With Q1 and Q2 of 2013 being devoted mainly to upgrading the core features of Accelo - retainers, projects, activities, extranet all featuring heavily - our priorities in Q3 are focused on building on the stronger foundation of these upgrades so we can make Accelo even more useful for managing your client work. The big priorities for this quarter are mobile apps, a new quoting product, a new contractor access level and integrations with Google Drive, GFI Max and other platforms that we know will save our users time and help them make their clients even happier.
The following are priorities that we’ll be focusing on in July, August and September 2013:
Well, the time has finally come. We’ve known we’ve needed mobile apps for Accelo for a long time now, and you haven’t let us forget it - the request for a Mobile app is by far our most voted for feature.
The reason we haven’t gotten to this feature yet is that we didn’t want to build it on changing or shaky foundations, but with the upgrade to the Projects, Activities and our Extranet all happening in Q2, we’re now ready to throw down hard and give you an awesome mobile-app experience.
Initially we’re going to be focusing on giving you easy access to your clients, your tasks and your activities while you’re on the road. Logging time and making notes will be a key part of the mobile experience, perfect for people who want to use their iPhone as their timekeeping companion or their Android device as their way of making a comment on an activity on a project they’re managing right from the stream.
Keeping with the theme of prioritizing the things you want, the inclusion of a Quotes comes in as our second most voted on feature, and will be a priority for us in Q3.
Quotes is going to be the bridge between the Sales product and the Projects as well as the Retainers going forward. You’ll be able to create a simple quote, put in some project components or line items complete with quantities, inclusions, rates and total prices as well as specify a retainer or contract with included hours and renewal periods.
You’ll be able to email your client a quote and if they accept it, you’ll then have a record of their acceptance as well as a dead easy way to create your project plan or retainer - all based on what was created and agreed to in the quote.
It is worth mentioning that Quotes product is not going to be as powerful, flexible and pretty as the offering from our friends and partner, Quoteroller. We think that users of Quotes product will be creating and sending higher volumes of lower value (and certainly less detailed) quotes, whereas our friends at Quoteroller are still the best platform for creating beautiful, interactive and winning proposals.
More than three quarters of businesses using Accelo engage contractors on a regular basis and with technology improving all the time our clients have told us they intend to work with contractors more frequently in the future.
Currently, however, Accelo is more well suited to working with colleagues and team members who are more permanent and "inside the tent" so to speak - sharing of information, client lists and visibility of projects, issues and work done is designed to foster collaboration and openness in a way that isn’t always appropriate, especially if you’re working with people on a temporary or transactional basis where you might not trust them as much as a traditional employee.
The other way Accelo isn’t currently as well suited to contractors or outsourced suppliers is that you want to track their billable time but if they’re only doing a few hours of work a month or on another temporary basis, it doesn’t make sense to be paying for a full professional account the way you would for your permanent staff.
Finally, unlike your permanent staff - who's costs to the business and compensation are largely fixed and where utilization is the key driver in the business - managing contractors is more about keeping on budget, approving hours, and making it easy to pay them when their work has been approved (and of course then on-bill your clients).
These are some of the challenges we’re aiming to solve with our forthcoming Contractor Product.
This new product will enable you to create a new tier or classification for these types of users which will only give them access to the specific work they’re assigned to do. They’ll be able to make notes, log time, upload files and of course see the budgets and deadlines they’re working towards.
Easy to access reports will let you see how much you owe contractors for approved time, making it easy to then pay them (and we're looking at automating this further in future). While we're still working out the specifics around subscription costs for these users, our plan is to introduce a variable monthly rate that moves in line with the work the contractor does (so you’ll pay less for someone who logs 2 hours of work a month than someone who does 20 for example).
If you work with contractors and would like to talk to our product team about the sorts of things that drive you crazy, we’d love to hear from you - just email [email protected] and we'll line up a time for a call.
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!
While the web browser is great for seeing things on a screen, a web page isn’t as useful if you want a document format that looks better printed or shared in a static format.
Enter the forthcoming publishing product, which will allow administrators to load up "mail merge" style templates. They’ll then be able to combine that with data in Accelo to create exportable documents like invoices as PDF files, work orders in Word document format and more.
Documents and files are still an important part of doing work for your clients. While Accelo has had its own attachment and file system since the beginning, the online editing and collaboration tools now available are much better suited for creating, sharing and working with documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more.
That’s why in Q3 we’ll be introducing integrations between Accelo and leading online document and file sharing platforms. We’re still finalizing the details, but our plan is to introduce integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.
These integrations will in-effect hand over the responsibility for storage, search and access of the resources and attachments in Accelo to these third party products, and will be totally optional. There’s still a few tricky things to work out - mainly because these platforms are built on a user-centric, access restricted model rather than a organization-centric, collaborative model like Accelo - but we wanted to let you know we had improvements and integrations like this on the horizon as a priority project even if we don’t know all the details right now.
The last time Accelo got a major review of its navigation and UI was in early 2012, and as the platform has grown and evolved over the last year and a bit we’ve been conscious that it is important to review current needs, browser technology and usage patterns to make sure Accelo is fast and easy to use
In Q3 we’ll be taking a fresh look at the design of Accelo, with a focus on making the most common tasks and frequently used screens fast and easy to use, as well as making it easier for casual and new users to find their feet fast while at the same time keeping our power-users happy.
It is never an easy task, but we wanted to highlight this as a Q3 priority - if you’ve got suggestions we’d love to hear them; just email [email protected] and our product and UX teams will get your suggestions and take them on board.
With an increasing number of MSPs and other IT services businesses transition to Accelo, we’re also working on Q3 to implement integrations between Accelo and popular online platforms for these users, starting with Remote Monitoring and Management applications like GFI Max.
When complete, this feature will enable requests to be created - complete with meta-data - and for the automatic creation of issues (using the autoconversion rules) to streamline support and incident processing. When combined with our powerful sales with email capture, the Contracts and Retainers upgrade in Q1 and the enhanced client extranet in Q2, we’re expecting a lot more MSPs frustrated at the lack of innovation and expensive legacy offerings in their sector to switch across to Accelo.