Mummy, where do new features come from?

13 Jul 2020

We update OpenCRM with new features every 6-8 weeks. This means you and your team will always have the best, most up-to-date features we can offer you.

But where do these features come from?

And how do they make it into your system?

This blog is here to talk about exactly that: the OpenCRM features process.

Ideas for New Features

New features are introduced into the main process in one of two ways:

  1. As part of our strategic plan/roadmap for the system
  2. A suggestion from a customer or member of staff

Strategic Roadmap

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that we have a plan when it comes to OpenCRM…both as a system and a business.

When it comes to the system, both myself and Phil (our technical director) know what we want it to do and what it will take to get it there.

This includes everything from general functionality to integrations.

Quite often, we’ll develop a new feature as part of this roadmap and then spend several years expanding on it. This is especially true of integrations.

Idea Suggestion

Although I have a picture in my head of what OpenCRM as a system will look like in the future, I know that I’m not the only one using it…and I’m certainly not the only one with ideas about how it could be improved.

Many of our best features started life because one of our customers (or members of staff) made an observation or suggestion.

Recognising this, we added an Ideas Board to our website, where people can go to suggest new features and vote on other people’s ideas.


Features

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Reviewing and Deliberation

Any feature that has been suggested by someone who isn’t me or Phil has to be reviewed to see if it fits with the general strategic plan for the system.

This review process takes place during board meetings, but is quite informal.

We look at the idea, see how much interest it has had, and then discuss how long we think it will take to develop and whether we think it is right for us.

If the answer is positive on both questions, it gets added to our Roadmap. The development time (and popularity) of a suggestion will help decide how soon we can start working on the new feature.

The Development Process

Once a feature makes it into the Roadmap, its next stop is with one of our development team.

They’ll work with Phil (and others) to fully flesh out the idea, this includes:

  • figuring out how it’s going to work,
  • what settings it will need,
  • how it will impact other areas of the system,
  • whether there are any security or permissions questions around it,
  • and a whole host of technical questions.

And then the work begins…time for code, code, code.

I’m sure Phil could tell you all sorts of interesting stuff about this stage of our new features process…but he’s not writing this blog.

Quality Assurance

The final stage in the development process is the Quality Assurance step, also known as QA.

Proper QA is essential for software development. At the highest level, it involves testing that the new feature does what it is intended to do.

In reality, it also involves checking that the language used is clear and understandable, that the appearance is consistent, and that all the necessary guidance documents are in place before it goes live.

It also means checking that other areas of the system aren’t being affected unexpectedly.


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Releasing into the Wild

Once the new feature is written, tested, and documented, it’s time to release it to our users.

And this is my favourite part.

We get to write blogs and social media posts about it, I get to talk to customers and prospects about it, showing off all the hard work of the team.

In cases where specific people have expressed interest in this particular feature, I get to let them know that it is ready to be used in their system. Some of these features really will make a huge difference in their business processes, so it’s really the fun bit.

Then the process starts over. Extending and building on a system that I’m so proud of and that I’ve seen grow from day one.

So if you’ve got any ideas…I’d love to hear them.

Graham Anderson
Graham Anderson
Before I got my start in the tech industry as part of Apple's UK Mac launch team, I was a professional drummer (notice I didn’t say musician). But once I got in, I was hooked and I’ve been involved in the tech industry, primarily software development, for over 20 years. I founded this company and I now have the enviable title of System Architect (as well as Managing Director) here at OpenCRM.