Every now and then, I discover a really cool service which doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention. When this happens, I delve deeper, play around with it and see what I think. Sometimes, I realise why the service isn’t quite as well known as it first appears it should be. Maybe it’s not great. But sometimes, it feels like I’ve found a hidden gem.
Bitrix24 is a hidden gem.
Launched in April 2012, the big idea behind Bitrix24.com is to offer a social intranet which is affordable for small businesses. Bitrix24 is based on the freemium model — less than 12 employees and it’s free to use, with two pricing tiers of either $99 or $199 a month for larger companies, offering richer feature sets. All paid plans offer unlimited users (unlike some other competitors) and the only extra cost is for extra cloud storage, should your business exceed the included amount. Simple.
You might be asking yourself:
Oh no, not another web service to add to my already growing collection!
Hold that thought! We’ve spoken with Dmitriy Davidov from Bitrix24 and he’s told us that the system was designed with this concern in mind — in fact, why should you use Basecamp for To-Dos and project management, Dropbox for file storage and SugarCRM for your clients? Bitrix24 does it all, in one place. It’s another great example of dedicated versus multipurpose. One place for all your company messaging, file storage, calendar and To-Do lists — with a great activity stream to show you what’s happening and what you’ve missed whilst you’ve been asleep.
Here’s what it looks like.
Bitrix24 isn’t ugly. Far from it. Understated and subtle, the design promotes a professional yet engaging experience for users. Coworkers’ avatars brighten up the activity stream and the colour scheme throughout the site isn’t boring and corporate. It’s — dare I say it — fun.
When I say the word “intranet”, anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to use the average corporate intranet system in the last ten years cringes and weeps silently. These antiquated systems were never designed with humans in mind — they were always ugly, rickety and unstable eyesores which caused more suffering than good. The tasteful bright colours of Bitrix24 is a welcome contrast to the drab grey corporate rubbish my mind conjures up when I think of a traditional intranet. For that, I applaud the design team.
Tasks, projects and more
Want to keep a list of tasks and projects for your company? Simple. Assign an employee to be in charge of completing the task, attach files, a due date — all the features you could possibly want are here. But it isn’t ugly. See the creator of each task, who’s responsible for it and even tasks which are in progress right now.
Overdue items helpfully show up as red to carefully remind you to stop procrastinating — and if you use a To-Do list manager for your personal life, the parallel vs sequential project options will make you feel right at home.
Want to squeeze even more out of your intranet? How does time and calendar management tools, complete with a Gantt chart sound? Again, the design is simple yet powerful: re-order tasks, change deadlines, reassign coworkers, everything you’d expect is there. From the time I’ve spent using Bitrix24, everything I could think of was there — with more besides.
What if you’re a designer?
Design teams thrive on discussion. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Bitrix24 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Around half way down the extremely populated features page, the following description is noted for Workgroups:
Any combination of employees can be collected into a workgroup which contains all the social networking and organizational tools needed to optimize operations and utilize the highly efficient communications methods available in Bitrix24. Each group is like a miniature intranet, that not only stores important files and data, but which serves as a platform for discussions, tasks, tracking, and planning.
Designers will no longer annoy the sales staff with their constant iterations of PSD documents, image uploads and meme references. They can have their own group chats and discussions without hassling those who don’t need to be bothered. Notifications of new posts show up in your personal activity streams, so you won’t miss a message or discussion.
Icing on the cake: Extranet
The final feature which seals the deal for me is the Extranet. Often work with the same business to get stuff done? Simply create an Extranet account for each person involved at this company. You can think of an Extranet as a private group which can integrate in a very specific way to your Bitrix24 Intranet: just enough that your business associates will love doing business with you, but not enough that they’ll see any private information.
This is an extremely smart move by the Bitrix24 team. As state in the mission statement, the unification of an intranet, internet and extranet is core to the success of this platform:
Bitrix is a company dedicated to exceptionally high standards and to the need among SMBs for advanced business communications platforms to bridge them with their customers (Internet), partners (Extranet) and employees (Intranet).
If you’re asking yourself why you’ve never heard of this great service before (I was), a simple Twitter search really clears up the air. People love the truly great support options available to every customer — even free accounts. Lots of people are talking about Bitrix24, with pretty great things to say, but a large number of these people are Russian. As explained, Bitrix24 is very much an international company:
Founded in 1998 and located in Alexandria, VA, Bitrix now incorporates 100+ staff and 7,000+ partners worldwide with regional sales offices located in Moscow, Russia and Kiev, Ukraine.
Bitrix24 has some big improvements lined up for the future, including smartphone apps which will let you access your intranet from your pocket. With over 60,000 clients and 7,000 partners, this service has taken off extremely quickly and is growing in popularity. If it sounds like your thing, sign up for free and play around — it might just change the way your organisation communicates. I’ll certainly be recommending it. Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts below!