Welcome to 2018! While we're only a few days in, things here at Accelo are off to a rapid start, with lots of work already underway to bring a bunch of exciting new features and improvements to life!
Our priorities for this quarter include:
We're now in the final stretch, with this major new feature due to launch for all of our Premium edition users in January.
In addition to a whole new user interface, this upgrade includes native support for scenarios like "when a client sends an email containing 'Urgent' and the ticket is 'Resolved', then send a notification and reopen the ticket" - it basically means doubling the power of triggers so they now support "Events", most commonly emails or time logs.
The new Scheduling Dashboard has been a real hit with our users, and has continued to be our primary "big project" priority in Q4 and now into Q1.
This quarter we're focusing on giving you more ways to "take control", with the priority being to give you the ability to actually adjust/edit the schedules of team members right from the dashboard. This will involve both the ability to change existing assignments as well as assign work for users. We'll be delivering this in the same iterative model that we used during the preview, and we'd love to hear your feedback as we go - make sure you keep an eye out for our regular bi-weekly email updates where we'll be sharing the latest as things progress.
We hope to get this live before Christmas, but the more we tugged on the string of this incredibly complex improvement, the more we kept finding things to enhance, streamline and automate.
Accelo currently uses intelligent dates that adapt project plans to the real world and estimate start and end dates for milestones and tasks when things run late - but, it hasn’t been intelligent enough.
When it comes to estimating start and end dates of a project schedule, Accelo currently doesn't make it easy for managers to assert start or due dates for projects and milestones in advance. Instead, we've relied a bit too much on team members to start and complete work accurately, which often doesn’t happen (as we know all too well). Accelo does support those fantastic situations whereby someone finishes work early - but in those instances, you really want to see those estimated finish dates slide forward, right?
With this upgrade, we’re going to allow you and your team members to have more control over how Accelo’s intelligent dates work. Here’s how:
On top of that, we’ll also be sending emails to folks whose tasks and milestones are ready to kick-off (because dependencies are satisfied), taking the load off of project managers so they can spend more time managing and less time nagging (we’ve all experienced that).
After spending much of Q4 in beta, we're getting ready to take the wrapping off this and ship it for all of our Premium users.
With more and more large clients, more advanced and enterprise-friendly ways of authenticating users are becoming important for Accelo to support. Our teams are prioritizing the support of SAML, an industry-standard for Federated login (supported by Azure Active Director, OKTA, OneLogin, Office365 and others) which will allow administrators to connect Accelo with their integrated Identity Providers (IDP) and have Accelo perform authentication against the IDP of their choice.
This major (and highly requested) improvement went live in a Preview just before Christmas, and the feedback so far has been amazing! With this upgrade, users are able to create activities with bold and italics, bullets and lists, hyperlinks, colored text, and embedded images. We're showing these HTML activities in their full fidelity in our streams and activity view screens too, and while we're not yet tackling the scraping/ingestion of HTML emails that we automatically capture, our users now have the ability to create emails that are more visually impressive and flexible than what they've been able to have in the past.
Building on the much more user-friendly interface and engine for importing Client and Contact records via CSV that we released in Q4, we're working on enhancing and upgrading a number of our other CSV imports.
The details of your clients and the contacts you work with are both critically important to have right and the doorway to doing any client work at all in Accelo. Unfortunately, the user interface for creating or editing companies and contacts in Accelo isn't as good as it could or should be, with overbearing forms that don't look great on most screens the way things have always been.
While it was a priority last quarter to improve these interfaces, we didn't quite get there (rich text in activities, quote templates and a bunch of other things were more work than we'd anticipated). We're aiming to make better progress in Q1.
One of the things we hear the most from our clients is around reporting and the desire for more custom reports. While we're working on supporting custom layouts, lists and grids directly in Accelo (with matching exports) for true power and configurability, nothing beats a dedicated Business Intelligence (or BI) system.
Last quarter we got our PowerBI integration into Beta and the response has been astounding. We've been taking on board feedback from users and releasing improvements to the Content Pack and our API, and look forward to moving from Beta to General Availability this quarter.
If you'd like to be involved in the beta for PowerBI, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We're also excited to announce our integration with BrightGuage at the beginning of 2018. Similarly to Power BI, this business intelligence tool gives IT Service Providers the analytics, reports, and data they need to operate with ease. Keep an eye out for more information on this new integration in your inbox soon.
For many of our users, entering expenses is almost as important as entering time, which is why the current interface for entering expenses is so frustrating. We've been working closely with a number of our clients on making both small improvements to the expenses module as well as a major improvement to how users see and work with expenses.
The major improvement is focused on the user interface and involves the more active use of "Expense Types" to simplify and streamline the inputs that users are expected to provide. An example would be choosing a "Mileage" expense type, which could then lock in place the "rate" per mile (or kilometer) and instead just ask the user to enter a quantity, with the rest of the calculations all done automatically. Similarly, for expenses that require a receipt to be attached, users could be required to supply one or more photos/attachments.
These two scenarios are just scratching the surface, but the bottom line is that we're committed to making expense tracking a more easy and delightful experience for our users.
As a modern cloud platform, it isn't surprising that IT service businesses are some of Accelo's most passionate users. These businesses - often known as Managed Service Providers, or MSPs - are technology experts, with easy access to the best technology in everything except running their business, where the incumbent products are decades old and both cumbersome and ugly.
While these MSPs have flocked to Accelo, they rely on a few other key tools to deliver great client service, including Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software. Similarly to how these MSPs have also had to put up with clunky and out of date PSA software instead of a modern ServOps platform like Accelo, the RMM market is dominated by a lot of cumbersome and ugly tools.
This is why we're excited to be close to launching our integration with Ninja RMM. As a modern platform that was also born in the cloud and thinks that even IT people deserve a great user experience, integrating with Ninja makes a lot of sense all around.
If you're a Ninja user and you'd like to get in on the beta, feel free to email email@example.com - we're hoping to open this beta up in the next week or two.
Our integrations with Xero and Quickbooks Online are some of our most important - and challenging - integrations. Like Accelo, these two powerful platforms have many features and a lot of flexibility to fit in how almost any business operates, and this flexibility creates its own challenges to make sure things are as easy to use, reliable and automated as possible.
This quarter we're prioritizing a number of improvements, including:
Ongoing Item and Ledger Code sync: reality is that the accounting/bookkeeping team are going to make changes to your chart of accounts (ledgers) and items. Rather than waiting for a problem to come up and then requiring an Accelo admin to do a fresh import of these critical features, we're going to be moving to an ongoing sync model where changes that get made in Xero or Quickbooks Online will appear in Accelo automatically (but not instantly).
Xero Tracking Categories: our more advanced Xero users have long wanted to be able to designate "Tracking Categories" when they create invoices so they can more easily see their financial reports grouped by service area or business unit. This enhancement will allow Expenses, Invoice, and Purchases to have tracking categories defined in Accelo and passed through into Xero to streamline reporting.
... And lots and lots of little enhancements: there's also a lot of other small improvements we're working on to streamline these important integrations. They represent our #1 cause of support tickets every month, and while some of this is naturally due to the complexity of the platforms involves and the importance of getting things to do with money right, there's a lot we can do to make things more seamless.
This quarter is also the time when we've decided to deprecate support for the legacy and fragile/cumbersome Quickbooks Desktop Web Connector. This technology, which allows Accelo to sync with old-fashioned Quickbooks Desktop instances installed on Windows computers behind firewalls, has many shortcomings and with the continued growth in features and capabilities - not to mention users - of Quickbooks Online the time has come to deprecate support.
If you're currently using Quickbooks Desktop with Accelo, there's no need to take action: the existing integration will continue to work as it has done for the foreseeable future (at least 12 months). Eventually, however, the move to the Cloud will mean that we retire support for the Desktop versions of Quickbooks, and to ensure that this transition is as easy as possible, we won't be supporting the Desktop version for new clients in 2018.
With powerful automation (especially around recurring work like Retainers) and billing, it makes complete sense for Accelo to not only create invoices but to also help you get them paid!
Now that we have payment synchronization in place with Quickbooks Online and Xero, we're finally able to prioritize automatic payment processing. While we'd hoped to make more progress on this in 2017 than we did, the enhancements we've made to our accounting integrations will mean more progress this quarter.
When complete, you'll be able to enter the credit card details of your client into Accelo (and when the client portal is upgraded, allow them to enter/update it themselves) and set rules like what cards can be used to process what types of invoices (Retainers only, or Projects and Retainers, or anything at all), set the max payment to charge per day and then (well deserved) sit back, and let the money roll in.
Professionals know that death and taxes have a third Amigo - Timesheets. As much as tracking time sucks, it is a necessary part of life in any service role - the time you and your colleagues spend is the most significant investment the business makes in the delivery of great service to your clients, and if you don't know your costs, it is all too easy to slip from profits to losses which eventually means losing your job, or your home, or your health…
To make it easy to keep track of your time, we'll be bringing our popular daily timesheet interface to our Android and iOS devices in the next quarter or two. This will make it easy to complete your timesheet from your phone: either when you've got a moment when waiting for a bus/train/ferry/flight/Uber or when you remember you forgot to enter your timesheet when you're at the pub/park/etc.
Accelo has the ability to provide a lot of useful notifications - from letting you know that a high-value prospect just opened your email through to a notification that the project you're running has just gone over budget. One of the priorities we're working on this quarter is a new notifications module/engine, which will allow you to control what notifications you get, when you get them, and also whether you get them in-app, via email, or as a smartphone push notification in real time.
Accelo's task board - including the ability to have custom statuses - have been an ongoing priority for our team, with design work largely complete and the big challenges of engineering remaining. With more amazing developers on board than ever before, this quarter we're excited to move beyond concepts and plans into more concerted development for these improvements and get closer to shipping these brand new and highly configurable task boards.
Similarly to our task boards, the custom layouts and reports in Accelo are almost at the point where we can ask our talented developers to bring them to life.
In addition to these areas of priority, we're also doing a lot of work in the background to prepare the ground for a big 2018. While the priorities below won't be making it into Accelo this quarter, we're setting things up (including with a lot of hiring) to make great strides in the following priority areas into Q2 and beyond:
Client Portal Upgrade:
The client portal - a massive project which will encompass white label domains and the ability to set a custom look-and-feel for your Accelo account - is something that is well advanced from a planning and scoping perspective, but an upgrade that needs more bandwidth to deliver. While the priorities above means we've got to push this delivery out into Q2, we're passionate about bringing this improvement to life as soon as we can.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the latest good intentions to come out of Brussels are helping to prove true that age-old saying. Accelo's team is working to ensure our compliance with this regulation for our many European clients as a data processor in time for its May enforcement date.