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Changes to the Harvest Forum and How To Make Feature Requests

We’ve been taking a behind-the-scenes look at the way we handle customer service interactions at Harvest, and we’re currently looking a bit deeper at how we receive feature requests. Earlier this year, we launched Help 2.0, aimed to improve the way you find answers to your questions (and the response has been great).  We’ve also been hard at work on continually improving how we deal with bug reports — in terms of getting them reported and dealt with quickly.

Now we’re turning our focus to feature requests – we get dozens of them each week. These requests come in through various channels, like Twitter, over the phone, by email, and through the Harvest ForumWe take feature requests very seriously and strive to keep an accurate count of how many people have asked for something, what exactly their use case is, and how we can get in touch with them (so that we can ask further questions as we begin to develop a feature, and to let folks know when their request has been realized as a brand new, working feature).

We’ve found that the Harvest Forum isn’t doing a great job to facilitate feature requests, and here’s why:

  1. It’s hard to keep track of who has requested a feature through the Forum, and to get a clear picture of what they’re looking for. When a request comes in by email, we can interact one-on-one with the requester and get a clear picture of what they need. Sometimes they ask for one thing, and by the time we’re done talking, they realize that what they really need is something different. That’s hard to discern when something is followed up by a string of posts that just contain “+1”.
  2. Forum activity does not directly correspond to our most frequently requested features (but it sure looks that way). If somebody posts about a really great idea, and 25 people respond that that’s a great idea, new forum visitors may get the wrong impression that that is our most requested feature (our current most popular feature request internally has 237 requests). That can lead to a bit of a mob mentality and questions like “why aren’t you working on this, it’s clearly a popular idea” being asked.
  3. When we handle feature requests one-on-one we can go above and beyond, by recommending work-arounds, 3rd party integrations, or alternate ways of approaching something.

What’s Changing in the Harvest Forum

As of today, we’ll no longer accept new posts to the Feature Requests section of the Harvest Forum, and we’ll be asking you to instead email us directly. We encourage you to continue to utilize the forum to discuss ideas, ask and answer questions on how to use Harvest and the Harvest API, and talk with other Harvest users.

We’ll be leaving the Feature Requests section of the Forum online as a reference for folks, but we will be encouraging folks to get in touch with us directly with their feature requests. We’re going to try to reframe our forums as a place for cooperation, where any member of the Harvest community: staff, customers, 3rd party developers, can ask questions and help out one another. Harvest staff will still be present in the Forum, but we’ll be able to focus our efforts on helping people, rather than simply thanking them for their suggestions.

We’re excited about this change, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with our amazing and insightful community of Harvest users.

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This was posted in Behind-the-Scenes, Product News.
  • Nice that you aren’t afraid of lot’s of direct emails. I like that. But for me personally, the forum is the only place where I can get *some* update on what is most likely being worked on. Not that there was that much being communicated except the “Thanx, noted” responses, but still ;)

    Why not use something like a “vote for this feature” app that you see so commonly lately. That way everybody can leave their opinion and feel they are actually heard. Maybe something like “We’ll implement at least the most requested feature once per half year” or something. Giving people sense of importance for making their voices heard.

    My 0,02, but it’s a shame that the “todo list” is going away completely now…

    Ben

  • Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the feedback on that! That’s one of the points here — the forum isn’t really a great way to see what we’re working on, it just just gives a false impression to people about what’s coming in Harvest. Our policy about what we’re working on has always been that we’re happy to share a general “area” about where things are focused at the moment, but we don’t make specific feature announcements until they’re almost out the door.

    We’re definitely considering our options in this area, but a “user voting” system presents the same sort of problem: it doesn’t give the complete picture to people, and at the end of the day, we want to do what’s best for Harvest. That said, this is the first step in a journey to create a great balance between listening to requests, and reacting to them — more is coming!

  • Hi Jonathan –

    As I wrote in a forum earlier, don’t forget that we are businesses who need to plan on your changes, and so letting us know their approximate implementation date allows us to plan accordingly.

    For instance – we were told some time ago that Project Managers would be able to create projects in the future. For us, we have to have a way for projects to get created – and so we needed to make a process that dictated that. Should I just do it myself, because the feature will be available in 3 months or so, or should we have a different process that will be better suited to waiting 6+ months for this feature to be added? I made the decision that we would do a process that would serve in the interim as I was told a general timeline (1-3 months) versus ‘soon’ which is so ambiguous as to be useless.

    This information is important. We don’t need exact dates, necessarily (at least, I don’t) but having an idea of whether or not I can count on a feature in a particular quarter is very important. If you ignore that you’re ignoring the needs of your customers, to a point where it could potentially cost us money. If I assume ‘soon’ means 1-3 months, and to Harvest ‘soon’ means within the year – by month 6 I’m going to be pretty upset.

    You want to provide us with the complete picture, but cannot, which is understandable. Surely there’s a better option, however, than giving only assurances that the picture exists and not showing us any of it.

  • I agree with the previous post. Ultimately it is your decision what feature build next, but what I do want to know is where Harvest is going and when. In other words please build a simple page (the Harvest roadmap) that shows which for example 5 features are being worked on and can be expected in het next quarter

  • We appreciate the feedback folks, but this post isn’t about a public roadmap, it’s about the forums. The feature request forum has never served as any sort of indicator of what we are actually planning, but it may have given a false impression that it did.

  • The problem that I see is that we have no visibility as to what you are working on. So what is coming next? When can we expect to see a feature that we have requested. Is it on the radar or was it discarded. I would recommend that you look at using something like Trello.com they have a way to have your users request features, vote on features, rank and prioritize projects and then have you add comments to the features all while keeping us informed as to exactly what you are doing. Be sure to check out Trello on Trello as this is exactly what they do with their own software.

    I love harvest and use it in my business every day, but I am hopeful that there are some new features such as reoccurring credit card billing and customer statements that are coming some time soon. Emails are a great communication tool, but open it up and let your user base help you prioritize your development list as we are the ones buying your products and services. Thanks!

  • I think there are 2 distinct concepts that are being conflated here: user-submitted product requests and a product roadmap (i.e. “when will that thing that I asked for actually get built?”). For user-submitted product requests, something like Salesforce Ideas or UserVoice are great for seeing what people are asking for, voting, etc. This does not in any way obligate Harvest to commence work on those features, but at least tells you what’s “popular” in the community. Having a separate, public product roadmap (which may or may not include the features requested) could go a long way to assuaging fears that there’s no active development on *pet feature here*. Just my thoughts.

  • I think that Marc has got it right: there are two separate issues being discussed here.

    I’ll start by linking back to a previous post about how we deal with feature requests: http://www.getharvest.com/blog/2011/02/how-we-handle-feature-requests/. While we don’t employ a public “voting” mechanism, we do track each and every request made to us so that we are making informed decisions about where to focus our time and energy.

    Keeping an internal list of feature requests sets a good balance so that we still can “curate” Harvest into being the best Time Tracking + Invoicing app out there.

    Marc’s second point about a public roadmap is a different, yet related issue. Roadmaps tend to lock you in to a certain course and prevent you from changing course when you need to. We do plan ahead at Harvest, but by keeping those plans internal, we can make changes at any time.

    Rest assured that we track every comment and request that comes through the door (that’s why we’ve made this change to the forum — to improve that process).

  • @Jonathan “Rest assured”….

    I think this signals that you are missing an important point.

    Many of us cannot rest assured because we need features which Harvest may not choose to build and communication about what may or may not be built is lacking.

    For instance I want to be able to create budgets per task rather than one for a whole project. To me this seems like a feature many users would want/need. I can see a post in the forum about it but no indication that it will be built – if I read between the lines it seems like it won’t be built in the foreseeable future.

    If it isn’t going to be built I need to evaluate how important it is to my business and decide if I should move to another system that does have this feature or try to build it myself.

    I don’t want to switch systems because of the admin overhead of a switch plus the Harvest interface design is super sweet (a pleasure to use).

    So given that I really want to stay I’m looking for a concrete statement that yes this will be built or no it won’t be.

    I understand your reasons for not committing to public roadmap and sympathise with you but a vague rest assured means nothing to me in this case.

    Rant over.

    Overall I think Harvest is a beautiful product.

  • Che:

    We encourage people to subscribe (or not subscribe) to Harvest based on what it can currently do. Not based on what they want it to do in the future, or based on some idea of a feature that somebody has posted about in our forum. If Harvest doesn’t do what you need, there may be something out there that does — we can’t make that decision for you, and it’s one of the reasons why we offer a completely unlimited 30 day free trial to customers.

    Harvest allows you to budget a number of hours per task already, but not a dollar amount (which I assume is what you’re referring to). Just because there’s a forum post about it does not indicate whether that’s a feature we will or will not be building.

    I can tell you that we’re not currently working on project budgets — we’re focussed in other areas right now. The way we work, that could change next month, or in the next six months.

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