Don’t Get Lost on Your Journey to a Better Product. Use a Roadmap!
Hello, current and potential ActivTrak users! I’m George Butler, and I am the Director of Software Development here at ActivTrak. As a director, I wear many hats, some more colorful than others. I manage the development team, prioritize and assign tasks, help design and refine architectures, and I work with the technical support and sales teams to triage urgent customer issues. It’s also essential that I collaborate with management and the rest of the team to define a long term vision and roadmap for the company.
The product roadmap for 2019 has coalesced very well, and I hope you will find it as exciting as I do, regardless of the color of your hat.
Follow the yellow brick roadmap
In both life and software development, things usually go better if you know where you are heading before you start. In the software world, the end goal is defined by the products and features that would bring the most value and be of greatest appeal to our current and future customers.
Once goals are defined and agreed upon, the entire company, from Management, Marketing, Support, Sales and Development, can make sure we’re all moving in the same direction. We accomplish this over time, though, by ensuring the smaller decisions we make daily align with our goals.
Personally, I like to plan out three years in advance. I know things will change dramatically, but having a spot on the horizon to focus on somehow brings the present into better focus.
Our long-term goals are based on several factors. First, we actively solicit feedback internally from our sales, marketing, and dev teams. Outside the office, we watch industry trends and listen to what analysts have to say about our market. We even keep an eye on competitors. But most importantly, we listen to what customers have to say about what capabilities they would find useful.
All these things together coalesce into a set of specific and realistic features to pursue. Then I put on one of my hats (I tend to think of it as a French-style artist hat) and work with management to prioritize, scope and sequence these features. We don’t focus on them all at one time, though. We take the “good parts” to work on for the next 12 months, and publish these as the upcoming year’s roadmap.
Plan the work, work the plan, lather, rinse, repeat
The only thing I can be 100% sure of is that the plan will change. Business conditions change, assumptions turn out to be inaccurate, and resources get pulled in different directions. As maintenance is part of any road system, as it is with a roadmap. But since we have thought about the priorities, scope, and sequence of our planned developments, I can anticipate how changes will impact the roadmap, and I can be proactive in keeping stakeholders informed.
Looking back at the 2018 roadmap, we were about 80% on target. One of my favorite features we added was Video Playback. Implementing it in ActivTrak presented some interesting challenges for the team, but I enjoyed seeing the hard work pay off.
Some items from 2018 were pushed into the 2019 roadmap due to a change in business priorities. But without my 2018 roadmap, we’d be 0% on target (or whatever undefined math operation you can perform on no target).
So where are we headed?
Now that many exciting features from 2018 are completed, we turn to the 2019 roadmap.
Q1 will see features such as:
Managed service provider/value added reseller portal. This is the portal where current and new resellers can go to manager the individual ActivTrak accounts that they resell. It gives them access to the current breakdown of licenses across their accounts and allows them to upgrade and reapportion licenses as they see fit.
Advanced data console functionality. For those that purchase the Data Console Add-on, all the data collected by your organization can be more easily integrated with modern BI tools. This allows you to do in-depth analysis and reporting beyond the details available from ActivTrak’s native dashboard. Use your favorite BI tools such as Tableau, Microsoft PowerBI, Google Big Query and Google Data Studio, and other BI toolsets.
Hierarchical admin. As it is now, the Administrator of an ActivTrak account has the responsibility of configuring all users on the system: defining groups, productivity, etc. Hierarchical Admin allows full segmentation of responsibilities. The task of configuration can be distributed among several people, each managing different groups and with no exposure to user information beyond the computers/groups they are assigned to.
Realtime screenshot thumbnails. Previously, Advanced Plan users had the capability of reviewing real-time screen images from selected computers. Now screenshot thumbnails will be displayed as a grid of computers that can be seen on one screen, all updating in real-time.
Q2 moves on to:
Cross-account reporting. This will include reports where you can compare your organization’s productivity metrics against anonymized aggregates of others, seeing, for instance, how your team’s website usage compares to others’.
Optical character recognition. This add-on feature will take screenshot images, process them for any text on the screen, and then will index this text so it can be searched. With this feature, you can search for any words or phrases that may appear in documents visible on a screen, and get a returned list of screenshots for any and all users that contain the text.
AI indexing. Through the use of artificial intelligence, Screenshots can be analyzed and then assigned a category based on the type of image or content in it. Once indexed and stored, you can search for all stored images that contain pictures of “puppies,” for instance. Everyone loves to look at puppies.
Visible agent applet. Some organizations may prefer to have their end users directly interact with the agents running on their computer. We will add the option for admins to allow end users to easily see the active agent in their taskbar, along with the ability to enable or disable it as desired.
Q3 drives toward:
Ingestion of other data sources. The powerful time-sequence data in ActivTrak log entries show activities on a particular computer. When running reports, it may be useful to incorporate outside activities in this data, such as accessing a CRM system. Any external system that supports industry-standard webhooks will able to be integrated with the ActivTrak Activity Log so those activities can be directly correlated with other user activity.
Anomaly/outliers. Once you have historical productivity and data from your users, you have a baseline of what usual and normal activity looks like. Another AI feature that we will be adding is machine learning. You can look at this historical data and generate models that align with the normal behavior, and then create alarms to notify administrators when there is activity outside this normal behavior.
Group-based productivity and categories. Right now, a website’s or application’s productivity status and category are global across the account. With group-based productivity, you will be able to define different sets of productivity and categories depending on which group users belong to. You’ll be able to categorize a website as productive for one group, and unproductive for another.
Single-sign-on integration. Single-sign-on is an important capability. ActivTrak will take advantage of the newest authentication standards such as OAuth2 and Okta, allowing integration and provisioning of ActivTrak accounts within existing IT infrastructures.
User-self viewing. Though the main use case for ActivTrak is for managing groups of users, there are cases where individual users might like to monitor their own usage directly. This feature will allow the end user to access the web interface and view their usage reports.
Q4 finish line looks to:
Agent lock. In extreme cases, when a significant event or threat is triggered, you may want to lock the end user out of their system so activity can be reviewed.
Automated category/productivity. When first setting up ActivTrak, you must assign productivity and categories to applications and websites. When this feature is available, the system will suggest categories and productivity settings based on how other anonymous users have categorized them.
Gamification and leaderboard views. These features will provide customized leaderboard or dashboard views, making it easier to display stats on a big screen. Individuals can also track how they are doing against other anonymized users.
Integration with 3rd party tools such as Salesforce, Zendesk, Jira. This feature will build on the webhook integration with other data sources, and deliver pre-packaged webhook settings for use with common applications. ActivTrak will recognize what these applications are and pass that information on to the Activity Log.
To drive the road metaphor further into the ground, software systems need a good foundation, just as a road does. Wearing my architect hat (an orange construction site one), there is an extensive expansion in the underlying technologies that make these features work. Planning for and proactively adapting to the latest technology is very important. We don’t want to have to pull over to the side of the road mid-year unexpectedly. Significant effort is being put forth to ensure that our underlying technology continues to be robust and can handle the current and future needs of our customers.
The finish line
I hope you have enjoyed the high-level overview of what 2019 is looking like for ActivTrak. We are already well on our way to designing and implementing these features. And as for the future, we’ll continue to plan out features and capabilities into 2020 and beyond. We are excited that you are along for the ride!