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Taylor Record
August 31, 2017

How to Lead the Inbox Revolution: An Interview with FLOW-e

Meet Monica. She's a former member of betahaus | Sofia and Head of Marketing for Kanbanize and FLOW-e. Kanbanize is software for lean project management based on the Kanban method. In the past two years, the organization has tripled in size and taken on their next challenge -- bringing efficiency to email through a new product called FLOW-e. We asked Monica to share why her team created FLOW-e, tips on how to organize emails, and insight into which apps can help.

Kanbanize's mission is to bring simplicity, productivity and efficiency to the way people work. Can you tell us more about the email problem that led your team to create FLOW-e?

"We waste over 657 hours of our time each year on answering and sorting emails. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but I can think of 657 better things to do with my time. But, I just can’t bid adieu to my email account, or in my case, accounts...

We waste over 657 hours of our time each year on answering and sorting emails. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but I can think of 657 better things to do with my time.

It seems that a lot of people share this position. The key phrase “drowning in email” generates over 40,000 Google search results. Ironically, “addicted to email” generates 943,000 results in the same search engine. A study conducted by the Radicati Group of Palo Alto posits that email is and will remain the predominant form of communication in the business space where the stakes are highest. A person working in an office most likely receives between 50 and 100 individual emails per day while CEOs, directors of companies and social influencers get twice as much. Professionals have developed the habit of fanatically checking their inbox on average around 54 times a day.

Within the Kanbanize team, we asked ourselves the question - how can we transform email into a vehicle of success and efficiency that makes our day-to-day lives easier rather than more challenging?"

With so many productivity and collaboration tools, teams can experience app overload in pursuit of productivity. What does FLOW-e do differently than conventional web apps to help teams save time?

"Built on top of Gmail and Office 365/Outlook, Flow-E visualizes the contents of your original inbox and helps you build a workflow process around the incoming emails. The flexible stages of the process visually distribute emails among different sections of your view based on their status. Everything is part of a streamlined workflow.

You don’t just have a calendar, you have an ongoing chronological timeline of your upcoming meetings for the day. You can add todos onto email communication instead of moving back and forth between external task management tools and your inbox. Use your inbox not just as a receiver of tasks and messages, but also as a place from which you can track and delegate among your team members.

By uniting two functionalities -- tracking email communication and managing the tasks related to it on your team -- the users ability to delegate can both forward tasks to the appropriate person on their team, but also tracks their progress status as they move towards completion."

By uniting two functionalities -- tracking email communication and managing the tasks related to it on your team -- the users ability to delegate can both forward tasks to the appropriate person on their team, but also tracks their progress status as they move towards completion.

Besides FLOW-e, what new web apps would you recommend to teams trying to get their inboxes in order?

"There are small number of web apps that have joined the conversation surrounding the prolific email problem. The ones we find most interesting are Dragapp (newly launched), ActiveInbox (works only with Gmail), and Sanebox (works with Gmail and Yahoo). These solutions work as “skins” for existing email clients and can help you organize your inbox."

Can you share some advice on small changes people can make with their email habits to become more productive?

"On the personal blog of Andreas Klinger, an Austrian startup guy and CTO of Product Hunt, we found a noteworthy article titled “Don’t Drown in Email: How to Use Gmail More Efficiently”. In Klinger’s article, emails lived in separate compartments in his general Gmail account. There were separate inboxes based on the status of the email. He used the following structure and policies:

  • GTD - Getting things done
  • An easy to manage, usually empty inbox on the left
  • All “todos” in the first box
  • All emails “awaiting a reply” in the second
  • All “delegated” emails in the third
  • All emails related to meetings, flights, etc easy to find in the fourth

Even before Klinger’s piece, we saw references to the plea for an email charter for email users put together by Jane Wulf and the curator of TED, Chris Anderson. The charter itself is made up of 16 codes of conduct that senders and receivers of email should follow. Suggestions include: respecting recipients time, choosing clear subject lines, keeping communications short, asking concise questions, etc. By reviewing the email charter and integrating it into your own email etiquette, you can start to create a culture of more respectful emailing."


Want to learn more about how to organize emails with FLOW-E? If you are part of a team working in betahaus | berlin, head to their website now for a 1 Year Free Trial of FLOW-e!

Found the content interesting? Want to join Monica and other entrepreneurs at betahaus? See how here

Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them. 

Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.

Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for  betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear. 

Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.

Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different. 

Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally. 

Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.

Photo by Lea GK

Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.

Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte

Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.

Want to get in touch with Obst Digital? Come around betahaus | Neukölln and meet them here or send them an email to contact@obst.digital !


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