Wild Apricot Software: Roadmap Beyond Version 5

Dmitriy Buterin 29 May 2014 4 comments

As you read this post, approximately 8,300 of the 13,500-plus organizations that use Wild Apricot – more than half – have been upgraded to Version 5.

( If your account has not been upgraded yet, remember that you can see the scheduled upgrade date within your account in admin view, and you can also access a preview copy of your account running on Version 5. You can contact our support team to reschedule if necessary. See Software News - April 2014. )

While the gradual upgrade process has been running relatively smoothly, we have encountered a few glitches with Version 5 (I guess nothing is perfect!). Since this upgrade required a virtual re-build of our CMS, the sheer volume of new software code, new technologies, new hardware, and new processes have all contributed to a number of issues that we’ve had to address.

Most importantly, the processes we have developed to monitor, capture, prioritize and correct any issues early on are working really well. In addition, the gradual upgrade process has helped to minimize the number of clients who have been impacted by any of these.

To give you one illustration, we have already released Version 5.0.1, to address over 100 little glitches, with only about 6 of those having even been noticed by our customers. Below is a small peek into one of our dashboards used to monitor and address any issues with version 5:

Development Issue Pipeline

In addition, throughout the transition to Version 5, our Customer Support team has consistently met or exceeded our response time targets for online tickets (how long does it take us to get a first response to a support ticket).

Support Response Time

Version 5 – a silver bullet?

Version 5 was not a silver bullet for everyone. The most frequent question we received in relation to the Version 5 upgrade was “How about ‘such-and-such enhancement’ – is it part of Version 5?”

Unfortunately, only a small number of features not related to the redesign of our website builder – our CMS – were included in the release.

Beyond Version 5

The good news is that reaching this major milestone – releasing Version 5 - has:

  1. Provided a foundation to release additional new design themes (aka site templates) much more rapidly – we plan to release about 7 more sets by end of 2014.

  2. Broken the logjam of accumulated requests about other enhancements and we can finally go back to releasing more frequent updates, as we used to do. For example, we plan three more releases (5.1-5.3) before the end of 2014, representing about 50 enhancements in total. The next one (5.1) is planned for July. 

Developing our Product Roadmap

So, in the last few months, while our development, QA and system operations teams have worked tirelessly to test, finalize and roll out Version 5, our product design team has been working on our Roadmap of what comes after Version 5.

Now going forward, our key strategy for the next ~18 months , will be to address as many of the outstanding customer requests as possible. Our starting point for this is our Wishlist discussion forum – our main tool for collecting ideas from our clients and discussing possible solution details.

As we are currently tracking more than 750 requests on our Wishlist forum,  we needed to narrow these down. The approach we took was to identify ‘top requests’: those that have been requested by at least 10 people. Research suggests that for each person contributing and voicing their opinion online, there are likely 100 more that have similar opinions but have not bothered to offer them. So in addressing each of these top requests, we are focusing on the needs of about 1000 users!

We also conducted a review and had discussions regarding feedback received through our support team as well as what the product team receives via client surveys (they read and reply to a few hundreds of those every month). We then conducted an internal strategic review to make sure we are also paying attention to such key areas as building out our API and our mobile Roadmap.

Live Roadmap

After all of that behind the scenes research, we are now unveiling our Roadmap of the items we will be focusing on.

As you can see, the first seven lines are all green - these are the 7 top requests from our Wishlist forum we have released in Version 5.

And here’s a link to the ‘live’ version of our Roadmap

We will update this at least monthly as we progress through the stages of designing, developing, testing and releasing the enhancements in response to the Wishlist requests.

An important caveat: each Wishlist thread contains many varied comments from different people posted at different times. When we address a particular thread, it does not necessarily mean that we will address each and every detail of every comment – in fact many comments are in conflict with each other. Instead, we will analyze and deduce the key need behind each thread, and then design and build a solution to meet that need.

Mapping Roadmap Progress

The columns to the right of the request descriptions indicate the stage of the request.

These stages correspond to the steps we take behind the scenes to deliver the enhancements:

Analysis and design

  • We carefully review all comments and identify most common scenarios. Here we also figure out what can be excluded for now (a very important part of analysis!).

  • Then we draft several screen mockups to visualize it.

  • We review the options with the Product team as well as with developers to choose the best one from all angles (development time, product evolution strategy, etc.).

  • This stage results in a document with all of the details required for developers to start the actual coding.   

Development

  • This is the stage at which the development team does the actual coding. They divide the story into a multitude of small development tasks, estimate them and then work on them one by one.

  • The product team collaborates with developers, reviewing preliminary results and suggesting adjustments (always happens!).

Testing and acceptance

  • With the main development done, our Quality Assurance team tests the feature.

  • When the feature is considered stable and tested, the Product team performs the final acceptance for the feature. They look back into key scenarios we planned to address and make sure that the final result is actually solving the problem.

  • After this stage, the feature is waiting for the release publication.  

Publication (releasing it)

  • We publish several features together – this is called a release. Before we publish the features, we perform “regression testing”. This is when the Quality Assurance team tests the whole system – all the new features AND the rest of Wild Apricot to make sure we did not break any other parts of the system during development.

  • Then the System Operations team runs the actual publication. Several days before that they publish a message on our maintenance forum about upcoming downtime.

Each cell in the Roadmap can be white (work has not started), orange (work in progress) or green (completed).

The last column (release) is our current rough mapping of these into specific planned releases.

This Roadmap will keep evolving. As other requests on our forum gather the support of at least 10 or more people behind them, we will add new candidates to the Roadmap. So please keep your feedback coming through our forums!

I am very excited to have this Roadmap available to you – this gives you a much better picture of where we are with various specific enhancements and also gives you a much better accountability tool for us!

We hope those of you that have already been upgraded to Version 5 are enjoying the experience. And for those users who have yet to make the move to Version 5 – it won’t be long now!

As always, we want to hear what you think of Version 5. Keep the lines of communication open (e.g., through our Support Team) and we’ll keep you up-to-date about our Roadmap progress as well.

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Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 9:42 AM

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Comments

  • JJ Cinecoe said:

    Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 7:07 PM
    Great work Dimitriy, thanks

    Would love to see Events List extract to XML (so I can sort them & get registration stats for reports).
    Very important to Pillar Institute and others who operate on Events based on memberships & guests.

    Regards, JJ Cinecoe, Pillar IT Volunteer
  • Evgeny said:

    Friday, 30 May 2014 at 8:42 AM
    I would recommend you to post this into our Wishlist forum. As Dmitri mentioned, this is the source of our planning process. If we get enough comments there, we will add this into our roadmap.
  • Jen Severn said:

    Friday, 27 June 2014 at 3:31 AM
    For us, being able to direct branch event fees into different bank accounts is a priority. I got the idea from the Wishlist that it would be on this list, even if it the white section.
    Also, being able to search member groups for event email notifications, as only branch members are invited to branch events. You even said this was pencilled in for soon after v5 release, but I don't think it's here (could be wrong).
    I imagine that many of your US organisations have state branches and would appreciate features like these.
    But thanks for this roadmap, I appreciate the transparency. Actually, there's *a lot* I appreciate, we're new here but very happy.
  • Chief Apricot said:

    Friday, 27 June 2014 at 9:09 AM
    Thank you so much Jen!
    About directing branch fees - please do post on our wishlist forum. However I suspect this is pretty hard - as far as I know, payment systems are always linked to one particular bank account so we could only direct them if each brank has their own merchant account/payment setup. And even then its quite a bit of work.
    On the other thing I will ask my colleague to take a look.
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