451 Research: Taskworld launches an 'evidence-based feedback' productivity cloud

InsightaaS perspective: 451 Research is one of the world’s leading sources of insight into cutting edge technologies — especially in areas that are important to InsightaaS and our principals, including cloud, collaboration, analytics, and sustainable IT.

InsightaaS.com works with 451 Research to bring occasional thought leadership pieces to our readers. We believe that this report — "Taskworld launches an 'evidence-based feedback' productivity cloud" — is important both in terms of its specific content and the category it addresses. The category is, broadly, collaboration, but at a scale that reflects the new business options that cloud provides to IT suppliers and their customers. In this case, Taskworld is both: it is a product that began as an initiative addressing the need of a group of businesses for "a suitable set of productivity tools that enabled his workforce to manage and monitor their tasks, activities and results." 451 research manager Carl Lehmann believes that "the Taskworld offering and its pricing should appeal to many small businesses, and perhaps midsized businesses seeking workforce productivity and workflow-oriented project management tools."

InsightaaS believes that this type of offering represents the future of collaboration — that traditional tools will become more deeply integrated into workflow-specific application suites, and that workflow-oriented tools will need to embed collaborative functionality, stretching far beyond basic groupware capabilities to the more sophisticated social interaction and feedback tools found in Taskworld. As Lehmann points out, these tools still need to connect with human-dependent processes, and "resistance to change sometimes thwarts the use and growth of such platforms among their intended users." We believe, however, that these kinds of systems will deliver business benefit well beyond the reach of current and previous-generation tools, driving expanded use of collaboration and of cloud across organizations of all sizes.

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By Carl Lehmann of 451 Research Group; special to InsightaaS.com

carl_lehmann
Carl Lehmann, Research Manager, Enterprise Architecture, Integration & Business Process Management

Fred Mouawad, chairman and CEO of Synergia One, operates a diversified group of companies in a variety of industries that include food production, food services, IT and creative agency, construction, jewelry and watches, media, and trade shows. He couldn't find a suitable set of productivity tools that enabled his workforce to manage and monitor their tasks, activities and results. He and his IT team evaluated several offerings from the likes of Asana, Wrike, Jive Software's Producteev, salesforce.com's Do.com, Fog Creek Software's Trello, MetaLab Design's Flow, Teambox, Human Computer's HiTask, Basecamp and Huddle.net and found them wanting. They addressed only a portion of Mouawad's task management needs and he concluded that none offered the integrated feedback and performance metrics that he required.

In 2006, Mouawad set out to solve the problem by building his own productivity tools. Taskworld is a cloud-based collaboration platform designed to increase productivity and workforce engagement. It allows users to assign and receive tasks, add followers, consolidate comments in a single point, organize projects and access evidence-based performance evaluations.

Context

The official launch of Taskworld's cloud service apps was in November. Headquartered in New York, the new firm is privately funded with $5m capital from Synergia One (essentially Mouawad's personal investment). Taskworld currently has 45 employees, most of who are in engineering, six are in marketing and none as yet in sales. The firm's initial offering is free —intended to seed the market — 'for fee' professional and enterprise versions are anticipated in Q1 2014. Taskworld is now in the process of recruiting 20 more staff members, including a sales team to drive the growth when the professional and enterprise versions of its product are launched. The firm has no current plans to seek additional capital; however, it may choose to do so after establishing a revenue stream, track record and customer base.

Strategy and products

Running the day-to-day operations of multiple businesses using email, spreadsheets and online file-sharing tools wasn't cutting it for Synergia One. Unsatisfied with available market offerings, the firm tasked its ITORAMA team (an IT services and website development firm) to initiate work on a performance-driven collaboration platform that would increase employee productivity, engagement and accountability. After several years in development and nine months in use by 700 employees of Synergia One's portfolio firms, Mouawad launched Taskworld to bring the new technology to market.

The new platform set out to alleviate several specific pain points experienced by many organizations that use basic office tools to run their businesses. Such pain points include organization/task delegation, accountability, consolidation and tracking of various correspondence, follow-up activities, performance evaluations, visibility of actions across project teams, and right-time feedback for effective coaching. To do so Taskworld embraced what is now a growing trend in various enterprise application markets and among IT vendors to 'socialize' their apps to bring the interaction, communication and collaboration quality of various social media widgets into the day-to-day use of business operations. The so-called 'social business' is a concept that engages the workforce to be more communicative and results oriented. Taskworld embodies these designs into its new platform and enables management teams and the workforce to identify key tasks, properly assign tasks to relevant stakeholders, monitor the execution of tasks and projects, provide qualitative and quantitative feedback on completed tasks, and performance reports to drive improvement.

Taskworld claims that its key differentiator is its ability to provide 'evidence-based feedback' to track execution and results, helping to assure that tasks are completed within the performance thresholds required and the outcomes desired. The platform is inspired by Six Sigma statistical analytics and focuses on quantifiable results driven by key performance indicators (KPI) and other qualitative evaluations. The firm filed for a patent specific to the integration of performance metrics with task management.

Does the market need yet another task management and team collaboration platform? Perhaps yes, if it can measurably improve execution, performance and results and bring teams together rather than alienate them from management. Sometimes such tools raise the ire of a suspicious workforce that feels it is too closely scrutinized. The industrial efficiency studies of Frederick Taylor revolutionized workforce productivity in the early 20th century only to reduce humans to automatons. Taskworld and other such providers must be conscious of employees leery of the product. Proper education, training, motivation and incentives common to continuous process improvement and change management programs should be pursued when implementing such tools. These programs encourage participation and limit the possibility of reversion to prior workforce behavior. Indeed, the collaboration and coaching utilities made possible by the influence of social media on business application design simplifies the rollout of these programs. We believe that Taskworld would be well served and more competitive if it were to include a services component to its upcoming enterprise offering to help its prospective customers migrate to a new way of doing business enabled by the platform.

Pricing

The product roadmap for Taskworld includes three versions all hosted using Amazon Web Services (AWS). The basic version is offered for free and features an unlimited number of colleagues (co-workers that are stakeholders to tasks) and tasks. It is limited to 2GB of storage and few performance reports. Other versions are to follow shortly in Q1 2014. A premium individual user version will increase storage to 10GB, add some reporting capabilities and is expected to be priced a $7/month or $67 for a yearly subscription. The enterprise version will provide users with unlimited access to tasks and performance reports for the entire organization based on access privileges; storage is also increased. It will be priced based on the number of users and storage required — monthly subscription pricing tiers range from $280 to $700 per month. Annual subscriptions offer 20% discounts.

Customers

Taskworld is new to the market so no reference customers were available. The platform is reported to be in place in Mouawad Jewelry & Watches, one of the firms belonging to the Synergia One conglomerate of companies. There it is reported to be powering the collaboration between 300 people across 19 showrooms, four factories, and two central offices in 11 countries. It claims to have improved workforce productivity by 25% and reduced error rates due to miscommunication by 10%. Going forward, Taskworld will target small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) and hopes to enter the larger firms with its enterprise version.

Competition

Taskworld considers its direct rivals to be various task management and collaboration tools and vendors that include Asana, Wrike, Producteev, Do.com, Trello, Flow, Teambox, HiTask, Basecamp, and Huddle. Taskworld claims that these vendors lack the capabilities necessary to enhance team member effectiveness by exposing performance reporting, clarifying the rules of workforce engagement and providing accountability. Taskworld may discover rivalry with Bloomfire, iGloo, Microsoft SharePoint (and maybe Office 365 in some cases) and other file sharing and social networking vendors that are rivals to SharePoint such as Box, Jive Software, Lithium Technologies and Yammer (acquired by Microsoft) as well as TeamDrive and eXo Platform's Cloud Workspaces. We believe it is likely that several SaaS vendors such as salesforce.com, NetSuite and Workday will include similar capabilities into their continuously evolving cloud services.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

Weaknesses

Taskworld possesses a well-defined perspective of how workforce productivity can be enabled through simple task management tools that also include performance metrics and monitoring to enable accurate and consistent execution and outcomes management. Taskworld may be unaware of the competitive forces shaping the markets it pursues. Many of its direct rivals can extend their platforms to include the performance monitoring and accountability capabilities that the firm claims as unique, and social networking vendors are keen to attract enterprise users. The firm's entry will require a furious effort to capture customers and market share.

Opportunities

Threats

The workforce efficiencies enabled by now-commodified desktop office productivity tools have reached diminishing returns for many businesses, making task and project management platforms like Taskworld an attractive option to improve workforce productivity and results. Established and emerging rivals will come from current task management vendors, file sharing vendors seeking to establish greater product differentiation, and new workflow and collaboration vendors inspired by social media capabilities. SaaS leviathans and Microsoft will have more to say in this market in the coming quarters.

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