“What are some current trends in productivity software?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire. Maciek Saganowski of Whiteboards.io shares insight into what’s next for productivity software, including “super apps,” new emphasis on async, integrations, and more.

About the guest

Maciek Saganowski is head of product for Appfire’s Whiteboards.io, and founder of the product and design festival ProductCamp.

About the show

The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire features smart leaders sharing their secrets for optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. Get the goods on how they handle everything from setting up workflows to automating processes. Every episode is 10 minutes or less, packed with insights you can use right away to supercharge your team’s productivity.


For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

What are some current trends in productivity software?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address the question what are some current trends in productivity software. To help us answer that question is Maciek Saganowski. He’s head of product for Appfire’s Whiteboards.io and founder of the product and design festival, Product Camp. Stick around for 10 minutes of exciting and futuristic work management info.

Maciek, thanks so much for joining. What are some current trends in productivity software, what can we look forward to?

Maciek:  Thanks, Kerry. Happy to be here. Before I get into the varied trends, let me just draw a bigger picture here. The context that we are inside of with our productivity tools is the adoption of software in organizations. Back in the day, you had salespeople who would come to an organization and sell software. These days, it’s not like that, or it’s not often like that. 

These days, teams and individuals inside various organizations, small and big, will adopt the software themselves, try it out, take it for a spin, and then, like a virus almost, pass it to one another, and you build this network so more people use the software, the more useful it is for everyone. That’s how tools these days propagate within organizations. 

You have tools like Calavar or Notion that basically start out like that. It’s not like a sales rep will come to an organization and say you get 10,000 seats. It doesn’t work out like that. It’s usually one individual who will make this initial spark and ignite this software craze in the organization.

Kerry:  Word of mouth, which means your product has to be really good.

Maciek:  Absolutely. If it wasn’t for great product and great UX, this situation, this snowball effect would not be happening because no one would want to use the software. Starting with the users, starting with UX, each person will need to want to use that tool, and the utility the software provides needs to be there. Utility, pleasurability, and enjoying the experience. 

Kerry:  Okay. That’s kind of the landscape in which we’re operating, that’s the big picture, if you will, which you could draw on a whiteboard.

Maciek:  That is correct.

Kerry:  I work at Appfire, we have a couple of app names that I like to drop in from time to time. What are seeing, what do people want now in productivity apps and how is it different from what they used to want?

Maciek:  You mentioned whiteboards, so let’s start with that. Historically, we had various software categories, this whole space was very stagnant for many years. 

You would have your email software that was single purpose specific, to send and receive emails. Another software, a calendar to check your meetings and set up your meetings. Another software, Excel, or maybe for spreadsheets, just tables. Another thing, Word, Sheets, or just write. Then we had another type of software that we would use when we would be with each other in a room, and that was a whiteboard.

Kerry:  And sticky notes. 

Maciek:  Right, and sticky notes. When COVID, we moved online, and all of those different categories that I just described were there, email and spreadsheets, etcetera, but whiteboards wasn’t there. That was the very first new software category that emerged or started growing really rapidly after the remote work shift. Now everyone and their dog pretty much is on a whiteboard. 

Every single large company has a whiteboard. They don’t differ that much. They all support generic whiteboarding, but there are some specific whiteboards that are trying to be maybe purpose specific or trying to address a niche or purpose of a specific user group, and business whiteboards are such, Whiteboards.io, which is our product.

Kerry:  What I think is cool about Whiteboards, and then I’ll shut up about it, I think it’s cool that it integrates with Jira, with Confluence, with other things that you’re using to manage your projects, so that you don’t have to finish your meeting and then go do a bunch of data entry, because nobody wants that.

Maciek:  Absolutely.

Kerry:  Integration is another big trend, right? Nobody wants to do that data entry after your meetings. 

Maciek:  Integration is probably the second biggest thing now, just after whiteboarding that I just described. When we talk integration, we mostly mean being able to use components or entities from different systems without leaving your current system. 

For example, I am inside of Whiteboards and I can work on Jira issues or Jira epics, not leaving that whiteboard. Maybe, like you described, I can create a sticky note with an idea coming out of a brainstorm, or I have a bunch of ideas, and then with a single click, I can push them to Jira. I don’t need to go to Jira at all, and I can be sure that these items will land in Jira. 

This integration thing is absolutely a big driver of where software is going these days.

Kerry:  It saves time, and it minimizes the risk of error, which I feel like is pretty high when you’re just entering a bunch of stuff one thing after another.

Maciek:  Absolutely. On this point, something that we also see is adoption of automation as another trend. These days, I can either out-of-the-box automation workflows or I can create my own very simple automation. 

For example, in my previous company, I would not use an applicant tracking system as such, but I could use Trello and Zapier, which is this fancy automation builder, and with Trello, Zapier, and email, I could make an automation so that when I receive a new application a Trello card would be created and that’s it, and I can just open up that Trello card.

Kerry:  Then drag the card to the trash when you decide you don’t want that person. Just kidding.

Maciek:  We’d have some proper stages for candidates. Moving a card to another stage would basically mean that this candidate would get an invitation to the meeting or would be sent a note with a thank you.

Kerry:  You can build some pretty sophisticated automations, even if you can’t code. We at Appfire have many apps that can do that, but there are tons of apps that make it stupid easy for people. So, you don’t have to feel as though you need to be a coding professional to automate things.

Maciek:  That’s very true. Another trend that I wanted to talk about is, and that’s a fairly new thing, probably the last two or three years, is the rise of super apps. 

Kerry:  Super apps. Is that like supermodels? 

Maciek:  Kind of like supermodels, also superheroes. It’s an app that would try to be an app for multiple people in multiple categories and multiple roles. Historically, you had one app for a product manager, for example, another app for project manager, another app for an HR person, another app for someone else. Now we’re seeing tools like, for example, Monday or ClickUp, that would try to embrace all of those roles and really address their very different use cases. That’s another thing that we’re seeing growing. 

Kerry:  We’ve seen that, I feel like, in other industries. Let’s say in the graphic design space and the marketing space, Adobe has a whole suite of things that interoperate and some really massive things. 

Maciek:  Absolutely.

Kerry:  Do you see any disadvantages to that? 

Maciek:  Yes. Jack of all trades syndrome, meaning ultimately if you want to be good at something, you need to specialize, you need to brand yourself to that particular user group. I guess maybe that’s the major downside that if there is a tool that is trying to address too many use cases, it ultimately will not be able to address all of them at the level that the user requires. 

I think the jury is still out whether these tools will be able to fulfill the needs of the users and provide a great user experience. I don’t know yet. So far, it’s looking promising. But who knows?

Kerry:  You can integrate apps, too, to do specific things, I suppose. If you have an HR group within your larger business group and they use a piece of this super app, then you can integrate a few apps that do specific things they need that nobody else needs. I suppose you could build it out quite a bit. We’ve seen that with Jira and with Confluence, obviously, it’s what we do at Appfire. You can make it what you need it to be.

Maciek:  Pretty much. Speaking of Jira, for example, or Atlassian, we are also seeing maybe certain similarities here in that Jira would create these kinds of other products or other use cases. For example, for product managers, so create roadmaps. You keep mushrooming out these different use cases on top of each other. 

That’s how companies grow. Right? They try to sell more units, more seats, to different users. Inevitably, you need to either grow your product by growing the number of use cases or create another product on the side and grow that.

Kerry:  Maciek, this is so interesting. I could talk for much longer about this, but Work Management Show is only 10 minutes. Thank you so much for joining. 

If you’d like to see more episodes, you can find those at Hub.Appfire.com. Be sure to check out Whiteboards.io if you want to see some of what we were talking about today.

Thank you, Maciek. Thanks, everybody, for stopping by.

Maciek:  Thanks for having me.

Kerry:  We’ll see you next time

Last updated: 2023-01-24

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