service level agreements

Version 2 of HelpSpot, is going to have many more features revolving around the management and automation of tasks involved in handling service level agreements. Many of these features will be generic in terms of being functional for both formal SLA’s as well as simply automating escalation of requests and so on. I’m still trying to balance in my head the amount of information the system needs to know about a specific SLA vs leaving things tied more loosely. It’s a bit tricky because non SLA HelpSpot customers will likely be confused if there’s too much service level agreement stuff, while SLA users will want those extra touches.

This is all in pretty early planning. I don’t plan on having version 2 out for at least 6-8 months, but I like to start getting these ideas down early so I can iterate over them.

If any of you out there use SLA’s in your day job I’d love to hear about how you implement them and where you could see improvements in the process by better integration with your help desk solution (no matter what that is). I’m also looking for good links and books on the subject if you know of any.

delicious for product research

It’s pretty cool to checkout the main URL for your product on del.icio.us. So far there’s 20 links to HelpSpot only a few have comments but those are interesting and I think a nifty way to peak inside what potential customers are thinking about your product.

Here’s the one for HelpSpot:

http://del.icio.us/url/ad2c1e68e90e20c46bc8275793237760

My fav comment: “Amazing new IT Help Desk software”

I’m going to dig around on this a bit longer. I think there’s probably alot of good market research that can be drawn out of the comments attached to del.icio.us bookmarks along of course with where they’re linking to.
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new podcast

My favorite new podcast is Travel Commons with Mark Peacock. My wife works in travel procurement for one of the big 4 accounting/consulting firms and can really relate to his road warrior stories. I’ve done a fair amount of travel myself in my past careers as well. I really can’t imagine traveling as much as this guy does though, flying in for a few hours then back out over and over. Ugh.

php sdo

The new SDO data object access functions are pretty cool stuff. If you’re a PHP guru you should check it out. I must admit I’m intrigued, but I do have some reservations about abstracted abstractions and all that.
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xbox 360 availability

Anyone seen sites selling the 360? Amazon basically doesn’t even have a way to preorder it which is pretty rare. All the local stores are sold out. I traded in my old xbox, which I rarely played, and got 2 games on the trade. So now I’ve got 2 games (Madden and Call of Duty 2) with no way to play 🙁

ajax library suggestions

So I’m going to be making the plunge into AJAX for HelpSpot. Now that I’ve been using HelpSpot myself for about 4 months I can see some very useful spots for it. I’m really glad I waited BTW and not just threw some in just to say I had it. I’ve managed to sell plenty of installations without it (can you believe it!) but also I’m going to be adding it where it will really improve the experience based on facts not on speculation. I think it’s important to note that before launch I would have added it in different places and in a different way then I plan to now and I would have been wrong, it would have detracted from the experience IMHO.

Now, I’m going to be rolling it into the 1.1 feature release (I think) probably sometime in Jan/Feb. I’m currently researching libraries and am curious what you all have used and if you have any suggestions. HTML_AJAX seems to be making some progress, but it’s still early and I know they keep changing some of the API. I’m not a big fan of most of the bigger libraries I’ve looked at because they seem to do to much. Most of the features they add I will never use. My current thinking is to use the prototype.js library directly. This way it’s light weight and it’s only JS I have to worry about. No other foreign PHP code is added to “help” me. Plus I can easily layer script.olicio.us on top if I need more fancy effects down the line. I don’t really give a hoot about convenience (though prototype does make things pretty convenient), I care about speed and stability only. Thoughts?

Oh, if anyone was looking, there is some OK documentation on prototype here. That’s probably my biggest concern with it is that the developer provides no docs at all.

back to work

I’ve been getting back to work this past week. Since releasing HelpSpot I’ve been having a blast mostly working on support, talking to customers, and just generally relaxing a bit. The final push to get HelpSpot out nearly killed me, but now after getting into the business side a bit, hearing tons of great feedback and making some money I’m ready to do some coding!

It’s going to be fun to get the first bug fix release out next week. Several important bugs in there as well as a few new features. I’d normally like to keep features out of the bug releases, but being very early in the game I’m going to sneak a few in rather than wait for 1.1.
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product vote

Ben is looking for some help figuring out which direction to take is application. He’s looking for input from ISV’s, so if you have a chance help him out.

My 2 cents is to try and provide support for all of them. It doesn’t have to be all at once but you should have the major guys in there like share-it. Maybe them, Authroize, esellerate and another CC gateway or two. You need to have these because (in my mind) these are just necessary evils. They’re aren’t why someone like me would buy your product. It’s the other features that are the “killer” features. Follow up emails, advanced license management, customer self service. Those are the problem you’re solving for me not the gateway. You need to support whatever gateway I want to use so that I can purchase your product to solve my real problems which are excessive customer emails about licenses, manually creating email reminders, etc.

I wouldn’t worry about them being a competitor. There’s lots of room in that market, plus being a small biz yourself you’ll have alot more “street cred” if you market things right than they will. They’ll still outsell you 10000 to 1 but that doesn’t matter because that’s still more money than you need. Hey, HelpSpot competes with Intuit and their CEO owns a stinking Basketball team! There’s plenty of money for everyone.
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first public helpspot portal

Ben over at BRK Studio just opened up the website for the isvManage product he’s developing, which is an integrated CRM/Licensing/Payment gateway solution for ISV’s. I wish I had this thing so I didn’t have to build mine myself.

Ben was a huge help in the HelpSpot beta providing many good ideas and pointing out bugs.

His new sites support is I believe the first publicly available HelpSpot portal that’s been customized. He did a great job customizing it and fully integrating it into the look and feel of his website. Great job Ben!