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9/4/2012
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Confluence Social Tool Reimagines Your Inbox

Atlassian's social networking tool follows a trend, redefining the inbox for social business. Confluence 4.3 also adds personal and team task management.

Enterprise Social Networks: Must-Have Features Guide
Enterprise Social Networks: Must-Have Features Guide
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Add Atlassian Confluence to the list of social software vendors looking to redefine the inbox.

Confluence 4.3 includes a WorkBox that collects the important notifications for each user, along with tasks they need to attend to. Task management has also been significantly improved in this release, with the addition of team tasks that can be attached to a project document. Each user can also maintain an individual task list. Incoming notifications can be turned into tasks, and tasks are presented in a format that allows you to act on them right away, according to Matt Hodges, product marketing manager at Atlassian. "That's why we decided to call it WorkBox rather than inbox. We're trying to present you with all the things you need to get work done in one place," he said.

Confluence 4.3 also boasts a "sleek, fast mobile interface" to keep workers connected on the go. Atlassian is taking a mobile Web approach, rather than producing native apps for phones and tablets.

[ Does your organization belong on The BrainYard's list? Seeking Top 10 Social Business Leaders. ]

Reimagined inboxes are also featured in the latest update to Yammer, the enterprise social network recently purchased by Microsoft, as well as Asana, the task and project management tool. These and other social software products are looking to get away from using email notifications as a way of alerting users to activity by instead presenting those updates and alerts in a neatly organized way, within their own user interface.

People complain of being "trapped in their inboxes, constantly trying to reach inbox zero," Hodges said. "We're trying to make it so all the important notifications are available within the product, so people don't have to worry about checking their inbox."

Hodges said Confluence's approach is different because of the tool's focus on content and the way tasks are associated with content. Confluence was originally a wiki--a tool for group editing of Web documents--although it has branched out to include other aspects of enterprise social networking. "Content is really about getting things done. Without content, you're just talking about work," he said. Competitors like Yammer and Jive Software seem to be recognizing that by putting more effort into their own content authoring and editing tools, he said.

In a written statement for the press release, Mihai Marinescu, an electrical engineering team and project manager at Bruel & Kjaer, said these are significant improvements for his firm, which makes sound and vibration monitoring technology. "Confluence has enabled our team to transfer discussions and important materials from email to one central place where everyone can easily find it, comment on it, and find it again when needed," he said. "Emails are so yesterday; our employees would rather spend more time actually working than wasting time stuck in their inboxes. There is no doubt that the new notification feature in Confluence's WorkBox will be a huge productivity booster for us."


Annotated view of Confluence Tasks.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

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