Pillars and Product Roadmap for GrinderyMarch 22, 2019 at 9:05am (Edited 1 year ago)
This post describes our high level product roadmap. This roadmap is a result of our experiences at InboundLabs over the last five years, the resulting vision for Grindery and sort of a Deja-Vu from our previous venture monki. This document describes what we are building and why.
Work is changing
Work used to be long-term, synchronous, in-person, and "monogamous." The Gig Economy has made work - for the better or worse - polyamorous, short-term, asynchronous, and online. In other words, people used to have one employer and worked together at same hours, at the same office for a lifetime. Today, many people work online, at different times and for multiple customers on increasingly specialized “gigs.” The future will blend these two extremes to create a new form of “job” or “gig” that can provide employers and employees with the best of both worlds.
We are providing a platform, an operating system for this future. There are a few key insights that drive our product development.
The pillars of the platform
A. Blurring boundaries
First, from a recruiting perspective, there is no more traditional start or end of employment. Nor is there an inside and outside of a company. We think of companies as_ **networks of talent** _that extend from long-time, traditional employees to anybody who has ever worked a single hour for the company.
Talent acquisition always starts with talent deployment: Why hire somebody new and unknown if there is somebody we already worked with and trust? Any team member needs to be able to search, deploy, or recruit across this company’s network as well as their own networks including online communities and past working relationships.
B. HR portfolios
Second, the traditional recruiting process - that takes months and costs a fortune - does not work in this future. Nor is it really necessary. Let's admit what we already know, labor relations are hardly lifetime contracts and as a result carry much less risk. We need to take a venture capital approach to hiring: continuously seed work to the network, expect quick and low cost failure, and treat the winners as assets of an HR portfolio. This means we need to make all steps of the talent lifecycle faster and more cost efficient.
As a result a company’s portfolio should continuously grow and as a result, provide the base for talent deployment. To reduce the cost we need to abandon traditional job interviews whenever we can. Traditional job interviews are not only costly, but they do not give any insights about the candidates’ ability to work asynchronously online, or his ability for self management. We need to rely on people’s work history in the network and their resulting reputation. Again, the investors moneyball advice "fail often, fail quickly" holds true for recruiting.
Third, we need to stop recruiting only for open-ended job titles that can be printed on business cards. The new reality is that companies need to hire for specific functions for very specific period of time. Recruiting processes and tools that do not take this into account produce challenges on both sides that set the relationship up for failure. Today, recruiting can’t be separated from scheduling anymore. It’s equally impossible to book or rent out dozens of hotel rooms via Craigslist without producing an absolute scheduling nightmare for owners and customers alike. In the global economy companies that excel at outsourcing become more competitive.
D. Online Culture
Fourth, we need to reduce the amount of training involved when onboarding new hires. In traditional jobs we expect people to say "hello" when they walk into the office and keep their desks clean. We also expect them to know how to operate the elevator, the phone, and the coffee machine. Shared, routine behavior has become what we call “office culture” and it sets the foundation for working together. Unfortunately, the equivalent online co-working culture has still to be developed. While it clearly already exists, it has not been documented and formalized.
In the future we need allow people to rapidly plug into existing teams and work productively with them. Knowledge and experience of an _online toolbox _that includes conferencing, scheduling, and task management become the equivalent of the office phone system and behavioral norms have to be common enough to not be part of training anymore.
E. Open system integration orchestration
Fifth, and finally, information silos are the death of productive online, especially asynchronous collaborations -- for employees and employers alike. Scheduling work can not be independent from task management. Task management should not be separated from time tracking. Time tracking can’t be separated from invoicing and payment. And finally all of these activities define the network that is and should be used for future recruiting. We need to be able to maximize productivity through best of breed tools and make sure that in the same we don't annul the productivity benefits and cost savings of online collaboration. A fresh approach on the simultaneous front and back end integration is required.
Where does that lead?
These five insight are driving the development of our platform. As a result we are working on the following specific applications:
- The Team Directory: Discover, find and relate to other team members.
- The Global Network: Discover, find and connect to a global network of talent.
- The Jobs App: A better way to connect talented people with work.
- Bookings: The AirBNB of booking freelance work.
- Payments: A better way to pay and get paid for work.
The Apps in Detail
The Team Directory
Co-workers need to find each other all the time. To get opinions and help or incorporate each other into their projects. This need in underserved by costly, complex, and hard to use enterprise solutions. Our app is integrated into the rapidly growing, and increasingly popular messaging systems like Slack, Microsoft teams and Flock. This allows administrators to deploy and customize it with a few clicks, and users to profile and search using a bot as well as a web interface.
User profiles are generated automatically but can be extended through integration with simple TypeForm, Webhook via Zapier, and other integrations on our roadmap. This app can be used as a "company employee directory" as much as a way to empower a growing number of Slack based, special-interest communities such as HubSpot Developers, Start-ups Talk and many more. For these communities we will produce a special version that allows them to facilitate community administration, user engagement and possibly revenue generation. The easiest way to picture of this app is a Slack-based user directory.
The Global Network
When the organization's own network has been exhausted to find and recruit the right people, managers usually need to reach out beyond the company’s virtual walls. The current available options are skill-based searches on LinkedIn and a dozen freelance marketplaces. LinkedIn skill search is - from a cost perspective - not a viable option for most companies, especially not for entire teams. Freelance marketplaces like UpWork allow to search but limit communication and interactions: you are allowed to publish jobs but you can’t talk to anybody. On top of that, user profiles are restricted and especially networking is disabled. Freelance platform - like many online marketplaces including AirBNB - reinforce and live off information asymmetry: buyers can not communicate freely with sellers. Open networks are a threat to their very business model and existence.
In Grindery, any user can perform skill-based searches across the entire network and engage with users on shared teams and channels. A rich graph allows users to understand each other’s teams, relationships, companies, and projects. Profiles of users are also optimized to facilitate new working relationship by indicating time zones, working hours, and languages. Users can schedule meetings and/or directly book time for work. The easiest way to think of this app is as a LinkedIn for freelancers.
When sourcing candidates in organization and global network does not yield results, it’s time to post a "job." Jobs can be traditional employment opportunities, emergency support requests, short gigs, or longer projects.
Our Jobs app sets itself apart in several ways. To start, postings are free. Second, they are optimized for global, remote teams by taking into account working hours, desired working hours, different language skills and real time availability. Third, they do not require bidding. Fourth, they support hyper specialized skill profiles. And, finally, and most importantly the jobs are distributed and curated by the the global network. This means specifically that users can recommend other users for jobs. Users in turn get rewarded for recommendations that lead to working engagements. Noise and spam are kept to a minimum by only allowing users to apply when they are recommended. The easiest way to think of the app is as crowdsourced recruiting.
More and more people, freelancers work across multiple projects and customers. Just as a hotel rents room to many individuals customers as well as travel companies. And, just like in the case of hotels booking, can not be done productively anymore without software. While many software based self-service solution such as Calendly exist to schedule meetings, we have not yet seen scheduling solutions for work. "Resource scheduling" has primarily been a cumbersome enterprise undertaking. Scheduling that is smart and works at scale will enable the management of a global, distributed workforce. Our app allows users to define availability with simply setting a few parameters and connecting to a users calendar. This in turn allows users that want to hire see instantly availability of candidates and take decisions accordingly. The easiest way to think about this app is as and AirBNB for booking work.
Global payments are a pain for payer and recipient alike. In our case, however, they play an additional fundamental role in three ways. First, they need - just like in the majority of freelance marketplaces - to reduce business risk in the form of escrow payments. We believe there is plenty of room for innovation including pay-when-paid contracts and the use of blockchain technology. Second, payments create an important economic incentive to treat bookings with care. Similar to hotel reservations, users will want to set terms for cancellation and change. Third, and finally, payments will generate rewards/commissions for successful introductions. The easiest way to think of our payment app is a digital wallet run with flexible, smart contracts that create targeted incentives, reduce business risk and make global payments frictionless.
At the center of our platform lies our proprietary Graph. Unlike Facebook Social Graph and LinkedIn’s Knowledge Graph, our graph is not created only by explicit user interaction such as becoming a "friend" or “connection” but rather derived from work interactions. Using our own as well as 3rd party data (like Harvest or Asana) our platform allows its users to understand which users work together across which customers and projects. This data can then be used to enable a series of highly differentiating features across all of our applications. For example:
- In the Team Directory users will be able to search for users that have worked on a specific project or customer. They will also be able to see who else worked on these projects including themselves. This allows them to quickly identify the right people for the right job.
- In the Global Network users will be able to discover collaborators across company borders. For example a Project Manager will be able to find a developer that has frequently worked with one of his trusted freelance designers. This allows to find talent that can be vetted by trust.
- For the Job App this means that open position can be promoted and curated by users that have working experience with the job publisher as well as qualified candidates. This allows to make sure that job ads get to the right people.
To create this graph our platform will rely on easy, point and click integration with tools like Harvest, Asana, Trello and Jira. Additionally we will provide an API for additional integrations and a browser extension that allows users to better connect their bookings to tasks in project management systems as well as time tracking software. A good example of how this can be done is the Asana-Harvest integration.
One could argue (and we have) that the pains solved by each of the individual applications justifies that a startup like ourselves could build a business around each one of them. We don’t believe this holds true. The value delivered through this integrated suite of solutions surpasses by far the sum of its parts. AirBnB would not work without review and/or payments. Nor would Upwork or eBay. Furthermore we believe that the end-to-end solution we provide will enable users to establish durable, work intense relationships that provide our company, community and members with a continuous stable stream of revenue far beyond what is common in today’s freelance marketplaces.
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