Yesterday marked the launch of a new sharing tool aimed at reducing email and increasing communication within companies. The product, Convofy, joins a lineup of similar tools (Yammer, Socialcast, Chatter) which allow an organization to shun some forms of email in favor of moving teams online to share comments and ideas in much the same way as Facebook allows users to post status updates and comments.
The main goal of these systems is to reduce email inbox overload — and increase participation and sharing (think Facebook status update and subsequent comments).
In many ways these tools are a closed version of Facebook for the enterprise. Instead of sharing pictures of your kids at the fair — you’ll share documents and web links where your group can comment and ask additional questions.
These solutions do a fantastic job of clearing out email clutter — though there’s usually a learning curve that your company won’t have with email (Email simplicity wins hand down – how tough is it to learn to hit “reply” or “reply all”?). Once you’re over the initial acceptance phase – you can expect increased participation from your organization (at 90Minds we’ve seen a 25% increase in comments and sharing of technical information via our use of Socialcast).
Convofy First Impressions
Interesting adaptation – I think the #1 problem that Convofy has is the UI. What’s a Direct vs a Follower — and in the year 2011 why are people still using the term follower?
Make the UI too confusing and the adoption from deep in the organization
ain’t happening is going to be tough. Been There. Done That.
On the plus side I love the chat feature — the notifications worked especially well which is really important for a desktop communication tool. Not sure if group chat is supported because I didn’t get a chance to test that – but I don’t think so.
Our 90 Minds consulting group are Socialcast users and we love that service. Socialcast strikes what seems to be the proper blend of functionality and ease of use.
For our use (managing a team of 27 ERP consultants scattered across the USA) one of the more attractive features of Convofy is that we can add people to groups and the people (who may only be casual business acquaintances) cannot see the main organization feed.
Socialcast exposes that main feed to everyone — which is a huge fail for organizations that may want to invite a customer to participate in their group. The problem? In Socialcast if you invite a customer you have to make them a member of the main feed where they’ll see all the mis-posted stuff, off color jokes and personal rants that go into the main news feed.
Another problem that social sharing sites like Yammer, Socialcast and now Convofy have is there’s no easy way to move stuff from one group to another. If you mis-post to one group an administrator can only delete. How hard is it to allow for moving of content?
Top Convofy Plusses (based on a half hour look and comparison to Socialcast)
– The drag/drop (+) bar — nice for sharing
– LIve chat with notifications
– Live presence indicator (sadly absent on Socialcast)
– Group members can be added from outside the organization (email domain) AND they cannot see anything in the system except the group (do NOT overlook this point if you think you’ll want to share with casual collaborators – this is HUGE). Am not sure if Yammer has this same feature (I think it does) but Socialcast does not.
– Markup of documents (though I wonder whether this is more “demo dazzle” than a real world tool that most companies would use). On second thought I think this could be a great feature (click the image below to see a full screen example of a Sage support screen that I’ve commented on for my group). I could see my clients using this to discuss various client issues (contracts, proposals).
Top Convofy Minuses
– I login to Socialcast all the time from client sites – having only an Adobe Air client for Convofy is a mark against them
– The UI is goofy and I think the whole sidebar with Direct, Tasks, Discussions, Chats, Drafts, Trash is way too complex. It’s going to drive people away from full adoption as you go deeper in the organization.
I’m still scratching my head over what the “Chats” link does (Update: The Chat link lets you search chats. Seems that it takes a while for Convofy to index properly and the first few times I clicked the chat link nothing had yet been indexed). And just what are these things called directs? Is that people who report to me in the organization? Is it a place for direct messages? And why would that be different than followers? It’s way too confusing. First looks are critical in this area.
Clicking on “My Tasks Lists” confusingly throws me into a full screen of some type of info — away from the main feed. From there the user has to stop and figure out how to get back.
This kind of UI stuff needs to be clean (see Facebook which isn’t perfect but is easy enough for Grandma to figure out without calling the family for lessons — THAT is where these social tools need to be in ters of ease of use) so that people adopt instead of scratch their heads.
– Lack of native mobile application is going to be a minus here (and no use of email to reply is not acceptable because, heck, aren’t we using this to get away from email. Yeah the HTML site looks cool — where are the push notifications going to come from? Email? See prior comment. Aren’t we using this to get away from email. This is going to be a ball and chain for Convofy. Not a huge issue if you’re all sitting in an office but that’s not the trend today.
– Use of Adobe Air — this needs to also have a native web interface so you can login from remote workstations without a full AIR setup. You don’t stop when you are at a client site and think that you can’t check GMAIL because you have to download an app — why should you have a more inconvenient experience with Convofy which is supposed to eliminate that problem (email overload).
Just my impressions based on about 60 minutes use and comparison to Socialcast which we have used for about 6 months and Yammer (used about 2 months) for a group of 27 consultants.