Communication is essential to success in any business, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that in our increasingly digital workplaces, email alone isn’t equipped to handle the diverse and voluminous chatter. Which is precisely why we’ve seen a slew of tools elbowing to fill that role, from straightforward internal Wikis to full-blown Facebook-style social networks. Honey, a new entrant, aims to be flexible enough for both use cases—a place where HR documents and time-killing animated GIFs can exist side by side.
At its heart, Honey is a corporate version on the threaded message board model used by Reddit and other sites. It happens to be an especially nice-looking take on that model, which isn’t surprising, considering its birthplace at Huge Labs, the startup division of the digital design studio Huge.
It’s designed for any and all internal communication that doesn’t require the "act on this right now" urgency of email, and it works basically like you’d expect it to. Employees can make and respond to threads in a number of categories, which can be added for whatever’s relevant to your company. You can have categories for dumping web content related to on-going projects, storing training documents that are only needed every six months, or just trading funny GIFs to kill time during slow afternoons.
According to Dan Hou, Honey’s CEO, that flexibility is key to the platform’s appeal. Honey is intended to be both a deep archive for company knowledge and a place to check in daily to see what’s going on around the company. It’s a replacement for intranets, email lists, and company face books alike. But casting that wide net in terms of content isn’t just about versatility; it’s also about becoming part of employees’ routines.
The main problem with corporate Wikis, Hou says, is that people dutifully update them for a month or so and then forget they ever existed. On the other end of the spectrum are tools based on quick blasts of info, like status updates, that ignore more substantial discussion. By catering to both, Hou hopes Honey can become part of users’ daily workflows and a source of archived, institutional knowledge. "There’s the day-to-day use case of let me check in every day or every few days to see what’s happening across the company, and that builds in this sort of habit," he explains. "So when it comes time to look up that obscure document, you can find it, really easily … One doesn’t work without the other."
Part of keeping users engaged day to day is simply providing a great-looking site. "There’s definitely this new phase of taking the thoughtful design and user experience that’s prevalent in consumer products and bringing that into the enterprise," Hou says, and Honey certainly follows that trend.
But Hou’s team also put a great deal of emphasis on making Honey flexible in terms of how it fit into users’ day-to-day workflow, specifically vis-a-vis email. Ultimately, he says, he wanted Honey to be "complementary to email, instead of trying to replace it." But since everyone uses email differently, Honey had to accommodate.
What that means in practice is giving users fine-grained email controls for every topic they follow. You can sign up to get weekly updates on topics of casual interest, or elect to get instant updates on the topics that are most relevant to your work day-to-day. You can also opt out of email updates completely and just engage through the Honey site. Or you can use email to reply to threads directly, without ever visiting the website. Essentially, it’s as integrated with email as you want it to be. "Some people only use Honey through email, and that’s totally okay," Hou says. "Some people don’t use it with their email at all … However your workflow works right now, we want to be able to easily capture that and store it here."
The service has been in a beta phase for the last several months, with 50 or so companies of varying sizes testing things out. Unsurprisingly, they’ve all found a way to use it that’s uniquely their own. And while inserting yet another new social service into our status-packed lives might be a hard sell, one that can fit the contours of your company’s workflow instead of imposing its own new structure on your workday might actually stand a chance at sticking around.