Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]
Two rebrands in two days. A trend?
This time it’s workplace social collaboration tool Convofy, in many ways a Facebook for the enterprise, that has rebranded as Convo. People seemingly had issues pronouncing Con-vo-fy and so the company decided to invest in a simpler name. Disappointingly, Convo’s Founder and CEO Faizan Buzdar refuses to tell me even roughly how much the company spent on the domain.
All has been rather quiet on the Convo front since we covered its launch in March of last year, but today sees a number of announcements that go beyond its rebrand.
Firstly, Convo has been given a new lick of paint. The UI is still familiar and easy to use, but far easier on the eye – if a little too white perhaps. The design overall is improved but still has some way to go before I’d consider it ‘elegant’, particularly when compared to the likes of Basecamp for example.
Secondly, whilst previously being available as a desktop app (an AIR app, albeit a very good one), Convo is now also available in the browser. The browser web app misses a few notable features that are only available on the desktop (notifications and drag & drop file sharing for example) but it’s perfectly capable of allowing your team get things done on the go. This update should be greatly appreciated by anyone who is forced to use computers other than their own on occasion.
Finally, today also sees the release of Convo for the iPhone and iPad. The apps are HTML5 based and do the job well enough; but as with many mobile HTML5 apps, there’s nothing like that ‘native’ feeling. The apps do bring near real time notifications to the mobile though which is very useful.
Convo’s most obvious competitors are the likes of Yammer and Chatter; needless to say it’s a heated space. And while Convo is funded to the tune of $2.2 Million, it’s competing with Yammer which recently raised $85 million in new funding (bringing its total investment to an incredible $142 million) and Chatter, backed by the hugely influential SalesForce. All things considered, it’s very impressive what Convo has managed to build with its comparatively low cash injection.
However, in many respects Convo’s primary competitor isn’t a company but rather a protocol: email. The process of converting larger companies that are stubbornly stuck in their Outlook ways into using a product like Convo can be a logistical nightmare. There are a number of hurdles: inherent costs in transitioning a whole company away from email, concerns over privacy (all these tools are hosted), time, energy and of course, bureaucracy and more. Thanks to the likes of Google Apps and SalesForce, many of these concerns are becoming less of an issue but are still apparent.
Our Use & Its Features
We’ve tried and tested all three major players: Convo, Yammer and Chatter internally, and for what we do, Convo was easily our preferred choice; so much so that we’re now actually paying customers.
Here’s why Convo worked for us:
It’s fast, lets us create individual discussion groups for the various different parts of our company and even post into multiple groups at the same time (e.g. accounts and editors).
For what we do, being fast is paramount and thanks to a real-time updating stream with smart instant notifications via its desktop app, email, and now mobile it’s proved invaluable.
With a team spanning over 15 countries, it also acts very much as our office environment. Our staff literally ‘check-in’ every morning (see below) and ‘check-out’ at the end of the day. And while its design could be improved, it’s functional, clean and very straight forward for new hires to adjust to.
One of Convo’s other stand out features is its focus on context. Convo lets you share links, images, videos and virtually any type of document into its app. All good and well. But what it does better is let you have discussions around these files, URLs and documents, allowing us to discuss particular paragraphs of an article, for example. Designers will find this particularly useful when reviewing mock ups with clients. Convo also features a built-in chat feature, currently only one-to-one, but group chat is on the way – great for quick fire conversations.
There’s a whole lot more to Convo that’s worth checking out (to do lists, milestones) and while by no means perfect, its team is amazingly responsive to new ideas and issues. Something that can’t often be said for other larger companies.
Convo costs $5 per person per month and is available now.
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