It's been twenty six years since AOL's  "You've got mail," sound was heard for the first time, and almost a decade since the giant finally made  email a free service to keep up with the competition. Today, 92% of adults use email and the average business user sends and receives over 130 emails per day -- only 12 of which are spam. It is no wonder that FastCompany says 70% of time at work is wasted on "time-sucks" -- and sorting and replying to email is a major contributing factor to this trend.

Many companies have turned to project management tools such as Basecamp and  Slack to minimize the deluge of email dedicated to internal and external collaborations. However, adopting any new system and getting employees to comply takes time. There is both a learning curve and a natural reluctance to change that must be overcome when adopting new technology. Worse, if these tools are not used properly, their effectiveness diminishes significantly, driving employees to default back to their tried and true (but outdated and inefficient) email system.

"It's worse than that," says Niraj Ranjan, Co-Founder/CEO of Hiver (formerly GrexIt). "For businesses, a lot of critical communication with external entities -- customers, other businesses, service providers, vendors -- still happens on email, regardless of the collaboration tool you may implement within your team. So even if your team migrates to a collaboration platform, they'll still have important emails coming to their inbox."

Another problem, Ranjan notes, is that the emails that we receive don't just contain information. Many of them contain tasks, some of which need to be delegated to team members, and then need tracking. "More effective collaboration on email is crucial. Unfortunately, email providers, including Gmail, do not offer an intuitive workflow or a process for getting task related work assigned and tracked."

Digging deeper, Ranjan lists some of the downsides of collaborating on email:

  • Assigning tasks by way of forwarding emails is counter-productive because keeping track of tasks requires an email search, and often leads to confusion.
  • Switching between email and your task assignment app (most business people use one) is notoriously time-consuming.
  • It's nearly impossible to maintain clarity about what needs to get done, by whom, and when. Also, lines of authority become blurred by frequent exchanges.

Ranjan's solution? An innovative suite of tools called Hiver, which can be seamlessly integrated with your email. "Hiver allows you to build simple workflow plans using a shared mailbox approach that also handles customer support, sales management and project management, all right from your Inbox. "We've all had times when we lost a client email or a project task in the cracks of our internal email system. Hiver lets us embed team management and collaborative functions right into Gmail so that it's much easier to deal with them," he explains. Some of the features he is most proud of are described below.

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1. Delegate tasks seamlessly with 'Shared' Gmail labels

You could, in the past, file your emails under one heading by quickly labeling them, with attributes such as 'Task: Rachel' or 'New lead'. The problem is that only you can access these labels. "With Hiver, you can share your Gmail labels, so delegating an email to your teammate Rachel is as simple as adding a label called 'Task: Rachel.'

Ranjan continues: "When you do this, the email you delegated pops up in Rachel's inbox with the label added, clearly telling Rachel that you've assigned a task to her. Rachel can take care of the task, and then add a label called 'Done' to the email, which notifies you that the task is taken care of."

2. Manage leads with shared contacts

If you create a contacts group within Gmail, that group can be shared through Hiver. Ranjan explains: "No more searching through emails or text messages for a prospect's information. It's all accessible by the whole team." An office-based team and a mobile team in the field have up-to-the-minute prospect and client contact data.

3. Give your Gmail a higher IQ

Finally, "Hiver lets you add notes on emails which are a great way of communicating without unleashing a swarm of email. It also lets you add reminders on emails, track email opens/clicks, and share email templates."

If the thought of streamlining communications in your company, and with the world outside -- without leaving your inbox -- is appealing, Hiver is a clever option. Even their biggest "enterprise level" package is priced fairly for the rich suite of helpful additions it offers for your email program.