GrexIt Turns Gmail Into A Social Task Management System

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Last month I said that collaboration and project-management apps should focus on killing e-mail from within, not creating yet another place users have to look for communications and information. Today GrexIt is coming out of beta not to kill e-mail, but to make it better.

GrexIt (not to be confused with the slang term for the possiblity of a Greek exit from the Eurozone) provides a few small but powerful features for Google Apps e-mail users: the ability to assign e-mails to specific users, shared labels(!) and shared e-mail archives. The idea is to make it possible to use Gmail for task management and group collaboration. E-mail messages become tasks or projects, threads become comments. It’s easy to imagine it being used for help desks or customer service processes.

Unlike tools like TaskForce (coverage), it doesn’t attempt to move tasks outside of the inbox — not even to a sidebar. Instead it transforms the inbox into a task list.

GrexIt was founded by Nitesh Nandy and Niraj Ranjan Rout. The company was part of The Morpheus startup incubator in India in 2010. It was later part of the Citrix Startup Accelerator and raised an undisclosed round of investment from Citrix and Vijay Shekhar Sharma of One97. GrexIt launched its public beta in early 2011.

I’ve been writing frequently about social task/project management (STM for short). It’s been getting more interesting lately, following a few years of “social everything” in the enterprise (social CRM, social HCM, social content management, etc.) Today Constellation Research released a report by Alan Lepofsky titled Getting Work Done With Social Task Management. Lepofsky writes that one important requirement for STM is: “Conversations that are in context with the objects they refer to.”

I’ve been saying this for a while, mostly following the lead of Sameer Patel (formerly a consultant, now the GM and VP of enterprise social software at SAP). Dennis Howlett deserves props for calling out the impracticality of much of the “social everything” movement and for always emphasizing the need to bring collaboration into the tools that people actually use on a day-to-day basis.

Adding conversations/collaboration to tasks and projects is great, but what’s best is integrating the whole thing, tasks, conversations and all, into the places that people do their work. Microsoft Outlook/Exchange already have a pretty good system for managing, scheduling, and assigning tasks within an organization, all in the same place that many knowledge workers spend much of (or even most) of their time: their inboxes.

Yet few companies are focusing on bringing collaboration to e-mail, whether by focusing specifically on e-mail like Harmon.ie and ZenBox, or by creating e-mail plugins as Wrike does.

E-mail’s not the best place for everyone. Programmers have hacked issue tracking and task management tools into their development environments for years. The trick is to put things where they are needed, which is always easier said than done.

I still get the feeling that all of these social task management apps are just pieces of a larger puzzle, but GrexIt is off to a great start.