The dream office of the future: No email!

Asana's Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein are both from Facebook.

You’ve heard of B.Y.O.D.? That’s Bring Your Own Device.

It started when office workers ditched the company Blackberry and shelled out their own money to buy an iPhone for work. And that helped bring mobile computing devices into the workplace. Right now, there's another trend reshaping the workplace, says Tom Eich, the head of the digital tools practice for the design consulting firm IDEOThat trend is called B.Y.O.S., or bring your own software.

"It's also called the consumerization of IT,” Eich says. He notes that in the not so distant past, if you wanted software for work, say, like Powerpoint or Photoshop, "you used to have to go to your IT guy to get a licensed version on your computer."

Now you can find everything online and most of it is free. Office workers are turning to Dropbox instead of FTPing files to the company server. They're ditching Word and using Google Docs, when they need to share. And they're often doing it without asking the IT department Eich says this shift in buying power is what's whetting investor's appetites.

"And a lot of the more interesting innovations are entering through the consumer channels first," Eich says. 

In other words, start-ups are more focused on worker's needs. High up on that list of needs: getting rid of email.

"People are complaining about how much email is dominating their lives," Eich says. "So there's a need there that'll definitely push companies to find better solutions."

I went to check out Asana, one of the many startups in the Valley that's working on what's now being called "productivity software." Asana's co-founder is Dustin Moskovitz, who's also a co-founder of Facebook. The social network's unofficial motto is "move fast and break things." And in those early days, it was Moskovitz's job to keep Facebook moving fast.

"And I would spend a lot of my day trying to figure out what was going on," Mosiovitz explains. "And that's when we got into the pattern that most companies still use today which is just sending around a lot of email threads."

Moskovitz went looking for a software tool to help him coordinate people and projects but he couldn't find one and so he started writing a program himself. He says, engineers at Google, Apple and other tech companies have done the same thing. And those management tools have cut down on email and workers are more productive.

Moskovitz thinks these tools are part of the secret to Silicon Valley's success. And he wants to sell them to businesses around the world. And in the Valley, it sorta feels like everybody is using Asana, including start-ups like Uber, Airbnb, Nest and Pinterest.

When Pinterest's head of products Tim Kendall joined the company last year, they were 18 employees. Today, there are about 250.

"A lot of our projects require product design, they require engineering, they require marketing," Kendall says. "Tools like Asana can allow you to track all those different components that need to get executed to build and launch a product."

Kendall flips open his Macbook Air and shows me how Asana works. On his screen a dashboard, which shows all tasks, correspondence, check-ins, to-do lists -- or all the information he needs to manage a project -- on one page. I asked him how this was different from creating a Google docs list?

"It just has more flexibility," Kendell said and explained how he can re-organize information to fit the project.

It's not quite the brave new world I was expecting. It sorta looked like a mash-up of software like gdocs and a "to do list."

And Kendall was using email!

"I still use email but I'm able to track a higher volume of projects and workflows without commensurately increasing the volume of email," Kendall says.

Eich, the consultant from IDEO, sees lots of challenges. He says it's early days and there aren't any clear cut winners and losers yet. But he says, there's no turning back.

"Once you have had a workforce that’s complete grown up and immersed in digital technology, there not going to accept a tool kit from their employer that's so much worse than the thing that they experience in their personal lives," he says.

You know who he's talking about, right? Millennials.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

Asana's Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein are both from Facebook.

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