In the briefing room: Liaise moves into public beta

It is always interesting to come back to a new product as it moves through the beta process and see what has changed.

Not so dangerous liaisons

Not so dangerous liaisons

A few months ago we wrote about Liaise, an inbox add-on for Outlook that scans e-mail messages as they are being composed and creates a task list based on any action items it finds in the e-mail.

Liaise recently moved into public beta with the addition of several new features.  What we liked about Liaise when we first heard about it was that it captures the action items that lurk in every e-mail and keeps them from falling through the cracks.  With the public beta offering, the company has added some new features which improve its functionality and fine tune how the tool works.

Liaise has added calendar integration for Outlook so due dates for action items pulled from e-mail appear in the Outlook calendar, as well as in the calendars of mobile devices that are set up to synch with Outlook.  This is the logical step for the product and links tasks, e-mail, and the calendar together.  Not having the action items integrated into the calendar was not a major problem, but the tool’s utility is definitely enhanced with this feature.

Another addition to Liaise is the ability to control more of what is displayed in e-mail messages.  In some situations, it may be preferable to have an e-mail appear normal to the recipient, particularly if that person is not a Liaise user.  At other times, for instance if the e-mail is internal only and all recipients are using Liaise, it may be useful for information about the action items pulled from the e-mail to appear in it.  The private beta of Liaise displayed this information by default.  More control is almost always a good thing and this makes the tool more likely to be used.

Liaise also had added support for cloud-based synching of project information among teams.  Particularly useful for keeping partners, clients, and disparate project teams up-to-date on project and action item statuses this allows information on projects to be updated when changes are made, without the use of e-mail.  Updates to projects can also be condensed into a single e-mail, in the event that the knowledge worker wishes to see a list of changes in one place.  Anything that cuts down on overall inbox traffic is to be applauded, although we do have lingering concerns about combining items in a single e-mail, as something may get overlooked.

As Liaise moves through the beta process the company is adding features and tweaking the user interface.  From what we have seen so far, the company is focused on improving integration, control, and the ability to synch information between users.  We like Liaise and think it has the potential to fix at least several of the problems that e-mail is plagued with relative to project and task management.  Looking towards the general release of the product as it moves out of beta, first on our wish list for future enhancements would be the expansion of the tool beyond Outlook.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

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