As things heat up for our San Francisco team and cool down for our crew down under, we're going to be pushing hard to make some of the biggest improvements to Accelo yet with a focus on a major upgrade to projects, a whole new extranet and making it much much easier to view, schedule and shuffle the work across your team.
Woah, this is a big one. And well overdue.
When we first built the projects module in Accelo, we were fulfilling a fairly narrow kind of project management requirement. Components or tasks would be allocated to individual users, while they could have sub-components they wouldn’t roll-up, and possibly most importantly the scheduling would use a simple business-days duration and dependency calculation to work out when something was supposed to get done.
As Accelo has grown with thousands of users all over the world, we’ve realized that this simplistic view of project management just wasn’t cutting it anymore. The interface we use for project planning - which we currently call workflow editing - is horrible to use, doesn’t provide feedback on deadlines and can’t handle the creation of tasks against a component. Additionally, budgets are very crude, with a very limited ability to consider non-time budgets.
This big rock - the biggest of Q2 - is a major upgrade to the Projects Module. Some of the things we’ve got slated include:
These are just some of the things we have in mind for the projects module - feel free to add your own ideas to the Ideas Forum.
Drum roll please. We know a lot of our more technical users are going to be excited about this this.
Yep, that's right. In Q1 we'll be releasing a beta of our new API, a RESTful, OAuth driven API that uses JSON as its payload to allow you to get in deep and programmatically with Accelo. We'll initially be focusing on clients, contacts, sales & issues, and we’re excited to see the sorts of integrations that our uber-geek users can come up with.
Keep an eye on our Accelo User's Group for more information on this... it's closer than you think ;-)
The Extranet that is built into Accelo is best described as rudimentary. Your clients can log in and see their projects, issues, contracts, invoices and create new requests, but it isn’t optimized for collaborating with your clients.
Some of the things you can look forward to with the overhaul will include:
The most common question we get from users of our dynamic scheduling module is: can I see a list of a group of staff (or all my staff) on one screen and move work around between them?
The good news is that we’ve got this coming in Q2, building off the overhaul we’re making to activities and the upgrade of the projects module. This new feature will enable you as a manager to see one or more staff and filter their work down by projects, issues or other places where you can create tasks. You’ll be able to see their comparative workload and easily reassign tasks and components between staff members - ideal if you’re trying to optimize the resource allocations among a team of designers or similarly skilled professionals on your team.
We’re really excited to be bringing this feature to you just as soon as we can get the underlying features of projects and activities improved - if you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
While Accelo has a lot of magic for capturing and sharing emails between your team and your clients, it has never tried to replace your main email client; there’s just so much non-client email that still flows into our inboxes it hasn’t made sense to go to the effort and duplicate the awesome features of Gmail just to give you another inbox.
However, this has created another challenge - you can’t easily see the conversations tracked in Accelo while you’re in Gmail. This means it is all too easy to reply to an email to a client that a colleague has already replied to, even more frustrating because Accelo already knew about it, but just couldn’t show it to you.
Well, help is at hand, at least for Gmail users. Later in Q1 we’ll be releasing the first version of what’s known as a Gmail Contextual Gadget. What is it? It is a cool window that loads below an email when you’re reading it in Gmail which can tell you helpful thing:
Of course, this only works for those users lucky enough to spend their lives in Gmail, but we’ve got plans later in the year to improve the usefulness of Accelo as a parallel inbox, making it faster and easier to do all your client email reading and replying... watch this space for more ;-)
We’ve actually got some really big improvements for the way we handle Resources and Attachments coming in the first half of this year. In Q1 we’re mainly focusing on improving performance and setting a foundation for future improvements that will allow your resources and attachments to live not just in Accelo, but also in your Box, Dropbox or Google Drive account.
While this one is a big rock for us (there’s a lot of low level infrastructure stuff to change), you should see some improvements in the load speed of the attachments tab as we implement this change over the coming months.
The dynamic schedule - found in Accelo Premium - is a powerful, adaptive tool for forecasting resource load and demand. However, currently it assumes that everyone in the business is working a 5 day week from Monday to Friday, which isn’t necessarily true.
In Q2 we’ll be introducing an improvement to the Scheduling module which will allow individual users, as well as the business as a whole, to have their work schedule days customized. That way, public holidays, part time workers and locations where weekends fall on different days will all be automatically accommodated in the scheduling view.
While we’re remaining an avowed cross-platform, browser-based and cloud technology company, upcoming improvements in technology are enabling us to move closer and closer to the desktop.
During Q2 we’ll be releasing a feature built on Google’s new Chrome App functionality that will allow you to have an installable, desktop based and automatically loading timekeeper. You’ll be able to see a list of the tasks you have in Accelo and be able to run a timer and toggle between tasks as you’re working, all on the desktop, and all in the background.
What’s really exciting about this is that it is still 100% browser-based (meaning no security issues), cross-platform and still cloud-based (even though it works offline!). With more than 2 in 3 of our users already using Chrome to work with Accelo, we’re confident you’ll love this feature too.
Wouldn’t it be nice to harness Accelo’s powerful business processes and custom fields to make sure you don’t forget a deadline, let a project stagnate or forget to follow up on a sale?
This is what we envision with a new automatic notifications/reminders feature. These notifications will allow you to specify specific rules based on progression statuses, dates and custom field values to remind users that they need to take action if certain conditions are met.
An example would be to send an automatic email 24 hours before an issue’s deadline occurs, particularly useful for situations like hitting client SLAs. You could also have a notification get triggered to a sales person if there hasn’t been a note made in three days if the status on the deal if “quote sent” - that way they’re reminded to keep following up.
The uses and benefits are almost endless - we’re excited to see what you come up with!
Another module which has become more important and heavily used than we originally expected is the requests module. Designed originally to be a simple queue of requests that would be either be dismissed or quickly converted into sales or issues, the requests module has now become an important place where users actually collaborate and manage their reactive client service work.
A few of the improvements slated for the upgrade to the requests module include:
Some people might have noticed that we don’t have a specific slot on this schedule for an iPhone and Android specific application. We’ve deliberately left them off our slated schedule because we’re in the early stages of scoping these applications out, and wanted to get the APIs in place which could allow us to build and experiment with them internally before locking them down. That doesn’t mean they’re being ignored - they’re not, and we’ve just hired two new mobile app developers - but we’re not quite ready yet to share more details on them.