How Nulab helps improve product ideas and workflow

 

At Nulab, we value communication and collaboration with everyone in the team. We have three collaboration tools: Backlog, Cacoo and Typetalk. Backlog is a project management tool for software development teams. Cacoo is an online diagramming tool for creating venn diagrams, mind maps, sitemaps, wireframes and more. Typetalk is a real-time messaging system for team communication.

I sat down with each product owner and project owner to learn more about the direction of each Nulab product. The two of the most important questions that I asked:  How do they come up with new product ideas and how do they move their ideas forward in a productive manner. Take a look at our team’s responses and get inspired to build your own ideas using Nulab’s products!

Everything starts with enjoying our work.

Backlog was released in 2005 as a project management tool for software development. When Backlog launched, “SaaS” and “cloud computing” did not yet exist. A majority of project management tools in the early 2000s required extensive time to set up before getting started and users could not immediately begin using the software after installation. Also, the interface of these products were complex and difficult to navigate, especially for users who were unfamiliar with technology tools. The available software simply did not meet the needs of developers.

backlog

Nulab CTO, Toshitaka Agata, decided to change the tight design and complex interface.

“I was thinking that the interface and the design should be changed. I wanted the design to be softer and easier to use, not only for developers but for users unfamiliar with technology. Furthermore, I felt that it was necessary to make a collaboration tool for everyone in the team to increase productivity. So, I made Backlog. It is not just a project management tool, but also a collaboration tool! (Toshitaka Agata, representative promoter for Backlog)

Backlog was built for collaborating with everyone on the team. Image icons were introduced when Backlog first launched, which was unusual for a project management tool at the time. Our reasoning: we felt this feature was essential for promoting exciting work. Once you work with Backlog, you will learn that it has many other exciting features.

Backlog has two major themes: collaboration and openness.

“Openness is a significant theme of Backlog. For example, everyone who joins a project on Backlog can edit, add issues and wikis. I particularly appreciate its openness because a project can be organized without the need for ownership. There is no owner; team members are responsible and held accountable by each other. The wiki plays a great role in suggesting a solution if a team member is having difficulty completing a task; it allows anyone on the project to contribute to the solution. Backlog’s “star” feature is a way to show your support for team members; it promotes good communication and motivates the crew to keep up the good work.” (Agata)

Cacoo was developed after Backlog to make work more comfortable.

Cacoo is an online diagramming tool for creating mind maps, venn diagrams, flowcharts, wireframes, sitemaps, mockups, UML models and much more. The beta version was released in 2009. The story behind Cacoo’s launch: our Nulab developers felt that it was necessary to edit diagram specifications online. Agata, who created a plan for building Cacoo, wanted to use the software for designing the architecture of Backlog.

cacoo

“Nulab is organized by engineers and developers. They normally don’t use drawing tools because they feel they rarely create sketches. They turn to Excel and PowerPoint to design wireframes instead of Illustrator. However, revising files through email was tedious. I knew it would be better for us if we could edit and share drawings online. Then, I imagined the architecture for Cacoo. The concept comes from the openness of wiki in Backlog.” (Toshitaka Agata, representative promoter for Cacoo)

Cacoo’s beta version has launched just six months after Agata’s idea. Cacoo focuses on collaborative editing that increases productivity and improves workflow.

“Before using Cacoo, we used collaborative display through Skype. It produced “ownership work” by allowing only one person to edit the diagram while other team members watched. This workstyle was not a good fit for us because it lacked openness. Using Cacoo instead of Skype allowed us to share ideas openly and improved our workflow. We finally had a workstyle that was open.” (Agata)

In addition, Cacoo aided with remote meetings.

“Nulab has three offices in Japan: Fukuoka, Tokyo and Kyoto. At face-to-face meetings, we would normally use a whiteboard to to ensure everyone was on the same page. For remote meetings, we use Cacoo instead of a whiteboard.”(Tomonari Nakamura, Backlog Project Manager)

Typetalk promotes good communication and arranges Backlog issues.

Typetalk, a real-time messaging system for team collaboration and communicating on projects, started in February 2014. Backlog summarized issues and solutions, but it did not document how the issue happened or the process of coming up with a solution. Therefore, Typetalk was introduced as a way to communicate step-by-step.

typetalk

“Before Typetalk, we used Skype to chat, but it lacked the features we needed as a team. It was difficult to discuss issues collectively with everyone. I felt it was important to share the solution process as a team.” (Tsuyoshi Yoshizawa, representative promoter for Typetalk)  

Typetalk embodies the same theme of “openness” as in Backlog and Cacoo. Typetalk is integrated with Backlog, allowing users to extract comments from Typetalk and add them to Backlog.

In addition to promoting openness,Typetalk also increases Nulab’s productivity.

“We use Typetalk in all areas of communication for Nulab including both remote working and face-to-face meetings for keeping a record of what we discussed. It helps us to easily review issues.” (Yoshizawa)

Typetalk can also be used with bot tools for self-googling on Twitter. A tweet related to your company will automatically be posted on Typetalk, helping your support team quickly take action on customer feedback.

The future of Nulab and a single sign in for all products

Nulab Account is a single sign in for all Nulab products; three products (Backlog, Cacoo and Typetalk) all under a single account. Nulab Account was released in February 2014. Why it was launched: it lightened the workload of managing various types of accounts and improved user experience.

nulab

“A single sign in makes managing multiple accounts simpler and allows users to seamlessly use any Nulab application. Furthermore, a company’s account manager only needs to create one account for our three services. ” (Toshitaka Agata, representative promoter for Nulab Account)

Nulab Account has already been integrated with Cacoo and Typetalk; its integration with Backlog is coming soon.

Single sign in is already in production in Nulab’s system and we plan to launch new functions with it.

The themes of collaboration, openness and enjoying your work are important to our company and we strive to create these same experiences for our users. Find out how Nulab’s products can improve your organization’s teamwork and workflow!

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