Tasks are why I set out to build Dendri. After years of using and trying many practice management solutions, I realized that tasks are handled poorly across the board. The problems with tasks were clear:
Most solutions focus on the date a task is due, but don’t allow grouping by type or importance.
Most solutions don’t allow multiple stakeholders to share tasks or provide adequate communication. None of them provide a clear ownership.
Even when tasks can be organized, it is difficult for individual users to organize their tasks based on their own workflow and best organizational practices.
But we all have different brains. I struggle with a few diagnoses that I choose to consider superpowers, and those superpowers shape the way I view and organize my world. A list of tasks even with “low, medium, high” priorities just doesn’t help me understand what I need to work on next. So, I wanted to solve all of these by building a practice management system that put tasks first and freed individuals to organize them the way it made sense for their brain while still being able to speak a single language with their teams.
We tackled the first problem by borrowing from the kanban board style of task management found in apps like Trello, Jira, Asana and other project management apps. But we didn’t stop with that.
In Dendri, every matter (or project if you’re not practicing law) has its own Kanban board where all tasks are added. This is a shared space that everyone on your team can see. The columns can either be free, meaning that any user can add columns based on the needs of the file, or it can be fixed, where your business sets up a set of columns based on the type of matter that you know you’ll always use when navigating that type of case.
But, we took task management a step further by also duplicating the task onto the matter’s history view. The history view is a rich table that contains every item related to that matter: Tasks, documents, notes, and events. These can all be labeled and filtered. So, if you wanted to see all items related to “trial prep” you could filter for that label and see your key deadlines, important tasks and related documents. Or, if you wanted to view all medical records on a case, you could run that filter and see what was requested, what was received and any memos related to those records.
By duplicating tasks on both the visual Kanban board and the universal history view, you have additional ways to manipulate your data. Unlike the Kanban board, the list will let you sort a traditional collection of due dates, and you can export anything on the history view to a csv if you need even more options beyond what we offer.
All tasks can also have subtasks, which can be worked on individually, but a series of tasks and related subtasks can be navigated within the task window with a simple tabbed interface. Tasks and subtasks are great targets for automation, which we’ll talk about another time, but in short, automation allows you to create a series of tasks with calculated deadlines in specified columns based on a single input.
This split view means you can work visually with your tasks, organizing them by priority or type while still keeping on top of their deadlines. I’ll talk more about the history view in a future article, but all filters can be toggled and are persistent, so you can set up a view with complex criteria and bounce between that and a view of all history items. As noted in the prior article, all tasks assigned to you with deadlines will also be added to your calendar.
So, with these three views: Kanban, History List, and Calendar, you can manipulate and work with your tasks however it makes the most sense.
Ownership and Communication
All of that is great for grouping and working with tasks at a face level, but it doesn’t help us work together with rich content. That’s why we tackled this with a set of global expectations both on the task face and in the modal.
All tasks have the ability to not just assign multiple users, but also to have a primary user. This is the owner of the task. A task doesn’t have to have an primary user, but it’s a best practice. It tells the team “this is the person who needs to take the next action,” even if everyone else assigned may have a role.
Additionally, all tasks have a comment section with mentions that surface the comments on a user’s dashboard. This helps teams work together and distinguish between things they have to do (tasks) and things they need to know (comments). While it’s not quite realtime like slack, it offers an additional layer of communication to keep the team moving forward.
While the matter board offers a shared view of where tasks are in progress, it’s not great to have to check in on all of your matters every tie you want to figure out what you need to do. So, Dendri aggregates all of your assigned tasks onto your dashboard. The dashboard mimics some of the features of a matter. Specifically, it includes both a board and a history view. The key difference is, on your dashboard, all assigned tasks show up in your inbox and you can organize your board any way you want.
Since all of your tasks across all matters come into the inbox column and you are free as an individual to set up whatever columns make sense for you, you can organize your workflow in whatever way makes the most sense. And, so can every other member of your team. When you look at the modal you’ll see a section that gives you a drop down showing you where the task is on your dashboard and the location of the task on the matter board. You can move the task in either view from here. So, you may be done with a task, but other people will still have to take the next steps. Or, it may be time to mark that task done for everyone. Either way, there’s no jumping around needed.
The ability to work with your tasks across many boards and to allow those tasks to be freely arranged without impacting their placement on the original board is a highly requested feature across many apps. We were able to do this because we treated this as a first order need and built Dendri from the ground up to promote individual agency in developing a personal workflow while still providing a single source of truth in the matter. You can also create a personal task on your dashboard and assign it to another user without ever touching a matter.
Finally, you can create “Team” dashboards, that follow the same principle of aggregating tasks but add an additional shared view, so your marketing team, or your trial prep team can all work on a similar type of task together. You add tasks to a team board simply by assigning the “team,” just like you would assign a user.
While we’re focused on law practice management, we think a lot of users may come to us primarily for task management. We’re working on integrations with other popular practice management solutions as well as a pricing plan to let Dendri be where work gets done even if another solution is your primary database.