BenkoDesk came about as a result of having built BenkoBoard (my other codegeist submission). I realised that people wanted to share their emails with team members since Trello is such a naturally collaborative environment. They actually share the same codebase, so BenkoDesk is really just a differently configured BenkoBoard that will allow more than one member to write messages rather than restricting access to a single user account.
I'm submitting BenkoDesk as a separate submission because it might fall into the category of best app for remote work, which BenkoBoard is less likely to, so even though they're both basically the same code configured differently, I'm sending them as separate submissions.
What it does
BenkoDesk connects a shared Gmail account to a shared Trello account (or you could use it to share your email with, for example, a virtual assistant). Each Gmail thread is imported to a card, and users can reply directly from Trello to emails. It runs as a "bot" user, rather than a powerup, so it can be used from any device (super important when it comes to email!) You can also use it to send new emails, forward existing emails, cc and bcc (all using Google Contacts integration) and to send attachments, all right from Trello on any device!
How I built it
The BenkoDesk story starts with BenkoBoard (my other submission). Late last year, I realised that people I spoke to were expecting that BenkoBoard would allow them to easily share emails with their team. When I saw this, I created BenkoDesk as a variation of BenkoBoard. At the time it was a Google Apps Script, the same as BenkoBoard, and went through the same challenge of rebuilding as an add-on and later as a standalone PHP web application.
It was verified by Google at the same time as BenkoBoard, so during the submission period I have created a sign-up and on-boarding process for "self-service" signups using the "Sign in with Google" button as well as launching the new, public facing web page:
Challenges I ran into
The biggest challenge was taking something that was basically a connector between 2 other products and building it as a "real SaaS" application that people could sign up to. You can see more in the challenges section of my BenkoBoard submission.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Rebuilding as both a Google Sheets Add-On and then subsequently as a standalone PHP web application all within a couple of months and then raising money via presales to existing clients to get the Google security verification done (see BenkoBoard submission).
What I learned
The key to remote working is better collaboration. When people don't use shared email properly, they rely on being able to "turn to the person next to them" or call/txt their team members. This requires that everyone be either in the same space or in the same timezone or both. When you can use the same shared space for both external and internal communications, working remotely and asynchronously becomes much simpler.
What's next for BenkoDesk
The big challenge now that I have a fully "self service" product is getting the design and on-boarding right to build enough confidence for people to be able to sign up and use it without me having to speak to each and everyone person, set them up and train them personally, which is what I've been doing up until now.