BLOG. SMART PRACTICAL BUSINESS ADVICE

Stronger Security, Faster Performance, and an Exclusive Peek at the Future of WORK[etc]

Here is what we've done so far this year to make running your business on WORK[etc] better. Oh, and here is what we'll be doing next to make it even better.

WORKetc's Next Major Release

This CRM update has been too long coming. I’ve been trying to write this since March, which quickly turned into April, May, and then here we are now in June. Going forwards we’ll be committing to an update every month, even if it is brief and has no pretty pictures (this article includes pretty pictures!)

One of the most important things we could be doing is keeping everyone up to date on what we’ve been working on in the background — except we are exceptionally bad at doing this. Sure, we do release notes every time we push out an incremental release, but we don’t put the effort into communicating and promoting what we have been doing.

Which is just so stupid in hindsight. Why do all this amazing work and then not tell anyone about it? Crazy right?

So, although we haven’t been putting out regular announcements, we have still pushed out a lot of work this year, so far…

Newer, Better Server Infrastructure

We’ve migrated across to a newer, redundant infrastructure split between Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta in response to a disastrous experience running across IBM-Softlayer in 2014. Whoever coined the phrase “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” needs to get fired.

On a more positive note, this newer, 2015 architecture allows us to switch on Europe and Australia hubs later this year and eventually auto-shuffle accounts across geographic regions.

As a comparison, our uptime for 2015 has been 99.999% plus, versus a few months late last year which was basically a nightmare for everyone involved and affected.

Brand New Mobile Apps

The new WORKetc mobile apps for iOS and Android

Both our Android and iPhone apps have been completely redesigned and re-coded from the ground up. These are now 100 times more functional, faster, and basically just a pleasure to use. Also added to these new builds were additional features including team discussions, expense management and knowledge base.

We also now have full time teams for both Android and iOS and are quickly getting back to that place where we can be super-responsive to any issues and continuously be improving both apps. We’re also now collecting ideas for future releases from our WORK[etc] Insiders.

Updates, Fixes, and User Experience Improvements

A whole heap of minor updates, issue fixes, and user experience improvements have been rolled out across all areas of the platform, including:

New and Improved Outlook Plugin

We’ve also completely rebuilt our Outlook Plugin module and included automatic contact sync between Outlook and WORK[etc]. This is currently right at the very end of public beta testing. Once the new plugin is released for desktop we’ll be moving right onto the Outlook365 version.

Performance Improvements

Performance optimization is where we have put a whole lot of effort and made huge progress. But here is the catch: you’ll likely only *really* notice the improvements if your account is one of the top ~5% of accounts in terms of size.

The more data an account stores over time, the larger that store becomes. Unfortunately, late last year we started to hit performance ceilings on a few of the very large accounts. And actually, the WORK[etc] account we use to manage WORK[etc] the business was one of these affected and so obviously we had to fix this issue otherwise we’d be struggling to manage WORK[etc] the business(!).

As you can see from the table below some improvements have been remarkable — any user will quickly notice a change from 4s down to 1s. The majority of accounts (that is, 95% of all accounts) won’t notice the improvement from 750ms to 500ms — unless you have superhuman perception!

But of course as your business grows — and with it the size of your WORK[etc] database — you can relax knowing that we’ve already solved the kinks to make sure everything will keep working almost as quick as it always has.

ACTIVITY ORIGINAL OPTIMIZED IMPROVEMENT
Show all 278 projects a person has worked on. 1.48s 0.94s 157%
View a company and show all 8,476 support emails they’ve sent and received since the beginning of time. 4.22s 1.32s 320%
Show all of the 2,219 discussion posts that a contact has made. 3.07s 1.24s 248%
Show all 10,367 tasks a whole team has worked on in the Progress tab’s task list page. 1.69s 0.73s 232%
Show all of the 1,046 projects the whole company has ever worked on. 1.25s 0.63s 198%
Show all 170 activities the whole company has done for a single sales lead. 5.26s 1.50s 351%

These performance releases went live to 50% of accounts last week and will be turned on for our other data center during this coming weekend. Plus we’re working on even more performance improvements with this next major release.

Security Updates

WORK[etc] has had a long partnership with QuickBooks Online maker Intuit. Being in the financial services industry, online security is a huge part of every Intuit product. So as a requirement of being a QuickBooks Online partner, every year we are subject to a torturous, but very valuable, third-party security audit to ensure we meet Intuit’s high security standards.

As a result of this most recent audit, we’ve worked hard to close a number of newly-identified vulnerabilities. Our latest security update includes new anti-automation techniques, a password re-authentication system, and much stronger password setting policies.

These multiple security upgrades will add another level of security not just for users of our QuickBooks Online integration but for all of our customers across the board.

Next Major Release

Straight up, this has taken significantly longer to deliver on than I had originally planned.

When we did the update project for the current user interface (UI) in late 2012, it was completed inside of three months. That was a simple refresh of the graphics and layout; think of it like simply repainting your home.

What we’re doing with the 2015 UI release is so much more complex. We’re stripping back all of the old paint, tearing down some walls, and pouring new foundations so that we’re ready to start building even floors in the future.

In terms of progress, we have completely finished the Contacts module of WORK[etc], probably the most important module as it underpins every single other action required to operate a business.

We’re also at 99% completion on all 46 of the repeated user interface objects such as the data table, selection menus, and object pickers. The new Gantt visualization tool is also 99% complete.

The job now is to take all the user interface objects and start assembling each of the modules. We’ve broken the back of this project, and now it’s a race to the finish line.

To take a look at progress, grab the slider in the image below to compare before and after sections.

CONTACTS GRID

GANTT CHART

DISCUSSIONS

TIMELINE

As you can see, the functionality and layout is very similar still, but everything feels more modern and clean. This update will also be followed by a price change, and if so every existing customer will be guaranteed the chance to be grandfathered in on their current plan.

The screenshots above are just tiny sneak peeks at the massive remodeling job we’re giving WORK[etc]. You can view the full versions of the images, plus some additional pictures, exclusively on WORK[etc] Insiders. Sign up is free for WORK[etc] customers only and even comes with some bonus WORK[etc] swag shipped to your front door.

  • “One of the most important things we could be doing is keeping everyone up to date on what we’ve been working on in the background — except we are exceptionally bad at doing this.”

    Thanks for the reminder, it is always good to keep clients informed. Definitely an area we can always improve on.

  • Thanks for the refreshing level of honesty in your update. We don’t see much of that in today’s world. I will share this with our team.

    We appreciate all the work you have done and the monstrous task you have taken on of revamping the entire platform. Thanks for a peek at where we’re going.

    • “We don’t see much of that in today’s world.”

      Thanks William – its always a bit of a risk. Marketing/PR/Sales mindset always pushes back by saying we should make everything awesome and shiny. And I’m sure we lose some potential customers by not playing the line here, but hopefully at the same time we are building stronger, more trusting relationships with the customers that matter!

  • The more regionalized hubs sounds like a fantastic idea (as I assume that means users in those areas will see faster speeds). I think the contact list (and the other changes) look great; keep up the good work. I know it’s hard to say “things will be released at X date” but is there a range in mind? Like a best-case scenario?

  • Allen Bayless

    Great to hear an update! One of the things I have always seen is the great communication with your customers and the constant push of making your product excel. It’s great to see that on the roadmap is the revamp of the UI. Especially with the gantt chart!

  • Ross Hendy

    Hey Daniel, thanks for the update. It is good to know that things are happening in the background, although we are all looking forward to the next release of the UI. The new UI looks very appealing, however I would prefer in the case of the Contacts image that there was less vertical space for each contact line. You have to image that some of us use laptops and a tighter arrangement more like the old UI would be preferable. Keep up the good work.

    • “I would prefer in the case of the Contacts image that there was less vertical space for each contact line.”

      Hi Ross – thank you for this insight. We’ve been discussing an option similar to Gmail’s “display density” setting where you can specify the cell padding to be “comfortable, cosy or company”. This might not make it into the beta release, but will aim for main release – its actually a bit more work than appears on the surface because we’re including “in-line” editing within the table grid as well as all the different data types we need to account for.

      • Ross Hendy

        Brilliant, thanks for that.

  • David McGarry

    It’s pretty obvious that you aren’t resting on your laurels and a lot of work has been done this year and with a lot more updates to come!

    The before and after slides illustrate how mature the product is now looking.

    I wonder if we might see a performance improvement now that you will have an Australian presence – not that performance is bad and we haven’t had hardly any downtime .. but occasionally W[e] can be a little slow for us down-under 🙂

    • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

      Prunes are meant to help if you find things slow down-under, but you’re on your own there! There are several performance-enhancements built into the update, but we’ve pushed some of those into the current code as well. If there are particular areas that you feel could be improved please drop me an email and I’ll make sure we get it looked at.

      • David McGarry

        Thanks Steve, it just intermittent problems with speed. To be honest we need to look into our office Internet provider as it could be a DNS issue and nothing to do with W[e]

    • “but occasionally W[e] can be a little slow for us down-under :)”

      Hi David – this is the goal. I definitely notice a millisecond slow down when I’m in Sydney vs San Fran. It’s still only milliseconds, but shows that we can definitely improve upon by rolling out infrastructure in more geographies.

      And as you’ve identified, anything more apparent is more likely related to DNS issues, other network issues unrelated (which still can be resolved with some investigation).

      • David McGarry

        Thanks Daniel, we’ve moved the office to a satellite ISP recently so will keep an eye on performance..

  • Great Job! I cannot wait for the roll out and play with all of the new features and improvements. Since moving to WorkETC a little over a year ago, it has continued to be one of the best investments for our company.

    Working for a small company I know how hard it is to update your customers on what is going on and when something new is coming or available. Communication is key to growing a business and you can never do enough of it. (I know we don’t do as much as we should either). It is something that small businesses have to work at each day but is the last thing on our mind. Everyone at WorkETC continues to amaze and earn our trust, friendship and business. Thank you for everything you and your employee’s do.

    • “Everyone at WorkETC continues to amaze and earn our trust, friendship and business”

      Thanks Matthew – just so great to hear, this has always been my goal behind building WORKetc. I’ve shared your comments internally with the team.

  • Thanks for keeping us up to date. We are looking forward to working with the new version of the Gantt Chart especially. I love the sliders that show the old and new, great job keeping us informed.

    • “looking forward to working with the new version of the Gantt Chart especially.”

      Same here – we’re also working toward making it printable or at least “shareable” with limited permissions to the outside world also.

  • Donna Grindle

    Can’t decide which one of those UI changes I am more excited about seeing live. They seem to make things so much easier to read and find what you need quickly that I am excited about all of them.

    I really appreciate the honest details in your update. We can’t know all the behind the scenes issues you must address. I am sure it has been frustrating to get through all of those time sucking issues and sharing it with us makes us appreciate you even more.

    Looking forward to the next release!

    • “We can’t know all the behind the scenes issues you must address.”

      Hey Donna – thanks for acknowledging this. I’ll admit I’m guilty at looking at something and thinking how simple it must be, without fully appreciating all the complexity that went into that product to make it appear that simple to begin with!

  • Robert W. Bowles

    The security updates are very timely for us as our customers are pushing us to provide them for verification of security protocols. We will also benefit from the improvements on the Gantt Chart which is something that help improve efficiencies and visibility for management. As has been the case with all WE improvements, these are timely and well thought out….well done.

    • “customers are pushing us to provide them for verification of security protocols.”

      Hi Robert – please feel free to email myself directly if we can provide any documentation or additional help we might be able to offer. We didn’t announce all the security improvements and privacy changes in this blog post (as obviously to public announce our security protocols weakens them!)

  • Thank you for the update! We are all excited for the new UI!!

  • David Jones

    This is great and I love the fact that you posted actual time stats. The Gant chart is huge for us and it cant come fast enough. It was really the only complaint from the project mangers so I cant wait to be able to show this to them.

    • Thanks David – definitely picking up that the new Gantt chart is a huge theme here. We’re fairly close to making a “live” version available in Insiders for people to test and experiment with.

  • Awesome work Daniel and the team @WorkEtc – although I got my hopes up to see the new UI earlier in the year – we’ve managed just fine with the existing one, but its great to read about the progress behind the scenes.

    There’s an old saying – 4:2 … takes 4 times longer and costs 2 times as much … or in reverse 🙂

    Good luck with the sprint to the finish line.

    • “There’s an old saying – 4:2 … takes 4 times longer and costs 2 times as much”

      Hey Stan – sooooo true and you’d think I would have learnt this by now. And it seems this doesn’t just apply to technology, but almost everything in business and project management.

  • tekrescue

    keep up the good work:) The UI changes and responsiveness changes were really needed. I am looking forward to even more mobile improvements, since we are a mobile first company.

    • “since we are a mobile first company.”

      Interesting to hear, you must be one of the real early adopters in your industry, I can see that this is the direction most businesses will eventually head. Or rather a total “blurring” of experience between every device be it desktop, mobile, tablet, wearable etc etc!

  • Gabe Rood

    I’m really impressed with the new updates that are coming down the line! It looks like a great facelift for many of the screens will soon be here. In addition, the improvement on speed/response with the screens is much appreciated. I use the Support, Projects, Knowledgebase, and Timesheet views every day and pretty much live in Worketc from 8 to 5!

    • “…pretty much live in Worketc from 8 to 5!”

      heh – this is great to hear. One of our key indicators of success is if customers “live” in WORKetc for their entire work day – ie if WORKetc is living up to its promise of being an all-in-one CRM or business management solution, then we need to be seeing that users are inside the app all the time.

  • Thomas Lawler

    The updates look great! I can’t wait for the new UI release, as it seems like it will make everyones life a little easier. I know I am personally looking forward to the GANTT chart updates, & Contact Grid updates. (Most of my employee confusion / questions revolve around the two.) Thanks!

    I was legitimately unaware of the release notes section, and I really appreciate your reference in the blog post. I wonder if it would be possible to send out email updates to admins of accounts when releases happen. If this is already happening and my email is filtering these messages apologies in advanced!

    • “I wonder if it would be possible to send out email updates to admins of accounts when releases happen.”

      Great idea Thomas. We’ll be actioning this, along with some other changes to how we manage feature requests (more transparency, traffic-light approach).

  • @Mr_C_Wadd

    Finally a user-friendly timeline – Daniel, I must say I look forward to seeing the new changes. The Gantt Chart has always been my petty hate element in Worketc but the updated version may change my view. What I’m actually most interested in is the Activity improvement time, if that will indeed work so much faster – well that’s worth seeing.

    Thanks for the updates in this article, I’d be curious to know more about the price changes.

    • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

      Wouldn’t worry about that part too much for now. So long as you keep paying your bill each month we’ll keep you on the cheaper option between what you signed up to and what we have at the time 🙂

  • Steve Westrop | WORK[etc]

    Great to read all the positive comments here – thanks all! I kinda cringe and want to change the subject some days when people ask about v5, but I’ve had the privilege of working with the Dev Team who are making this happen (and for most of them this is ALL they are doing right now – that’s how important this is) and I’ve been known to get a little emotional some days when reviewing progress with them. Yes it looks better, but it’s not about eye-candy (of course that helps) – there are some amazing little things added into this new release that will completely change the way I (and maybe you) work.

  • Maxime Soucy

    I can’t wait to try all of those. More specifically the performance improvement, iPhone app and outlook integration… I’m curious to see if there was any modification to the API. I will read the release notes to find out. Thanks for all the hard work!

  • Mandy Morris

    Love love love the UI changes. I am glad there will be an updated to the Gnatt charts and the Contacts Grid. The load times have been a big issue for us so I am happy to see that has been addressed as well as other fixes. I would like to see more reporting features, not sure if that is in the works or not.

  • H Close

    I love the new UI changes that are coming. I appreciate the updates about new features even if they are small. I would love better Outlook integration, especially with the calendar. It would be great if the included calendar could get a UI overhaul as well as it is difficult to tell what is going on sometimes with the current set up. Keep up with the good work and I am excited about what is coming in the future!

  • Christina Fowinkle

    It’s really great to see there was focus on improving the performance of the Activity Stream. This is where I would constantly notice the slow down in WorkETC – but I have noticed it’s much faster now.

    Looks like things are wrapping up with the new UI changes and I can’t wait to see it in action. Keep up the great work @ WorkETC!

  • Arturo Garcia Cifre

    Ensuring that nothing gets lost on the path when managing an small team of 5 people, working on 10 to 15 projects simultaneously is quite difficult. If we would’t have a full business management tool like Work off we would be lost. We are not even using probably more that 25% of Work Etc potential, so all this improvements really look well and i can’t wait to try them on our everyday work.

  • The UX changes look very interesting….but it pale in comparison to the transparency about that process….that is amazing willingness to play “open kimono” and share both the excitement about what is coming and commit to delivery in way aht everyone understands the process.

  • Karen S

    I am looking forward to the roll out. my team finds worketc very valuable and always welcome new and fresh ideas

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