Some feedback from the Feng Office team

Quiet

I would like to give you an update on the things that have been happening around Feng, and a quick overview of things to come (at least about those things we are 100% confident that will happen).

Quiet mode

We’ve been quiet lately; more than we like and are used to. There were two main reasons for coming to this situation:
1) We were overwhelmed by an enormous amount of work that came our way.
2) We took some time to go over our plans and priorities, and define new ones.

Let us try to further explain this.

A bit of history

This is a brief summary of what happened to Feng Office since its first steps in 2007:
1) The founding team made the product it wanted to build, just because it felt it was needed (Actually, today’s Feng Office Platform is still just 10% of the team’s vision). This product consisted basically on a lot of team collaboration / communication / management / productivity features bundled together into one app / platform.
2) Some people liked it.
3) The Feng Office Company was founded to provide services and support the product.
4) Feng Office found a market for its products and services (over 200.000 people are currently using Feng Office for collaborating with their teams and customers)

From Open Source project to business

Feng Office started as an open source project (beloved OpenGoo). It had the goal to become the best Web Office (what we would now Collaboration Platform) of the world. This ambitious goal required resources that were beyond the reach of the initial (unfunded) project structure. A Company had to be founded in order to support the project. And so Feng Office was founded.

The structure transition was not without its great set of challenges. The biggest challenge was in adopting, as a team and community, a new mindset. Execution of new tasks, and new priorities, where needed. Clearly communicating changes was needed.

As challenging as all this proved, we pulled it off. It was in its greatest part thanks to the continuing and growing community support, on the core team’s commitment, and, believe it or not, on the very same tool that we had built and which helped us stayed organized. We are happy and proud with how things turned out.

I feel like telling more about this great journey, but wouldn’t like to bore you with details. It may become a future post, which would also benefit from further hindsight.

What I do feel very important to say is that we have overcome a lot of obstacles and met a lot of milestones. Feng Office is now stronger than ever, and the team is confident on the evolution of the company as a team, as a product developer, and as a service provider. And, on top of this, we managed to keep developing and supporting the main product under an Open Source license.

Thank you!

New Priorities

Becoming a company changes your priorities… a lot. Once you start having customers you (the team) can no longer consider your own wishes and priorities only. In fact, your needs and wishes suddenly go last on the priority list.

It took us some time to construct this mindset, but we found that every issue/request/idea had to go through a filter that looks like this:

priorities

This schema means that, if something is not satisfying a current customer (E.g.: The servers are running slowly), this would become top priority, above any new feature request, or even having the Website homepage down).

What changed so far

The priority hierarchy illustrated above provided the Feng Office team with a good compass to follow on its everyday work. We have, for the past two years, consistently improved service quality. In many cases we have exceeded customer expectations.

We didn’t add that many features to the latest product versions. These helped make the software platform much more robust. Internal processes have been defined, understood, and are being constantly automated and improved.

What’s next

As a business team, we now feel confident to invest more on the following steps that have become natural to us. We will now work on improving our message. We have come to a point where we more often find people not understanding what Feng Office can do for them, rather than not being a potential customer.

As many in the community have clearly stated, we need now to understand what, from all that Feng Office does, is providing the best value to the user. We need you to help us understand your needs and the benefits you obtain from using Feng Office. Achieving this understanding we will be able to sharpen our focus when working on improving the product, and we will improve communication to new potential users.

All this will be done while continuing to put customer service and expectations on top of every other issue.

10 Responses to “Some feedback from the Feng Office team”

  1. Denzel says:

    Nice post,

    i agree with your points. BUT what your team / the community really needs is a roadmap. Transparancy is for an open source project the most important thing. I mean come on, use TRAC as a WIKI, Bug tracking system and milestone communication system.

    Writing bugs in the forum cant be the way the community communicates with your team. for example i tested for more than 3 days the hole system and communicated all bugs. it took days till a message from your team regarding these bugs were posted in the forum. some bugs were not commented by your team…

    that was really disappointing and i decided to reduce my effort…

    of course YOU decide what to to, which features should be realized and so on…but you really should have a deposit where all this informations regarding that project are saved (and this deposit should be accessibly for everyone).

    dont underestimate the work the community can do for you regarding testing, bug reports and so on.

  2. Peng says:

    I love OpenGoo and now Feng Office. The more I use it, the more nice features I find and more uses I have for it. In many ways, the software anticipated my need to as a software developer to track time, and manage tasks and prioritize things. I am feeling now that I cannot do things without Feng Office.

    Great work, keep it up.

    Peng

  3. Conrado says:

    @Denzel, We are terribly sorry for not having a better Bug tracking system and for not being able to squash those bugs faster. That is high priority, and will be addressed ‘soon’ (as soon as we can). Bug tracking at the forum is certainly far from best practice.

    But please, don’t stop reporting bugs! We keep track of all, and will fix them eventually.

    We don’t underestimate the potential of the community. We try our best to harvest it, and feel sorry when we realize we could do a better job. We are still learning to do that.

    Finally; I believe everyone at the team is very transparent. We don’t have a roadmap. We are transparent on that. Yet we have a vision, goals, and priorities. That is what matter the most to us.

    Every time we drafted a ‘roadmap’, it never felt quite ready to publish. Every time I take a look at those documents, without exceptions, boy am I happy I didn’t publish that! Only a tiny fraction of what we thought we would do had happened, and many unexpected improvements took place.

    Now, what do you think will happen if we publish a roadmap and then deliver something different?

    @Peng, thanks for the kind words and encouragement! We’ll keep it up. Promise! :-)

  4. Thanks for this article – it’s great to get such open communication from you.

    When my company started using OpenGoo about 18 months ago, it was a revelation. How we operate as a collaborative creative business changed dramatically overnight.

    We have appreciated the improvements made in subsequent versions. We were left breathless (and excited) by the rate of change in the early days. I don’t mind the fact that the rate of change has slowed down recently. However, there are some gaps in functionality that make it less than perfect for our needs, and leaves me wondering whether we need another system to either complement or replace Feng.

    Of course, we chose Feng because it was, and most likely still is, the best solution for what we need (short of building our own system). So replacing it is not a serious option for us right now. But I definitely feel that there are some functional gaps that need to be addressed if it is to remain a core system for our business in the long term.

    I know that every user of Feng approaches it differently, and has different requirements, but from my perspective, here are a couple of things that I would like to see on a road map for the future.

    Top of my list would be a workflow engine that allows multi-step processes to be modelled and implemented. I’ve suggested some specific features in comments in the forums in the past, but the ability to create a task and have that trigger a multi-step workflow through multiple people in my organisations would be fantastic. An example workflow would be the go-live process for a new website, in which multiple people have specific tasks to perform in a specific sequence.

    Also important for me is improved time tracking and recording, leading to a robust billing report that can be exported to CSV or XLS. I’d like to be able to review all time entered against a customer workspace and approve the time which is to be billed to the customer (most projects have some time which can’t be billed against a project, but must still be recorded against the task for tracking purposes). Being able to generate invoices isn’t essential (for me), although I could see a huge market for Feng if you were offer the facility to generate and email invoices directly from Feng. Allowing online payment of invoices would be the icing on the cake.

    A third thing, and something that I think could make Feng move forward far more rapidly, would be to offer an API to allow the community to extend Feng with third-party modules. We would definitely be interested in contributing modules in such a scenario.

    Hopefully this feedback is helpful. We love Feng, and would love to see it continue to improve. Looking forward to the future!

    David

  5. marcos says:

    Great feedback David. Thanks!

  6. Karine Barella says:

    I’ve bookmarked this because I found it interesting. I would be extremely interested to hear more information on this. Great!

  7. Jason says:

    TO me, the software is PERFECT except for ONE THING: – INVOICING!!!

    If you guys would only focus on incorporating an invoicing feature, this would make your system the end-all be-all system and would BEAT anything else out there!

    I know, because I have been searching for months for an integrated invoicing and project management system and they few and expensive.

    Thanks for an awesome system and i sincerely hope you guys do this, as it will take you to the next level.

    Jason

  8. I totally approve the switch to a business model with paid support. Mostly I am grateful that you have chosen a model where there is no difference between open source version and paid-support version like SugarCRM did. In fact, our company loved OpenGoo when we tried it, but we fully adopted it because there is a business behind. And in fact, we subscribed to paid support to contribute to the development of Feng Office knowing we might never use the support. And I please you to stay focused even if dozens of people with no business knowledge ask you on the forums to develop for free for the rest of your lives.

    Thus I totally approve your current pyramid with customer satisfaction on top: you definitely need paid support to pay salaries in order to get this software to the next step.

    However, don

  9. Conrado says:

    Thanks for the feedback and encouragement, everyone!

  10. Good article. It is unfortunate that over the last ten years, the travel industry has had to deal with terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, bird flu virus, swine flu, and also the first ever true global economic downturn. Through it all the industry has proven to be effective, resilient plus dynamic, getting new ways to deal with misfortune. There are usually fresh problems and opportunities to which the marketplace must just as before adapt and reply.

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