Quick Update on What’s Coming

Since it has been a few weeks, I wanted to post a quick update on what what will be in the next update to WP (currently scheduled for this coming Sunday night).

From a feature-perspective, we’ll be rolling out improvements to the team management pages. Managing team members, team roles, and default roles will work just like scheduling people, as far as the interface goes. You’ll be able to drag and drop said elements onto your team in a familiar fashion.

Our update will also include more video tutorials, as well as a few account configuration “tracks”. The tracks will trigger automatically when you try to perform a task that your account hasn’t been set up for yet. For example, if you try to create a service and don’t have worship flow template defined, WP will help you create a template before creating the service. The configuration tracks will be most helpful for churches new to WP, though if you have never created a team or added additional people, these tracks will be helpful to you also.

We are planning to start regularly occurring “webinar” sessions that cover various topics. Probably the first topic we cover will be on managing teams and scheduling people. If you have any ideas for other topics, feel free to post a comment with your suggestion.

SPAM Button Trigger Finger

As churches start to really use the people scheduling and team features, more and more volunteers are getting emails that originate from WP. By the strictest definition of the word, these emails might be considered spam because they are often unsolicited. But 99.999% of all emails sent from WP are actually team leader/member initiated and pertain to the recipient’s church or team.

Nonetheless, the increase of emails can make recipients want to click the “Mark as Spam” button in their mail software. While doing so might stop the emails from showing up in their inboxes, it can have a negative effect that is much more widespread. In fact, a couple Internet service providers have blacklisted emails sent from WorshipPlanning.com because enough of their customers have marked messages sent from WP as spam (even though the emails were initiated by their team leaders/members). We have since been removed from those lists, but our fear is that this could be an increasing problem in the future.

So, to help deter recipients from flagging WP messages as spam, we are making a change to the subject line. We considered changing the subject to be “SPAM Check:Safe”, “Very Important Message”, “Message From The President”, or “Please, Please, Please Read This!”. But in the end, we decide the best thing is to simply add the name of the church to the front of the subject. So, updates to message boards will have a subject like: “-Grace Church- New WP Discussion Post”. Our hope is that recipients will be less inclined to flag something as spam if they easily see the message is related specifically to their church.

We plan on implementing this change the evening of August 2nd. If you have any feedback regarding this issue, feel free to leave a comment.

Improved Privacy, Creating a Series, and a New Home Page

Last night we rolled out three new updates that we want to tell you about.

Privacy Settings
Lately we have had several requests to give Helpers and Planners some options on restricting who can see their contact information. As of this morning, both Helpers and Planners can now set one of three levels of privacy for his/her contact info: 1) Visible to all Helpers (within church account) 2) Visible only to Helpers that are teammates 3) Not visible to any Helpers. This setting can be change by clicking on the “account settings” link in the upper right area of most pages in WP (and myWP). The default setting is “Visible to all Helpers” since that is the equivalent of what it has been in the past. Administrators can also adjust this setting when adding or editing Helpers and Planners. It is important to note that Planners can always view the contact information of fellow Planners and all Helpers.

Creating a Series
Updates to this page make it even easier to create a series of services. One really nice feature is the ability to skip weeks mid-series, if desired. We also added a 3 minute video tutorial right on the Create a Series page. Just look for the Video Tutorial icon on the far left side of the page.

New Home Page
We are really excited about this enhancement. Because it is still in the final testing phase, you have to click on a link at the bottom of the current Home page to see the new one. But we think you’ll be very happy with the improvements. There is even a pretty nifty calendar! If you have any feedback you’d like to give us on this page, feel free to let us know.

People/Team Scheduling Enhancements Officially Released

Early this morning, the Team Scheduling update graduated from “Beta”. This means they are now officially integrated into the site and ready for all churches to start using. The fastest way to learn about these features is to watch the video tutorial we have put together. There are actually two videos: one on how to set up and manage Teams in WP, and another on using the new People/Team Scheduling pages. Links to each tutorial are presented to you the first time you access the People/Team Scheduling pages. They can also be found on WP SupportĀ http://support.worshipplanning.com in the “People” section.

To access one of the new pages, click on the “Roles” tab next to the Worship Flow tab of a service, then click the “Roles Scheduling” link in the upper right corner of the Roles tab.

Over the next week or so, we will be adding a new feature to People Scheduling. It is called Auto Email Reminder, and can be used by team leaders to have WP automatically send an assignment email reminder before the date of service. Team Leaders can configure the “lead time”, the message content, and whether or not a reminder summary page is sent to him or her once the reminders have been sent.

We also have a little more work to do as far as updating our support documentation and video tutorials. We hope to create a few tutorial tracks for the different types of WP users. This will include a track for ministry leaders that are not necessarily worship planners.

Finally, we want to give big “Thank You!!!” to all the churches that took part in testing this feature. Your feedback was invaluable, and we hope to continue to hear from you with this and other new features.

WP Outage – Update 1

Yesterday, from 4:40pm to about 5:10pm (eastern) WorshipPlanning.com was inaccessible due to a power issue at the Rackspace data center. Rackspace is still investigating the exact cause, but they current state that it was the “result of a range of power infrastructure issues.” If more details become available that might be of interest to WP customers, we will post them here.

For those curious about a contingency plan in the event of an unrecoverable disaster at the Rackspace data center, we do have one. We have a backup server at a data center in a different part of the country, ready to be activated. Although it only takes a few minutes to divert web traffic to the backup server, the decision to do so is a little more complicated, mostly due to data synchronization issues. If we have reason to think the main servers will be inaccessible for a critical length of time, we would probably decide to promote the backup server to be the main server. At that point, a communication email would be sent to all WP users letting them know of the implications.

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this outage may have caused. We’ll post more info if we think it will be of interest to you.

WP Outage

At around 4:40pm EDT today, the WorshipPlanning.com site became inaccessible due to an issue at the Rackspace data center. The outage lasted approximately 30 minutes and affected many Rackspace customers. Once we find out the exact cause of this outage, we will post those findings in a blog post.

We have been very happy with the service Rackspace has provided us over the years. Occasional outages are to be expected from any service provider. If we find the service Rackspace provides doesn’t not meet the standards of quality that we demand, we will find a provider that does. But we anticipate Rackspace will learn from this outage and provide better service as a result.

More outage details to follow….

Finding a substitute just got easier…

We just rolled out a couple of cool Team Scheduling enhancements that should make late minute schedule changes a breeze. First, we are excited to introduce a tool that will help you find a qualified substitute for an assignment. If a person has declined an assignment, a link will appear below his name that says “sub…”. When clicked, this link will bring up a window with a list of the best qualified (and available) substitutes, starting with the most qualified. Their Qualification Index is calculated using a special algorithm we created. The desired sub can then be easily selected for assignment right from the list.

Even if an assignment hasn’t been declined, you can still find a sub by clicking on the name of the person in the assignment and selecting the “Find a substitute…” link. Or, if you haven’t even assigned a person to the role yet, you can click the “No Person” link, and WP will make suggestions.

The other significant upgrade we made this evening was the first step in replacing the old way of assigning roles and people to services. The old way, of course, is that you go to the desired service, click on the “Roles” tab, then click on the “Edit Roles” or “Edit Assignments” links. We have added a new link on that page called “Role Scheduling”. Clicking it will take you to a page that looks like the Team Scheduling, except that it keeps you on the “Roles” tab and only shows you assignments for that service (and any linked services).

One last note: We have officially launched the WorshipPlanning.com Facebook page. Check outĀ http://fb.worshipplanning.com and become a fan!

Two New Features; Team Role Templates and Sending Single Assignment Email

We just rolled out a great feature for Team Scheduling that really adds a whole new dimension to this page. It is called Team Role Templates, and here is how it works.

Within a team, “templates” of roles can be created. This would be a set roles that you often scheduled together. Here are two examples:

1) You have a Technology team that consists of all of your camera, lighting, soundboard, and computer operators. But for a normal service, you have 1 soundboard, 1 lighting, 2 camera, and 1 computer. A Team Role Template can be created with just these 5 roles.

2) You have two worship teams that alternate weekends: 1st and 3rd Sundays and 2nd and 4th Sundays. All of these people are on the same “team” in WP, but are always scheduled with their band for 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th weekends. Two Team Role Templates could be created called “1st and 3rd” and “2nd and 4th”. Each template could have the roles and the people specified as well.

You could even think of team role templates as “sub-teams”. The beauty of setting these up comes when you schedule them. Team Role Templates will appear as green-shaded items in the team panel on the far left side. By dragging a template to a service, all of the entries for that template will be slotted and/or assigned for that service.

To create team role templates, you can go to the Team Scheduling page, then click the down arrow next to the team name (on the far left side, not within a service), and select “Team Role Templates”. The interface to create team role templates is just like the Team Scheduling page – drag and drop.

The other feature we applied this evening is the ability to send an assignment email to just one person from the Team Scheduling page. To do so, simply click on the person’s name in the assignment and you will see the familiar menu showing you information about the person. The option at the bottom of the menu is “Send notification email for this assignment”. This will bring up a window allowing you to choose which assignments you want to include the details for in your email, as well as the subject and body of the email.

In the next few weeks, we plan on making the Team Details and Home pages a little more user friendly. This will also make accessing the Team Scheduling page a good bit easier.

Song Lyric Formating, New Help Desk System, Team Role Templates Update

We just applied a small update that I imagine will make you say, “Great update, but what took you so long?” The short description of the update is that you can now save (as part of the song details) a font type and font size for the lyrics section of the song. For those that didn’t just shout out loud “Finally!!”, let me explain how this is helpful. Many churches space the lyrics out so the chords will fit nicely above each line of lyrics. Well, if you are pasting the lyrics/chords in from a Word document, chances are the chords won’t line up correctly due to differences in font size and type. For a while, WP has allowed you to adjust the font type and size on the Song Details page….but those adjustment couldn’t be saved anywhere. So, every time you or a team members opened the lyrics of the song, they had to manually make that adjustment. Well, now you can save those setting right on the page where the song is added/edited.

On a different note (pun not intended), we have recently started using a new Help Desk system that does a better job of tracking your feedback and support requests. So, where you may have seen responses directly from WP individuals the past, you will now see them from arrive with a “from address” of support@worshipplanning.com. It will still be a message from me or another support team member, but it will have a Ticket Number associated with it. And you can respond to these emails by simply clicking “Reply” in your email software. Just be sure to keep the subject line intact to assure proper routing of your ticket.

Finally, we are shooting for an update later this week (or maybe early next) that will allow teams to create templates of roles. If you aren’t sure what this is, stay tuned. We’ll post a blog update on how it works once we update the site in the next several days.

Team Scheduling Nearing End of Test Phase

This evening we rolled out a few more TS enhancements.

  1. Assignment Response Notes are now visible on the TS page. If there is a note, there will be a little “note bubble” icon next to the role name for the assignment. Click this icon to see the response note(s).
  2. Assignments (within each team) can be sorted by Role Name or Person Name. Just use the little down-arrow icon to the right of the team name

We have a few more smaller enhancements, and then a larger “Team Role Templates” feature slated for the next couple of weeks. If those go well and minimal bugs are found, I think we’ll be ready to officially launch Team Scheduling for WP!

One other enhancement (fix) we made this evening is that the new File Browser search/selection window will now scroll properly with your browser. This was only an issue with netbooks, but one that we needed to fix anyway.

Skip ahead with these bookmarks: