Software Tools and Technology at HSA
Dara Li headshot
Dara Li
April 6th, 2019
With the rise of enterprise SaaS tools built to assist, organize, and replace labor-intensive workflows, employees at HSA have had the opportunity to seek and implement software solutions that help automate or improve key tasks.

With the rise of enterprise SaaS tools built to assist, organize, and replace labor-intensive workflows, employees at HSA have had the opportunity to seek and implement software solutions that help automate or improve key tasks. While deploying new software practices come with a steep learning curve and high inertia (it took us two years to fully adopt Slack), our workplace productivity, project management, and communication processes have improved drastically with the assistance of SaaS tools. 

E-commerce Platforms

Shopify: HSA was an early user of Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce giant that currently hosts our web stores for The Harvard Shop, HSA Tutoring, HSA Cleaners, and HSA Dorm Essentials. These four e-commerce sites built and managed on Shopify bring in 77% of HSA’s total annual revenue. From both a web design, product fulfillment, and accounting point of view, Shopify is an absolute essential at HSA.

Webflow: While our largest e-commerce brands are hosted on Shopify, we have begun to shift landing pages of our B2B agencies to Webflow, a responsive-website builder. Webflow’s website editor interface is more similar to Adobe’s design suites than traditional drag-and-drop website construction. Currently, Studio 67, our corporate website, Campus Insights, and The Academies at Harvard are built on Webflow. Following Webflow’s recent launch of Webflow Ecommerce, HSA is keeping an eye out to see if it has potential to become a competitor to Shopify.

Squarespace: Many of our earliest e-commerce transaction were conducted on the Squarespace / Stripe duo. With beginner friendly drag-and-drop website design, Squarespace has always been an easy tool for our non-technical managers to build websites, add photos, or edit text. Due to its limited customizability, however, most of our websites have shifted onto either Shopify or Webflow. Currently, only the Cronin Center for Enterprise remains on Squarespace.

Communication Tools

When it comes to internal communication, Slack is our go-to. As both colleagues and student peers, managers at HSA often tread the work/life balance line closer than a typical working professional. I might bump into one of my managers at my dorm’s dining hall, or interact with an employee at a college social. Because of these unique dynamics, managers at HSA text each other to grab a meal, and Slack each other to set up a meeting.

For inbound communication management, we use Freshdesk, a help desk and inbox management tool, for several our B2C businesses. Since we typically have a team of managers monitoring one support email, Freshdesk is a way that we manage our customer inquiries, assign tickets to team members, and track our average response times. We adopted Freshdesk after missing a couple of customer complaints due to multiple managers opening the same email at once, without both marking it as unread afterwards. On the other hand, outbound communication is managed on Hubspot and Mixmax, sales assistant tools that are well with their heft monthly subscription fee.

Other tools we have considered using include Intercom, a messaging platform that pops up on your website as a chatbox. While the majority of our communications with clients are conducted via email or inbound phone calls, having a 24/7 chat box for our B2C companies may decrease lost leads.

Our content marketing blogs are hosted on Medium and blogwise. We strongly believe in the importance of content marketing and building a communicative and transparent brand for our agencies and our corporation. While Medium is a great tool for Campus Insights to have initially announced the 2018 acquisition, most of our other agencies like HSA Tutoring, The Harvard Shop, and HSA DEV use blogwise as it allows for custom domain hosting and improves the SEO ranking of our sites. 

Task Management Tools

HSA has tried using Trello, Slack’s Workast, Airtable’s Kanban boards, Notion, and most recently for task management. While we have found that the most effective task management services for our team has been ones that are easily connected to Slack, we are still on the search for the perfect task management software to help track processes in recruitment, sales, and project management.

The SaaS tools mentioned in this blog post are just a few of the countless software solutions we have tried at HSA. The math is pretty simple - each one of these SaaS tools charge a monthly recurring fee. Multiplied by the number of sales / customer service positions we have, bills paid to software startups comprise a huge portion of our monthly costs and will continue in perpetuity. As business managers at HSA, enterprise SaaS is both incredible for workplace productivity and a pain in our budgeting. While we continue to explore new tools, we will focus on recalculating our customer acquisition costs to see if these tools are as financially worth it as they are with making our jobs easier!