Insight.ly

Every so often a new and eye-catching online application appears on the scene. In the parallel world of the iPhone, they can take only seconds to learn and a seconds to forget, before they are consigned to the dustbin.

Nevertheless just because something takes minutes to learn and no more than a few weeks to master, doesn’t mean it’s no good. Yammer the enterprise social network is a nice example, which came free and easy. Simplicity or ease of use are important if you want your people to use your shiny new application. Basecamp is another one characterised by app simplicity.

Now Insight.ly isn’t quite as free as it used to be and won’t work as a freestanding programme (it plugs – rather neatly it must be said – into google applications), but you can be up and running in a matter of minutes. The basic setup is straightforward and you do not need a complex masterplan to get started. You probably do need to be willing to try different approaches that are likely to suit your (client’s) way of working.

Like Highrise, from 37 Signals – the people that made Basecamp, you can email stuff to Insight using bcc and fwd and contacts are automatically added if they do not exist.  On top of the contact management tools, there is a wide repertoire of project and task management functions that are a breeze to use and, perhaps, too easy abuse. I for one hate being ‘assigned’ things (now who was it that said lack of task control is a demotivator?) and it is too easy to use the app instead of email, phone or just talking to the colleague sitting next to you. While it lacks the ability to assign email correspondence to the projects directly via email, it is snap to do this within the application itself – provided you’ve not forgotten what you were doing 10 seconds ago.

So, to conclude, we have recently installed Insight for a group of 6 users in almost no time at all. Initial reactions have been positive, but we shall wait and see when the schools are back and pace of activity picks up.

The only downside that I can think of, apart from not being able to tailor the opportunities elements for a NFP organisation, is that if you wish to include an individual outside of the google apps network, but don’t want them to have access to your email and docs, well you can’t. And also, your admin takes up one of your paid user slots, which is a bore if your admin doesn’t work for the delivery team!