A term that gets a lot of mileage these days when describing the API economy is "frictionless"—the idea that the sharing of data, processes, workflows and schedules among users and between platforms should be seamless and easy.
This is often harder that it sounds. But it is especially important for today's software vendors, who are pushing out daily code updates while also having to coordinate with the business's marketing or sales staffs, who may be on a different collaboration platform than the developers and engineers.
Addressing this is Clubhouse, a startup that is taking on traditional developer project management leader Atlassian and its Jira and Trello products with its own solution that spans all a company's functional silos beyond product engineering.
According to company CEO and co-founder Kurt Schrader, Clubhouse can even help address "sneaker networking," that dreaded legacy process that requires workers to get up from their desks and have a meeting to see if a dependent project is ready for launch with the code.
"We're trying to build something that spans more than just the product team," said Schrader, a veteran developer team builder. "There are a lot of integrations between collaboration tools, but they are not facilitating the back and forth. There is still a lot of manual work and side conversations to make sure everyone is on the same page."
A key to Clubhouse is its "Story" metaphor, which resembles traditional Kanban type project management cards but which encompasses all departments involved in a project, and with more depth, enabling users to zoom in and out of a project to see the status of each element.
Integration with GitHub enables developers to work on GitHub projects within Clubhouse. "Developers can actually do their work in GitHub, and if you do a pull request, it automatically moves the Story to ready for review,” Schrader said. “It reduces the friction level and reflects reality as much as possible."
Another integration that Clubhouse just launched is Slack Actions, which enables users who are discussing a project in Slack to automatically create a Story workflow in Clubhouse that inherits all the elements of the Slack discussion.
Clubhouse, which launched an Enterprise version last fall, is approaching 2,000 customers of all sizes, but specializes in small teams of 50-100 developers. That suits customer Backpack Health, which develops a health management app and platform.
"I have 26 employees on two continents," said founder and CEO Jim Cavan. "Some live in very remote locations. Clubhouse totally makes that even more possible than before. We use it for everything. Literally every function of the company has a segregated section within Clubhouse. It's more than just a development tool: It's a project management tool that spans all aspects of the company.”
Slack, which recently hit 10 million users, has had success infiltrating enterprises after requests from users who began using it on their own. So too Clubhouse hopes developers will be happy with an alternative to Jira and spread the word.
“We use Clubhouse to build Clubhouse,” Schrader said. “Developers love using Clubhouse, and they have a high bar. Developers have the highest standards out there. If you can win over developers, you can practically win over the entire organization.”
Which is exactly how Backpack came to use the product, Cavan said. “I never really got a sales pitch on it. My chief engineer loved it. He said, ‘So can we try this?’ I said great.”
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.