A story about why we built the Unified Inbox

In our 1.0 release we added new tools to help people collaborate and communicate within Zurmo. Two of these additions were Social Conversations and Missions.

I’ll start with this post by talking a little about Social Conversations.

Ever since the end of last year, our Zurmo team has been using Social Conversations in lieu of email for internal communication. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take some getting used to at first. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally it took several “compose new email” clicks in Outlook before I remembered that the email I was sending to my colleagues could be dealt with in our system. Would Alexander Graham Bell’s people communicate with one another by telegram or would they pick up the shiny new phones sitting in front of them?

Once we started to get the hang of it, it made sense. The conversation thread below, which is about our internal language translation process, is one of hundreds of examples of how we have used Conversations at Zurmo. This is just a snippet of an ongoing thread that has been updated on a very regular basis. If we had used email, we would have had dozens of items cluttering our inbox. Instead we have a single item that is updated as needed. What’s brilliant about it is that we can pop people in and out of the conversation (like our new Spanish translator) and upload relevant attachments directly:

Reaching this stage was not a piece of cake however. We needed to encourage people to change their default behavior in order to see the real value. And that takes a touch of Change Management.

How could we get everyone onboard? How about by utilizing Missions, the other new collaboration tool that had recently been made available to us?

I decided to challenge one of my colleagues to join me in banning internal email. I did this by creating a Mission, one of the coolest features in our Gamification line up. I thought I would kill a couple of birds with one stone by drawing attention to both our Missions and our Conversations module.

It worked. Well, for the most part. More people used Social Conversations. The tool has pretty much succeeded in cutting down on our inboxes and has let us share information concisely and quickly.

And we have heard similar feedback from other users who have implemented Zurmo. We attribute the success of Social Conversations to the fact that relevant information is intuitively presented and made readily available in a central location.

My Missions

But this was not the case for Missions, which were hidden in a poorly lit back alley tucked way behind the busy avenues of the Homepage and  Conversations Module. By not occupying a storefront on the main street, Missions were being completely ignored. This was a challenge for us as we believe the notion of challenging co-workers to accomplish certain tasks is a pretty good idea.

So we decided that we needed to make some room for our Missions in a high traffic area. We also had a similar need with Notifications, but the reason behind that is for another post. So what is the solution? We made the decision to put all Conversations, Missions, and Notifications in one area – the unified inbox. Alexander Graham Bell’s main switchboard. Or another metaphor – our own Park Avenue that runs right to Grand Central Terminal with multiple lanes, all connected together.

With Zurmo 1.5, you will no longer need to venture into a back alley and fear for your safety in order to create a Mission or view your Notifications. Now you have a bright and sunny Unified Inbox that puts everything you need at the tip of your fingers:

Unified Inbox_1

It’s not all about visibility. The Unified Inbox is also about management. Designate inbox items as read, open, or closed:

Unified Inbox_2

Finally, the Unified Inbox is great for finding things. It allows users to easilly search through Missions and Conversations for relevant information:

Unified Inbox_3

Find the Unified Inbox in our 1.5 release and let us know your thoughts on how we could enhance this new feature. We are already thinking about including Social Feeds. What are your thoughts?

Leave a Comment

  • http://twitter.com/contextive _

    Looks great! when’s the 1.5 out?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Stoeckicht/100001473956853 Ray Stoeckicht

      We are shooting to release 1.5 this week.

  • http://www.clubnetsem.com/ Dave

    How do we receive email notifications of inbox notifications in Zurmo? Currently I’ll miss any notifications because I’m not receiving emails from the Zurmo system. Thanks.

    • Ray Stoeckicht

      In the latest release (1.6), you should receive email alerts for Conversations and Missions. You can go into the User profile under Configuration–> General and select “Turn off email notifications” or “Enable Desktop notifications”

      • http://www.clubnetsem.com/ Dave

        Thanks for your reply Ray. I’m referring to the system notification in purple that sits in the inbox and alerts of things like ‘Clear the assets folder on server(optional). Please delete all files from assets folder on server.’ This appears not to be classified as a mission or conversation yet still should generate a notification – in our case, this is the main system account that is not logged into regularly… Thanks.

        • Ray Stoeckicht

          Some of those notifications can be emailed and some cannot. When you go to User profile under Configuration–> General, make sure you un-select “Turn off email notifications”. You can also “Enable Desktop notifications”

          • http://www.clubnetsem.com/ Dave

            The system user (main administrator) already has the turn off email notifications unchecked in it’s user profile config and the desktop notifications will be useless as this will only work if the user is signed into a system in chrome browser so won’t really be of use.

          • Ray Stoeckicht

            We have Developer Sessions every Tuesday at 10:00AM Chicago Time (http://zurmo.org/forums/index.php?/calendar/event/2-developer-learning-session/). You can always join an upcoming session and ask any questions to our technical team.