We Are Stoked to Announce This
We've been working on this for a while and we're really excited to announce the release of our new Communication feature. This is a panel that slides out on the right side of any project and makes it easy to for everyone involved in a permit or license project to touch base. It's got some pretty special features that will make your like a lot easier. I'm going to cover each one in this post.
Why Email Isn't Suited for Permitting
If you've used email for years, you may not realize just how chaotic it is.
There are a few reasons for this. One is that it is often used for a wide variety of purposes, including both personal and professional communication. This can lead to a mix of messages with different levels of importance and urgency, making it difficult for users to prioritize and manage their inbox. Additionally, email is often used for group communication, which can result in long and complex conversations with many participants, making it difficult to follow and understand. Finally, the lack of threaded messages in many email systems can make it difficult to organize and view related messages together, adding to the chaos. Overall, the combination of these factors can make email chaotic and overwhelming for many users.
On a big permitting project with lots of people and steps involved, email can get overwhelming really fast. Email is just not great at bringing together communication into one place with numerous parties.
ZipFlow's new communication drawer was designed to address each of these problems. Let's go through how it works.
Context is King
You'll notice now in ZipFlow projects that when you hover over a field, a new message icon appears.
When you click that icon, you can make a comment or ask a question about exactly that thing in the communication panel. The posted message becomes linked to that item and it makes is easy to jump to the right spot in the project for the comment in question. The little icon also turns green and shows a count of how many messages are tied to that item. Our customers are already making tremendous use of this. Permit and licensing projects are complex and this feature makes it significantly less chaotic.
Everyone is in Sync
One of the great things about the new communication drawer is that it's available to everyone who can see the project. And you can message them by typing "@" which pulls up a list of anyone involved in the project so you can bring anyone into a conversation about any topic. And since anyone on the project can see all the messages, it's easy to get up to speed. When someone gets direct messaged in this way, they get a notification and can jump back into the project and right to the message in question.
Tailor Your Message
When you write a new message, you'll have the option to write it so everyone can see it (including the applicant) or so only your internal team can view it. Not all communication applies to the applicant. This way you can choose what is public and what isn't.
History Matters for Permitting Projects
All of the communication is saved permanently with each project. This means that years in the future when you open a permit and want to understand why certain decisions were made, all of the communication is there for you to read and get the full story for understanding.
Everything is a Thread
ZipFlow's Communication Drawer is designed around the concept of threads. It encourages topic-based conversations and discourages free-form conversations which makes it more understandable, especially as people flow in and out of the project. Now, of course people can still use it in a free-form way but because it's thread-centric, people tend to keep things to a single topic.
Attachments are Critical
With Permitting and licensing projects, there are often files that are needed beyond just drawings required by the permit application. One of the big reasons people use email is the ability to attach files that are related to the subject of the email. ZipFlow's communication system allows the attachment of any kind of file to a message. And a really nice integration makes any attachment show up in the "All Files" section of ZipFlow.
To-Dos are First-Class Citizens
With ZipFlow, one of our big goals is to make a single place you can go for everything involved with a permitting or licensing project. With this in mind, the new Communication Drawer includes a "Todos" section that you can use to not just track things you need to remember. You can also assign todos to anyone else involved in the project. And like everything else, these to-dos can be saved into perpetuity.
Like We Said, We're Stoked
We're really excited about this new feature. Heck, we're even using it to manage our own onboarding process with new customers. City planning is complicated enough without jumping between multiple systems to get a permit process through to completion. We hope you'll find our new Communication Drawer a breath of fresh air the way we do.