How end users help shape green industry software updates

Software (Photo: ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Photo: ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

When it comes to software development, it’s all about relationships between the software companies and end users. Landscape Management spoke with Levi Garner, chief technology officer for Arborgold Software, Carlos A. Perez Jr., director of technology for Blue Native Landscape and Irrigation, and Dan Blake, chief product and technology officer for Aspire Software, about the importance of user feedback in the software development process.

Software (Photo: ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)
(Photo: ipopba/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)

For the greater good

It was the ability to offer feedback in development that was the selling point on Arborgold Software for Blue Native Landscaping and Irrigation’s primarily commercial landscape design/build, maintenance and irrigation business. Perez says Arborgold was looking for input from a design/build company.

“We have weekly meetings to plan new features and discuss how current testing deployments are working for us,” he says. “They ask us what type of issues prevent us from fully utilizing the features and if any improvements can be made to streamline the workflow process.”

Perez says he worked with Arborgold to implement a batch-editing feature to Arborgold’s timesheet function to cut down on the time it took to correct any timesheet issues.

“We have nine crews and five or six guys on each crew,” he says. “If there’s any error in the day or if we get rained out, you would have to edit them one by one. It would take one person an entire day just to go through line by line to verify yesterday’s timesheets. Now, we’re doing the same thing in under four hours.”

Perez says he also worked very closely with Arborgold to add the ability to export payroll data to QuickBooks. While many of his talks to Arborgold directly benefit his operation, he knows the insight he offers could help other
Arborgold users.

How software companies implement updates

Aspire Software logs all customer requests and feedback customer service reps have received for future updates. Aspire looks for the same request from multiple customers.

“What we’re looking for in the customer requests is patterns,” Blake says. “We take all that into account and try to come up with a list of the things that are the highest priority for us to work on from that standpoint.”

From there, Aspire evaluates the feasibility and critical need for users regarding those updates, additions and the users’ end goal.

“It’s a balancing act,” he says. “It’s trying to figure out the highest-priority items that are going to have the greatest impact on the customer base. Those are the ones that we give priority to.”

Garner says Arborgold approaches updates the same way, noting that beta testers play a critical role in the update process.

“Our goals are to listen to what our clients are telling us they need versus assuming we understand 100 percent of their unique day-to-day operations,” he says.

Both Arborgold and Aspire do beta and alpha testing. Internal alpha testing ensures there are no issues or bugs with the updates before beta testing. Users get beta tests of the update to ensure proper functionality of the update. Aspire deploys updates to users the company has identified as requesting the functions or super users in that specific area of the software.

“We identify the people, either the people who requested that or who would be particularly well suited to test it for us,” Blake says. “We turn that feature on for them and let them take a look at it. Sometimes, we’ll do that with batches of features and get their feedback.”

Depending on the update, testing could last as little as a week or a few months. As testers are using the features, the design team will update the feature as needed based on feedback, and once everything works as it should, that feature will be available for all users.

Arborgold deploys updates at the best time for customers to help mitigate downtime during a busy workday. Blake says that’s all part of the process of alpha and beta testing to make it as seamless as possible.

“We have an enormous appreciation for our beta testers and forum group members as our predominant voice of the customer during development,” Garner says.

Christina Herrick headshot (Photo: LM Staff)

Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is a former Editor for Landscape Management. A Journalist graduate from Ohio Northern University, Christina is known for sharing her insightful experiences on the road with her audience.

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