Building context: Everything is a ‘message’

Messages are the natural place for communication. And they force you to make some important decisions.

This year, we rebuilt our customer management platform. It was a huge job, motivated by our desire to achieve better context for key data within our organization. Whether we’re working on a project, communicating with customers via tickets, or doing cashflow analysis, context makes everything we do at Fiat Insight more meaningful, efficient, and cost-effective.

Context is the most important thing we produce in almost any situation. Great products are only possible with great context.

‘Messages’ help you understand

There are plenty of examples of how context-first design shaped our project. The first and most general is the way we required every type of direct, person-to-person communication to be part of a “message.”

Messages do a few important things. First they make you ask the question: Does this even belong here? Some things belong in Slack, or in email, or are better suited for a phone call. Committing to create a message forces a serious decision about what I’m doing and how others will best be able to engage with it.

Second, messages set parameters that are flexible, but clear. A message can evolve, but it’s pretty easy to tell when it’s jumped the tracks. (We made the titles big for a reason, unlike email.) If that’s happening, we allow users to “branch” a message—a way to keep messages helpfully separated, but linked.

Since everything is a message, we can treat all communication in the system virtually the same. Any set of comments, tasks, attachments, or branches that individual users work with is just a message. We can easily swap an internal message to become a client-facing ticket, or vice versa. We’ve built in some slick sub-threading, too, and focused on easy visual recognition (light and dark) to help users know who can see what.

Communicating is enjoyable

What we’ve found is that typing on tickets and projects isn’t difficult anymore. It’s actually sort of fun! We’ve even had a few clients ask how they can get the tool for themselves. (We’re working on that.)

Context makes communicating enjoyable because you know about the bigger picture and you can speak (or write) more intelligently. Everyone likes to feel in control of things, and a simple switch to context-driven messaging has made that possible.

Does you suffer with bad communication at work? Do you fight to keep up with endless, meandering email threads? Don’t! Let Fiat Insight help you build a solution that’s just right for your organization: