Improved People Availability System

Last night we updated the site with a significant improvement to the People Availability feature (where Planners and Helpers block off days they cannot serve). Prior to this update, people could only only block off the AM and/or PM hours of a given day, one day at a time. With this new update, Planners and Helpers will be able to mark themselves unavailable for:

– Specific services (whether or not the services have been created in WP) – Time range within a single day (i.e. Jan 3, 9:30am >> 3:30pm) – Time range across multiple days (i.e. Jan 2 – 6:15pm >> Jan 5 – 11am) – Inclusive date range (Jan 1 >> Jan 8)

As before, Planners with a high enough security level can change the availability of Helpers and other Planners. But we have also added to the Teams page an “availability” tab that displays a calendar of dates/times/services blocked by team members. Only team leaders have access to see their team’s availability calendar. Team leaders also have the ability to change the availability of their team members, regardless of security level.

In the next few days, we plan on adding some enhancements to our support pages, as well as more video tutorials to assist team leaders and helpers with using the site. That will probably be our last enhancement update until the new year. With Christmas just a few weeks away, we want to avoid the risk of creating new bugs or issues with the site.

We continue to develop a mobile version of WP that will be a native app for iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian devices. We also are working on some exciting improvements to the Songs Library and Worship Flow pages. Stay tuned for more info….

Secondary Email and SMS Text Messaging

This evening we applied an update to the WorshipPlanning.com site that has been frequently requested. Planners and Helpers can now receive WP communications through multiple email address and/or text message numbers. On your Account Settings page, you can add additional channels of communication, and specify which types of communications should be sent to each channel. The image below shows an example of a Planner that has one secondary email and one text message number set up.

Notice that the Primary email address ALWAYS receives the message, regardless of the type of communication. But each secondary channel can be individually configured based on the type of message being sent:

  • Assignment Notification
  • Assignment Response Notification (Planners only)
  • Message Board Updates
  • Service Changes
  • General Team Communications
  • User Account Updates

When a secondary channel is added, WP will send a short confirmation code via the new channel. Once received, the Planner/Helper will need click the “confirm” link and enter that code. This will activate that channel.

Messages sent to secondary email addresses will be exact copies of what is sent to the primary email address. However, messages sent to text message numbers will be very abbreviated in attempt to keep the message all in a single text message.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to post a comment here or contact us via our support site (http://support.worshipplanning.com).

New Worship Flow Printout and Roles/Skills Tool

As the busy time of year approaches (one them, anyway), we are continuing to work very hard at providing you new enhancements and functionality to the site. To get these new features to you as quickly as possible, we try to update the site as soon as they pass our testing process (as opposed to waiting for a bunch of them to be ready before do the update).

This evening we made a couple of quick updates, and have a few more coming in the next few days. Tonight we added another Worship Flow printout style; one that has been requested by a few folks. The style is called “Flow and Assignments”. The top part of the page is similar to the Standard printout, except with better use of page space and zebra row shading. The bottom part of the page shows the service details/notes on the left side, and assignment lists of your team(s).

The other update we made can be seen by clicking on the People navigation link. You will notice a new tab called “Roles/Skills”. This new tab has taken the place of the Roles page linked from the Admin page. What’s more, you can now click on the role name itself and a window will open showing the role details AND a list of your people that have that role specified as a skill.

Stay tuned for more feature updates in the next few days (possibly a week)….

So…Where have you guys been?

Despite the lack of activity on our blog and twitter accounts, we have been quite busy with both development efforts and marketing campaigns. And on both fronts, we feel we’re making great progress.

From a development perspective, we have one feature nearing the end of selective-church testing, and another feature that is in the middle of internal testing. The former is our Assignments Auto Reminder feature. Each team can be set up to have WP automatically send a reminder email to members that are assigned to an upcoming service. Team Leaders can specify the number of days prior to the service that the message should be sent, as well as the message subject and body.

The other feature will allow Helpers and Planners to add “channels of communication” to their account. Currently you can only have a single email address associated with your account in WP. This feature allows you to add additional email addresses, and even text message phone numbers. What’s more, you can specify the types of communication you’d like sent to each secondary communication channel. We hope to add Twitter and Facebook direct messaging as communication channels, but for the time being we’ve run into some API limitations with each of those systems.

So, what else is in the hopper? We have started laying the ground work for mobile and Facebook versions of WP. There is an effort afoot to make the process of building worship flows a little more intuitive. Also, 360WP will soon be getting a face-lift. And, of course, we have several other initiatives that we are yet ready to share. But it continues to be exciting times for both our staff AND our subscribers!

Updates Applied on Aug 30

Yesterday evening we applied a performance update to the Team Scheduling page (where people scheduling for all future services is displayed) that should be quite noticable, especially for churches that have many teams and/or many future services scheduled. The enhancement should render the entire page within a couple of seconds, rather than a couple services at a time over the period of 10 seconds or so. For those curious, we did this by changing our code to generate most of the HTML on our server, rather than passing raw data and asking the browser to process and render the HTML. We also made a small tweak to our database that helped optimize the way data is retrieved.

With this update we also made two non-critical fixes. First, if a Helper marked himself as unavailable for a day that he had already been penciled in by a Planner, the Planner would not know of this change in availability and be able to schedule the person. To handle this, we now do a check for penciled-in assignments as the person marks a day as unavailable. If a conflict is found, the penciled-in assignment is changed to status Declined, with a note stating that the person has recently marked that day as unavailable.

The other issue fixed was that the file description in MyWP was missing on some pages. That description now shows as it should.

We are continuing to add many video tutorials to the site. Just look for the “Video Tutorial” link on the left side of pages in WP. We hope to soon index these in such a way that they can be easily searched on our support center.

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.

Skip ahead with these bookmarks: