Corrobbo was a database-driven teamwork and workflow application designed to do one thing: keep ad agency teams on the same page. Basically, it’s the manila folder or ‘job bag’ owned by the project lead, but in a place where the right people can see it. But making it that simple took a year of work.

People in ad agencies only do five things: they have conversations, assign work, get buy-in, ask questions, and complete pieces of work. So Corrobbo let you open a project folder and open these ‘action item primitives’ within it: topics, tasks, polls, questions, and subprojects (which can have their own action items within them). Items can be opened or close at any time during the project’s four stages: draft, pitch, progress, and completion.

Each action item is a discussion forum, and each person on the project is limited in the items they can open, close, or take part in by a list of 11 ‘permissions’ checked or unchecked by their team leader. These two lists – five action items, eleven permissions – was built by observing how agency teams actually work. The result: a ‘job bag’ that shows everyone a custom view of the project and the action items they’re involved in, with only the options clickable by them visible.

Corrobbo’s IA spanned around 750 pages, with each page built dynamically from 16 joined database tables and 30 or so use cases. The backdrop was MySQL on Linux, with modperl (an embedded Perl interpreter) doing the fetching and carrying.

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