Podio, served seven ways

I assume if you’re here, it’s because you’re interested in Podio, the digital collaboration platform that enables teams to get more work done.

BUT, there are many ways to skin a cat - or to use Podio in this case - depending on your needs, goals, skill level, time and appetite! Here’s our quick guide covering seven ways to ‘Podio’. Enjoy…

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#1 Straight outta the box!

The most straightforward and low-effort way to use Podio, is to take it as it comes. Just grab a pack of apps from the Podio App Market and get to work.

Of course, with low-effort, come only limited rewards, so the chances are you’ll have a system that doesn’t quite fit the quirks and idiosyncrasies of your business. So, onto the second way…

#2 Chop and change

Rather than just accepting the default Podio apps that are bundled with your chosen app pack, grab the bull by the horns and start to ring the changes. You can modify your apps to change field labels, switch-up the field order, and add new ways to capture data. This way you’ll benefit from the headstart that a pre-made app pack can give you as a newbie, yet you end up with something tuned and tweaked to suit. This is a pretty efficient way to get started, as it’s all achievable within minutes. Nice work!

#3 Build from scratch

Do what? Is that efficient? Well, actually, yes. Once you've had a play around, you'll quickly realise it's easy to build Podio apps from scratch, using the drag and drop tools provided.

As you get more advanced, you can start to link apps together - even apps in different workspaces. Once you're at this level, you might also be feeling brave enough to experiment with calculation fields, and also with saving views, tiles and reports to make data more easily accessible.

You, my friend, are an App Builder. Kudos!

#4 Add simple automation

Thus far, you may well have built a pretty impressive suite of interconnected Podio apps. That's great. Doing so will have brought a whole raft of benefits, including greater transparency and enhanced levels of structure around your data (yet, with flexibility in terms of how you view it).

But to reap the benefits of significant time savings, you need to start building automation into the picture.

The easiest way to set about this, (you'll need to be on Podio PLUS or Podio PREMIUM), is to use Podio's native Workflow Management tool. This little gem offers a user-friendly interface within the main Podio application, and it allows you to set up 'if this, then that' logic. For example, in your Sales app, you can have a workflow which posts a new comment to the team, whenever you update a lead’s status field to ‘Sale made’. Yay! *does dance*

#5 Unleash the GlobiFlow!

You’ve built up some confidence. You’re sensing the potential greatness of Podio. You know you can get more out of it. How? It’s time to unleash the awesome power of Podio.

GlobiFlow started out as an external tool built by a Podio Partner. It has now been acquired by Podio. GlobiFlow does not sit within the standard Podio system, but connects to and exploits the Podio API to masterful effect, allowing for far more powerful workflows than the standard Podio tool can achieve.

Globiflow lets you use a whole range of triggers (such as when a new item is created, updated, or a field value matched) to initiate a range of responses (such as update a field, post a comment, send an email, create a PDF, send an SMS). It's powerful stuff and, when done well, can demonstrably save time and effort as well as bring consistency to business processes.

Note that, with great power, comes great responsibility ;)

#6 Get connected

Add potency and breadth to your Podio setup by integrating with other platforms. This can be another great way to save time and effort, to introduce consistency, and to allow your organisation to continue to use the correct, specialist tool, for the job.

External app connector tools like Zapier, allow you to connect other digital platforms to Podio - without the need for any coding skills. Winner!

This opens up more scenarios than you could ever want or need. Typical use cases might be something like raising an invoice in Xero when a particular stage is reached (field value match) in Podio, or creating a row in Google Sheets when a new item is added.

#7 The API way

Crack open the Podio API, and the world is your oyster, so to speak.

This option is for those of you who have (or have access to) coding skills. As such, the barrier to entry is naturally higher, but the rewards are that much richer. Oh yes!

By using the Podio API, you can pretty much build anything you want, in terms of leveraging your Podio data and orchestrating workflows. You can retrieve data from Podio for use in custom-built web pages, such as reporting dashboards. You can post data into Podio, from your other systems. You can do 'most anything. The only real limitations relate to a) your imagination, and b) the number of API calls Podio allows you to make.

So which way should you Podio? Maybe all of them. In many ways, these different approaches represent stops on a journey. You can zoom straight to number seven if you know what you want, have a clear vision in mind and just want us to go ahead and build it for you. If you’re new to Podio, get signed up and start with the first way. However you choose to Podio, we’re here to help!

Bringing shadow IT out of the shadows and into the light

As businesses, we all have a need to get things done; to deliver a service, to manufacture goods, to achieve whatever delivers on our raison d’etre. As such, each business needs a set of well-structured and efficient systems and processes that help operational teams to do their jobs, right?

But, in a demanding business environment, what happens when those systems and processes fail to keep pace with the needs of each team?

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Typically, this is where the IT department builds up a backlog while they search for a new solution, and the business teams naturally start to find their own workarounds.

This is an inevitability. It’s driven by necessity more than a burning inclination toward mutiny!

So what does shadow IT look like? How do you recognise it?

The ‘shadow’ label, by definition, means we’re dealing with behaviours and initiatives that may be hard to spot, especially if one is somewhat removed from the team in question; but typical examples might include…

  • circumventing existing systems, reverting to email and spreadsheets instead

  • introducing new collaboration tools such as Slack or Hangout, without central approval

  • adopting a new, lightweight project management platform, such as Basecamp or Trello, again, without approval

  • connecting systems together, using workflow automation tools such as Zapier

  • signing up to multiple services from one month to the next; doing their own haphazard IT research and development.

As you can see from these examples, very often people know enough to roll up their sleeves and put together some sort of solution, and often their workarounds are effective and inventive. These well-intentioned proponents of the so-called ‘shadow IT’ department have the honourable goal of getting their jobs done and moving things forward, when nobody else is able to help.

…and what’s wrong with that?

Well, ultimately, these short-term workarounds do come at a price and something important will be compromised, knowingly or otherwise. You cannot rely on serendipity to achieve the requisite levels of compliance, security or cohesion.

Typically, the downsides might be…

  • the ‘real’ IT department will lose track of what applications are in use by the business

  • the business will lose track of where its data is

  • security will get compromised (dare we even write ‘gee-dee-pee-are’?)

  • multiple people or sub-teams will simultaneously be attempting to carve their own solutions, creating further inefficiency

  • frustrations will bubble to the surface and manifest, one way or another, into something ugly or catastrophic.

So, what are the solutions?

If IT departments and CTOs are genuinely searching for the right digital solutions to support business processes, it will necessarily take time.

In our view, one very compelling solution is to bring shadow IT out of the shadows and into the light, by equipping all business teams with a platform to build their own tools, within a legitimate, transparent and controlled environment. Like a sandpit, but where the solutions can quickly become real, working applications.

What you then have, is an empowered army of legitimised ‘citizen developers’, rather than a subversive shadow IT department working against you.

This is effectively what Podio (by Citrix) gives you. It’s a platform whereby any team can create its own workspaces, apps and solutions, but within a unified environment. Therefore, empowered business users never need to go wildly off-track, espousing entirely separate systems (thereby putting company data in places it shouldn’t be).

Also, because it has a consistent and predetermined interface, the focus is on getting the right structure and workflows in place, rather than tinkering too much with layout, styling or colours. Furthermore, any app can be connected to any other app in any other workspace. So, when you do need to consolidate, join or centralise data, it’s easy to do so.

Of course, no enterprise really wants a boundless free-for-all, so proper governance and guidelines should be introduced as you see fit. But, in principle, providing the platform to empower citizen developers with access to low code (or mostly no code) custom applications, is a smart move. ‘Freedom within a framework’ would sum it up.

And remember, if you or any of your teams get stuck, cost-effective help is available!

How we use Podio and why we'd be lost without it!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that we are long-term champions of Podio.

At Oval, we’ve been using it for almost seven years, and couldn’t be without it!

So, we thought it would be a nice idea to back up our claims, justify our singing-its-praises, and maybe give you some ideas of how you can use a collaboration platform, in ways that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before. A real life, this-is-how-we-do-it case study.

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PROJECTS

We use Podio for projects before they even become projects. From initial enquiry, right up until practical completion, every stage is tracked. From collating proposal material, creating/tracking sprints for development, and invoicing status to task allocation, CRM, and associated file storage. We communicate on projects and their stages within the relevant comment stream, ridding ourselves of hideously long email trails. Ditto with documentation; we attach it all to the project item. In both these last two cases, the result is the knowledge that we are looking at comments in the order in which they were received, and the latest version of documentation.

This is particularly key for those projects where documents are constantly being updated; nobody wants to work off something which they then realise – far too late – has been superseded!!

CRM

Because Podio offers you the ability to build apps, and link them together via relationship fields if you want to, you can create a CRM system that works exactly as you need it to. In our case, we hold all information in one app, and use relationship fields to link to relevant projects/enquiries if appropriate. There’s a super simple export function if you want to pull out data for manipulation (in Excel, for example), and an email address associated with each record (enabling you to ‘email to item’).

SOCIAL

Whether it’s collating menu choices from the team for the Christmas party, or a ridiculous meme that we have to share, Podio is the quickest way to get in front of everyone. We have workspaces for projects and areas of work, but we also have one that’s dedicated to hanging out – virtually – with our teammates. We share recipes and favourite films, and we also use it as a place to high-five each other if someone has achieved something amazing! With a team that’s spread across multiple locations, it’s a simple way to stay in touch.

DOCUMENT SHARING

Arguably, this could be absorbed into any of the previous points, but it is such a standout feature for us, that we think it deserves its own mention. There is nothing worse – certainly as an organiser, facilitator, or project manager – than sending out a document for review by others, to then be on the receiving end of several, distinct, new versions. Are you looking at the latest version? Have you incorporated all changes? How many people have or have not had a chance to review it yet? Who made these changes again??!!
The wonder of Podio – particularly when used in conjunction with a service such as GoogleDocs, which updates and saves in progress – is the ability to track every single ‘movement’. So that covers when an attachment/document was last added or updated, and who instigated it; the life of that attachment is documented forever.

CLIENT SUPPORT + HELPDESK

We interact with clients via Podio in a variety of ways, but primarily using workspaces or helpdesk forms.

Workspaces: occasionally, we will create a specific project workspace within Oval’s Podio organisation set-up, and give access to external members, ie the client. This enables us to conduct conversations about timelines, features, sprints etc within Podio directly, rather than via email (which can result in a full-to-bursting inbox, and lack of clarity over who said what and when). It also means that we can store project-specific attachments, against the relevant items in the relevant apps, and everyone knows they’re viewing the most up-to-date information.

Helpdesk: For those projects which require support by both clients and other end-users, we create helpdesk apps within workspaces. By creating a Podio webform with its own URL, users can get in touch with us outlining their details, with the form then creating an item within the relevant app. This is perfect for giving all members of the development team visibility of issues, ensuring we can respond to queries as quickly as possible, and reducing ‘silo-ing’.

So, having read a little about how we use Podio, and you think you’d like to explore the idea of a collaboration system (while we’ve mentioned Podio, we also have experience in other, similar platforms), then just give us a shout for a totally-informal-with-no-obligation chat; we’re here to help!