The beginning of 2020 has been as much of a roller coaster for Accelo as it has been for the rest of the world. We were deeply impacted by bushfires in Australia where half of our team resides in the city of Wollongong, NSW. We’ve also moved our team to 100% remote work for the foreseeable future across our three offices in Denver, San Francisco, and Wollongong. We hope that all of our customers and their loved ones are staying healthy in this unmistakably strange and challenging time in history.
One thing that is helping all of us stay focused on our mission is the knowledge that Accelo is a critical system for our client's businesses, helping you to not only work remotely, but manage remote businesses - and we're not going to let you down.
Q1 of 2020 was a period of restoration for Accelo's Product & Engineering teams. We have new Team Leads for all eight Development and Product teams. With new leadership, we have been putting an immense amount of effort into adopting and implementing Agile principles into our day-to-day operations so that we can better forecast and plan our work to better serve you - our clients.
Below you will find highlights from Q1 2020 and our plans for Q2. We’re excited to deliver several Alpha and Beta features towards the end of this quarter!
While we had over 100 releases in Q1 covering many hundreds of individual developer tickets, here are the links to some of our more notable releases in Q1. If you'd like to see more details on the other releases, check out our special Updates blog.
Encompassing dozens of screens, thousands of variables and hundreds of potential columns that our users will be able to choose to include, the major upgrade to our list screens continues to be our largest engineering project. After a strong Q1, we're aiming to have this major upgrade in a place where we can get clients involved in beta testing early in Q3.
When this feature launches you can expect to be able to choose additional Columns to be shown on the upgraded lists views, the ability to customize the order of those Columns and have a wider variety of Filtering options. We've also worked hard throughout this massive project to focus on performance - 20% of all page views in Accelo today are these list screens, and we know that their current performance is a big frustration to many of our users, so improving this continues to be a top priority.
Accelo is the heart of business operations for many of our clients. It enables all of their Client work, team schedules, timesheets, and billing. This means we have a lot of important business data inside Accelo. This quarter we are focused on improving getting this data out and into the hands of our clients.
Another big priority project in Q2 is around reporting, dashboards and business intelligence. Launching as an add-on later this quarter, this new feature will allow users - subject to them having the appropriate permissions, modules and the reporting add-on activated - the ability to use dozens of interactive reports and dashboards to see their key Accelo business data in real time, filtering, drilling down and even exporting massive amounts of information for the first time.
We will be focusing on running a Beta period for this project and will be reaching out to many of you as necessary, to get your feedback on what types of reports and dashboards are most valuable to your businesses!
Over the course of the last three months, we have been testing and iterating on a brand new Navigation. Building on a lot of data analysis as well as feedback from users, this new navigation is going to make Accelo less intimidating for new or casual users, faster to get around for our power users and more attractive for all users.
We'll be offering our new navigation as an opt-in beta initially so we can get feedback and iron out any issues (for example, our clients love to rename modules, turn things on and off and of course customize the colors and logo used) prior to rolling it out for all users after that.
If you'd like to participate in the beta program, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know that you'd like to beta-test the new navigation!
Whether you're executing ongoing retainer work, reactive support or ad-hoc projects for your clients, there's always a need to get paid for the work you do. While Accelo makes invoicing easy, but we've heard from lots of users that they'd also like Accelo to help them get paid more easily too.
With this in mind, we're working this quarter on integrating Stored Credit Card Payments into the product as an optional add-on. This feature will allow Accelo clients to activate stored payments without having to go through the pain of becoming a Merchant with a traditional bank, which reduces friction for you and your clients so you can get paid faster!
The Stored Credit Card Payment Processing will let you enter a client's credit card details into a special secure part of Accelo without you needing to deal with PCI compliance. Accelo will then be able to either automatically charge a credit card for an outstanding invoice on its due date. If you don't want to auto-charge cards then you can choose to charge a card on file for any outstanding invoice.
For clients who are very retainer-heavy, having Accelo create your next Retainer period, Invoice, Tasks, and Checklists for your team and then actually get paid for this work presents a great opportunity to save you time and ensure your business has strong cash flows. This is going to be more important than ever given the economic turbulence we're experiencing this quarter and beyond.
Users will be able to Add and Edit Company and Contact information while on-the-go. These are important people who are members of new business or sales teams as they interface with potential prospects at events such as road shows and conferences. It's also helpful for individuals who often travel to their clients and need client details to be up-to-date at all times.
One of the most common things our users do is log the time they spend working on client Projects, Tasks, Tickets, Retainers, etc. While logging time is often something we grumble about as users, without accurate logs of the time spent doing client work the business can't understand whether the work we're doing is on budget and profitable. Additionally, tracking our time is critical if we are billing our clients for work done based on the time and expenses spent.
This importance - and often annoyance - of tracking our time means we are focused on making it as easy and automated as it can possibly be. That's why this quarter we're working on a major upgrade to our Timers.
While we've all got at least one email inbox, Accelo provides both a personal and many shared inboxes that are focused solely on the work you do for your clients, in turn helping you stay focused on the work that matters most. Through our concept of "actioning" work (declaring one item, or thread of Activities, as ‘managed’ even if you don't reply to it), we enable you to triage and organize emergent Client Requests and check administrative tasks and activities off of a ‘to-do’ list. This actioning - where a colleague closing a Request or replying to a client email means you don't have to worry about it - is important to get right because delivering great client service is a team sport.
While our users understand that Accelo isn't trying to replace their regular email inbox, there are a number of improvements we can make to make it easier for you to find the work items that are most important to you. Examples of improvements we're working on include additional Filter and Sort Options, and a better search capability within the Inbox.
We also want to make sure that the Inbox is easily consumed - and getting the balance right between too much information and not enough context isn't easy. Users need to be able to quickly identify Activities to take action against them, but each of us has different preferences on how to prioritize and organize our work. Therefore, we plan to offer users the ability to customize the data presented in the preview of the Activities in their Inbox!
We also need to ensure that for users who want to use the Inbox as a central location for getting work done, we ensure that they won’t miss any critical item that is addressed to them on any given day. So we also plan to notify users who need to refresh their Inboxes to see newly received Activities.
Again, logging time accurately and promptly is one of the most important things our users need to do in Accelo - but when things are busy, it is easy to forget! To help, we're working on new Weekly Timesheet Email Reminders for both individual users and People (Eg. Team) Managers that can be enabled at the deployment level. Rather than just nagging people to enter their time, it will include suggestions, easy clicks, and visuals to help them see where the gaps are.
We were blown away by the response when we introduced Task Checklists, and because of our need to grow our mobile engineering team, we've still been playing catch up on this popular feature. This quarter we're working on making Checklists on Tasks available on the Mobile App. Users will have the ability to check/uncheck a checklist item as they are able to do so anywhere, any time!
In addition to the priorities we're working on this quarter and the next set of projects outlined above, we're also sharing - for the first time - our research and design priorities for the quarter. These are areas of focus that will feed into future quarter priorities and represent an opportunity for us to engage with current clients who have insights and opinions to share. We also want to give everyone a chance to be involved in our early design process to give feedback and perspective.
This quarter, our primary research focus is first and foremost around Scheduling and Resourcing.
We recognize that scheduling budgeted Time is crucial to ensure that our clients’ teams are resourced appropriately in order to complete their Client work on time and up to standard. We also understand that logging and estimating Time as well as managing that Time against the Budget, which enables our clients to understand whether the work they are executing is profitable to their businesses.
Accelo’s Scheduling functionality offers a lot of power to our clients. We are able to automatically schedule Budgeted Time from Tasks onto Assignee’s schedules. We allow users to convert that Auto-Scheduled Time to scheduled bookings and we populate users’ Timesheets with Time Entries that have been made.
However, we want to make sure that People and Work managers have the insights they need to make informed resourcing decisions when they need to re-assign or reschedule work to members of their team. That means we need to better visualize and surface information like utilization, capacity, and due dates in ways that you can utilize to allocate and reallocate all work. We also plan to improve workflows for actions like converting Auto-Scheduled Time into bookings and assignments so that managers can make those decisions within the context of those utilization and capacity insights.
We also want to reduce the administrative oversight that managers are so often required to do by giving the individuals resourced against Client work intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces to take control of their own schedules. We want to ensure that our clients can plan, organize, and manage their workload inside of Accelo so that Client work is completed on time, within budget and at a high caliber.
Our team has already started outreach to some of our clients for initial interviews, but if you are interested in being added to that list of research participants, please email email@example.com.
The Mobile Product team has been ramping over the last quarter with four new team members. We have a newly defined vision for what we want our mobile applications to enable for our users which drives the direction and development of future features.
Another focus this quarter will be investigating the types of Push Notifications that Accelo’s Mobile applications surfaces while you are on-the-go. Many of our users visit clients in the field or travel to secure new business and our mobile applications are the primary ways in which you remain connected to other Client work that you are responsible for. With improved Notifications, we can keep you informed so that you can take action and manage emergent client needs when you aren’t co-located with your team. We’d love to hear from you about what kinds of Push Notifications you need the most, so please leave those Ideas on our Forum and our Mobile team will use that feedback to implement our first set of Push Notifications.