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Updated: 4 hours 15 min ago

Private and pinned comments for Requests

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 22:55

In the upcoming version of Targetprocess (v.3.11.4), there will be two changes related to comments: the long awaited “private” comments, and the ability to pin comments. These will only be available for Requests, and are mostly designed to improve the Service Desk experience.

Private comments

We fully support openness, transparency and all that, but when dealing with requests from external users, you often have to exchange some internal comments with developers or fellow support folks. Previously, this was tricky because all comments were available to customers in Service Desk. Now you can mark the comment as private so that it stays hidden for requesters.

Don’t go too far though; other people with a Targetprocess license will still be able to see the comment in both Targetprocess and Service Desk, so please don’t upload photos from your last party, or something like that.

private-comment

Pinned comments

If you're doing Idea Management and have some popular ideas, you might get dozens of comments from both customers and your own team. No one likes scrolling through through text to see whether or when an idea is going to be implemented, so what will people often do? That's right, post another question. Now you can “pin” a comment to a Request to give it its own "Last Official Comment" section in Service Desk. This way, customers will see current status at a glance.

last_official_comment

Categories: Companies

Targetprocess v.3.11.3: User Stories will now follow their parent Feature

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 08:01
User stories will now follow their parent Feature

Previously, if you moved a Feature to another Project, its User Stories did not follow the Feature to the new Project. This was fairly counter-intuitive. Starting with this release, if you move a Feature to a different Project, all of its User Stories will follow (as long as they were originally in the same Project as their parent Feature).

If you move a Feature to a Project with a different process, you will get a warning that this change might cause you to lose some custom fields.

screen-shot-2017-05-17-at-5-48-21-pm

Private Impediments have been removed

As described in this blogpost, we're removing this barely-used feature to improve performance and reduce complexity. Feel free to message our support team if you have any questions.

Fixed Bugs
  • Corrected the @user mention format for email notifications
  • Fixed the creation of a Test Plan with multiple Test Cases via REST API POST
  • The order of mandatory custom fields in Quick Add forms will now correspond to their order in entity views
  • Fixed a case where it was not possible unlink a Bug from a Test Case Run if its Test Plan Run is the child of another Test Plan Run
  • Improved the performance of Relations lookup
  • Fixed an incorrect term: When completing Team Iterations, the system would incorrectly describe them as Iterations.
Categories: Companies

Deprecating TestTrack integration

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 15:37

Did you know we have an integration with TestTrack? Probably not. It's a legacy plugin – a really old one – from Targetprocess 2 that connects to the TestTrack bug tracking tool and periodically synchronizes defects from TestTrack with bugs in Targetprocess. Even the research we did in 2008 indicated that it was the least used plugin of all, but now its usage is even lower since it's only available for On-Premises installations (we removed it from On-Demand accounts about 6 years ago).

We haven't added much functionality to the plugin over the last decade, but we still had to keep it as part of the code base (which we're working on reducing), maintain automatic tests, and so on.

It's very possible that this will not affect anyone reading this post, but it's still a formal part of the software and needs a special announcement. So yes, starting with Targetprocess v.3.11.4, integration with TestTrack will no longer exist. 

This the part where I'm supposed to say something nice, maybe even dramatic about this feature... but I can't really think of anything. Sorry. Anyway, our code will be a little bit lighter and developers will be a little bit happier, so that's good news, even if it's minor.

Categories: Companies

Visual Reports: Formulas Editor Change

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:20
Invalid formulas and old-style report formulas will not be saved

We have disabled the ability to save invalid and previous version graphical report formulas .

formula

You can use special functions if you need to create reports using the formulas from previous version of graphical reports.

  1. RAW_TEXT(<Targetprocess DSL text expression>) for text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_TEXT("Test")
  2. RAW_NUMBER(<Targetprocess numeric expression>) for numeric formulas. For example:
    RAW_NUMBER(Int32.Parse("45"))
  3. RAW_DATE(<Targetprocess date expression>) for using text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_DATE(DateTime.Parse("3 September"))
  4. RAW_ARRAY_TEXT(<Targetprocess text array expression>) for using text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_ARRAY_TEXT(AssignedEfforts.Select(Assignable.Name))

     

We will really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

Categories: Companies

Service Desk updates: Color Themes and Request Type improvements

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 09:39

It's been awhile since we posted about our progress on Service Desk. We have just released several nice features that we'd like to share with you.

Color themes

You can now change the look of your Service Desk by picking from one of the predefined color options. This is the first step to making the colors fully customizable and allowing you to use your company colors in addition to your logo.

sd_color_schema

If you'd like to customize something other than color, please share the details with us. This will help us make sure we don't miss anything important, while hopefully not over-complicating everything under the hood.

Disabling votes

Previously, the "Vote" button was available for any request type, which did not always make sense. You don't typically need someone to upvote your browser crashing issue or something like that, right? So you can now define which request types will have the Vote button, and which will have it removed.

You can configure voting at Targetprocess Settings -> Request Types.

request_type_options

Default visibility

We've received a fair amount of feedback along the lines of "why can't I make all requests public" or "the new request type is always private". Since you can already create your own request types, we decided to make it more flexible. When submitting a new request, the "Private" check-box will either be checked or not, depending on what you select at Settings. Users, however, will still be able to change the visibility (depending on the particular request).

You can configure default visibility at Targetprocess Settings -> Request Types.

default-visibiliy

Fixed bugs

We also fixed a number of bugs and made some internal changes. Among the most noticeable are:

  • State grouping: states before the 'Planned' state are no longer added to the 'In Progress' group.
  • Fixed half a dozen IE-specific bugs (or should we say, we made Service Desk more compliant with the bugs of Internet Explorer?).
  • Fixed the order of custom fields at the Add Request page. It is now updated automatically when you reorder them in Targetprocess.
Please note that the changes above require Targetprocess version 3.11.2. If you are hosting Service Desk locally using IIS, you will also need to update .Net Core to 1.1. See our guide for more info.
Categories: Companies

Visual Project Management: Past and Future

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 17:33

No matter what kind of project you’re managing, there’s a direct, causal relationship between process and outcome. In other words, it’s not just what you’re working on that matters but how you work on it.

Traditionally, the project management discipline has prized control and long-term forecasting over the particulars of work in progress. But considering 46 percent of all projects still fail to meet their original goals and intent, there’s a growing demand for real-time visibility into the movement of tasks and resources.

Visual project management is a new approach (and new technology) designed to address some of these challenges. By embracing it, teams and organizations can complete projects of any type with greater speed and efficiency.  

What is Visual Project Management?

For the most part, visual PM is exactly what it sounds like: a project management strategy designed to increase success through visualization of project components, such as data and tasks.  Mark Woeppel, the author of Visual Project Management, describes it like this:

“Visual Project Management is a process that uses visualization of the delivery process to drive team behaviors.”

Visual features can be a valuable asset for any project style, but they’re most commonly associated with agile methods such as Scrum and Kanban. In some ways, visual PM takes its cue from the good old-fashioned whiteboard. The whiteboard has served as a roadmap, progress tracker, and collaboration tool for all kinds of development teams.

But the history of visual PM is much older than the whiteboard.

The oldest roots date back to 1896, when Polish economist Karol Adamiecki created the “harmonogram” — a floating bar chart used to show tasks or resources changing across time. Not long after, in 1912, the famous Gantt Chart was born — used first to build ships during WWI and later to construct the Hoover Dam.

Adamiecki’s “harmonogram.” aom.org

Adamiecki’s “harmonogram.” aom.org

Michael Dubakov, Founder and CEO of Targetprocess, says that visual PM started to crystalize around 2010 with the popularity of the Kanban approach. “One of the Kanban principles is to visualize workflow in order to better understand what is going on and what can be improved.”

Modern visual project management software is much more advanced, but its purpose is the same: to provide greater flexibility and improved outcomes through visibility into bottlenecks, tasks interdependencies, progress, and priorities. “In the recent 5 years we have seen a spread of visual tools like Kanban boards, timelines, and integrated BI systems with powerful reporting,” says Dubakov. In all kinds of industries (especially the IT world)  visual project management is now helping teams stay in sync and respond to changing requirements.

In terms of actual methodology, many of the visual tools that have proven useful combine the best aspects of Kanban and lean production with the Scrum foundation that dev teams are used to. Some users have taken to calling this style “Scrum-ban.”

Common visual features include:

  • Real-time dashboards
  • Timelines
  • Graphic reports (Gantt, burndown, etc.)
  • Boards (Kanban)
  • Product Roadmaps
The Changing Landscape

When fully embraced, visual project management can bring some dramatic improvements to the way teams collaborate and work. As modern software continues to evolve, more teams will adopt visual tools to improve their development lifecycles, over time raising the benchmark for an efficient project delivery process.  

Let’s take a look at some of the specific ways visual tools can impact the future of project management. As your organization plans products and strategies for this  year, try to pull some of these ideas into the conversation.

The Ability to Isolate Problem Areas Faster

As your teams work through various projects, there will inevitably be obstacles — things that slow the movement of tasks, stories, or feature requests during a sprint. Without the necessary visibility, it’s difficult for a project manager to troubleshoot delays or recurring problems.

A visual project management solution can make spotting and solving these “blockers” much easier.  You get a real-time picture of where each component of a project rests, so you can quickly identify bottlenecks and trace issues to their source. For example, let’s say you notice that user stories are repeatedly getting “stuck” in the testing phase or re-entering a later sprint due to unsatisfactory completion. By visualizing the workflow, you can isolate the root cause and then communicate with the relevant team members to initiate change.

Better Resource Planning and Allocation

Resource and requirements planning is one of the most crucial components of any project: get it wrong, and you’ll have a project that gets delivered both late and over budget. There’s a little more leeway with agile projects (since work is done in short iterations), but decision-makers still need to stay responsive to changing requirements and be able to shift priorities or reassign team members when necessary.

Feature Planning By Teams

The speed of change  demands fast resource management. The right visual tools can help you tighten your development lifecycle by maximizing your use of resources—both in the planning phase and in continued optimization during the project. A visual resource planning feature, for example, shows where your team members are assigned and what tasks they’re working on. You can also drill down to assess individual skill sets and schedule availability.

More Projects Completed On-Time

One of the first principles of the Agile Manifesto is “. . . early and continuous delivery.” If your goals are built around this principle, it’s important to remove every possible impediment and give developers maximum visibility. Without the right tools, project information gets siloed into email threads, chat conversations, and spreadsheets, and team members have a hard time remembering who’s working on what. Ultimately, this leads to redundant efforts and a longer cycle time.  

Visual PM can speed progress by conveying real-time project information in a way that is easier to access, understand, and share. It also makes it easier for team leaders to track work in progress and remove impediments before they delay the product. A Kanban board — which uses “cards” to move tasks through different stages of the project — is a perfect example of visual workflow optimization.

Personal Kanban Board

The Spread of Project Management Solutions

Finally, the growing popularity of visual features means that project management software itself will become easier to implement and easier to use for all team members. Even smaller companies with limited experience can set up a cloud-based visual PM solution in less than a day. That means small, agile teams can become even more agile without the overhead of a consulting service or an expensive, time-consuming implementation.

With agility at a maximum, project teams can improve the customer experience by running faster iterations with fewer bugs. Thus, visual PM tools create a more sustainable, scalable development model.

There is, of course, room to grow. Dubakov points to a general lack of research in the visual PM field. “To my knowledge, there are no people who understand both domains well enough in order to lead the visual management movement,” he says. In the coming years, we can hope to see additional research and innovation in some of the following areas:

  • Using visual PM tools to aid decision-making
  • Different visual approaches for different sub-domains
  • Visualizations for planning, capacity management, tracking, and forecasting
  • Process management and problem resolution
  • Closer integration between visual PM and business intelligence tools

*

Visual project management isn’t some radical new approach that turns the discipline upside down. It’s just a set of tools and techniques that reinforce what we already know: people work and manage projects more efficiently when they’re “in the loop,” and when they have a clear picture of how project components move and interconnect.  The best way to represent and share this information in real time is not with a list, or a spreadsheet, or a series of emails, but with a visual.  

Aleks Peterson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice, a B2B research firm that connects buyers and sellers of business technology.

Categories: Companies

Open Allocation Experiment

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 16:45

In June 2016, we switched most of the people inside our company to open allocation. They have the freedom to start their own initiatives that are aligned with the central goal of providing a better user experience and fixing critical problems in Targetprocess product.

10 months have passed, and we can now analyze the experiment results. In this post I'll share my opinion about the experiment and mix it with the opinions of the people who participated.

Deadlines

Here is the current initiatives Roadmap. A very good thing is that almost all initiatives were implemented on time. It means people respected their commitments and did their best to keep promises. A bad thing is that some of the implemented features were still not deployed to production servers due to huge infrastructure changes caused by the microservices approach. Basically, you can't give a promise to release something when the infrastructure is not ready.

initiatives_open_allocation

Another trivial observation is a struggle to fit R&D activities into the Initiatives model. If a team doesn't know how to attack the problem, it created "Research initiative", thus we timebox research. Then, when a solution is found, the team starts a usual Initiative with the results.

Overall, we wanted to solve the problem of speedy delivery, and we got mixed results. Yes, most features were implemented on time, but the infrastructure held them back.

Small Lesson #1. People don't like deadlines, but... deadlines work (when you have no problems with infrastructure).

Deadlines lead to cut corners, worse quality, and poorer solutions. In my personal opinion, this is not a huge problem, since you always have to balance quality and time. Estimates are not forced and, overall, teams have enough time to complete features with good quality.

Freedom of choice

Freedom boosted motivation. People were more enthusiastic to fix some old problems and work on things they wanted to improve a long time ago. Here are some feedback quotes:

#1

On its own, the idea is great and summarizes the essence of any modern social science since it gives freedom to choose your work, stimulates an individual's initiative, pro-activity and creative potential

#2

It inspires people to take ownership of our product. A good practice for freedom, responsibility, and trust.

#3

People feel more passionate and responsible about what they build, I guess. We finally have kind of deadlines, that we stick to. We have a clear definition of done for features, with clear deliverables such as product demo, blog post, working piece of software etc. It seems we deliver better quality, faster and more often.

Focus

Initiatives force you to focus on a single task. It improves timely delivery, but hurts mutual help. You might think twice to dedicate several hours of your time to help someone from another team. Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it can lead to local optimization. Sure, you will have your feature delivered on time, but from a company level your help may be extremely valuable.

I think this trade-off is OK. If you like to help other people, you can act in the Free Agent role rather than join an initiative. Or, you become more creative and try to teach people quickly instead of doing everything yourself.

Company alignment

This got worse. Ideas are quite diverse and I hoped to have an emergent vision as a result. I don't think it happened though. We indeed fixed several important problems, but some of the top problems are still there, like extremely poor notifications. I defined a wide goal to improve UX and increase NPS, but this goal was too broad and almost all features can be stretched to fit this goal. In my opinion, this lead to a slight feeling that our direction is unknown and the product has no vision.

Small Lesson #2: Define a bold goal for the year and quite narrow goals for the quarters.

And a quote:

The scope we do is driven by someone's desire but not by market demand. Sure, there is a filter which guarantees that useless feature won't pass. But this filter doesn't guarantee that necessary feature will go into development (because nobody would like to take them and HEADs cannot force). Important items can be in a backlog for years.

Initiative Reward

One of the worst decisions we've made is a reward for successful Initiative completion. Teams that complete an Initiative got several Orange Days (which can be converted to Days Off). This immediately downplays the contribution of all people outside Initiatives.

#1

Initiatives violate our core value: trust. A company should trust that their people will do their best to get a job done. Initiatives might give off the impression that "we don't trust you will do great work without a reward, so we give you a bonus that will stimulate you to complete work on time". It is assumed that development speed is low due to lack of deadlines, but in reality, complexity of integration and some external blockers are the cause.

#2

Some one still needs to do the "dirty jobs" and I don't think that it's fair that this work is not rewarded with orange time.

We wanted to stimulate the Initiatives practice with an additional reward, but it was a bad idea. In fact, freedom of choice and regular intrinsic motivation is enough to make great things.

Small Lesson #3: Don't underestimate intrinsic motivation.

Lack of Training

Another mistake we've made is poor guidance. Yes, I wrote about the practice, ran clarification sessions, and answered questions. But after this initial kickstart, I did a poor job of supporting and promoting it.

I should have worked with key people and ran educational session about how to define top problems, how to do UX, how to test results, etc. Self-organization requires good skills and great understanding of the business context. I relied on cheap self-organization, but this doesn't work in the complex environment of a B2B SaaS company.

Huge lesson #4: Adaptive self-organization demands high energy costs.

Overview

In general, people liked the idea, but implementation was far from perfect. Can this model replace traditional Product Managers and Product Owners? Yes, it can. However, make sure that you do the following to avoid our mistakes:

  1. 20% of people should be highly experienced, have deep understanding of business context and good understanding of product development practices. If you don't have it, run training programs and maybe in a year people will be ready.
  2. Education should not stop.
  3. Information transparency is extremely important. You should have a process to collect requests from customers using various channels, aggregate their feedback and help people to distill top problems to focus on.
  4. Be careful with bonuses and rewards. By default it is easier to not have them at all.
  5. Implement freedom gradually.

#5 demands clarification. Imagine, you have a completely strict process where people got all assignments from managers. Here is an example of gradual freedom:

Choose own tasks from a story > Choose own stories from a backlog > Choose large features from backlog > Participate in backlog creation > Choose anything you believe is right.

If you jump to complete freedom from the typical Scrum practice of "Choose own stories from a backlog", people will feel frustration. Help them one step at a time.

Will we stick to Initiatives model?

I think we will go one step back and let people choose features from a backlog and participate in backlog creation, running required training programs for product development in parallel. With more experience we will restart the Initiatives practice. It is fun and works quite nice, but we were unprepared for it as a company, and I was unprepared for it as a leader.

Categories: Companies

Targetprocess v.3.11.2: Undelete Projects and Users

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 07:59
Restore deleted projects or users

You can now easily "undelete" Projects and Users from the "Deleted items" menu in Settings. Previously, it was not possible to restore deleted Projects and Users without using the API.

55lezba4li

Please find more info in the guide.

Visual Reports Improved

We recently made some nice improvements to the Visual Reports Editor. Read about them at this dedicated blogpost.

We really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

Fixed Bugs
  • Fixed incorrect effort calculation in Burn Down charts when a Feature is removed
  • Added support for decimal values in custom fields on the Timesheet
  • Fixed: Contributors could not create Releases for Projects that they were not a member of
  • Fixed an exception that would occur when Test Plans and Test Cases on the same Board had different tags
  • Deleted Users will now have a strikeout through their name if someone tries to @mention them in comments
  • Processes are now sorted alphabetically in the Quick Add menu
  • Fixed an exception ('Oops...Something's wrong') that would occur when adding an 'Effort' custom unit to cards in a Person/State view
  • Fixed an inability to delete a Process that is used by deleted Projects
Categories: Companies

Visual Report Improvements

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:33
Period scale for date axis

Dates are now scaled as continuous axes by default. If you need to use periodic scales for dates, you can switch scale type from the field popup.

2017-04-13-15-40-23

Legend

Legend filtering has been improved. Now, several categories in the legend can be selected, and changes will be reflected on the chart.

2017-04-13-15-24-42

 

Tooltip

The mechanics of tooltip have been improved. Projection to axis was added for stacked bars and areas to see the total value of the stacked items.

2017-04-13-15-33-27

We will really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

Categories: Companies

Targetprocess v.3.11.1: add/edit permissions separated, expand all in List views

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 08:59
'Expand All' in List views

You can now expand and collapse all of the first and second List hierarchy levels. If you hold Ctrl (Cmd) and click '>' then cards from both levels will be expanded. This works for the first two hierarchy levels of a List view and doesn't affect the third level of cards in terms of List setup.

Permissions to create users through the API for non-admins

Previously, only admin users could post Rest API requests to create and delete users. Now, non-admin users with 'add user' / 'delete user' permissions can create/delete users via API calls.

Add and edit permissions separated for user roles

Starting with v.3.11.1, user roles have separate permissions for adding and editing.

screen-shot-2017-04-11-at-3-32-00-pm

Request email notifications settings updated with "Requesters" check-box

You can set up a 'Request' workflow so that requesters get email notifications every time a specific event event occurs.

screen-shot-2017-04-11-at-4-29-23-pm

Visual Encoding improvements

It’s possible to create a predefined set of global Visual Encoding rules that can be applied to all views and all users. To do this, simply select the corresponding checkbox in the Visual Encoding tab and add the global rules that you want applied to every view in the system:

ve-global2

This setting can only be managed by Administrators; other users can see it in read-only mode.

Fixed Bugs
  • Visual studio add-in supports VS2015 now
  • It wasn't possible to delete a test plan if it had test cases that were run already
  • Fixed occasional improper results when searching by ID in a Relations tab
  • Fixed Project-Team assigments for Observer users according to their permissions.
  • Obsolete Tp.v2 option 'Show in lists/enable for filtering' removed from custom fields setup
  • Fixed User Story progress calculation when converting a Task with time records into a User Story
Categories: Companies

Deprecating the old Help Desk portal

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 22:21

We released our Help Desk portal back in 2008. It was a great software that allowed external users to submit requests. Years passed, and it became more and more obsolete from both the technical and user perspectives. Rather than wade through technical debt to try and improve it, we released a separate Service Desk application that already has all the functionality of Help Desk, a better UI, and some cool new features such as custom fields and request types.

We probably should have dropped the old Help Desk back in December 2016, when Service Desk was officially out of beta. It's hard to do, since we sort of got attached to it over the years. Nothing lasts forever though, especially in the software business, so it's time to let it go. Apart from the infrastructure costs of hosting both versions of the software, we also have to maintain and update it to keep up with the latest changes in Targetprocess. For example, in our latest release (v.3.11.0) there were some changes to the way user information is stored, and the 'Forgot Password' button stopped working in Help Desk.

We cannot afford to lose focus at this point, so we are freezing the Help Desk and will completely remove it from our On-Demand servers on June 1st, 2017. What does this mean for you? Most likely, nothing new. If you're not using request management, or if you're already using Service Desk, you don't have to do anything. In case you're not sure, here's what Service Desk looks like:

service_desk_plan

If you are still using Help Desk, that means you will have to switch to Service Desk. All you need to do is activate it at Settings -> Service Desk, and all of your requests and projects will automatically transfer over. On-Premises customers can technically continue using the old Help Desk, though we do not see any good reason for it.

We hope you enjoy the new version of the software. If you have any reason you prefer the old one, please let us know.

Farewell, Help Desk. It's time to move on.

Categories: Companies