Podio, simplified projects and communications

We’ve been huge fans of 37Signals over the years, using Basecamp, Highrise and Backpack for almost 5 years. Recently the folks in Chicago moved to BCX, a new platform that actually doesn’t suit us at all well and whilst they continue to support Basecamp Classic you have to think the time is almost up. We spent a few months trying to adapt to the new BCX but it’s not where we are heading. With the possible shutdown of the classic service we’d rather control the move to another platform than be forced at short notice so the hunt has been on for an alternative.

Initially we, rather foolishly, looked for a better version of Basecamp Classic; there are loads of choices out there and some are better but most are worse so we had a ground-up re-think of what we wanted from our integrated communications, projects, assets and intranet platform. We’d adopted Yammer at the end of last year as an ad-hoc trial and it worked pretty well but there was an awful lot of copy & pasting going on and it didn’t talk to any other applications we had. What it did achieve is the growth of the social communication side of the business, this was staggering and very quickly blossomed into the “go-to” place. Yammer is good and does support a whole raft of other applications so we looked at how we could integrate it deeper into our business. Lack of will, complexity and some restrictions in the product soon ruled it out.

Enter Podio. Initially, we had looked at Podio some months back and it seemed too complex and at the same time not flexible enough. Looking this time, albeit more in-depth, and WOW, it’s a fantastic product and great replacement to Yammer, it also seemed to offer more. There are lots of “built-in” applications and at first glance they seem to meet your needs but we found that most of them were too complicated.

So, we built our own apps, it’s not complicated and once you get the basics right its really flexible and powerful. The key thing we found was to keep the applications simple; for example the standard Scrum tools (agile development methodology) has twice as many data points as we needed so we simply cut down the original to keep it simple. The end result is that we can now see a whole project on a single page, mac screen, iPad screen and even iPhone (image right).

Usefully, it also has really neat integration with Zendesk, our helpdesk product; ties in beautifully with our corporate Dropbox; links to our personal Evernote accounts; talks to our Google Apps (contacts, calendar and email) and brings Instapaper saves into the application. Fab. Did I mention it also works beautifully on iPads and iPhone? We are dual screeners here at Connected and all have iPads as well as (mostly) iPhones.

So it’s goodbye to Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, Yammer. Hello Podio.