I was mildly interested when I was notified that Azendoo, a France-based task management tool, had integrated Dropbox, but when I went to look at that I stumbled onto something I must have missed in an earlier cursory examination of the product. Azendoo has implemented a model that I’ve dreamed about for a long, long time. (In fact, years ago I designed a tool that was supposed to implement a similar model, called Workstreamr. Now defunct.)
Azendoo organizes visibility around two tiers of access. At the topmost level, there are workspaces. People are invited to join these. For example, below in the left hand pane you see that I have two workspaces, stoweboyd and GigaOM, with GigaOM selected.
The central pane shows so-called ‘topics’ which is where the breakthrough in Azendoo’s approach lies. Users define topics in the workspace as a means of organizing content, and as a way of managing visibility. In most solutions we see some sort of context — a space, project, or group — to which people are invited in order to symmetrically share access to some store of information and conversational streams. However, if you are not invited you can’t see anything going on inside those closed contexts.
Topics are different. They act as a context and as tag to be followed, at the same time. For example, I can create a topic that people can follow like a tag in Twitter, and all public postings made by members of that topic can be seen by anyone following. This support an open follower style of interaction within a business setting.
In the message being posted above in the events topic I have selected ‘public on workspace’ so that anyone following the events topic will see the message and will be able to comment on it.
Azendoo topics are like light: they are both waves and particles. Both a closed, private context and an open, public stream. I believe Azendoo is one of the first to implement this model, and I have been waiting for this breakthrough. Azendoo is one of the first of what will prove to be the next generation of social business software: cooperative work tools.
I have written a great deal about the slide from slow-and-tight to fast-and-loose, and one of the barriers to that transition is that we lack tools that are support fast-and-loose premises of work. In particular, the transition to a pull model of communication — as implemented on the open follower model — as opposed to the push model, which today’s work media tools still rely on almost exclusively. Tools like Azendoo are necessary for companies to make that shift.
Azendoo’s Other Features
Aside from slightly garbled English, Azendoo is a straightforward implementation of the working set of features for a work media tool, like Yammer, Podio, and Jive, albeit a more minimal set. It supports the creation of messages, fairly robust tasks with due dates and delegation, and something called an ‘approval’ which is actually more of a voting or polling post, as shown here.
[This is a minor example of the garbled English. Instead of ‘accepted’ and ‘refused’ I would say ‘in favor’ and ‘opposed’, or just show the thumbs again.]
As I said, I went to check out the Dropbox integration and it works as advertised, along Google Drive and Evernote integrations, although those I didn’t check personally.
The Open Work Model
Azendoo is in a great position to break open the work media marketplace. They have built a much more open way to share information across the organization: people can follow topics, pulling information from members who post public messages, and those followers are choosing what is relevant to them. This break aways from the push model that still dominates in many work media applications, where you have to be invited to a context to receive any information.
The next opportunity for Azendoo is to build the mechanism to allow sharing across workgroups. For example, a consulting company, AdjectiveNoun, that I think is up to interesting things might have an account on Azendoo, and their account identity could act like a topic, but one that is open across the community of companies using Azendoo. I could follow AdjectiveNoun, and one or more topics in their account could be configured to publish to that open topic. So if AdjectiveNoun was holding a public event, for example, they might promote it through that Azendoo open topic, and I would see it appear in an AdjectiveNoun workspace on my home page.
Azendoo has a truly innovative tool, one that has take the idea of following tags and belonging to groups and fused them into a harmonious, two-sided construct: the manifold Azendoo topic. Combined with with the reapplication of the now-standard three pane display, a rich task model, and a very broad team model based on sophisticated privacy and sharing options, Azendoo occupies the new high ground between team task management and work media.
Perhaps we will have to use a new term to differentiate that it is similar to but distinct from either conventional work media or task management tools. Maybe it’s just the maturation of the idea of work media, in the final analysis.