To Tag or Not To Tag?

Recently Oliver introduced the new “tags” field type in Agilebase to meet a specific client’s need for multiple answers to a single question. (If you want to know more look here) and we got into discussing the pros and cons of tagging in general.

Obviously tags are great where multiple answers are to be expected from a single question

But interestingly I have recently found another way in which they are handy during the post launch phase.

Sometimes it is hard to get people to generate a definitive list of options for the lookup list, Jane normally calls it “HR”, John calls it “Human Resources” but neither of them are that bothered really so both get used!.

By setting up the field as a tag field first you can see actually usage patterns emerge over time. Once a pattern is clear you can then convert the field into a lookup by adopting the most popular usage option (and cleansing out the less popular versions).

It reminded me  of a story from my Uni days.

I went to Warwick Uni just after it was opened. The story doing the rounds was that on the Uni opening day there were no pathways laid out between any of the campus buildings as a decision had been taken to wait until students had worn routes into the grass and then to use these as a guide as to where it was best to create paved walkways.

Agilebase, BYOD, BYOT and CITE

The battle in businesses over BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is pretty much over and IT departments are now having to deal with the impact (largely security related) that this is having on their business.

I think for most of us this was always going to be the outcome, the benefits where so obvious and compelling (fun?).

However some observers have also been describing a far broader trend, CITE (Consumersiation of IT in Enterprises) the outcome of which is less easy to predict. At Agilebase we have a very keen interest in the outcome as you can imagine. So I thought I would try to clarify what my thinking is on this at the mo.

Basically CITE includes what a friend called BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools) which is like an extension of the “Personal Productivity Tools” logic of MS Office etc. People are increasingly choosing from a massive range of cloud based tools (dropbox or google drive) instead of using internal  IT. Generally this is because internal IT is less well funded, often rather clunky but most importantly really slow to change. Staff are building workarounds to deal with the functional deficits in their core system.

Often this approach is fine.

However the downside of this is the loss of the gains that come from a core shared system. Tools can be fine for hard pressed individuals / teams but it is often only systems that can deliver for entire organisations. An alternative approach to pure BYOT can be called “Citizen Development” where staff are also working on the core system not just bypassing it entirely.

This month Freeform Dynamics, published a really interesting research article called “Freedom Without Anarchy”. In it they quantify the challenge most legacy systems face re “Citizen Development”.

Agilebase embraces “Citizen Development” 100%. We believe in making development of core systems really simple and quick to entice staff away from the BYOT path!

Gamification of Learning for Sun’s Sales Team

Over the last five or so years there is one topic, gamification, that has really got people talking. (For the sake of this post gamification is the bringing of game mechanics and dynamics into the development of enterprise software usually to increase the depth and speed of adoption).

Enterprise software can be reallyyyyyy dull. Getting employees to use it fully is becoming increasingly difficult as people become familiar with slick consumer apps at home.

However most discussions of gamification of enterprise applications often comes down to two very basic concerns.

  1. How can we use it without it being annoying?
  2. Where can we use it without destroying one of the key underlying elements, games aren’t mandated they are about the freedom of choice?

Sun use a structured Sales Methodology and this article explains how they successfully used some gamification ideas in the creation of their e-learning environment for their global sales team.

Why “Comment Feeds” is a really popular feature.

In most CRM applications there’s normally some really useful functionality that allows you to record your ongoing interaction with clients. Same goes for many other applications such as Customer Support Systems, and Clinical Records Systems in hospitals that build up data over time.

CRM is already good at doing just this for customer facing “front office functions” such as Sales, Marketing and Support but things get a bit more problematic once you get to “back office” ones such Accounts, Buying or Operations etc.

Unfortunately life doesn’t always neatly fit into neat “front / back office” boxes. Particularly for smaller companies people may be, clients and suppliers, debtors and have really interesting sales opportunties all at once.

You want to record a comment in one place and maybe act upon it somewhere else or share it with someone in a different context.

This is where “comment feeds” come into there own. They pull together comments  from all over the place and make them visible in any chosen report and thus allow you to search them in any way you choose.

So if for example you had a idea / concern in a project the whole conversation can be seen in one place.

The screenshot below shows one example of this in action. By filtering on a client name I can see all the ongoing conversations we are having with them.

comments

To add a comment field to a table, in the admin interface, just select the type ‘comment feed’ when adding a field in the fields tab.

Some people will see Comment Feeds as just another feature, and that is fine. But for me I like to see it as another way in which agileBase can be used to break down silo thinking and help organisations that wish to adopt a more systematic or process orientated view of things.

Oh, and it is quite a fun thing to use!

New “comments” functionality

In many situations (during a sales, credit control, or support call) you may want to jot down a note in the system. agileBase has a new “comments” function, that allows you to do just that.

Every agileBase field now has an icon beside it that links to this comments function. The latest entry in the field will appear on top of all the earlier ones and will automatically have the author and a date and time stamp added to it.

To add a comment, click the speech bubble that fades in when the mouse pointer is over a field.

Really useful but equally simple and quick.

Alerts from agileBase to Mobile or Laptop

Want to keep up to date with current activities, events, opportunities or issues being entered into agileBase by staff ?  This month’s new ‘RSS’ feature means you no longer have to log in to agileBase you can get data sent directly to your mobile.

Want to know what is coming in from other outside sources (forms on your website etc.)? Just use the same function.

RSS pushes data using the method of your choice. Popular ways of reading RSS are,

  • Phone / tablet apps from your mobile app store (search for RSS)
  • Sites such as Google Reader
  • Dedicated applications for PC or Mac
  • Email clients such as Outlook
  • Modern web browsers also let you subscribe to feeds

To access the feed for a particular agileBase report, go to the report’s ‘manage’ tab and click the ‘sync’ button. If you don’t have a manage tab, please ask an administrator.

I hope you enjoy trying out this new feature and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thanks to Think Drinks for suggesting and commissioning this development