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Jake Armstrong
Jake Armstrong | Senior Product Manager, Civis Analytics

In my previous post, I discussed how Civis Analytics leverages continuous improvement (CI) to make a better product. This follow-up post addresses new and upcoming updates to our Civis Platform, and how we implemented the CI process to make these changes.


New Query Tool

The new query tool, released in April 2022, adds the ability to sort results and search past queries more efficiently, and makes the usage flow more intuitive. This new tool was designed from the start to offer an easier, more user-friendly experience, especially for newer users who have less familiarity with Platform (or with data tools more generally).

As noted in my previous post, Civis’s approach to the continuous improvement process is best understood as a four-step cycle: Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA). On the whole, our query tool redesign accomplished what we set out to achieve during the Plan and Do phases, but we underestimated the impact some changes would have for our more experienced power users. This is where the Check and Act phases of the process come into play.

We quickly realized our oversight, and made a number of corrections and changes to better balance the needs of both newer and more knowledgeable query users, without damaging the overall expectation and vision for the improved query experience. We are constantly working to provide the best tools for all our users, and will continue to improve wherever we can if we miss our initial target.

Have feedback for the Platform team?

The best way for you to help us improve Platform is to chat with your Client Success Specialist or Account Manager during your regular check-in. This allows us to ask more details, share potential solutions, and/or identify temporary work-a-rounds while we work on your issue.

Project Auto-sharing

Platform’s Projects feature allows users to group related objects such as scripts, notebooks, tables, and workflows into a folder-like structure. Grouping objects into Projects enables your teams to easily track and collaborate on data initiatives. However, when our research surfaced limitations preventing users from utilizing Projects to its full potential — namely, that sharing permissions were not granted to newly-added objects, requiring manager-level users to take manual steps to ensure appropriate access across the team — we planned and implemented an autoshare feature to remove this stumbling block.

With Project Auto-sharing, current and new objects are automatically shared across the project team to keep everyone working together seamlessly. We will continue to monitor this new feature to determine if we hit our goals.


Salesforce Integration Improvements

Another facet of the CI process: contemplating work on features or components even when they seem to be working fine — there is almost always some improvement that can be made to make things better/easier/more straightforward for users.

For example, we integrated Salesforce into Platform quite some time ago, but because many of our clients rely heavily on this process, we initiated a performance review. As a result, we introduced a new Salesforce integration allowing faster and more efficient uploads and downloads. We also added the ability to incrementally upload/download, which only updates records that have been changed in a given timeframe and can save a substantial amount of time when pulling from a very large data source. We even gave users greater flexibility when defining the precise data they are looking for.

New Workflows Tool

I also want to talk about some of our upcoming features, including our updated Workflows toolset, slated to launch early 2023. Workflows let Platform users build full data pipelines from end to end; these can be built simply (for example, linking a set of scripts together one after another) or they can be quite complex, allowing for a variety of jobs across different languages and variable parameters to work in concert to build a final output.

Workflows can be daunting to newer users, though, and deriving its full benefits often requires knowledge of the YAML programming language. We responded by conducting significant research and defining a plan to bring the power of Workflows to a wider audience without losing any of the functionality that has made the toolset so critical for our advanced user base.

Our forthcoming, updated Workflows tool will allow users to build and view a workflow using a graphical interface, allowing many workflows to be created without using any coding at all. The YAML and parameter structure will still be fully editable and aligned to the graphical tool so that Platform power users can quickly build a workflow framework, then flesh out their desired outcome using more advanced features. We also overhauled the entirety of our UI to allow users to move through the design process more quickly and to more easily find and debug potential issues.

We will be providing additional information on these Workflows tool improvements as we get closer to release.


Table Permissions Viewing

Last but not least, another upcoming improvement (also expected in early 2023) will enable users to view permissions on a given data table without SQL or assistance from Civis customer service. Client feedback tells us it can be tricky for users to determine exactly which rights they have on a table; moving forward, a standard user will be able to clearly see what they can and can’t do before performing a query. Further, administrators will be able to view and report permissions for Platform users within their team, giving them an across-the-board view of their data security.

As a project manager, I am constantly focused on making Civis Platform better for all of our users. We rely on our Platform users to inform us when and where they are hitting inefficiencies so we can alway have the best user experience for everyone.

Black man on a video conference

If you have feedback or suggestions for improvements…

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