Fragmented tools mean we have fragmented brains

There’s a general motion that email should be killed, that it’s chaotic, and it should be replaced with collaborative tools – our project management, issue tracking and customer relationship apps – with their zen visual overviews and easy team coordination to bring us calm.

The problem is that email is where things actually get done. Fresh ideas swell up, projects ride the wave of communication to completion, and relationships are cemented.

And because there’s fragmentation between the two worlds, it falls to us – the workers – to wrangle information between all our different tools. With each new app in our ecosystem, things become exponentially harder to track. Our brains bear the burden of keeping everything in sync. (This is why employees typically reject any new tool management tries to foist upon them, and rightly so).

Let’s integrate Gmail!

Our plan is simple… make it really easy to integrate your other tools into Gmail, so at any moment in your day, you have a complete picture of what’s happening when you need it.

And, integrations mean your team can work where they want to work. E.g. your sales manager can live in Salesforce, but actual agents can spend all their time where they’re most comfortable: in Gmail.

Today, it’s our responsibilty to wrangle multiple tools. With an integrated Gmail, we have just one place to focus. (Forgive my terrible hand writing – I grew up typing!).

Some Examples

Sales Pipelines

  • Track leads in Trello/Hubspot/etc., and add all your conversations into them. Then whilst writing emails, be able to see the status of your lead from those tools.

Customer Support

  • Enact updates for customers – such as upgrading their account – directly as you read their email.

  • While writing emails, access your help wiki for quicker replies. Or update your wiki with fresh ideas as you get inspiration from talking to customers.

  • Track feature requests, or bug reports in GitHub/Trello/Asana, then be able to go back to all emails upon completion to alert them.

Do you want this, or something else?

In ActiveInbox, there’s now a very simple trial implementation of this: the ability to share an email as a link.

If you want it…
The share button includes a survey, so just vote there!

If you want something else more…
The survey also includes input for different ideas, so you can prioritise them instead.

Finally, don’t miss the Sneak Peek at Read Receipts / Emailing Tracking in my last post.

And of course, discussion in the comments below is always very welcome =)

Categorised in:

This post was written by AndyM

  • Dan Paul

    We would love to get away from Cirrus Insight for our Salesforce integration. It is a slow and buggy extension and doesn’t always play nicely with AIB (I’ve brought that up to both sides before and it behaves better these days).

    Key features would be loading SF contact data when you hover over email recipients, attaching emails to opportunities/contacts, creating cases, and otherwise being able to peak inside Salesforce from Gmail.

    • Thank you Dan, this is nearly perfect feedback 🙂

      The only question I’d ask is the link to the benefit you’re after… I’m guessing it’s speed and focus. You don’t want to be switching tabs to look the person up in Salesforce? But is there any more to that? And what does that speed let you do?

      • Dan Paul

        Without an integration into Gmail which shows us visually that a contact isn’t in Salesforce, it’s just not going to be done because it would be too time intensive to do that for any contact you suspect might not be in SF. That will then keep some of our customer contacts out of the loop for some of our campaigns and initiatives which provide them value.

        Being able to see recent activity on a contact before you send an email leads to better emails.

        Tracking read receipts is another helpful function of Cirrus. They have a much more robust dashboard for tracking information.

        Attaching emails to opportunities from Gmail allow others involved to be aware. Again, it’s something that isn’t really done without the extension because of the time commitment to go back and forth.

  • David Shalev

    Wow, I love this discussion. I have adapted so many workarounds that it will take some time for me to visualize a perfect non patchwork approach to integration. For example, I currently use NoCRM.io (absolutely the BEST sales management tool I have ever used, just FYI) and I find myself sending bcc’s into it to track email history, but scheduling most of the work within NoCRM rather than Active Inbox. Actually, this is true for presales works, but in terms of post sales support I have gravitated toward reliance more on AI, but it remains a constant push/pull situation and I have no clear solution in mind, but am overjoyed you are using your wisdom to focus on the issue and I will do my best to use the input of Dan and hopefully others to think of good use cases.
    In terms of read receipts, Dan is absolutely right- AI’s current solution is just not robust enough and I use SalesHandy instead. Andy, please take a look at their dashboard and other reporting to see a very thorough approach to read receipts (notifications, # of reads, location, device read on, etc)
    As usual, can’t thank you enough for making the world a better place. I don’t know how anyone gets anything done with Active Inbox.

    • Hey David –

      Could I encourage you to leave your dashboard thoughts on the comments of https://www.activeinboxhq.com/blog/2018/11/01/plan-your-next-step-with-read-receipts-sneak-preview/ ? I’d really value it. ‘Dashboard’ is the request I keep hearing, so I’m particularly keen to get it right, and I think you have a ton more experience in this realm than I do.

      How about… as I totally understand you’d rather not strain yourself thinking of every use case…

      Could you share just the top 2 problems you face daily with working with both Gmail & NoCrm (great tip btw)? And _why_ it eats up a lot of time/headspace? (The ‘why’ will really help us dream up a great solution for you).

  • It’s a very interesting option. I haven’t found a use for it yet, but that may be a matter of time. More and more I’m using the Dynalist clipper extension on Chrome to create an item from the unique gmail link so I can order my email tasks in Dynalist. Active Inbox is still the most important space for daily work, but I miss not being able to see subfolders in the Active Results.

    • I’m still musing ways to get the sub folders back in 🙂 Do you have a good example of that in another tool? (Perhaps the Dynalist interface does it well?)

      As a little follow up:
      How are you using Dynalist and AIB together? What benefit do you get from both, that each one fails to provide?

      • There’s no real comparison between Dynalist and AIB. Dynalist is a flexible outliner which I use for project management. I clip an email from AIB and create an item in the Dynalist outline which consists of the gmail header and link. I can then move that around to regulate workflow and keep references.
        With sub-folders in AIB, I used to be able to break projects down into different areas. When faced with a mass of emails for a project, I try to manually sort them into different issues so I can keep focus. It feels messy. Breaking it down into sub-projects would be helpful. That’s what I’m beginning to do with Dynalist, but it adds another layer of processing, so I only do it with important emails.
        I tried Sortd for a while to deal with that. I liked it, but it felt a bit much to combine that with AIB and AIB was the more essential for me.

  • Walt Taylor

    I love the “share” idea. I would actually really like a way to share “android messages” with AIB. I get a few SMS a week that require some type of follow-up or have a due date and dropping those into AIB would be a huge benefit. I know that’s off topic in a sense, but “sharing” between apps is always a good thing!

    • I’m pretty sure that there must be services to convert messages into emails. Does Twilio do it (they are the market leaders)? Or maybe this is still relevant: https://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/how-to-send-texts-to-email/ ?

      • Walt Taylor

        Andy, turns out you are correct. I simply forward the SMS to my email address using messages and it works perfectly. Thanks for the heads up. Guess I’m the last one to know :-/

  • Arek

    Sharing of emails with co-workers would be a great feature. But I think that sharing just one particular email is not enough. My ideas:

    1. Ability to share whole thread, auto updating as it grows.
    2. (Better) Ability to share threads with defined labels. For example like https://deskun.com/ which I consider to use.

    • Hey Arek,

      I’m actually intrigued by these ideas, but I don’t know why I’m intrigued 🙂

      Could you explain a good example of how it would help your work flow? What benefit will that bring to your day?

  • pfb

    I use rebump, Streak and Mailtrack in addition to ActiveInbox. I think Active Inbox could easily incorporate rebump and Mailtrack into their offering but I am not sure if Streak’s CRM functions make sense to put in as well. It seems to operate well alongside Active Inbox so maybe best kept separare.

    • Ooh, what’s the benefit of rebump? I’ve not heard of it before.

      Re: Streak. I agree it’s beyond ActiveInbox’s remit to incorporate a full team kanban system into Gmail, partly as I feel Gmail is already a super cluttered environment. My personal desire is to make ActiveInbox integrate extremely well with Trello to achieve the same goal.

      • pfb

        rebump allows me to pre-set reminder emails to go out in case there has been no response to the previous email. So often now people see an email while commuting or in a social setting and then forget about it. If you rebump them they almost always reply.

  • Donna Grindle

    We use Trello to manage everything from leads to projects to managing our training classes. Today we BCC to Trello all of the time. Connecting to AIB would be the ultimate solution for us so we could see information across the tools. Very interesting in hearing more about a Trello integration.

    • Hey Donna,

      This is a great upvote, thank you 🙂

      What does the BCC do? Just create a new card or something more?

      What would you say is your single most time consuming frustration in making Gmail + Trello work together? (E.g. perhaps it’s getting data into trello? Or making use of data in Trello while in email?). Any real examples from your day would be fascinating.

      • Donna Grindle

        When you BCC the card it adds the email text as a comment on the card. The problem is I have to go to the card, Select the Share and more link, copy the Email address for the card and then add it to your BCC to be able to do it.

        You can email a board and it will add to a default list. It just creates a new card, though.

        There is also a GMail Add-on for Trello. It will only create new cards, too. The email is added to the card description when you create it. After that there is no link to the card. You have to do the BCC trick above.

        If I could connect cards to my AIB task emails it would be a huge improvement. Each reply or update on the email could be added as a comment on the attached card. If I could click the link from the email to go to the card and visa versa it would be even better.

        To go to the super cool level, sync the sub tasks of an AIB task to a checklist on a card and you have built Gmail/Trello nirvana for me. 🙂

        They have a great list of Power Ups they have from third-parties so the infrastructure is there. Just not sure how much you can do with it. We are rooting for you here!

      • Donna Grindle

        Here is an example of what we go through managing email.

        We use our Leads board to track, well, Leads. 🙂 If someone completes our contact form on the website, it will use the information to create a new card on the New list on the Leads board. It adds two of us as members, sets a due date for responding and sends us a notification on mobile and email that there is a new request from the website. Very nice automation until that point.

        If someone sends an email into our sales info address, we use the GMail Trello Add-on to make the new card with the email as the description. If they leave a vmail we get an email from our VOIP system and that gets added as a lead.

        If I am going to take ownership of the lead, I update the card accordingly. Then, I send an email to the new contact.

        Here is where your integration comes into play. Right now, I get the BCC as mentioned in my other note and include that on the initial email. The comment is added to the card for the first contact. After that, though, there could be several emails back and forth in the sales process. Each time, I have to remember to get the details on the card.

        I do set a reply needed reminder and make notes about what I know and what tasks I plan to do next. At that point I can add the BCC in the notes for future use but I don’t alway remember to do that.

        Once they reply I can either copy and paste that to the card or reply to them with the BCC again. Sometimes, they use our online scheduling tool to set a meeting which sends an email from that tool that I have to add to the card.

        When I have spoken to them and have plans for the next steps I can’t share my AIB info on the card so I create notes on the card that says what I am going to do and then put my tasks in AIB. This is where the sharing of the email and syncing to a Trello checklist comes into play.

        My team may have to jump in and take a question or even finish up the sales process. If I don’t sync my AIB details and make sure replies to emails are sync’d to the card, they are missing information. Also, using Trello mobile it is way easier for talking with leads when out of the office. Mobile emails often don’t end up sync’d to the card at all.

        Once we make the sell, we continue to have the same back and forth issues when we are communicating with our partners and clients about our projects. Missing emails on cards means we can’t ever be sure we have the latest info just by checking a card or our last email connected to our AIB tasks.

        We can connect all of our G Suite files, documents, calendars, etc. to a card with Power Ups. Emails are the only cumbersome G Suite connection.

        Hope that makes some sense.

  • K. Adam Bloom

    I already have a free tool for sharing emails as links and I find it very useful so I’d love to see it integrated into AIB and have one less browser extension.

  • snake

    AIB is not the only kid on the block anymore. I have come across a couple of other very handy tools for treating emails as tasks and projects which seem to have a lot more functionality.
    Streak ans sort’d to name but 2

  • mz

    How is this different than simply grabbing the link from the URL bar? I see that the structure of the links is different, but it seems to yield the same result.