Streak is the newest example of a Chrome extension to add shared CRM capabilities on top of Gmail. But unlike the other examples I have seen in the past, Streak has real promise, and has a well-thought-out and well-designed user experience and social architecture.
The app builds on the metaphors of Gmail labels for email, and the Streak-specific notion of ‘pipelines’. Pipelines are well-understood in CRM circles. Basically, deal flow (and a great many other activities) can be thought of a stream of deals, each of which passes through defined stages on the way to being closed or lost. In Streak’s implementation of CRM (and other) activities, emails related to a specific deal are placed in a ‘box’ — which is like a case folder — and each box passes through the various defined stages.
The beauty of Streak is you aren’t limited to a fixed series of steps for your CRM: they are user-definable. And even more importantly, Streak is a general tool, where any sort of a pipeline can be developed, not just sales.
Here’s an example of a pipeline I am using in a side project of mine, a publication called Beacon Streets where I and some others write about goings on in Beacon NY.
In the left sidebar you can see that I have selected ‘Beacon Streets’ to display. You can see the various stages along the top in colored boxes, with numbers representing the boxes in each stage. At the right margin you see the activity stream — user comments and state changes — across the pipeline.
The boxes, like ‘New Vintage Clothes across from Max’s’ may have one or many emails. When a box is opened, you can start to see the social elements:
In the central pane, you see information about the box, such as stage, a notes field, and other metadata. Below that is the activity stream, including comments. To the right in the sidebar you can see who is following this box (creators and those assigned are automatically followers), as well as files attached (from local drive, or Google Drive), email filters, and reminders.
This comes awfully close to the social email I have been dreaming about for some time. Here we see the crucial part of social email: an email thread, or a group of them, can be treated as a social object, and discussed by the participants in the box and/or pipeline. Those participants are also free to respond to the emails, as well, taking actions that are resolved in the social sphere, but played out in the email communication layer.
The tool also provides analytics, some of which are not relevant for an editorial workflow (like the value of the posts being worked on), but some that are totally general:
Lastly, Streak has a wide variety of predefined pipelines to use as is, or to modify:
I based my Beacon Streets pipeline on the Journalism template they offered.
The Bottom Line
Streak is a great social coordination tool for anyone — an individual or a working group — to track pipelineable activities within the context of Gmail. A great proportion of my working life is the creation of yet-another-blog-post, working on yet-another-report, or planning yet-another-series-of-meetings while I am visiting a city somewhere. Others are involved in sales, marketing campaigns, business development, or recruitment, any or all of which could be managed and monitored using tools like Streak.
I have already configured a few pipelines, and moved the tracking of those activities out of my more ad hoc and unpipelined work at Todoist, for two main reasons:
- The most common starting point of a great deal of what I do is email. For example, someone at GigaOM emails to tell me that a client would like a briefing, starting a sequence of steps involving scheduling, perhaps some research, the briefing itself, and then follow-up with GigaOM and perhaps the client. Or, someone approaches me to considering a speaking engagement. Or, a PR person sends information and a request for me to honor embargoed news. I bet 75% of my work starts in this way.
- Todoist — and most task management tools — lack the idea of stages, unless a user takes the time to enumerate subtasks or the like. I have used tags in Todoist to represent the sames sort of information, but what is lost is the fact that a group of tasks are in effect inheriting the same DNA: they are instances of a common class of work activity. And I would like to be able to partition work along the natural cleavage points of the work itself.
So far Streak has performed flawlessly, but if for some reason I decide to drop out of using it there are a variety of export capabilities, like Excel and comma separated files, if needed.
At present, Streak is free and there will always be a free version, although the company is planning to roll out premium capabilities for fee.
Streak seems like the sort of app that you’d expect Google to build… or to buy.