TAP’s Newest Features: Dillon Knowlton Explains Customer Collaboration
In developing new features for the ThinkSmart Automation Platform (TAP), our customers’ needs are always front and center in the minds of our product team. TAP’s product manager, Dillon Knowlton, has touched on this before, and it held true once again for the December update that’s just been released.
“We get a lot of our requirements from customers who tell us about processes they want out of workflow automation,” Dillon points out. “As more companies and government agencies use our technology, the more capabilities they need. That’s why we continue to innovate so our customers can rely on SimpliGov’s platform to tackle complex workflows so they can focus on other more important work.”
Can you give us an example of how customer feedback guided this release?
Dillon: A lot of the features we’ve included in this release evolved from one core thread we kept hearing from our customers. They found there are limitations on how they currently did things, or limits on how they reached workflow goals. There were overly complex solutions needed to get to those, so we worked to devise much more user-friendly and linear ways to accomplish them.
For example, there’s a feature where form data can be pre-merged into a signable form, but the tags for some fields had a fixed width. So, it was hard for customers to create fields with variable widths for, let’s say, a company name. Some of them modified templates to accommodate this, and inserted workarounds to accommodate variable data. But when you’re faced with a 30-page document, that’s a lot of work.
Our proprietary merging feature now allows us to send a document for signature without customers having to deal with that kind of limit. Lots of them have expressed real appreciation for the fact they don’t have to worry about doing workarounds and hacks. It’s about making it as plug-and-play as possible for the user.
Can you tell us about the new collaboration features you’ve included?
Dillon: We’ve included a lot of new collaboration enhancements in this release, but here’s one in particular. To account for all the users who were part of a collaborating group, it used to be that the designer would have to include a lot of conditional paths to bring in new people, or create conversation threads, because of our previous sequential logic.
After this update, during a collaboration stage a designer doesn’t have to pre-define every permutation of who they’re going to involve. Users can add other people even while the stage is in progress. So there’s much less gruntwork involved when there’s a new initiative. If I want to augment a complex process, I don’t have to lay out every say step of it. There’s now a lot more flexibility and adaptability, and that’s really necessary for collaborative processes.
What about the translation capability that’s been added?
Dillon: It’s multi-language support using conditional form text functionality, and the problem it eliminates is the need for a designer to create multiple copies of form fields to accommodate different languages.
Now, the SimpliGov platform just dynamically changes all the fields after the user picks their language of choice from a dropdown. That’s a big deal for government agencies, for example, who have to service a lot of people who speak Spanish, or Chinese, or other languages.
How were customers involved in the process of building these new features?
Dillon: As I said, an individual customer will tell us their requirements, and what we develop for that customer can be shared with all of them. One feature, private messaging, allows users to send separate messages through an API to each signer for a particular document; that originated because we had one customer who was dealing with a lot of people in each approval chain, across literally hundreds of workflows, and they needed a streamlined way to be able to send individual messages to certain participants, like a department chief.
That’s a solution that we can genericize and publish for everyone, and when it’s available in the staging environment, all customers can access that new feature and give us feedback we can use in the live release or incorporate into a later phase.
We and our customers and users are all very much part of the same team, in a way. The give-and-take is absolutely key to making this platform better with every new update, and it’s a big part of what motivates us as we work on the next round of improvements.