We're closing in on half way through Q1 as we publish this, but as you'll see from the list below we haven't started the year flat footed. With work already well advanced on a major upgrade to the Contracts & Retainers module and the beta of our API also just around the corner, we've got some great stuff lined up for you before the Easter Bunny comes!
With an increasing number of businesses choosing to partner with clients on an ongoing basis rather than limiting themselves to project-specific work, the ability to easily manage ongoing retainers is one of the most appealing differentiators in Accelo.
Unfortunately, as other parts of the product have moved forward - particular our ability to handle more fine-grained and nuanced rates and approvals on projects and issues - the contracts module has been left behind. Additionally, more and more of our users want to be able to bill for work directly against a retainer, have automatic monthly/quarterly tasks created and avoid the need to use projects and issues for their higher frequency, repetitive work - something the module can’t do right now.
The good news is that we’re actually about 80% of the way through a massive upgrade to this module, and we’re looking forward to shipping it soon.
What can you expect to see? Here’s some of the highlights:
Keep an eye on our Accelo User’s Group and this blog for a more detailed preview with screenshots and the ability to register for some special online training sessions to help you get the most out of this module when we’ve got it ready to go.
We know that a lot of our users incur a range of expenses as part of delivering a project for their clients. Flights? Hotels? 3rd Party Software? The list goes on. Until now, it wasn't exactly easy for Accelo users to enter these expenses against a project, or pass on costs to their clients in the invoicing process.
This first version of our expenses module - and it won’t be the end of it - will introduce the ability to create expenses against projects and include those expenses (optionally) in the invoice process. Users will be able to create expenses, and managers will be able to easily approve them. When it comes to invoicing against a project, managers will be able to include expenses on an invoice.
Future improvements will include the ability to handle time-based expenses (such as contractor costs on a component or task), but these will need to wait until after the upgrade to the projects module in Q2 - we just didn’t want to wait all that time to give you an easy way to track expenses and get reimbursed for them through the invoicing process.
This is one that fits in the "why didn't we do this already" category too. While Accelo has very granular access controls for who can do what with which module, one thing we weren’t sensitive enough to when developing the product previously was financial information.
This improvement will make it possible for administrators to define, on a user-by-user basis, who can and cannot see financial information in Accelo.
If someone doesn’t have the rights to see financial information, instead of seeing the available budget in $, they’ll see everything converted back to hours.
We know this feature is going to be particularly popular for those of you with contractors as well as in situations where your team members might not appreciate that there’s a lot of hidden costs involved in running the business which is why you need to charge their time out at a bunch more than they see in their pay check. With this new feature, you’ll be able to avoid that whole issue entirely, and everyone will just be able to focus on the hours budgeted and used to get the job done, and leave the invoicing and billable rates to you to worry about.
Accelo has always made it easy to send clients and colleagues emails through the Activity feature. However, we haven’t made it easy for you to personalize those signatures to reflect your branding, identity or even things like legal disclaimers that you’re told you need to have.
We’ll soon be introducing a (long overdue) feature to allow you to customize your email signatures, either on a company wide basis or on a per user basis. We should have something to share with you on this pretty soon... and we’re looking forward to seeing how creative you can get!
We’ve got a few improvements in the pipeline for the work screen too this quarter. A few of the highlights:
We’ve also got a lot of other time logging and work screen improvements in the pipeline, but we wanted to get some of these more urgent improvements in place as soon as we could.
This is one that some of our more advanced users have been asking for - how can they have different rates and even identities for certain clients.
An example of this would be if your business has a special class of VIP client, like Federal Government clients who you have negotiated special rates with. You might want to specify that for this client, a Senior Associate might be charged at a different rate than usual, but the effort of remembering and going through and changing the rates every time you work with this client is a pain.
Building on our recent improvements to the Rates Module, we’ll also be making it possible for Premium users to create service divisions with their own rate schedules, and then have them link specific clients to belong to these service divisions to ensure pre-agreed rates are reflected automatically any time you work on a project or issue for that client using “staff” rates.
While many of us who use Accelo a lot know its power, there are still quite a few users who don’t check in as much as they could. So, to make their lives easier, we’re going to be taking the kinds of insights and critical information they’re missing out on now to them with a regular weekly email update.
Imagine getting a weekly email telling you the clients you worked with the most, who else was working with them last week in your organization (especially when they were conversations you didn’t even know existed), and making it easy to just follow a link to get right back into Accelo and get involved in the conversation.
The activities module is at the heart of Accelo - it is where you record notes, write emails, log and track time, and the way we remind people about what they have left on their to-do list.
Unfortunately, though, with many millions of activities now logged throughout Accelo, it is starting to show some signs of strain. We’re planning a deep level technical overhaul of the activities feature which will set the foundation for a lot of other improvements to timesheets, to-do lists, emailing and collaboration in Q3.
While most of these improvements apply to our Plus and Premium versions of Accelo, we’re also going to be adding a bit of extra benefit for our Sync users.
Later this quarter we’re going to be enabling Sync users to create tasks and activities in Accelo, making it easy for them to create notes, schedule appointments and send emails to clients in Accelo as well as manage a client-oriented task list
In addition, we’re also going to be enabling the Requests Module for Sync users to make it easier for multiple users on a Sync account to track shared conversations with clients around specific issues.
We’re hopeful these improvements will make Sync even more useful as a place to get work done and encourage more and more Sync users to upgrade to Plus and even Premium to really take control of the work they and their teams do for their clients.