A couple of weeks back, we released our spring version of Groupcall Dashboard. I thought you might find it interesting to know a bit more about how this really happened and give you a glimpse into how both product vision and customer feedback can shape exactly what we produce as an end product. Probably it gives you a bit of a glimpse into how Groupcall operates sometimes too!
The last release of Dashboard was Summer 2011 and since then there has been a slow but steady (and appreciated) flow of feedback from you regarding things that Dashboard should do, shouldn’t do, and seems to be doing without being asked! We log pretty much all of these against either Bugs or Feature Requests for the Dashboard product; when we hear the same feature request more than once we increase the weight of it accordingly to make sure that it gets the attention it deserves, but equally if somebody thinks of something cool that Dashboard should do we weight that pretty high too – we all like good Kung Fu so if there is something you want to suggest then get in touch.
At the start of January, Dashboard wasn’t scheduled at all for work – there was a list of things we must address when we did look at it but that was as much as we had. Those familiar with January will know it plays host to BETT week and that for most companies everything else stops during that week. But for our developers it’s often a chance to get some much needed R&R, when they’re not tending our on-stand live demo platforms, visiting to talk to customers first-hand, or accepting our BETT award!
One of the development odd-jobs listed for BETT week was to correct the Fax number in Dashboard as we’d changed number a while back, but hadn’t got round to correcting it in Dashboard. Thing is, it seemed silly to publish a whole update to Dashboard just for that; so we had a look at what else was outstanding for Dashboard and decided that we really ought to have a product release to address all these feature requests, and maybe a few of the bugs.
The next half-day or so was spent looking through all the features that you had requested and estimating the amount of developer work required to deliver them, we also graded them in terms of benefit for time cost. Some didn’t make it; a lot of them were mine ;) Of course we also looked for opportunities to cunningly provide several features with the same bit of code so we could get more benefit for each bit of code we wrote and we kept referring to our longer term plans for Dashboard to see if any of the proposed changes could be made to align to those and allow us to start building for the future versions of Dashboard now.
Over 30 new features to Dashboard! Some internal and some customer facing. Some of the features some were really small, like helpfully including the Server Name on Excel exports and some were very complex – like completely redoing the Status column to tell you more accurately what the health of a specific Xporter looks like and why. A lot were ones that everybody has been asking for, like grouping installations by update URL to spot your test schools and showing the current heartbeat status for schools in Rollout Manager. We also changed the Fax number.
We also paved the way for some of our longer term ideas for Dashboard, including a recent schools list for when you log in, the ability to ‘follow’ a school so that when you apply a fix you can get an email update and won’t need to check back in on it, and laying the foundations for the Dashboard element of self-healing Xporter.
In the meantime it’s back to our other key development projects, mostly a mixture of Messenger Online, Emerge, and some other exciting things that we can’t tell you about yet!