Customer ideas: What happens after the lightbulb moment?
We recently made a decision to move all of our customer resources into one place in our customer Community. Within the FinancialForce Community, customers are able to submit product and feature ideas which other customers can then promote by voting on them, enabling customers to influence the evolution of our products. This is just one reason why customers should be active in the FinancialForce Community, as well as being able to draw on all that user experience and great resources to help maximize their use of FinancialForce applications. Here is what it looks like:
June 30th saw our first ‘vote on an idea day’. An ‘idea’ put forward by FinancialForce Community member and key contributor with ninja warrior status, Andrew Morse, which generated 115 new votes from 31 different users. Our customers’ input is crucial to our product development and future success, and we want more of it, which is why the last Friday of each month is now officially ‘Vote on an idea day’.
How do you raise an idea in the community, vote on an idea, and what happens once you have?
Jane Naish, Product Manager for the FinancialForce Accounting product, talks us through the ideas process and some of the customer ideas which have made it into recent releases.
Q. Tell us a little about your role at FinancialForce?
My role is to plan the content of each release for the Accounting and Fixed Assets applications, and ensure customers benefit from the new releases. I work closely with the development teams to plan new features, and also work closely with our customers when we are designing and prioritizing new features.
Q. How does the release planning process work?
Releases are planned every 6 months and I propose new features to address new markets, increase competitiveness and customer satisfaction. Our plans aim to include a balance of investment in enhancements for existing customers, along with features targeting new customers.
Q. How do customer ideas fit into this? How do you go about reviewing them?
Customer ideas are the biggest influence on decisions about new features aimed to improve customer satisfaction.
When a major feature is being designed, we always review related ideas with the aim of incorporating those into the design. For example, Accounting V12 and Accounting V13 incorporated 9 Ideas as part of completely new Intercompany features. See example here:
When we identify an area of product where there are many ideas, reflecting a need to strengthen existing features, we will use ideas to drive a redesign. An example of this is the redesign of Payments, targeted for Pilot release in V17 and general availability in V18.
I also review ideas to identify small enhancements which can be delivered as a small independent project within a release. When we plan a release, we make an allowance for time to be spent on small enhancements, and developers fit in the enhancements around work on larger features.
For example, in Accounting V15 we delivered 4 small project ideas
- Exchange Rates – creation of rates prior to org-wide effective date
- Automatic Intercompany Transfer processing
- Default destination bank account for autoprocessing of inter-company cash entries.
- Improved support for long descriptions on documents lines.
Q. How many votes does an idea need to get for it to be considered?
I don’t impose any threshold on votes. However, I do focus on the ideas with most votes, ordering them by the number of votes in the report when I am identifying small projects we can fit into releases. As I discussed earlier, some ideas which are not in the ‘top 50’ will be implemented as part of a larger project, such as those being delivered as part of intercompany and payments features.
Q. How do you provide feedback to customers on the status of their ideas?
I update the status of ideas that we are working and add comments to ideas where appropriate. Now we have the Ideas in Community, it’s going to be easier to engage in conversations with customers on the ideas they’ve raised.
When we are working on an idea for a release, we contact customers who have raised and voted on ideas, to check our design against their requirements. Customers who want to be consulted during the development process should add a comment to let us know, or contact the product manager to register interest. I am always delighted to involve customers in the design process.
Q. What stages do the ideas go through?
Stage 1 – Initial review complete
Stage 2 – Market Research
Stage 3 – Analysis
Stage 4 – In Development
Stage 5 – Included in release
Closed – solution provided (this is used if the idea is already supported in the product, or if it is unlikely ever to be included in the roadmap)
Closed – merged (this is used if the idea is a duplicate and we have merged it with an existing idea)
Q. How will a customer know if and when an idea makes it into a release?
When an idea is included in a development plan and then released, I change the status to “In development” and then to “Included in release”. When using those statuses, I indicate the release version on the idea record. There is a ‘follow’ feature which allows customers to track activity of a specific idea.
Q. How many customer ideas have made it into recent releases and can you give an example?
These are some ideas we delivered in 2016.
- Create a credit memo from a Vendor Invoice 30 votes
- Payable ‘convert to credit note’ button on payable invoice 437 votes
- Ability to amend 1099 invoices after posting 350 votes
- Support document creation in different companies using Salesforce DML API 140 votes
- Convert to credit note button on Payable Invoice 610 votes
- Increase 80 Line Limit on Journals and other documents 90 votes
- Central Foreign Exchange Rates Table (CFO Roundtable) 10 votes
- Flag paid invoices as 1099 70 votes
- Edit income tax type after purchase invoice and credit memo have been posted (26 votes)
- Currently, the Avalara integration uses the FFA Account to map to the Avalara Account Code. It would be great if we could configure which field on the account should be used to map to the correct record in Avalara. (27 votes)
- VAT reverse charge has 170 votes in Ideas, putting it in top 10 Ideas requests (87 votes)
- Extend intercompany to work on payables/buying on behalf of (38 votes)
- Include Action Views in Reporting so it can be used without Accounting (18 votes)
Visit Community today and either post your own idea or vote up an existing idea! Use the drop down to select a product that is of interest to you and then have a browse to see which Ideas you might think are good ones and deserve your backing. Once you’ve voted, link to the idea in the relevant discussion group using #Ivoted to encourage others to do the same.