Virtual Assistants To The Rescue!

Yesterday’s news feeds brought me two new applications that can ably serve as assistants in your process of getting things done. The first is FellowUp, a tool that helps you make the most of your various social web connections. The second is Flow, a beautiful group task management app that puts your to do list front and center in a very dynamic way.

First, FellowUp. This CRM tool tackles a problem made almost monumental in the digital, social sharing age: how do you maintain relationships across social networks, relationships that might actually yield positive experiences and networking fruit? You connect your social networks to the application, which then mines your networks for “insights”, such as important events, happenings, job changes, etc. From FellowUp’s dashboard, you can then comment or connect over the “insight”, making a positive impression on your friend or colleague and, in essence, “following up” with them. Get quick note of important life events and even common interests, which you can then act on if you wish. Of course, like any good CRM, FellowUp affords a useful mechanism for saving and storing contact information across networks in one place for easy access. Mobile access too, with a companion iPhone application. FellowUp has a more personal feel than competitors such as Salesforce, Xobni or LinkedIn, and a more effective interface for acting on events. Another cool feature: use it as a personal “to do” application by creating a new contact for yourself and adding notes, reminders, tasks or anything else you need to bring to your frontal lobe. FollowUp currently connects with Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Outlook. The site indicates that the team is working to add iCal, Yahoo, Twitter, hotmail-live, Salesforce, MySpace and more. A plug-in for Gmail and Outlook is in the works. FellowUp is in private beta right now, but even at this early stage, it promises to be an interesting way to deal with burgeoning online communities of friends, colleagues and acquaintances,  helping us make more meaningful connections in a rapidly disconnecting world.

Next in line, Flow. Flow is all about managing and delegating tasks to your team. In their sample vid, the “team” is a group of kids (I know, aging myself here) setting about to have a party. But your aspirations with this gorgeous app can certainly rise higher. The problem Flow is attempting to solve is similar to FollowMe – how to pull together disparate tasks and to-dos scattered across various applications and platforms and localize them in one place for easy management. Use Flow from your browser or a companion Mac desktop application. Use if for personal and work related tasks, by entering a name, a due date, contacts you’d like to include in the task-completion process, and relevant tags. You can group tasks into projects. Collaborators can add content to tasks, including real-time comments, which is a huge boon on a short deadline. You can add tasks and can delegate by email and all team members get access to a single dashboard. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous companion iPhone application.

To say the interface is pretty would be an understatement. But, at $9.99 per month, it should be. Still, let it be known that $99 per year for a virtual assistant is not a bad deal, particularly if it helps you get your work done and done effectively and efficiently.

Check out these very cool new apps. And be watching for more – clearly developers are plagued with the same professional problems as us little folk and keep coming up with creative ways to solve them.

Turning Gmails Into Tasks with Taskforce

Despite the advent of mobile devices, specifically-targeted applications, and multi-style messaging systems akin to unified inboxes, people (particularly business people) still love their email. I know I am still tied to it – a large chunk of my time is spent sifting through my five or so main email accounts.

I have been a proponent of Gmail for some time now – largely due to the fact that I can avoid the hefty downloads of messages onto my computer via my local email client. Gmail also allows for multiple messaging formats – I can access Google Chat and Google Voice right from my Gmail page.

You can collapse yet another function into Gmail. Check out Taskforce, a browser add-on that lets you manage and coordinate tasks within Gmail. Taskforce enters public beta today. Simply install the add-on, currently available in my three browsers of choice  – Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and see a toolbar appear on your Gmail page.  The bar includes “tasks”, “activities” and a + sign for adding a new task outside of a specific email. But the truly cool thing is the addition of two buttons on an given open mail item – “add to an existing task” and “convert to new task.” When you click the later, Taskforce goes to work creating a “task” for you from the title of the email and a few prompted questions. Add contacts to the task and you now have a task-based “filter” of communications or “comments” pertaining to the task. You can add due dates. the “activity” button shows a feed of all of your outstanding tasks, offering an overview of your Gmail-based “to do” list. Further organize yourself with task folders.

There is a desktop version of Taskforce, and it appears to work with email systems other than Gmail. There is also an iPhone optimized interface – check it out here.

 

I see this as a great add to Gmail – since many emails are the genesis of some call to action, why not turn them into tasks with a simple click of a button? If you are into tracking tasks in a medium other than your brain, Taskforce seems like a no-brainer.