Having been three months since our last product roadmap update, we thought it was time we gave all of our users insight into what we’re focusing on over the next couple of months here at Accelo.
As mentioned in our June update, we took some hard decisions in Q2 and elected to focus on really improving the experience of everyone using Accelo by getting back to the basics. Those basics were making it easier to send emails, create tasks, manage your work and get stuff done. As it turned out, this project was much bigger than we had anticipated and what started out as a project for a few weeks in early Q2 ballooned into a project that we’ve really only just finished the main pieces of this week (some 4 months later).
Some of the results of this work are already apparent and paying off; others represent an investment in the future (and a lot of work “under the hood” which you won’t be able to see from the outside but which will enable us to do a lot more, a lot faster, in the months ahead).
To recap, here are some of the highlights in the last few months:
Our team is currently working hard on a major upgrade to the Client Portal/Extranet, which will include a new interface with more collaboration, enhanced permissions and a brand new signoffs module.
At the top of our list with the new client portal has been efforts to support a lot more customization and collaboration.
On the cosmetic front, we’re including the ability to have more control over the style of your client portal, including better support for your logo, your own header/background/cover image/branding and more control over the colours that your clients see in the portal.
On the functional side of things, we also realized the client portal wasn’t great at really getting your clients to collaborate with you. We’re fixing this with this major upgrade, allowing users to create activities the same way you do in Accelo, allowing them upload their own files and attachments, and even the ability to create tasks for you and your colleagues to work on (but not assign them - yet).
One of the biggest limitations to the previous client portal is that it didn’t allow you to control how much information you wanted to share with clients. The new version changes all of that - and then some!
With this upgrade, it will be easier for you to take control and share on four levels (at the amount of detail you’re comfortable with):
In addition to these enhancements to the core of the Client Portal, we’re also introducing a brand new features: an integrated signoff module.
It will be perfect for any time you’re doing client work and you’d like them to give you more formal approval than “yeah, looks good” via email, this module will make it easy for you to send attachments/designs/proposals to clients and get them to “sign off” through the portal.
Whenever you send a signoff to a client contact, they’ll get a special email with a magic one-use link that will allow them into your portal without them needing to remember their username or password.
From there, they’ll be able to look at a description of your request for approval, any attachments you’ve uploaded and have an easy way to make comments and either grant or decline your request for a signoff.
While this feature won’t come (yet) with true digital signatures, it will make it easy to share your work with clients and get their approval (and when they approve the file we’ll make a copy that no-one in your Accelo account can touch for safe keeping - including you!).
We’re currently targeting the new portal, along with the brand new signoffs module for the first half of September. Keep an eye on your inbox and our blog for updates and a chance for a sneak peek.
The second big focus area for us this quarter is the upgrade to the Projects Module. As long-time users of Accelo will know, the Projects Module hasn’t changed a whole lot since we launched Accelo into beta back in early 2011.
This quarter, we’re focusing on changing that and bringing the Projects Module up to date with some big improvements we think you’re going to love.
The heart of the upgrade is a brand new way to plan and schedule your projects. We know the current workflow editing screen is a horror (yes, we’re embarrassed), and the new version will have an improved screen that will make it much, much easier to create project tasks and milestones, assign budgets and see the effect of dependencies on your schedule in a real-time Gantt chart.
Here's a mock-up of the direction we're going; note that since we drafted this design we've already made changes and improvements, but this should give you a sense.
Another area we get asked about all the time is being able to put tasks into project plans. With the new upgrade, you’ll be able to create tasks (with assignments and billable rates if you like) and save them into templates for easier re-use in the future!
We’ll also be introducing a new concept called a Milestone which will allow your projects to have structure (with sub-milestones and tasks against them) and benefit from real-time rollup reporting around budgets, usage and progress. Hell yeah!
Along with the upgrade around planning and tasks, we’ll also be making it a lot easier to budget for your projects the way you really work.
Another area we’ll be improving is around the approvals and invoicing processes in Accelo. Our new roll-up and milestone model with tasks front and center means a few necessary improvements to our current approvals screen. We’re going to take the opportunity to upgrade the approvals screen (which can get long and unwieldy) and make it a lot more like the approval screen in the Contracts & Retainer Module.
In addition to improved approvals, we’re also going to be improving the invoicing process. While supporting our current model of payments based on percentages, budgets or approved time, we’re also going to be making it easy to bill for “products” or “materials” related to a project, as well as expenses.
Finally, we'll also be making it easy to choose the level of detail you want to include in your invoices - top level milestones, all milestones, all tasks or even no details at all for your line items, and combinations of including budgets, billable actuals, billable hours or nothing at all on line a per line item basis.
As the most heavily demanded feature we’re looking forward to sinking our teeth into both Android and iOS applications for Accelo this quarter. We’re deliberately keeping our ambitions in check for our first version release so we can get it into your hands as quickly as we can, but here are some of the things we’re looking at:
While there’s very little chance we’ll have all of this ready to go by the end of Q3, we’ll be looking for beta testers towards the end of the quarter - keep an eye on our blog for updates.
Squeezed in around these three big projects this quarter will be some upgrade work around our Requests Module. We’ll be making it easier to handle and process requests from new contacts (not just the ones already in Accelo), send out auto-replies and automatically convert requests into sales or issues (so the request queue just acts as a gateway).
We’re also planning on leveraging the power of Chrome’s new Packaged App functionality to deliver a Desktop Timer App for our Accelo users.
This app will work just like any other installed Desktop App and will be cross-platform, secure and synchronized. Think of it like a tighter version of your “work” screen that makes it easy for you to see your tasks, create timers and of course, log work.
This quarter, we'll also be working on a JIRA integration - great news for the software development shops currently managing their issues, sprints and releases in JIRA and their support, projects and customer service in Accelo.
We’re still firming up our plans for this feature, but if your team uses JIRA and you’d like to talk about how Accelo and JIRA (which are both quite powerful, flexible and extensive) would best work together for your business, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on what's coming in Q4, read the sneak peek article here.