Yesterday we finally released Version 5 of time@work (expense@work and forms@work to follow shortly), just three days after we were only two days from completion. As I wrote on Monday, estimating and predicting in the area of software development is immensely difficult (Two Days to Go).
At systems@work we develop specialist software for professional services management, expense management and workflow. Our software is used all over the world.
Version 5 includes many improvements, though, inevitably, not as many as were on my list when we began our development work a year ago, and some improvements weren’t on my list at all. Priorities inevitably change from one month to another in response to the demands of customers and potential customers.
With every new release we must make advances on at least four ‘fronts’:
- The ‘functional’ front. Every new release must be more capable than its predecessor.
We’ve made the calculation algorithm more powerful by enabling parallel sequences of calculations.
We’ve made it possible for invoices to be emailed directly to clients in Word, Excel or PDF format.
We’ve enabled drilldown ‘sub-reports’ from timesheets and forms.
- The ‘technical’ front. Every new release must work with the latest operating systems, browsers, and devices.
We’ve added time capture to the capabilities of our App.
We’re shortly releasing an Android version of the App.
We’ve made some processes faster, such as invoicing and data import.
We’ve provided invoicing and data import capability in the browser. This means that end-users of time@work can now do everything in a browser:
Timesheets – submission and authorisation
Expenses – submission, authorisation and review
Forms – submission, authorisation and review
We’re therefore ever more ‘cloud’ ready.
We’re investing in ‘mobility’ by providing more options through our iPhone and Android Apps.
- The ‘graphical’ front. We have to keep up to date with graphical fashion.
In this respect, we’ve still got some work to do. I have many faults, but one of them is certainly to think that in the end what matters most is what software DOES. I do believe that, and I probably don’t give enough weight to graphical considerations. But over the last months I’ve heard too many comments that our software is looking old fashioned, so over the next two months we’re going to modify the browser interface radically to bring it up to date.
- The ‘usability’ front. We have to make our software ever easier to use.
We’ve made it possible to work with forms in ‘page’ mode as well as in ‘grid’ mode.
We’ve made it possible for end-users to import data into forms from Excel spreadsheets. This means that expenses, for example, can be entered into a spreadsheet offline and then uploaded.
We’ve added search capability and two-column lookups in the App.
But in this area , also, there is more to do. We’ll be looking at improvements in Planning and the provision of responsiveness in search tools so that searches are conducted as characters are typed.
I have a list of hundreds of suggestions from customers and colleagues, and I have lots of ideas of my own. Plenty of work to do!