By Sondre Rasch, Co-founder | Konsus
In full disclosure, Konsus has both The Slack Fund and the creator of Gmail as investors, so this puts me in a peculiar position when discussing our company’s productivity stack. That being said, I believe we have some unique insights to share.
It’s been a year since we launched, and we’ve tried a lot of tech tools. As part of Y Combinator's Winter '16 batch, we heard horror stories from our batchmates – so know what to avoid, and also discovered some amazing (and some relatively unknown) tools.
Below are 8 tools in 4 categories that we have tried. The good, the bad, and which ones prevailed in the end.
Note: It is important to understand that I am writing this from the perspective of a larger, remote team (50 – 300 users) with intense usage.
1) Chat - HipChat vs Slack
The good: Well, it works. I’ve heard some people find the user interface very simple, although I don’t. HipChat’s paid packages are also slightly cheaper (unless you can get by with Slack’s free plan of course).
The bad: A somewhat “old school” user interface is the big letdown. I also found the notifications for live chats odd. It didn’t help that we experienced downtimes twice in the brief testing period.
The good: The user interface is - for a late nineties IRC user like myself - impossible not to love. Ideal for remote teams because of the flexible setup of direct messaging, channels and group chats, as well as simple search for files and messages. Lastly, Slack boasts a fairly addicting handling of notifications across devices.
As a bonus, it is pretty straightforward to integrate other services into your team. This is where the big productivity boost lies for us. Apps and integrations are very well supported, and these days you can get a lot of great products on the Slack platform.
The bad: Limited threading of conversation is a double-edged sword.
The choice: After briefly trying out HipChat, we switched to Slack and never looked back. We’re now so invested that we’re building a platform on top of the Slack platform, as we believe it is the next frontier for apps.
2) Video Conferencing - Zoom.us vs Appear.in
The good: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And in the world of video-conferencing that throne is currently kept by Zoom.us.
The bad: It is somewhat tedious to set up an account and start each individual conference.
The good: The most easy to use video conferencing I’ve ever tried. You simply create a room by linking to it (appear.in/yourname) – you can also add an access password. Amazing.
The bad: Appear.in seems to be peer-to-peer. That means the experience is only as good as your weakest link. And for a lot of our conversations, there’s always one teammate with a bad connection.
The choice: To be honest, video conferencing anywhere is still pretty bad. However, among those we have tried, Zoom.us is our pick based on one metric: it works.
3) Task management - Trello vs Asana
Trello is a simple and easy-to-use task management system that works on a small scale.
The bad: Unfortunately it quickly descends into chaos as your team grows beyond 10 or so. You also don’t have much control over workflows and attachments.
The good: Easy-to-use and fully featured, Asana is quite flexible in how you can organize the workflow. The software has a good balance between simplicity and flexibility, and is usable for both for tech and non-tech teams.
The bad: Reportedly takes a little while to learn for novice users.
The choice: Asana has gotten a lot better since we first discovered it, and has grown into being our favorite task management tool by far. It has the right level of flexibility in terms of views and organizational styles. It has the simplicity of Trello, but with the added possibility of more complex project management.
As an aside, I still believe there are some big innovations that are yet to be made in the world of task management.
4) Filesharing - Dropbox vs Box
Dropbox is file syncing that just works for personal and business use. For small teams that use Dropbox internally, it’s almost a no-brainer.
The bad: While Dropbox is amazing for individuals and small teams, they still have work to do when it comes to addressing the needs of enterprise-level clients.
The good: The big win for Box is in security and confidentiality. For us, the best features were like granular access control, tracking and reporting on the user-level, limit linked devices and desktop sync, watermarking files and a great API to update these security-measures in real-time.
The bad: Box is slightly more expensive and has a less familiar UI for team members.
The choice: Having been happy users of Dropbox for a year, we very recently decided to migrate to Box with a heavy heart. Our motivation was solely our stringent security and confidentiality requirements. At this stage, only Box can deliver the centralized security controls, reporting and automatic administration that we need.
Dropbox is a great product for smaller teams who are not as specific in their security requirements as we are, Box is better for enterprise.
So, there you have it, the full Konsus Productivity Hackerstack: Intercom, Slack, Zoom.us, Box and Asana.
Have we missed something? Would love to hear if you have productivity tools we should look into.
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