Tools to manage your tools: This week on Track Changes Paul and Rich discuss the best way to keep track of company communications and tools. Our verdict, an Intranet. We lay out what an Intranet actually is, what it should and could look like and why it’s so important in an age of using too many apps at once. We also make a pact to build a functional intranet in the next six months. Wish us luck!
Paul Ford [Rattling in background] Is that Tool? Are you playing Tool?!? Are you—[laughs]
Rich Ziade Hold on—
PF Are you just—Rich just turned to his computer and he just suddenly [Rich crosstalking] [trails off laughing]—
RZ I don’t know where it’s playing. I don’t know where it’s playing—oh [background noise stops]. Ok. [Music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down] Paul.
PF Hey, Richard.
RZ If you start working at Postlight—
RZ We have a wonderful orientation checklist. We actually work really hard. We try to make it nice and welcoming when you get here.
PF Well cuz how many times you start that new job and then it’s like. . .you’re two weeks there and you’re kinda still gettin’ your laptop setup [music fades out].
RZ It’s a terrible thing.
PF That’s bad. People burn the cycles of newcomers.
RZ You know what? Let’s start this with a piece of advice: if someone’s new, they don’t wanna be strollin’ over to other people like, “Can you help me get on the thing?”
PF It’s so emotionally terrifying to start a new job.
RZ Don’t let them do that. They are your customer for that first week.
PF I had a job once, I swear nobody would talk to me for six months. Cuz it was just like, “Who is he? Why is he here?” We’re very proud that people feel welcome when they come here. And when they come here, what do they get? They get like, there’s Trello boards and there’s onboarding documents and you get your docs setup.
RZ We use essentially it’s a handful of tools you’re gonna onboard onto, ok?
PF Yeah, I mean, we use Basecamp for organizing our lives.
RZ Basecamp is used for some of the discussion and document sharing. We’re obviously—we’re on Google. I mean, you’re gonna—one of your first things is that email address and that’s Google [Paul crosstalking] Docs, your Gmail, your calendar, and whatnot.
PF Github logins.
RZ Github login if you’re an engineer. You’re on Trynet which is our HR system so [yeah] that’s where you’re gonna get a lot of your benefits and stuff.
PF We have a [sic] out of office tool that you can say like when you’re on vacation, if you’re sick.
RZ There’s a tool called Pingboard that tracks who’s out and where you’re gonna be at any given time. There is Slack where we talk to each other.
PF So all the stuff!
RZ There is Abacus where you handle your expenses. So it’s probably north of ten tools and, depending on who you are, cuz then the designers have their tools on top of that.
PF Well I think we got—There’s probably 25 or 30 regular softwares [sic] or service tools used to run the business.
RZ And as a really sharp minded trusting executive, every so often I say to everyone—
PF “Why the hell are we paying for that?”
RZ “Why are we paying for all this stuff?!?”
PF Well, you know what’s real though? Is we were paying for a 360 review tool for people to give feedback to each other and it was thousands of dollars and nobody was using it. They were talkin’ on Slack!
RZ So what’s materialized is a set of tools—there’s this trend now around these tools to manage your tools.
RZ And this is around both authentication. So like you can have one single, secure—
PF Oh, single sign on.
RZ [In deep voice] Single sign on!
PF That is if you wanna [yes] ever find where like half a trillion dollars has been dumped into a hole and set on fire [Rich laughs wheezily], just type in the letters SSO into your browser.
RZ Yeah, so there’s that but there’s also the tracking of these invoice—like it is a jarring thing when you haven’t logged into Airtable yourself for six months and they send you a bill for 7,000 dollars.
RZ That’s a strange feeling!
PF Oh as a boss you’re just like, “Hmm. What’s happening?”
RZ Yeah, or Dropbo—
PF Like that’s a half a Toyota.
RZ And here’s the other wrinkle we have going on in our lives, right?
RZ I’m not gonna name names. This email client came out. . .a few months ago.
PF Oh yeah!
RZ People lost their minds and the next thing you know—
PF It’s like a year ago, they thought it was the best email client ever.
RZ Then Dropbox because who the hell wants to just be folders? There’s Dropbox Paper. What is Dropbox Paper, Paul?
PF You know what? Lemme just be clear: [whispers] I don’t care. I don’t care. [Rich laughs] There’s Whimsical which is for diagrams now and then there’s this other thing—There’s a thing it’s a meeting planner but it sends you emails. [Yeah] Here’s how I know: I get emails from some automated service where a thing that I’ve done for 25 years like meeting agendas has now been radically reinvented by eleven-year-olds who have never done work in their life [Rich laughs] to tell me that—You’re like, “Oh! It’s got decision points.” And God bless our wonderful employees who are—
RZ Well that’s the thing: do you really wanna discourage someone from coming up to you and saying, “You gotta try this!”? [In deep voice] “You gotta try this!!”
PF What do you and I talk about when we go out in the world? We’re like, “Hey, Rich, let’s go get a drink and talk about the software as a service we’d love to build.” This is the madness. Everybody loves their new tools at the company that makes the new tools.
RZ Our Head of Design, Matt Quintanilla, [mm hmm] wonderfully talented person.
PF Just basically an angel.
RZ Evangelizes a tool that is not out yet and it’s unclear when it’ll come out.
PF Oh! For making pitches.
RZ For pitch decks. He’s like, “This is gonna be great. I can’t believe I don’t have this in my hands.” He sends me a link—
PF He’d have us—Wait, we would stop, maybe the company—
RZ We should stop the company.
PF Stop selling.
RZ I forget the name of the tool. I think it’s called like Happy [yeah or—] or Pitch or something.
RZ So, this is the other, in all seriousness—
PF Stitch and Pitch.
RZ You don’t wanna discourage—like people feeling really productive around a new thing, you don’t wanna be like, “What are you doin’ with one more tool?” Jira showed up on the scene about 60 days ago here. 60-90 days ago. We had kinda been shunning it for—
PF Oh we were saying, “We don’t even bother. We don’t need Jira.”
RZ We got a lot of tools.
PF We got Github issues.
RZ Jira showed up and it showed up hard.
PF Yeah it really did. Everybody suddenly became Enterprise one day.
RZ And there’s a corner of this office, it’s almost like a Marxist rebellion that uses Asana without talkin’ to anyone else.
PF Because it’s not really supported. But the thing I love about Jira too—it’s been more than 90 days, I think it’s been more like five or six months—I can’t log in. I have access. I cannot [Rich laughs], no matter what I do. I’m incapable of logging into Jira. It’s not for lack of will. I would like to be in there [Rich laughs] looking at tickets, the—Jira will not allow me to have access to Jira. We have tried three of four things and people send me invites all the time, like, you know, “I’d like you to look at this Jira board.” No chance. And you know what? I’m gonna just be real clear here, with a product like Jira, that’s a day. And I just don’t have that day right now. I can’t [yup] allow everything else in my brain to get put aside in order to enter the Jira hole. Because I don’t know when I’ll crawl I’ll back out. I’m just—
RZ And that’s the thing. There’s a limited amount of time, and—
PF Well that’s the thing, as a leader, right? You just—the way you find out about these new services is they send you automated emails. And you’re like, “What the hell is it?!?”
RZ Yeah, yeah, yeah.
PF It’s actually bad because of course the services themselves they’re so excited for their viral growth cuz they’re gonna get to tell somebody else about how great they are and what they do. But it’s actually bad because you should’ve been warned. They’re like, “Well, Nooda Squiggly Do?!? Well, here you go!” And it’s just—you should have been warned, somebody should’ve said, like, “Hey, I wanna try this new thing. You can tell me if you like it or not.” But instead it just drops into your life and you’re like, “What the hell?!”
RZ A lot of them are bad. First off, let’s talk about the usability flaw in all of them. The usability and flaw in all of them is that there’s 20 of ‘em! Is that I’m hopping from thing to thing [Paul exhales]. It’s unreal!
PF It’s so real, dude.
RZ And they try to talk to each other in a clumsy way. So when I put a day off in the day off thing—
PF Oh they all have their—
RZ—it goes back to my calendar and then blasts an email!
PF Everybody has their frickin’ API and they’re all so proud of themselves.
RZ And it drops a Slack bot. Some systems are integrated tightly and linked in a very meaningful way. Apps mutter to each other. It’s like, [under breath] “He’s taking a day off next Thursday. You should know that, Slack.” And then it ends up on Slack in some weird way. It ends up in your email in some other way. If someone said, “Design a tool for a company to do all its stuff.”
PF That’s the thing, man. Slack is the new intranet, right? And here’s the Slack—
RZ You just—I mean, you just said a word.
PF No, but here’s the—
RZ We can’t just gloss over—
PF No, no, but this is Slack telling you about all the things happening in your company. [Clicks tongue three times.]
RZ Oh man.
PF Oh you walk away, you forget to turn your computer off or your Bluetooth disconnects cuz that happens every now and then [clicks tongue three times]. The whole office knows—
RZ Cuz things are happening.
PF Well, yeah, I said internet. I said that out loud.
PF That’s—[stammers] I-N-T-R-A-N-E-T.
RZ Lemme—should we pull up the Wikipedia definition?
PF Oh! Hell yeah, let’s see what they’ve got to say.
RZ “An intranet is a private network that could only be accessed by authorized users.”
PF Private network.
RZ The thing about intranet—Internet actually is the whole piping that powers Netflix and chatting and WhatsApp and everything. And intranet is—let’s lay out what 99.9% of intranets are: it’s a website.
PF It’s a website with links to services.
RZ It’s a link.
PF Maybe it’s a noose.
RZ It probably works in your browser.
PF It might be powered by SAP or some other sort of enterprise tool. It’s also called things like The Hub.
PF They love to rename it. Intranet’s such a lousy sounding word. The something portal. Naming your company portal.
RZ Isn’t intranet about communication? Is that all it is?
PF No. So when I used to consult for big companies, you’d go in and you’d get—sometimes you’d get an email or access, and you’d login, and you’d hit the intranet, and it would be like, “Upcoming events,” “here’s what you need to know about your insurance.”
RZ Ok, so it’s something akin to like a bulletin board.
RZ Yeah, right. Like a—
PF And then links to your services like—
RZ Things you wanna go to.
PF Your mail; your calendar.
RZ That doesn’t sound terrible. That sounds like, “Hey, my HR benefits stuff—”
PF Can I tell you in an age of 5,000 apps, it sounds wonderful!
RZ It sounds wonderful! And like give me a place where I can get to my employee handbook. The company calendar. I need to pick new benefits.
PF Now this was—when Postlight was 20 people this didn’t matter as much but I’m really starting to feel it. Since I took over sales, you know what my homepage is?
PF A Google doc with links to all the things I need for sales.
RZ That’s upsetting. I’m so sorry, Paul.
PF No! It links to my CRM; it links to the various templates and documents that we use over and over again; and then if you keep scrolling down, it’s got templates you can reuse and stuff like that. Cuz that’s the only way we’re gonna build a scalable framework and you need that—a folder in Google Drive sure as hell doesn’t cut it because you’ll never find it again. Google does not allow you to ever look at a document twice. And every other thing doesn’t really work.
PF Eh Trello boards I guess a little bit. So and so forth. But God, a Google Doc with links?
RZ So what you’re talking about is a set of links.
PF Yeah because all of the tools that we use are web based.
RZ So some of it takes you to PipeDrive.
PF I can link—
RZ Some of it—which is our CRM. Some of it takes you to Google Docs.
RZ Google Slides.
PF I’ll give you an example. We’re putting more and more information into the CRM so that when it’s time to hand over a project, like the statement of work and sort of all the stuff is there—
RZ To the team.
PF Yeah, just because that’s all been oral and now we’re writing it down. “Here’s the proposal, here’s what we promised them.”
RZ Why isn’t there an intranet taking over the world right now? A tool that brings this stuff together.
PF I think in big companies you login and you still get access to all their resources. That’s saves them a lot of money and time. And then there’s like software as a service that everybody kind of is using three or four tools, gettin’ through their day. They remember the URLs. You know? You just kinda remember ‘em. Cuz there’s only—
RZ You bookmark ‘em!
PF There’s only a few.
RZ “Lemme go left to right.”
PF That’s your work bookmark bar.
RZ Exactly. Well, it’s my browser bookmark bar. Ok? I’ve got PipeDrive for CRM. I’m going left to right. I’ve got a particular Airtable that I like to go to.
RZ I’ve got Basecamp. I’ve got Greenhouse which is a recruiting workflow tool.
PF Mm hmm.
RZ Right? I’ve got Google Docs. I’ve got Google Sheets. I’ve got Google Slides. I’ve got PingBoard. . .which is for days off. Here’s what we’re saying, as I’m going left to right here: my bookmark bar is my intranet.
PF It’s your intranet. And it’s not shared. You’re saying like, “I get annoyed when I find out that I just paid 7,000 dollars for something I don’t always use because you’re not seeing all those resources.”
PF They surprise you. Lemme tell you, here’s the patt—
RZ I am at a certain altitude. Let’s be clear, I’m not a designer, engineer, or a product manager.
PF Yeah but we’re not that big a company. It’s ok for us to know things. Like it’s like not a surprise. Here’s what changed, right? You used to go and you’d see a page at your big company and it would say, “Here are the things that you need,” and if it wasn’t in there, it wasn’t real. Like, roll it out, train people, all that stuff. Then, that all blew up because it was incredibly expensive and everything cost like 10,000 dollars a month for five people. Like it was ridiculous.
PF And so all these softwares and service tools show up and they’re like, “How about instead of spending all that money, you do this instead?” And everybody was like, “Yeah, that sound great.” But because there’s no central place where you put that stuff, you know what they did? They started to badger the living crap out of you. I don’t even bother to have a link to Greenhouse, our HR system. You know why?
RZ Stuff’s gonna come at ya.
PF It sends me 50 emails. If I don’t write my thoughts on a recent int—It tells me an interview’s coming. It tells—and there’s no way to opt out. I’m gonna get those emails. So why bother? Right?
PF And then they start piping to Slack. But it doesn’t really work because there’s so many damn signals and they’re all undifferentiated and there’s no design. So like a well designed resource that said, “Here are all the tools that you can use to get your work done at Postlight,” would lower our collective cognitive load. . .a lot. But we’re not gonna do it because there’s always another service and things are always switching out and on and on and maybe we’re just—
RZ Also isn’t someone maintaining that?
PF I’ve got another project going, it’s hard enough to get our own website up. We have now gotten to the point where we can truly manage, update, and change, and alter our website for marketing purposes or redesign it without it being an absolutely critical mess. Right? It just used to be hard because we weren’t good at taking care of ourselves.
RZ What’s the solve?
PF I would love the Postlight web page that’s only for people who are here. . .that tells them all the tools that they can use.
RZ A set of links.
PF I think that would be really empow—
RZ Is that a Wiki?
PF I think that would be empowering for people. It could easily be a Wiki.
RZ Why aren’t people using that then?
PF People wanna use a new tool and not catalogue all the old boring tools.
RZ Well, we’re also a technology shop.
PF Oh, of course! I mean we’re both—
RZ We love the new thing.
PF Yeah, and this is not a criticism of people in the company. I love nothing more than to start a new project, get about ten percent in, and then start another project. [Rich laughing boisterously] It’s who I am and it’s a problem that I manage.
PF Everything got so dynamic and notification driven that the culture of, “Hey, here are the tools you need to get your job done,” instead became, “Don’t worry, you’re gonna walk into a network of interrelated products that will constantly tell you what you need to do.”
RZ I haven’t been in a big company in a long time. And in a lot of big companies your, like, browser gets handed to you.
PF Oh yeah.
RZ And everything’s kind of already done.
PF We’re working for a big company right now and they send us all Macs.
RZ Like actual hardware.
PF They sent us actual laptops that are ready to go to access their systems. I have a Mac that I don’t use.
RZ Have you opened it? [Laughs]
PF I have not opened it. I could open it up and it could be like a jack in the box.
PF And [chuckles] like Tim Cook could spring out.
RZ Yeah, yeah. I wanna go back to communication. I think there’s two things here. And we just had a meeting which this was raised [yeah] which is, “I don’t know where to go to find out something that’s pretty important and pretty persistent.” I wanna make a distinction between what I’ll call, for lack of a better word, stream of communication which is just constantly flowing.
PF Mm hmm.
RZ Like you’re either looking at it and there or you’re not. You can catch up but you’re not gonna catch up to a lot. You’re gonna catch up to a day.
RZ Slack, email. These are very dynamic, ephemeral—
PF Email’s tricky because it depends on how you use it but yeah it’s—
RZ No, but you’re not—Look, I wanna get to this point which is even email, right? Email, if you told me what was the state of your email a week ago, it’s dead. It’s gone. It’s already disintegrated and it’s been reset. It’s been composted.
PF Yeah, that’s right.
RZ Right? So email and Slack and other tools actually are very alive and in the moment, right? And then you have—I still need that canonical representation of the thing that’s really important. And I’ll tell you how this slams into Slack and email. It slams into Slack and email when someone comes to me and says, “Do you have the SoW from September?” And it’s January.
PF Yeah this is so—I have spent a lot of my holiday updating cards in the customer relationship management tool [mm hmm] with new fields that point to SoWs, proposals, and so on—
RZ Ok, so you’re trying to address this!
PF I’m creating an archive.
RZ Related: something came up today in a meeting we just had and they said, “It would really be nice to know who’s working on which project.” And we started digging. The same way you dig for that file. We started like—no, but it’s there! You just gotta kinda dig around. And the truth is what you’re looking for is something more akin to what we talked about earlier which is the bulletin.
PF That’s right, you go to the intranet and you click a button and it shows you who’s working on what.
RZ And it’s just one represent—
PF Company directory.
RZ Company directory.
PF But our company directory is a separate product and it actually can tell you, if you update it, who’s working on what, but people don’t like updating it and we don’t really like the way it looks or feels for that information.
RZ I think ownership and responsibility around—Once you decide you’re coming out of the stream, where you get to just talk to each other [yeah], you have to assign an owner because that person is gotta be the keeper of the thing that actually needs to be kept fresh.
PF For people at home, what you’re hearing is that our company is growing and it is forcing us in the simplest way to transfer from a verbal, oral culture where we communicate directly—
RZ Stream based culture.
PF Stream based culture to an archive based culture. It’s a dynamic business and the minute your write anything down, it’s out of date. If we wrote down who’s working on what today, by Monday at the end of the day it would be out of date. Because somebody’s gonna go work on something else for two hours. They’re gonna go just like touch a new project [mm hmm, mm hmm]. But if we don’t move in that direction because the number simultaneous engagements that we’re handling is going from a handful to actually getting closer to more like dozens. . .coming in, coming out, and current—the conversation and the—
RZ You can’t go searching through email.
PF You can’t count on the person that you need to talk to sort of being available. There—like, you and I spent much more time together a year ago. Like, I don’t see you as much as I used to because we’ve split up our efforts. And so—
RZ It’s a scaling challenge.
PF Which the amount of the knowledge transfer that happened between you and me [yup] is probably about half of what it used to be.
PF Which, frankly, is a relief [laughs].
RZ Yes. For other reasons. Look, there’s another move that people make that they find comforting. We landed a client recently. And someone—I don’t even know who did it—just created a channel. . .of the company name, of the client. And it just felt good to start talking about it in that channel [yeah] and it bothered me because eventually that client name also got another channel created for staffing purposes. And then [yeah] someone else created another one for the contract. And I started to get angry because what was starting to happen was they thought they were establishing these quasi-permanent places where canonical representations of the information are gonna be. What happened was if you look at my list of channels in Slack, it’s a lot of failed attempts at that.
RZ We have a tool called Dash. . .which it’s number one feature is that the channel must go away.
PF That’s right. The goal of Dash is for a decision or an artifact to get created outside of Slack.
PF Right? Like, people have to solve—they can use Slack to do it but then it’s like, “I will make that deck and get it done.” And then you say, “The deck is done.” And you hit the button and it’s done.
RZ So, what often happens in Dash is, “Here’s the deck, you’ve got eight hours. Give me your feedback now or forever hold your peace.” And people feel the clock at that point because that channel’s gonna go away. You know, there’s this whole—
PF And look, we’ve got Google Drive going; we’ve got Dropbox going; we’ve got like—As a culture we’ve rarely enforced anything as the canonical place.
RZ You ever drive by like a Storage Plus?
PF All the time.
RZ A lot of what it is in email and it’s a billion dollar industry, by the way, to keep that email archived and just [oh yeah] stored away. Even though there’s a very slim chance you’re gonna need to dig back into it—is the same business model as Storage Plus. I’ve said this in the past: my inbox is file storage. We rummage through stuff to find the thing. All the time.
PF All the time.
RZ All the time!
PF No, no, because here’s what happens: first of all, it is unbelievably hard to get a file out of email into a Google Drive folder and have that Google Drive folder be put in the right subfolder.
RZ For aisles of terabytes of data and CPU power have to be used. It’s unbelievable how—
PF No, I mean, when I took over sales, I’m like, “Sales will be run at a metalevel by Basecamp, and then we’ll PipeDrive for our relationship—”
RZ You had a plan! [Chuckling] You went in with a plan!
PF “And we’ll have Google Docs and we will link to the Google Docs in PipeDrive.” And it’s working! But it is absolutely a pain in the ass to keep—Like, it is a lot of work to put stuff in a bucket.
RZ Also, Google Drive feels like it wasn’t invited to the party [Paul sighs]. There’s something off about it. I usually try to steer the ends of these podcasts towards like, “Ok, let’s be [yeah, yeah] and constructive.” This is really hard. There are teams of people who manage intranets inside of big companies.
PF Yeah, there are are. It’s a weird job and I think it’s probably a scary one to have because you’re not relevant at some level, like you’re not facing the outside world. Let me ask you a question. Let’s make a decision. Should we build an intranet at Postlight? Within the next, like, let’s say, six months.
PF I think it’s probably time, right? Like—
RZ I think it’s an interesting exercise.
PF It could be a page of blue underlined links to the tools that we use.
RZ A lot of these tools are bad. There’s a lot of bad software out there, man. There’s—
PF I like a good like four second wait when I do a database query. And by database query, I mean clicking over about a meg [Rich chuckles] of data. Like literally [Rich laughing] a Mac SE/30 could’ve done—
RZ A lot of bad software.
PF I mean I love it. You move that card from one to the other and it’s like—yeah, yeah, remember the um—there was a [sic] SNL skit it was like somebody who lived like a minute in the past. And they were already—it was just like one character was in the past; one was in the future [that’s pretty good!] and one’s—and they’re all just sort of yelling in random ways like, “Oh my God!” And you’re like, “Oh no, what’s gonna come?” And it was pretty good—
RZ That’s what clicking on—
PF That is what using a CRM in 2020 is like.
RZ I love the thought exercise around it.
RZ I think it’s fascinating. We do have a wonderful lab, Postlight Labs, and why not? Something’s busted! It’s ridiculous the way we cobble together all our stuff. I think every company does it—
PF Let’s be clear, there’s a zillion like intranet services that you can also buy.
RZ Yeah, but why don’t I know about them?
PF As a category for the companies that are our size, it’s just assumed that you’re gonna subscribe to a bunch of stuff and it will email you 45 times a day.
PF And instead of going to a place to learn things, you will simply be a passive animal that they will beat to death with email.
RZ I’m convinced that when something is gonna change the game, I’m gonna hear about it. Like—
PF No, no. It’s actually a fair indicator. There’s not a lot of secret knowledge out there.
PF We’re gonna build an intranet. We’ll report back as to how this all goes but let’s get the project started. What do we gotta do?
RZ Let’s close this podcast out with a mission statement.
PF There’s just too friction right now and as we’re scaling, it’s a challenge to deal with all the tools and services we use. It actually is increasing the workload rather than decreasing it in certain instances and we wanna actually think that through. Not just throw tools at problems and we also are like if somebody really loves getting projects done with Asana, and they’re operating independently, we don’t wanna take that away from them. Right? It’s like we’re not trying [no, no] take things away.
RZ But there are global needs that are real. Like, for example, everybody needs to know where to go to put in their expenses.
PF That’s right.
RZ That’s a basic thing. Here’s the slippery slope, I call it going beyond the hyperlink. It’s easy to list out our expense tools—
PF Yes, of course.
RZ But then we could say, “You know what? Hold on. You know what I could do is pull in the last ten expenses off of the expense tools and there must be an [in nasal , aggressive tone] API, so give me a second.” And the next thing you know, you’re building all kinds of integration and stuff, right?
PF Well, the nice thing for a person, the true utility of an intranet for me would be that we would build a service that would remember all of my logins, and I could login to my Postlight tool, and then it would go and pull the things I needed to do out of the services. So, “Hey, you have five expenses—”
RZ Mmm, be careful though. This is how you end up where we are today.
PF Yeah but let’s say I have an account on the Postlight intranet and it tells me, “Here are the expenses that you need to fill out; here’s your to-do list on Basecamp; here’s the updates from the health insurance provider; here are the upcoming things that you need to do to get your health insurance [yeah]; make sure your direct deposit is set up correctly, et cetera.” That’s useful. That’s actually useful. Like I come in and there’s my ten things that I need to do.
RZ A team is doing that today. At like American Express there’s somebody who’s putting out like The General Bulletin for New York Office! And they’re saying, “Fill out the thing!”
PF Oh I’m sure—
RZ “By Friday night!”
PF I’m sure this exists—Like, or people Zapier for it or whatever.
RZ I think it’s humans! I think it’s mostly humans.
PF Ok, do we want to build that?
PF Ok, what do we wanna build?
RZ I think there is certain information that is static in nature that should be somewhere. For example, the general company announcement. How is that happening today?
PF Well we use—
RZ I know at large organizations there is the bulletin or whatever. At a 200 person company, how do you—where is a general announcement happening?
PF I think 200 people, it’s email and probably the internal bulletin.
RZ Ok, everyone@.
PF Yeah. Only a few people have access to that. We never send emails to the company.
RZ We’ve never done it.
PF No, early days I would send a few.
RZ Yeah, and we don’t do it.
PF No, cuz everybody’s on Slack. And we actually—I worry about email. Like I don’t think people pay a lot of attention to their email when it’s like a Postlight thing. Like the attention in the firm is on Slack.
RZ But that’s its own problem, right? Which is it gets washed away by all the new messages.
PF That’s completely real. You know a great example? And we’re still small enough that this matters. New hire announcements. . .just go away.
PF If you’re out—if you’re on vacation when somebody new is announced, you never heard about it.
RZ So shouldn’t that be somewhere?
PF Well, you know the other one? We have this great channel it’s called Show Your Work where people make one-minute videos about what they’re doing.
RZ That shouldn’t be a channel.
PF Well, that’s the thing, I was talking with that team. I’m like, “Can we please make an archive of this? Because it’s impossible to come back and get caught up.” And they’re gonna figure that out. Right? Like, we’re good at that kind of thing. So, maybe that’s it. Maybe we need to look through all the different—like make a catalogue of all the things we need to do and then figure out good archival formats for the Slack channels and the—
RZ Is it archival though or should I just be going to a URL?
PF By ‘archival’ I mean like a document that would let me gain access to what was on Slack this week. For Show Your Work, maybe it’s there’s one document per month that wraps up all videos.
RZ What about the housekeeping stuff? Do you know how to get to the employee handbook?
PF I do not.
RZ It’ll take me five minutes.
PF I could—yeah, it would take five minutes. I don’t know where to start.
RZ Announcements should be in one place. Static sort of representations of current state of things of some sort [yeah] should be in one place. A lot of times what you’ll find is like sales teams they have like a Dashboard that really represents what’s going on at any given moment in time and—
PF No, like or the Gawkers—the high volume websites of the world will always have their metrics up. Apparently—
PF Apparently, inside of Facebook you’re just looking at big screens telling you how—
RZ You’re doing.
PF—some things are performing.
RZ Yeah, that makes sense.
PF We don’t have an analytics driven culture around people working more broadly because [yeah] we objectively—we don’t track time. Like we’re not saying, “You need to have more productive hours.”
RZ Yeah. I love getting rid of stuff. We got rid of Meetings recently. That was a little awkward and we’re like, “Can we have one more?”
RZ “Could we just have one more of these?”
PF Well what happens is you say, “We need to schedule—Well, what about monthly?” It’s like, “No, just when you need it.”
RZ And that throws people off. So, getting rid of tools is harder. Somehow Adobe jammed 6,000 gigabytes of software into my toolbar up at the top of my Mac.
RZ And we got a bill and it was like 9,000 dollars. And everybody—all anybody talks about is Sketch is in this office. And all of a sudden I got a 9,000 dollar bill from Adobe because After Effects is installed on everybody’s [chuckles] computers!
PF Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RZ And we’re not a motion graphics shop!
PF Not everybody’s. About three.
RZ Yeah! [Laughs] It still lead to a 7,000 dollar bill.
PF Yeah, yeah—
RZ So, I said, “Why don’t we just kill it?” And when I said it, I meant it in sort of a blustering cause a ruckus way but I actually kind of meant like, “Stop using it and tell me how painful that is.”
PF Why bother? Our clients don’t care.
RZ “Tell me how painful that is.” And you just don’t know and what you get is people really push back. People are like, “You can’t take my tools away! Those are my tools. Even though I may need this once a month, I need it.” And I’m not gonna get in that debate.
PF No, if somebody needs something to get their work done, we’re gonna provide it.
RZ Yeah but I think it’s not just that. I think—you ever see, like, people who turn their garages into a workbench? Their tools are so beautifully laid out. The tools setup is actually beautiful to them. It’s like empowering and all that—
PF That’s how you gain control over that environment. That’s all of us!
RZ Yeah, so that’s another path. We just take things away.
PF Much of our company does not have Microsoft Word at all. I find that amazing after all these years in the world.
RZ It is amazing. I have a friend who’s really into Numbers and Spreadsheets and when I mention that use Apple Numbers, they get really upset at me.
PF Oh, they don’t think it’s real software.
RZ Yeah, exactly.
PF We all have our things. Alright, so we’re—
RZ I think this is a tool worth building because I think things have gotten too scattered.
PF But the reality is we don’t have a strong recommendation for exactly what it needs to do or how it needs to look.
RZ I think this is some exploration.
RZ I think this is some learning as you go do it.
PF And what’s good for us? We’re gonna take a minute and figure out what’s good for us.
RZ Well you were talking a minute ago about what’s good for you. Which is a very scary step.
PF No, that’s really correct, we can’t start there.
RZ We can’t start there.
PF We have to start with, like, what’s good for someone who just hired?
PF If we solve the, like, “Welcome to Postlight [music fades in], [yeah] you are a new Senior Designer, and you’ve got some experience in the world but you don’t know how we work.”
RZ “Start here.”
PF “Start here.” Like if we solve that, we’re doing pretty good.
RZ Yes. Correct.
PF Alright, so there you go. We sat down to do this podcast and we have incurred a vast software burden that will take us a long time to unburden ourselves from.
RZ It ain’t the first time.
PF Hey, if you’re a listener, and you actually have the solution, if you have this one thing that you love.
RZ Send it over.
PF Yeah, cuz we would love to not build this. Kinda wanna build it but no, no, deep, deep, deep, [sing-songy] deep, deep down, find us a way to never build this tool.
PF And get more value out of the tools we are using.
RZ Yes. We are Postlight, a digital products studio based in New York City. Lots of wonderful clients. We’re announcing some new ones soon—
PF Oh yeah!
RZ—that are incredibly exciting. It’s been a really wild year and a lot of exciting things ahead. We are designers, engineers, product leaders who take big, sprawling problems and solve them with technology.
PF And in general I think we’re pretty nice and we like to help.
RZ Reach out!
PF firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always here.
RZ Have a great week! PF Bye, everybody! [Music ramps up, plays alone for four seconds, fades out to end.]