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Nugg is a team performance tool positioned above project and task management

I got an interesting email from an old friend, Tris Hussey, telling me that he is working for a start-up called Nugg as the director for customer success, and inviting me to give it a whirl.

It’s quite interesting, both because of a clear, simple design, and the philosophy behind it.

Nugg is a team performance application rather than a task management or project management tool. They characterize this as being ‘above lower order apps’, as this chart shows:

Cursor_and_Nugg_Introduction_June_2014_pptx

We were joined in the email thread by the company’s CEO, Steven Forth. I pointed out that people would still need to track tasks, and if Nugg wasn’t going to support them they’d have to use both, for example Asana or Trello. He responded in this way,

For work that is task centric task management apps are for sure necessary.

But tasks are not what is critical to teams having impact, and there are many types of teamwork that are not best organized in terms of tasks. Most knowledge workers are pretty good at managing and tracking tasks themselves […].

For Nugg the critical unit of information is an update (or Nugg). Updates will come from many places, most often e-mail (the world is still e-mail centric), but also the notification feeds of Basecamp, Trello, Asana, etc. and more business centric apps like salesforce.com Chatter or the updates now provided by some of the better marketing automation offerings. We will filter these, though […].

You can then act on this update stream to call out critical updates that need some form of special treatment: a question has been asked that needs to be answered, a decision needs to be made, a goal needs to be tracked.

Here’s what Nugg looks like today. Users can create Nuggs — either a status update or a weekly question — and discussion threads trail off of those.

Screenshot 2014-06-24 15.59.28

During the discussion, the users can indicate that they think something said is important, has been acknowledge, or that a decision has been reached on an issue raised, as in the case below, where I used the tool’s filtering to show only decisions:

Screenshot 2014-06-24 15.57.24

 

The Bottom Line

The company has raised a $350K seed round led by Vancouver and Silicon Valley angel investors in December, 2013, and is now bringing the product to market. At present, the various integrations discussed — with email, and task and project management tools — are under development, so it’s hard to say what the user experience would be like with those in place. At present it feels like a chat room specialized for discussion around decisions to be made.

However, it is the case that decision making is a core aspect of working socially, and one that is perhaps underemphasized in many tools.

I have argued for years that work technologies don’t provide a means of clearly negotiating work assignments. For example, I might be asked by a Gigaom director to consider writing a report, and we’d negotiate dates, length, fees, and impacts on other work. That needs to be captured somewhere as a prelude to actually starting the project. With freelancers it ultimately takes the form of a contract, but for employees that isn’t really appropriate.

I’ve always thought a thread like that should to stored explicitly in project contexts in tools like Asana and Basecamp, as a kind of antechamber to someone joining a project team, and only after settling the terms of participation does the new team member get to participate. Maybe negotiations like that — and the broader spectrum of other decisions — is the province of specialized tools like Nugg, and not complexifying task and project management tools.