Podio: A First-Hand User’s Experience

When I first reviewed Podio , a social network designed specifically for use in business, back in September 2011, I was extremely impressed with it. It received our highly commended 9 out of 10 score and I concluded the review by mentioning that the sheer range of features available to users of Podio makes it useful in almost any single business situation and that it was a vital, versatile and price-effective solution for better internal business collaboration.

Almost two years on, those words still stand. Although Podio is now part of Citrix Systems (it was acquired back in April 2012), this doesn’t mean that they’ve sold their soul out to some heartless multinational corporation. Quite the contrary, actually. Podio has gone from strength to strength since being acquired — adding some pretty nifty features to its arsenal — and I still retain it’s the best way for businesses to collaborate. Allow me to explain why.

Why Podio?

A few months back, it was decided that the editors of all the individual AppStorm sites needed a better way to collaborate with one other. As we’re all pretty much scattered around the world — namely, Scottsdale (Arizona), London, Beirut, Bangkok and the Australian Gold Coast — having to work across different time zones can be a chore. After trying out a number of different services (including Convo and Bitrix), we all decided on Podio as it exhibited the most features and came with the most customisation options, which stood out strongly for us.

When I reviewed Podio, I hadn’t had a real opportunity to delve right into the app and actually experience it. That’s of course not to say that I didn’t have a proper look at Podio before sitting down to write my review, but having spent quite a bit of time with it, it’s become a lifeline to work with the other AppStorm editors.

So, Tell Me More

One of Podio’s most redeeming features is the fact it doesn’t come with a steep learning curve. If you’re used to Facebook (and who isn’t?) then Podio won’t present too many difficulties. There are no lengthy instruction manuals and you won’t have to organise a three-day seminar with your employees to get them accustomed to the new software — simply plonk them down in front of a computer and let them roam free.

Our main workspace on the AppStorm Podio – where we share ideas and thoughts.

Our main workspace on the AppStorm Podio – where we share ideas and thoughts.

This simplistic approach really did help us when we first started using Podio. Although I would consider all of the editors of having a fairly good degree of technical knowledge, I for one am still flabbergasted by certain software (Adobe Lightroom being a notable example, which just overwhelms me the moment it has finished bouncing up and down in my dock) but not with Podio (despite the fact I had used it before). The helpful in-app instructions also assisted me in getting set up and occasionally pointed me in the right direction when I became momentarily disorientated. Another feature which I admire is the fact you can chat to the Podio support team directly from within the app.

Workspaces Within Podio

But, having said all that, it’s the workspaces that really brings Podio alive for me. At the moment, our team has set up one (yes, just one) workspace for everyone to collaborate and a tentatively-named “Testing” workspace where we can have a play around with the mountain of apps that are available in Podio (all at no extra charge, of course). It is envisioned that each site will have its own workspace, where writers and editors alike can collaborate and share ideas. This works well within businesses, no matter what size, whereby each department could have its own workspace — there’s no restriction on the number you can create.

The "Testing" workspace, where we have a good play around with new apps and features.

The “Testing” workspace, where we have a good play around with new apps and features.

The concept of applications is an interesting one. Take a quick look in Podio’s built-in app market and you’ll see what I mean — there seems to be an app for everything. Rather than having all of your information scattered around a number of different apps, it’s all in one place with Podio. That’s certainly useful for us editors as we’re based in different countries around the world and as the concept of working from home becomes ever more important, having your data in one place certainly becomes a greater priority.

No Constraints

One of the redeeming features about Podio is that it doesn’t constrain itself to a certain type of business. The features and range of apps make it suited to all kinds of companies, from accounting to venture capital firms, and I believe this demonstrates a great level of flexibility that makes it such an attractive option. Sure, you probably won’t install every single app out there on the market, but having that broad choice means less tradeoffs — something which all of the editors found.

Third-party integration in Podio means you have to work with a couple of websites, not multiple ones.

Third-party integration in Podio means you have to work with a couple of websites, not multiple ones.

The other thing that I’ve noticed and which has come in really useful a number of times is the sheer range of third-party integration present within Podio. Again, you’re not restricted to using just what’s present within the app, but you can connect any of the external services you’re using to it. For AppStorm, I mostly work in Chrome — I use WordPress for running the site, Google Docs for managing the schedule and important documents and Basecamp for communicating with my writers. WordPress aside, I can integrate all these applications right into Podio, meaning that I have to sign into one website, not 3 or 4.

I’m pretty sure it hasn’t fallen on deaf ears that software is increasingly going online nowadays. I even spoke about it recently over on Mac.AppStorm, citing Marketcircle with Billings and Adobe with Creative Suite as two notable examples. I have no problem with online software of course, and by the sounds of it neither does Podio. But we are seeing a very interesting transformation and it’s ultimately us — the end users of the software — that will benefit. We live in an age of synchronisation, real-time and instant availability: our data must be available on all of our devices currently in our pockets and bags and on our desks at home and work and we expect answers now: waiting 24 hours for a reply to something is so late-noughties.

Podio on the iPad. It could be a native app in my opinion – it's that slick.

Podio on the iPad. It could be a native app in my opinion – it’s that slick.

Software going online facilitates this change — and businesses need to keep up with the trend. Podio has done that, and the fact that the service features some pretty stellar mobile applications (the best that we saw out of our selection), available on both iOS and Android devices — including, to my joy, a native version for the iPad (most tend to be a nasty, blown-up verison of the iPhone app or just a simple, lazy port of the website — with features removed, of course) — just helps to reinforce the point I’m trying to make here. Podio certainly looks into the future — and the beautiful flat design of the iPhone and iPad apps shows that the developers are innovative and forward-thinking. Why Apple didn’t take a leaf out of Podio’s book to design iOS 7 is beyond me completely.

So, To Sum Up…

…Podio is pure awesome. It reminds of being a kid, in that every day was a new discovery. As sad as this may sound, I get a strange pleasure of looking round the app and discovering something new each time — I could spend a whole day talking about it and probably wouldn’t cover everything. It’s that flexible.

But what’s so appealing about Podio is the purity; the innocence of the entire operation. The developers aren’t pretending it’s something that it isn’t — and there’s none of those cringeworthy business phrases emblazoned across its home page that make me want to be sick into the nearest receptacle. Describing the app would require plenty of phrases that in most senses would be considered oxymoronic: simple yet powerful, clean yet full of features and cheap yet awesome — the app is completely free for 5 users and costs a mere $9 per user monthly after that (with no nasty, intrusive advertisements).

I’ve lavished praise on Podio until the cows literally came home (our local farmer just herded them past our house — does that count?) and I still maintain, like I did back in 2011, that it is the best ways for businesses to collaborate. Although there’s a combined 16,248 miles (26,149 km) of Earth surface between all the editors (according to WolframAlpha, anyway, which I trust with my life), using Podio has, strangely enough, brought us a lot closer together, and it feels like we’re all working together across walls, not oceans. I’d say that this is the effect that collaborative software such as Podio aims to achieve — and it’s most certainly worked for us.


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