You’ve probably heard plenty of social collaboration vendors talking about their product along the following lines:
“Our goal is to help you get work done faster and more efficiently.”
We’ve all heard a pitch to this effect, but how many of these products actually deliver on the promise? You can give staff members a Facebook-esque system for exchanging messages about a project, but how much do simple message exchanges and task tracking promote greater efficiency?
The Plant, a Tokyo-based company mostly known for CMS and ecommerce solutions among other things, is trying to bridge that gap between words and outcomes by refining their new social collaboration tool, Qortex, with features tied directly to the kinds of work that modern multinational organizations are doing.
Since Qortex emerged from its beta period last Wednesday we got a chance to sit down with Plant co-founder Anatole Varin and manager of products & UX Kilian Muster for a demo of the general availability version and ask a few questions about the direction of the company and social collaboration in general in the near future.
At first glance Qortex looks like a fairly standard social collaboration app, at least in terms of interface. The overall visual feel of the interface is quite nice, mimicking the white-gray-black color range that you’d see in a minimalist iOS or OSX theme.Think less Facebook, more a modernized CMS system like Tumblr.
It’s very gimmick free, a big plus in a segment where many vendors have taken “consumerization of IT” to mean that you should build your interface to resemble the menu screens you’d encounter while trying to figure out how to turn the background music off on Angry Birds or Candy Crush.
Anatole and Kilian were quick to introduce one of the features that’s been at the forefront of the marketing for Qortex: built-in text translation, and for good reason.
Messages sent across the enterprise through Qortex can be converted to multiple languages using a Microsoft Translator-powered translation engine.
Additionally–and importantly, since, as Anatole admitted, machine translation can only provide a certain level of fidelity–users can forward messages to others in the company who are tagged as being proficient in a particular language, requesting a translation from him or her.
The translation feature was partly inspired out of Anatole’s personal experience relocating to Japan and starting a local technology company.“Most major Western-built products simply do not work well in many Asian markets for such things as search or functions that require lexical analysis. Being in Asia where text is dealt with quite differently in Western languages, I think that the amount of care that we take to make sure things work properly for languages such as Chinese and Japanese is unique when compared to others in this space,” he said.
The other eye-catching feature on the demo was a surprisingly in-depth system for tracking tasks and project management. To show off this part of Qortex, Kilian brought up a sample setup in which a content marketing team was using the system to manage a steady pipeline of editorial material and shooting draft copy and art assets back and forth to each other for feedback, all of which was captured in message logs.Where Qortex goes beyond Asana or the soon-to-be-closed Do.com however is in the 6+ degrees of detail users can put into the tracking of their projects.
Individual users can take on or be assigned subtasks from a larger project. From there, each person can provide time estimates on the ETA for their tasks, all of which factor into an overall time frame for the larger project.
We can see this being an incredibly handy tool for project managers. What sets it apart though is that The Plant is aiming to bring this highly quantified, agile-inspired management method and applying it to nontraditional use cases. The typical use case for agile development is in software development, where deadlines and forecasts are of grave importance to every programmer.
From that perspective it isn’t such a leap to apply a similar system to other deadline-centric sectors like editorial work, something Anatole and Kilian state as one of their “stealth” objectives with Qortex.
We’re looking forward to seeing where Qortex goes in the near future. Most of the clientele for The Plant’s business software have been non-Japanese multinationals operating in Asia as well as local Japanese companies who manage internationally oriented products according to Anatole, so there’s decent potential for Qortex to gain a strong international user base.
When asked whether the translation feature might come off as undesirable for smaller, more monolingual organizations, Anatole was confident that it wouldn’t be an issue.
“We think Qortex solves the problems that domestic and international companies alike find in internal communications and project management. We were sure to implement multilingual features only when a particular piece of content appears that is in a different language than their preferred language. For those who need the feature, it is right there and highly valuable. But for those who don’t need it, it won’t get in their way at all,” he said.
For more on social collaboration tools and other ways to engage your employees, check out our community forum research page.