In last month’s article, I outlined the important elements of online project and task organizing platforms as a means of managing file tasks and communications.
One such online collaboration platform is Redbooth. It is not specifically targeted to the legal industry and is used widely by businesses, large and small, including some of the world’s biggest automakers, airlines, online shopping sites, and health care companies. Its per-user cost plan is very economical for even small firms on a tight budget.
I will describe many of the key elements of Redbooth, in an effort to provide you with a sense of what such an online application can do. In future articles, I will endeavour to review similar online platforms, including those targeted to the legal industry.
Redbooth aims to allow the user to centralize and stay in sync with a “project” (essentially matters or files), and the ongoing collaboration among members on tasks. My firm started testing this tool several months ago, so far with very positive feedback. Using such an online collaboration tool has really transformed assigning and collaborating on tasks.
Security wise, Redbooth states its secure cloud collaboration platform is hosted by Amazon Web Services in a highly secure, fully redundant data centre, which has achieved PCI DSS Level 1, ISO 27001 certification and has successfully completed multiple SAS70 Type II audits.
Redbooth states its servers and data are monitored 24/7 for up-time, availability, and intrusion detection and that its data always travels over a secure connection. It is encrypted for transfer using SSL. Passwords are stored with one-way encryption on Redbooth’s servers. Its login uses 256-bit encryption, the same standard used in online banking.
Projects and members
Projects are essentially what we lawyers call matters or files. They are at the heart of Redbooth. Each project contains conversations, tasks, notes, and documents. Documents can be synced with storage platforms, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.
Members are the users who are involved in a particular project. Members may have different roles, depending on how their roles are set up. In addition, external users can be invited to a project, allowing them to collaborate fully on that specific matter.
Task management is the main reason we have started using this platform. In Redbooth, tasks are dynamic and resemble a conversation. They are updated by posting updates with text, status changes, and attachments — all of which can be done either though the platform or by sending an e-mail.
Task are filed under a project. Users can create different task lists, which are essentially clusters of tasks, or category headings for a collection of tasks.
Under each task list, users can create an unlimited number of tasks. For example, some of the tasks lists we have created are “pleadings,” “discoveries,” “reporting,” “accounting,” and “due diligence.”
Users can create subtasks under any task. For example, if a specific task has several distinct steps you want to be specifically followed and tracked, subtasks come in handy.
Tags can be added to tasks to create a special context to the task description or to assign priorities. This can be done by adding a #tag to the title of the task, which automatically tags the task.
There are also task list templates. These are handy when assigning a recurring set of tasks to your team members or yourself. They can be used for frequently used processes or assignments, including checklists, which you may want to use across matters or which you want others to use when assigning tasks to their team members.
Creating tasks can be done from various places in Redbooth, including projects or even directly from your e-mail. Each project automatically generates a unique e-mail address you can save and use to create tasks from your e-mail. In addition, Redbooth integrates with Outlook.
Users can reply to any e-mail notification, which will post an update in Redbooth. Any user can mention another user’s name with the @username command, or change the status of the task using #resolve, #hold, or #reject hashtag-text combination in an e-mail. Doing this will automatically change the status of the task.
Clicking on a tag in a task displays other tasks with the same tag across all projects. This can be a powerful, quick search tool and can add a new dimension to your task categorization.
Tasks can be reordered using a drag-and-drop method, or using the pull-down menu of the particular task.
If you are project administrator, you can move tasks or task lists between your projects. All comments and attachments will move with the tasks to the new project.
The global tasks view allows users to see an overview of tasks by user, status, project, or tags. Other filter functions can be used to view only active tasks, on-hold tasks, or based on due date. For more advanced searches you can use a search feature.
In order to allow project leaders to view and adjust users’ workload, tasks can be grouped by user and ordered in the following sequence: urgent tasks, late tasks, tasks due soon, and all other tasks.
If you click on any given task for a particular user, all tasks under that category will open in the same window. This lets you easily adjust that particular user’s workload, regardless of the project to which those tasks belong.
The internal calendar in Redbooth shows all active tasks with a due date across projects, both assigned to yourself and to others.
All these features allow you to manage tasks across projects or within a specific file in a far more efficient and sophisticated manner than traditional means that many of us currently use.
Notifications and dashboard
One of the key elements of Redbooth is its ability to automatically e-mail real-time notifications to a user of any activity he or she is following. Users can reply to them by e-mail, which will automatically post updates in the project in Redbooth.
The dashboard lets users check project updates in real time and reply to tasks or conversations. It is the first thing users see when logging in. This allows users to catch up on the latest task or file activity without cluttering their e-mail inbox.
The “all activity” tab is useful if you want an overview of what is happening right now inside your Redbooth. Every action from uploading a file to updating a task, conversation, or note will appear here in a chronological order. The most recent actions appear at the top and as you scroll down, you move back in time to view activity throughout the firm.
Taken together, these are sophisticated tools to manage file tasks and communications. The day-to-day use of this and other applications like it is far simpler from the point of view of the end user than what may meet the eyes. In some ways, it is like driving a car. While perhaps intimidating at first, you quickly learn to internalize the mental work involved. Here too, users quickly learn the interface and start operating the platform without much thought, even though a complex set of automated processes and computer systems enables a smooth operation of all these features behind the scenes.