The 4 primary members of the productivity suite are Email, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. While the first three have had their code cracked for some time, the past 20 years has yet to see anyone derive the successful Task management formula.
Specifically, we as individuals and team members manage our responsibilities (to do’s, goals, tasks, projects, worklists, etc.) in our calendars, on notepads, in individual emails, spreadsheets, powerpoint, word documents, complex project management tools, online collaboration spaces, and so on. Several online players have entered the market, a few offering simple and sleek offerings, yet even these have failed to garner widespread use. Few of the solutions work well for the classic information worker, and most result in creating more issues when shared with others as they rarely match what others are using to do the same. Ergo, unlike email (gmail, Outlook, hotmail,…) that all work pretty much the same and interoperate with each other, there is no good solution for managing the oversight of the things we need to get done, especially for teams working together in and out of the office. (For those keeping score at home, a combination of Email Folders, Spreadsheets, and the File Share are the runaway market leader in work, project and task management).
Once every 1.5 years, 74% of information workers undertake an effort to better automate their responsibilities and over 80% cite ‘getting organized at work’ as a resolution during the December timeframe. Depending on what kind of a person we are, we try something simple like Outlook Tasks, something at the complex end like MS Project, or something somewhere in the middle. And, each time, we abandon our effort, revert back to our piecemeal solutions, and wish that someone would someday invent a good tool for what’s ailing us.
A combination of primary market research and the testing of 40 core concepts via 245 variations led to the conclusion that there are 5 hurdles which individually or in combinations have prevented a mass market success.
1. Is it Familiar and Obvious? (if not, 95% abandon in 1 minute)
Our research showed that prospects formed their primary opinion of the likelihood that a service or tool in task management would work for them within the first 60 seconds. Over 95% passed by if the functionality and its utilization were not visibly obvious and/or if they perceived that training would be necessary. The tools have to look and feel like the software concepts they are familiar with.
2 Can I input Non-Conforming Data or Set it up “my way”? (if not, 80% abandon in 1 week)
Across the 30,000 signups we've seen over 7,000 unique structures for tracking work. In addition there is a high propensity to break with strongly typed data within those structures to provide contextual formatting and headers. Prospects that must change the way they currently structure their work list into the fixed way a software application demands typically abandoned the tool within 1 hour to 1 week.
3. Is the List at the Center? (if not, 50% abandon in 1 month)
A list centric system is one in which Lists (of action items or the core things to do) are the central parents of interactions and information stored in the software. All documents, threaded discussions, decisions and reports hang off the items in these lists. In tools where lists are simply peer documents to the rest of the collaboration data, the actual work tracking became buried. Beyond a certain volume interaction data, search and labor intensive updating returned to pre-tool levels. Roughly 50% of the people reported abandonment within 30 - 45 days for this reason.
4. Is Team Adoption required? (If so, 75% abandon in 2 – 4 months)
At the point the user feels the tool is adequate for his/her needs they then open it up to the extended team in an effort to capture the efficiencies and automation intended. That team falls into two typical categories: willing and unwilling participants. Another way to describe these categories is to highlight the ‘coordinator’ or ‘project mover’ and those who need to give the owner input to move things forward. Interestingly, while the two have different sets of behaviors, the requirement that either type actively login into the application to use it becomes the point of failure for both. There is intense resistance to another application to use and learn as well as resistance to institutional oversight. Updates still arrive via email and attachments. Eventually, the overhead of manual updating causes the user to abandon the tool between 2 and 4 months of team involvement. It has to be easy for the person in charge and even easier for those with whom they interact. The most common survey response was, “I liked the tool, but I couldn’t get my team to use it.”
5. Do I have a Universal View from my Account? (if not, viral spread reduces effectiveness)
Account-based (think Facebook or LinkedIn) vs Company-based (think Salesforce) solutions hasn't contributed to abandonment, but it has greatly impacted viral spread and adoption. Once two parties create their own accounts, the Company based solution becomes less efficient, while the Account-based solution becomes more efficient. This has proven to be the problem for many of the newer SaaS solutions. Multiple accounts are required to manage different groups of people (e.g. personal account, work account, vendor 1 account, vendor 2 account). Much like Email, the successful Task solution will be a single sign on for personal and work (if desired) and encompass an unlimited combination of groupings without technical walls.
In a nutshell, we believe that properly combining the appropriate functionality of Email, Spreadsheets and Fileshares into the format and workflow that people currently use to track work along with carefully weaving in the 5 principles is the solution to the Work Management conundrum.