Salesforce Do.com Shows Task App Potential
As social project and task management apps proliferate, Do.com wants to prove itself as a platform for building work-centric apps, starting with Do Deals and Do Contacts.
Do.com is a personal and business productivity application based on Salesforce's acquisition of Manymoon in February 2011. Since then, Do has been quietly building a user base on a free version of the service, which organizes projects, tasks, and related notes and documents. The software has changed, but Do is still pursuing Manymoon's original vision, said Sean Whiteley, senior VP and general manager of Do.com. "They want to be the Facebook of productivity."
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Do's first apps built on that foundation, Do Deals and Do Contacts, are entering a private beta test--see the priority signup link for readers of InformationWeek and The BrainYard.
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Do Deals is "our first focused app," Whiteley said. "Up until now, we've tried to keep Do generic so you can use it for anything you want to work on." The Deals app arose from the observation that one of the more common uses people found for Do was to organize CRM-like processes, such as tracking deals or tasks like following up with contacts and preparing proposals. Do Deals is unlikely to compete with Salesforce.com CRM, he said. "It's super simple to use, but it's not going to work for really large organizations. This is more like the one- to four-person company. That's a new market for Salesforce, which has been designed to solve the most complicated sales problems on the planet."
In other words, if yours is a company where the people selling the product are the same people making the product, packing the product, and taking it to the post office, Do Deals could be a perfect solution. Do Contacts is a contact organizer that works with your business contacts as well as your social media contacts, through integrations with those services (initially Google and Facebook contacts). Deals, Contacts, and some other add-ons Do is starting to introduce to meet larger organizations' administrative needs will probably the first products Do charges for. The details have not been worked out, but, for example, Do will probably put a limit on the number of Deals you can manage before graduating to a paid version of the tool, Whiteley said.
Operating like a startup in its own offices apart from the Salesforce.com mothership, the Do team completely rebuilt Manymoon's software following the acquisition, rewriting it in Ruby on Rails hosted on Heroku, Salesforce.com's application-hosting service. That put Do in the Salesforce cloud but also set it distinctly apart from the Force.com architecture Salesforce promotes as the foundation for business applications. Instead, Do has been built on a more consumer-application model, where the needs of the individual user come first and the needs of the organization follow. Do is meant to be a productivity tool just as suited to planning a house renovation or a dinner party as to planning a software project or a product launch. That required a different software and database architecture, which is user-based, whereas Salesforce.com is organization-based, Whiteley said.
In contrast with collaboration applications designed around an organization or an email domain, Do lets you mix and match coworkers with Facebook or email contacts as you make assignments or post follow-up notes. Do is also mobile-friendly, with an HTML5 user interface, an iPhone app, and an Android app on the way.
Integration with the Salesforce platform is (so far) limited to single sign-on. The initial release of Do Contacts integrates with Facebook and Google but puts Salesforce.com contact integration on the "coming soon" list, along with Twitter. An integration with Chatter is also in the works.
Although Do makes few pretentions to be considered an enterprise system at this stage, Whiteley said there are scenarios where a big organization can manage distinct tasks in Do. For example, Salesforce.com CRM users might pull out specific tasks like organizing a customer briefing. Do includes the concept of project templates (also seen in competing products like Sparqlite), making it possible to start with a predefined series of tasks and translate them into specific assignments.
Do has also been carefully architected to be a platform, not just a standalone task management system. That means developing REST-based application programming interfaces (APIs) for every function first (although those APIs are not yet public) and software that uses those functions later, Whiteley said. Do also favors doing businesses with social networks and other Web services built around standards such as REST and OAuth, he said.
One reason LinkedIn isn't on Do's list of social software integration partners is that its APIs are more complex, providing limited access to the social graph, Whiteley said. Users can export their contacts from LinkedIn and import them into Do, but that's not as slick as the API integrations that pull in live contact data from another service, eliminating the need for synchronization, he said.
Early customers include Shea Homes of Portland, Ore., which has been using Do to coordinate the tasks related to building and selling homes at its 3,000 home Trilogy at Rio Vista community in Northern California, and School of Rock, which used Do to create project templates for opening a new school.
The new Do Deals app organizes tasks related to winning, closing, and pricing a sales deal.
The basic Do.com Task list
Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)