Space rocket Image credit pixabay/YuriBMission Control has released version 1.62 of its PSA solution, Mission Control. The resource forecasting feature first unveiled in 1.60 is now generally available. Beyond this, there are many other updates, including a new billing type and enhancements to the risk scoring system, retro board and timesheets. Enterprise Times spoke to Colin Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Aprika, about the update.

ET asked Johnson what his favourite component of this release is why?

“The enhancements to the timesheet are definitely a big one because they address some requests that we’ve had from a number of customers. Equally, the new deposit to time and materials billing type, again, because it’s a billing scenario that a number of our customers have a requirement for.”

Resource Forecasting

Colin Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Aprika
Colin Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Aprika

The main feature of this update is Resource Forecasting, which includes role forecasting, role availability management, and hours distributor. More details of the module are available within the 1.60 coverage. Enterprise Times asked Johnson what changes to Resource Forecasting were added with this release.

“There are no real functional changes or visual changes. We released it as a beta, knowing there would probably be some bugs. We had several customers who spent time with us working through that. It was really just stabilising the code that generates all of the data that was changed.”

Why is this important?

“Really giving people that full visibility. Without resource forecasting, all insight into capacity was driven by actual committed work that someone already agreed with their customers. Whereas resource forecasting gives customers the ability now to soft book their resources against potential work that’s coming down the pipeline. So getting deeper insight into their future forecasting demands.”

Support Deposit to T&M

This new billing type enables organisations to invoice customers in advance for time and expenses. Once the new billing type is enabled for each project, the user can raise an invoice that effectively places a sum of money on deposit. Any subsequent timesheet entries and expenses relating to the project will automatically be deducted from the total invoiced and tagged as invoiced.

Where customers accept advanced billing on T&E, this has the advantage of cutting down the administration for both the professional services organisation and the client. Once the total amount is exceeded, the time and expense entries follow the usual invoicing route.

The user can set up periodic invoices weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly. Time and expense values are matched against these invoices. If there is a remainder, they are either automatically added when the next invoice is raised, or users can raise an additional invoice at the end of the period.

The solution also integrates with the approval workflow; those amounts are not matched unless the appropriate authority approves the time or expense.

Creating milestones is easier

Mission Control has a new milestones page. It enables users to create multiple milestones against a single project from a single screen. Users can choose to display existing milestones so that they can view and edit them simultaneously. They can also add fields to the view to see the most relevant information

Users can resort to the milestones if they wish to view them differently. However, they cannot drag and drop them to different positions on this screen, though this can be done on the Gantt chart.

Time Log Decimal Rounding

It is now possible to specify the rounding used when calculating the hours completed for a specific time log. The options include

  • .00 Down
  • .00 Up
  • .25 Rounded up
  • .50 Rounded up

This seems a limited choice. Should Mission Control have enabled users to select rounding to the nearest integer or offered greater flexibility with two fields? One for the value to round to and the second for the type of rounding: up, down, or nearest? Enterprise Times asked Johnson why this particular list.

“We’ve arrived at the figures through consultation with customers that have requested that feature. Ticking off the various use cases that they’ve got.”

Contributor dates

It is now possible to assign a contributor to part of the duration of an action. Each action has a contributor object that now supports a start and end date. If no dates are entered, they are assigned for the full duration of the action. This feature can be turned on and off in the Resource Assignment Wizard. It delivers the granulation for actions without having to break them down further.

Risk scoring

Risk Scoring was previously on a 3×3 matrix; this has now been extended to a 5×5 matrix with probability and impact spread across five values: Very High, High, Medium, Low, and Very Low. If customers do not wish to add the additional 2 values, they can remain using a 3×3 matrix.

Retro(spective) board enhancements

Users can now add additional opinions to the learning object in addition to Worked Well, Needs Improvement, Try Next and Puzzles Us. For example, they may wish to add Discovered. It will appear as an additional column on the Retrospective board.

Customer field filters have been added to the Retrospective Board. Users can add two custom features based on text within Learning, Retrospective and Project. Custom fields are also available on the Kanban Learning Cards.

Timesheet enhancements

Historically each action has an “Exclude from Timesheet Indicator”. When set to True, no contributor could allocate time to the action. If the field is set to false, it is possible to set each contributor “Exclude from Timesheet” option, thus ensuring that only relevant contributors can log time against the action.

Usability enhancements

On the timesheet screen, users can now navigate back and forward a week by clicking on an arrow button rather than having to enter the date. Reducing hours on a time sheet entry will automatically detect if the entry is made up of multiple time logs, and the Modal will appear so the users can reduce the house in the relevant time log(s). This means that users

Looking forward

What are the new big features on the roadmap?

Johnson replied, “One of the major features we’re adding in our next release is a new method of tracking the financials. We’ve already got several different options around how you track those financials. One that’s coming is the ability to specify a rate card per customer. So you’ll have different rates for different functions within the business and, on a per-customer basis, define the rates that will be charged for each of those functions.

“We’ve got several enhancements coming to our meeting manager. Then we’re also adding an optional layer in the project’s hierarchy that will basically put a layer between the project and the milestone, calling it a phase. You will be able to group a set of milestones into a phase.

“Beyond that, one of the things that we’re looking at doing is skills development planning. Doing a review, you might have two or three people conduct a peer review of the resources’ capabilities within certain skill sets. Then work out a plan and factor in how good they are now and where do we want to get to in the future. How are they improving with those capabilities?”

Are you looking to add deeper integrations to the platform with these additional features?

Johnson replied, “Not at the moment. Obviously, built natively on Salesforce, existing connectors will already enable those integrations. The main integration we have on our roadmap for next year is an integration through to Slack.”

Aprika already integrates with QuickBooks Xero, Great Plains, and NetSuite but with the improvement to project financials, will it need to build a better integration with the mature ones?

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

The upgrade is available for a manual upgrade from October 14th 2022. Sandboxes will automatically upgrade on the 22nd of October and the production Orgs on the 29th October. Aprika will also host a webinar about the update, details of which will become available here.

This is a major release in the sense of Resource Forecasting becoming generally available. While there is no new major update, the new enhancements are important and will take time to develop. What does the future hold, though?

While the Mission Control approach is to react and develop new features based on customer feedback, are they too narrow-minded with this approach? Sometimes taking a step back and considering if there is a better and more comprehensive method of developing a solution is worth taking. After all, prospects may have different views. Some professional services firms book time in six-minute blocks; this is not an option. However, the obvious omission, though, is rounding to the nearest integer.

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