Podio, the enterprise social collaborative tool

  • Innovative Danish startup brings collaboration into the enterprise
  • Features include ability to build apps with its platform for greater flexibility, ease of use.

THERE is no doubt that social media has changed the world we live in today albeit being confined mostly to the consumer world. But with the pervasiveness of social media in all aspects of our life and the dichotomy between work and personal life narrowing, social media is bound to spill over into work and company culture too. 
In fact, in a report filed last week by Digital News Asia entitled "Social business to have huge impact," computing giant IBM noted embedding social media elements into processes drives strong business value.
In practice, some smaller companies have readily adopted the use of social media in their businesses as they find the always-on nature, collaborative features and streaming properties a boon to boosting work productivity. 
However, despite anecdotal evidence, larger companies, especially multinationals, have not yet adopted to social media aspects within their work culture and processes in a big way.
But Danish startup Podio believes that the old legacy work culture should not be an impediment to bringing the social media aspect into the enterprises. 
Indeed their mission is to empower workers to manage work and enable them to get it done in a social, collaborative manner, said Jon Froda, co-founder of Podio.
Podio, the enterprise social collaborative toolSpeaking to Digital News Asia on the sidelines of the Citrix Synergy Conference in San Francisco, Froda said Podio started in 2009 and its name is actually Latin for the word "platform." 
"Our aim is to build a cloud-based, collaborative work platform on which real processes and work can happen,' he said. 
Asked what differentiated Podio from other work collaborative platforms, Froda (pic) said unlike other standalone applications such as Yammer, Podio is a platform that users can use to do real work.
"There are a lot of social tools out there have a lot of communication and interaction features, but [for a lot of them] users still have to keep their work such as database records, Excel sheets, Word documents separately, and on local machines. 
"Users can still chat or collaborate on other platforms but work takes place in another realm," he explained, adding that in Podio, everything takes place within its workspaces.
Tommy Ahlers, CEO of Podio, said what sets Podio apart from the rest is that it's able to aggregate the structure of data via in-built apps. "It's not just one idea here, or project over here, or a sales lead there. You can pre-structure your data according to the way you want," said Ahlers.
Enterprise social collaboration
The team who developed Podio wanted to solve a basic challenge that is facing current social collaboration tools -- that of designing a platform that incorporates not only the collaborative elements of social media but also on a platform is flexible and agile enough for users to do almost anything with.
Froda said Podio is about empowering people to manage work, to enable workers to build their own tools aimed at getting work done faster and better.
"We started out with an 'App builder,' a tool where everyone can build an app to structure work, and build workflows around it without having any technical skills," Froda explained. 
"The first prototype started by testing with people so as to observe what kind of processes different organizations had. What we discovered was that not everyone had the same processes for doing things even if the work is was the same."
To overcome this, Froda and his team decided to give the ability to users of Podio to build apps within the platform. For example, he noted that users can combine the ability they have to manage data with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, add a social layer to that spreadsheet, then add teams and other processes around it to make collaborative in nature. 
"So we are basically taking a workflow app, building a framework around it, and marrying it with the stream and work-space model, and this is a space that people can use to get things done."
Froda said that for example, real-time status updates, or providing the ability to link to, share, manage tasks, comment and give feedback are now part of business processes.
Teams are able to create new social workflows that can be simply captured as social-enabled apps, providing better ways of working, and improving productivity as a result, he added.
On how agile Podio is, Froda related that one swimming pool maintenance company -- which wanted a software to manage their work schedules, Google mapping information and resources -- but weren't able to find any suitable tools, turned to Podio to build their own workflow processes exactly to the specification it wanted.
Froda also said there were currently 75,000 applications in Podio that can be modified and utilized by users today.
Podio, the enterprise social collaborative toolOn company plans, Ahlers (pic) noted that a lot is happening since the acquisition of Podio, the terms of which were not disclosed by Citrix. Ahlers was himself an early investor in Podio in the beginning years before the Citrix acqusition. 
Ahlers said much of the work Podio was doing moving forward is to integrate Podio is as tightly as possible to the Citrix products in order that its customers would benefit from the additional power of social collaboration. 
"We are hearing from human resource directors the business efficiency gains that can be derived when people use social collaboration within the enterprise," he said. "With such tools, we can improve business decisions rapidly because people are able to see things happening in real time, such as sales leads being closed, and where teams relevant to the sales deals can comment on such things."
Ahlers also believes that while social collaboration is still new, knowledge workers within companies will drive this usage forward. 
"Users today are social in their way of working. Their lives are so used to Twitter and Facebook so much so that when they come to work, they want to work in the same way, if the companies they work for allow it. 
"There is no need to convert the whole enterprise; start in small teams, and convert one at a time. When people see the benefit, it will catch on."
Podio is free for teams of fewer than five, while those who have larger teams can subscribe for the service here.

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