New workflow software aims to empower younger, quieter employees

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It’s nearly impossible to overstate the degree to which work has been changed by the world we live in today. From the fundamental changes of Internet and email to the more recent additions like cloud computing and Slack, we just don’t work like we used to–we work a whole lot faster and a whole lot harder. And, as a result, workflow tends to get a whole lot messier.

One of the newest tools in the workflow management game is Scalus, a Google Ventures-backed startup that’s looking further change the way we work. While Scalus is far from the first workflow management solution, its approach to common problems in the workflow pipeline is a little different.

Built on the back of BackOps, a solution that Scalus founder and CEO Kristen Koh Goldstein developed for back office management, Scalus focuses on repeatable tasks and turning conversations into actionable items. Though Goldstein and her team didn’t necessarily set out to build Scalus, as their own operations tasks grew more complex and increasingly difficult to manage, they found that the existing project management solutions weren’t quite working.

“There are a lot of collaboration or project management systems that come out of the design or marketing agency world,” says Goldstein. “They’re very gant-charty and assume that a project is super complex and deep and don’t really think about how to break up those projects into modular components that repeat. And operations is really about perfecting a workflow and repeating the heck out of it, so trying to repurpose these application coming out of what I call the ‘Don-Draper World’ was really hard.”

Applications like BaseCamp and Asana are crazy powerful and widely-used project management systems, but ones that are purpose-built for the design and engineering worlds. They’re also typically built under the assumption that everyone on the team is a willing self-advocate–someone who doesn’t have trouble speaking up and making themselves a part of the conversation.

But in Goldstein’s experience, not all employees are equally willing to speak up. She noticed that junior members–often Millennials–felt as though they didn’t have permission to make their voices heard, particularly when they were looking to change things or keep a more senior team member accountable for work that was getting stuck and creating a bottleneck. Goldstein’s BackOps crew needed a way to harness voices that weren’t getting heard and to bring together a distributed workforce. And so, they built their own scalable solution, and Scalus was born.

“What we needed that the other applications couldn’t do for us was to bring in the collaboration of the shy members of the team because they just didn’t want to look like they were bragging or blaming other people,” says Goldstein. “So that was a big problem. We needed to bring workflow automation into the picture so that the shier people who wanted to ask permission rather than forgiveness knew what to do next.”

So Scalus was built to be a kind of equalizing collaboration software that makes contributing and accountability more simple. But what does it do, exactly? Put simply, it makes items that are broadcast throughout workflow networks trackable, actionable and repeatable. Under the big umbrella of “operations,” Scalus brings together sales, accounting, customer management and HR ops and integrates with other vital office tools like Slack and Salesforce.

For example, when someone in a Slack channel tags Scalus with a to-do item, Scalus turns that item into an actionable, trackable task. Because everyone in a department is privy to the tasks at hand, workflow is made more transparent, and accountability comes from everyone. Also, chat and email integrate with Scalus to create activity audit trails, meaning that tracking the progress of a task goes beyond the Scalus platform.

“There’s a tool or a mechanism for them to communicate in the way that they want to communicate and that makes a lot of these companies a heck of a lot more efficient because they have transparency,” says Goldstein. “And the immediacy of that transparency that Scalus enables feels a lot more comfortable.”

Scalus is available for everyone beginning today. With $10 million in investment capital from Google Ventures, Sherpa Ventures and others, though, Scalus’ work is just beginning. Goldstein’s mission isn’t just to change operations software. Instead, she’s looking to change the way that we work, and the way that young people in particular fit inside of a larger working ecosystem.

“I want to make sure that the really smart, hardworking younger employees or the less experienced employees of these companies that have a lot to add don’t always have to worry that they don’t have permission to speak up,” Goldstein explains. “We’ve created a mechanism to capture their brilliance in a way that doesn’t offend anybody. And I want to go down being remembered as the person who did that.”

For now, Scalus will be laser-focused on carving themselves a place in the world of workflow management systems, which will likely mean deeper integration, bigger partners, and a larger user base. When it comes down to it, though, for Goldstein, Scalus is more than just trackable project management — it’s a way to empower employees to work and communicate ways that feel comfortable and natural.

“There are a lot of people who are better at standing up for themselves compared to others, and we want to create a tool where that doesn’t cloud the truth of what’s going on because we’re just listening to the squeakiest wheel. We want to hear all of the wheels.”

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