staying fit on the road by using Strava, a social network for athletes. "It's a fitness tracker, but also has a lot of great sharing tools, so other people [like my employees] can keep me accountable." If you don't mind everyone in the office knowing your waistline measurement, that is.

Follow @tomp1975 on Twitter.

© 2016 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the US member firm or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

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