There is a fine line between providing enough functionality to be useful, and adding so much that whatever you’re working on becomes unwieldy and difficult to use. So when one of our festivals asked for some “project management” to be added, we had to really work to produce something simple. There’s a million different project management solutions out there already and we’re not looking to make anything different or special. In fact, calling it “project management” software is kind of stretching the truth, when what we’ve actually built is a To-do system (we can’t call it tasks because of our new, and quite different, Bespoke Task system).
The To-do system is a simple checklist with a few added features. Instantly accessible from anywhere within the site, it’s for when you spot something that needs work but you don’t have the time to sort it now, or to write those things that might get overlooked if they’re not written down. It can:
- set due dates and priorities
- set the task for multiple people, automatically send them emails about the task and send you an email when it’s complete
- set reminder emails to go out at specified times
- write and send notes between users for specific tasks
It doesn’t do time-lines, resource allocation or gantt charts; for this sort of functionality you’ll need a big project management program (to work in conjunction with the festival system, naturally!). What we do provide is the means to remember stuff, to send small jobs to other team members and to collaborate on bigger jobs, all with the intention of keeping you on top of your event.
There’s a video below showing you the To-do system in action. I’m afraid that there’s no explanatory dialogue to go with it, it’s late and we need to get started with the next bit of development tomorrow. But it should show you enough so that you too can see how useful it will become…
It doesn’t really matter how sophisticated the system gets, we know that we will never be able to cater for every demand from every festival. We can, however, design our software with the flexibility to deal with most requirements. The addition of our Bespoke Tasks functionality will make most demands possible.
Bespoke Tasks are user-defined functions that we can embed into the framework of the system, track their progress and, ultimately, make the system fit your way of working. For instance, you may want to check that each performer has provided a MySpace link. Creating the task, selecting which part of the site it appears and then ensuring that no performer is overlooked is a straightforward and painless process.
You can see how it works by watching this quick video:
The addition of Bespoke Tasks provides a more comprehensive working environment and, in conjunction with our new To-do function, we can now offer greater flexibility and better tracking of what needs to be done.
As mentioned in passing earlier, we’ve just moved everything over to new hardware, still provided by the outstanding guys at media temple, but now with a little more oomph under the bonnet. In the process we had to upgrade the code to play nicely in its new home, so thought it worthwhile to look at some critical areas at the same time. The new language module meant we had to go over everything line-by-line anyway, so it was as good a time as any to do a little spring cleaning. And, with new hardware and a new service domain, we could to pull things apart and glue ‘em back together without affecting anyone else.
Here’s a list of what we’ve done in the past few weeks…
- restructured the navigation to resolve some historical UX stuff that’s needed sorting for ages
- improved the process for managing accommodation rooms, to provide the ability to mass change/delete, plus a one-step process for the creation of a “place” with multiple rooms
- introduced the ability to schedule sound-checks for performers
- added additional layers of security – can’t have too many!
- rebuilt the currency handling
- rewrote the system for handling the automatic emails the system sends, both with an eye towards enabling different languages and to allow each festival to tailor them for their event
- completely rewrote the way that fees are managed by the database so now festivals can book an artist to perform more than once and have a separate fee for each performance. (Alternatively, the previous option is still available – where there’s one fee for each artist, no matter how many performances they are scheduled to do)
- changed how deposits (due to performers) are managed, enabling multiple deposits for a single performer and automatic notification of relevant staff when deposits become due
- provided control over the graphical headers for contract documents and deal memos
Now, after releasing the fairly substantial new language module and resolving the new-home snag list, we’ve our first new client on board and the migration of our existing clients is underway.
We’ve finally launched our new language module, enabling us to translate and manage our entire software suite into any language. At the same time we’ve moved our core system over to new hardware and done a lot of tidying behind the scenes to ensure that the next development phase (of which there seems to be a lot!) has all the required structures in place.
The two images above are screen-shots of the same page taken within about a second of each other. And, yes, we’re aware that the Japanese may not be perfect; we’ve used Google translate to show what it’s capable of. A correct Japanese translation will be done soon…
We’re pleased to announce the launch of a major overhaul of our guest list system. The new changes provide a significant improvement in the management of guest lists, including the introduction of an approval system, the allocation of different tickets types, guest email and mass-mailing functionality, plus much more. We have also beefed up the reporting systems for both festival and performer guests to ensure that you have just the right information at your fingertips when it’s needed.
Get in touch and we can show you through the demo…
Well, it may not mean that much to anyone else, but we’ve finally built our own CRM solution (customer relationship manager), enabling us to stay in touch with everyone who’s contacted us in the past about the Festival System. Above and beyond the standard reasons for having one, it’s vital for us due to the seasonal sales cycle we’re in – we only have a limited window in which to approach prospective clients – which makes retaining a good sales team pretty impossible.
In the past four years we’ve been through five different outfits and, to be honest, it’s probably better coming from us anyway. Admittedly we’re not hard-nosed sales types (although a sales course or two might be warranted… when we can find the time!), but a decade of working with festivals and tailoring the system for multiple demands means that we can generally answer most questions on the spot. And, almost as importantly, talking to prospective clients is an incredibly useful way of looking at the software through fresh eyes. A lot of the recent system improvements have been directly related to questions posed while we’ve been demoing the software. So, if you want to stay abreast with what we’re up to, drop us a line.
We’ve just completed some changes to the production/technical forms that can be generated by the system and then sent to performers (or their management) to provide the information. This upgrade also has some knock-on affects elsewhere in the system. The changes are as follows:
- when you create the production forms, there are now four pre-prepared options that you can include. These are: performer names; crew names; performer biography; and rider. If you turn these options on, then the production form will contain the required fields for gathering this information and feeding it directly into the appropriate pages in the system (people, press and contract).
- artists will be able to edit/amend/delete any unapproved performer/crew member, but if a member of staff has checked and approved these names, then artists will have to contact you to amend them. This ensures that when the festival is approaching, you’re not having things you’ve already checked being changed without your knowledge.
- if they supply a name and include a mobile phone number, then that name will also be added to the artist’s address book/contact page
- riders (in the contract page) now have an approval system that locks down the contents of this field and adds a time stamp with the name of the person who approved it. However, performers will will be able to edit/amend any unapproved rider request, but once ‘locked’, they’ll have to get in touch with you to approve any changes.
- on the press page, if an artist provides a biog, that will appear above the festival’s “edited” biog. This allows you to take the artist’s press release and format it for your own purpose. (remember that the recent addition of the publishing function will enable you to approve this for publishing elsewhere).
Up until now, the system used the name of the performer to identify who was performing, which kinda makes sense… up to the point when you start programming spoken word elements (like lectures, discussions and workshops). It’s all very well knowing that Dolly Parton is going to be singing on the main stage, but if she’s also doing a lecture on the history of Country Music, perhaps you’d like to spell that out.
So, today we’ve upgraded the system so that each performance can have an (optional) title. These titles can be supplied in any of the areas of the site that you can enter a new performance (the overview page, the artists’ stage page, or the Scheduler). It’s also meant that the Scheduler has to reflect the titles for these elements of programming, rather than the name of the person presenting, so in the configuration page you can set the Scheduler to automatically display performance titles if they exist and, if not, to default to the artist’s name.
All xml feed content also contains this information, so that if you’re using that part of the system to update your own website (and, therefore, avoiding having to enter the same information twice), the title of each performance will also be sent.
Hopefully this will mean that it’s easier to view and understand your program.
We’ve just completed some changes to the press biogs/artist photos and xml feed system. Basically, these add a level of flexibility when you are using our system to serve content to your website or iphone app (such as artist biographies and photos, performance times, stage details and so forth). The details are as follows:
- you can now switch on/off the xml feed content and set default image sizes for any uploaded artist photograph.
- the default image settings mean that when a photo is uploaded, the system saves the original uploaded image for you to download from the press page and use in print/promotional content. Then it automatically re-sizes the photo for use on the web at the dimensions you require. If you provide either height or width, it’ll scale the picture to that figure (leaving the other in proportion). If you provide both, it’ll scale to the most appropriate size, then trim (crop) any excess so that it fits with your website’s design.
- on the press page there is now a small gold star to indicate the artist’s default picture. If you have more than one image for a performer, clicking the small grey star will make that image the default.
- the xml feed can either supply just the default photo, or a list of all images for the artist, depending on what is required.
- all images are saved to amazon’s web servers, enabling you to access them directly from your website.
- if you’re using the xml feeds (i.e. turned this on in the config page), then there will be a publish/unpublish button next to each biog. No artist/performance details will appear in the xml feed without being published. This enables you to oversee exactly what appears on your site and when.
We’ve just completed the final upgrade (for this year, at least!) of the Scheduler. The changes are as follows:
- the display options (where you select which days and/or stages you’re viewing) are now in a popup box, so those events with a large number of venues/stages no longer have a clutter of checkboxes at the top of the Scheduler page. To change what the Scheduler is displaying, click the “display options” at the top of the page.
- as well as days/stages, there is now the ability to view specific hours. Again, using the “display options” link, you choose your from-to times (which can span midnight, e.g. 19:00 to 03:00) and click set. If there are artists scheduled that begin before your start hour but who’s times encroach into your display (or start before your end hour, but continue after) then these are displayed in grey & can not be moved – however they provide the essential reminder that there’s something booked for those times.
- the display options you’ve selected are now shown at the top of the main scheduler, with a simple reset button alongside.
This should mean that those festivals with a large number of venues &/or stages can manage the Scheduler more easily. We’ve still got one or two improvements in mind to add some extra cleverness, but that’s going to have to wait for 2010.
Happy New Year!