Mission Control launches onto the AppExchange
We have launched our latest product, Mission Control onto the AppExchange today. Mission Control is a project management application that integrates with the following Salesforce.com editions:
• Professional Edition
• Enterprise Edition
• Unlimited Edition
• Developer Edition
It’s been an exciting development to work on and was, in actual fact, originally developed to meet an internal business need.
In addition to being a salesforce.com ISVForce partner, Aprika also provides consultancy services assisting clients in their Salesforce.com CRM implementations. We decided the best way to do this was to develop an application within our own Salesforce CRM system.
It started off as a few simple objects that allowed us to create a record for each client project we were working on, along with milestone and action records. We used this internally for some time and continued to enhance the core objects, adding additional fields to further improve performance tracking as well as introducing the ability to log both time & expenses against a project.
At this stage, we were using standard SFDC views to access the data which was not giving us that ‘holistic’ view of where we were at with the project. So, we decided to develop a ‘project overview’ page that brought all of the information into one visualforce page.
This really brought the project to life, being able to see the project, related milestones and the progress and current status of each action on one page really helped to give us a clear picture of how the project was tracking.
It was after creating this page that we really began to realise the product had potential for commercialisation. We decided at this stage we would aim to develop it into an application that could be made available to others.
It was an amazing process to be able to discover the roadmap unfolding before us as we were able to identify new features that would improve the operation of the system by using it within our own business on a day to day basis.
We’ve continuously evolved the system to where it now has a host of additional features including a centralised console that provides quick access to all the key areas of the system. It also includes the ability to:
• log time & expenses across multiple projects
• quickly create multiple actions for a project
• view a gantt chart within the project overview page
• view a virtual whiteboard containing Action ‘sticky notes’
• reschedule projects moving start/end dates forward or back as required
• receive daily digest emails providing an overview of any new / pending / overdue actions you own
There have been a few real ‘breakthrough’ moments during the project which have really taken the overall product to another level. I’d say the main one was the development of the Virtual Whiteboard.
Internally, we use a version of the agile / scrum methodology to manage our implementation projects. There are many ways to manage an agile project, but what we find works best is to have all of the actions written up on their own card or ‘sticky note’ and visible to the team on the whiteboard. We were discussing how important this was to the way we operate and wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could somehow transfer that to Mission Control. Well, we managed it!! We now have a Virtual Whiteboard that lets us drag and drop an Action as it progresses. Our poor office whiteboard is now sitting in the corner of the room and is generally used for drawing smiley faces and silly messages to each other.
Another breakthrough was the evolution of the individual notification emails to the daily digest. Initially, we were sending a notification email to an Action Owner when a new Action was assigned to them and a follow up reminder the day before it was due for completion. Through using the system internally, we found this was proving not sufficient. For example, I would receive a reminder the day before an Action was due to be completed, but if I didn’t manage to complete it, I would not get any further reminders. So, we decided to change these individual notifications to the daily digest which now provides a summary of:
• New Actions assigned to you
• Actions that are due for completion tomorrow
• Actions that are now overdue
We then ran a beta trial with a few clients so we could see how other businesses put the application to use. This was interesting as they were all from different industries so they all approached it differently. It was a very useful exercise where we were able to get feedback that helped improve the product even further. In particular, we were able to add the option to assign hourly rates to individual team members rather than one standard day rate for a project. We also introduced the ability to include material costs as well as man-hours which helped provide a more accurate reflection of project costs.
All in all, it was a great experience getting the application from an initial concept in my mind to a working product. As of today, Mission Control is available on the AppExchange and you can sign up to a 14 day free trial to see it in action for yourself.
As for us, we’ve already got a very exciting roadmap laid out for future enhancements!!