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Learning about iCarol enhancements and other system news

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Communication is key in any relationship, and of course that includes iCarol’s relationship with our users!

Because iCarol is a web-based software, we roll out updates and enhancements to the platform regularly and seamlessly, without system downtime or the need for users to download and install anything. This is of great benefit to our users, though it presents a challenge to us to make sure our users are aware of these changes so they can understand and take advantage of them.

We communicate system news to people in a variety of ways, and the method will typically depend upon who it effects as well as the type of enhancement and its scope or level of impact. Often each enhancement is communicated using a number of methods and not just one.

iCarol Dashboard

When Admin level users sign into iCarol, they’re presented with their own dashboard of information most pertinent to them and their position as leaders at their agency. There are two areas on this dashboard where system changes are communicated.

    Release history and plans

    A software “release” happens when our Technical Team takes the enhancements or fixes they’ve been working on and apply them to the live iCarol system accessed by users. This step is the culmination of careful process undertaken by our Support, Technical, and sometimes Product Management Teams. Once a certain enhancement is coded by the Technical Team, a member of the Support Team or Product Management Team will thoroughly test the enhancement in a series of simulations in our test system to ensure the enhancement works as designed without undesired impact to existing processes. Once this process is complete, the “deployment” happens and the changes go into affect for everyone who signs into iCarol. The system doesn’t go offline or experience downtime in order for this to happen, so the changes may appear transparent to users unless they notice a new enhancement, or if they read the release notes.

    A summary of upcoming release plans can be found on the right side of your Admin Dashboard.

    Release history and plans

    Clicking the link for “See more release history and plans” takes you to the details list of what enhancements are included in an upcoming release to the iCarol web application, and details on past inclusions as well. A drop-down menu allows you to pick which element of iCarol you’d like to view release details on. These are broken down by the iCarol web application (your main iCarol system), Public Resource Directory, Messaging, and API. Each of those elements of iCarol have seperate releases and separate lists of work items to be tested and applied.

    Release details

    In addition to the Admin Dashboard, users of other security levels also have access to these release notes from their own dashboard. For those volunteers and staff members, the release notes are linked at the bottom left of the screen when they first log into iCarol.

    Keep in mind that the language in these release notes can be a bit technical, but if you think a particular item may be important to your work and you’re not sure what it does, you are welcome to ask the Support Team for more details.

    Announcements, Tips, and Tricks

    In the center column of the Admin Dashboard is the “Announcements, Tips, and Tricks” area. In this area we’ll share news and goings on of note to Admins. This is one of the places we’ll typically announce noteworthy new features or enhancements, upcoming events such as when we’ll be at an industry conference or are holding a webinar, and important news like letting you know when a Taxonomy update is coming.

‘Help’ area of your iCarol system

All users signed into iCarol can access the ‘Help’ area at the lower area of left main menu.

Help area

The ‘Help’ page includes a number of links to tools including:

    Training Webinars and Tutorial Videos

    When you first land on the ‘Help’ page you’re brought to our collection of recorded Training Webinars and other tutorial videos or video series on how to use the various features of iCarol. These videos are categorized by the feature area they pertain to.

    training videos

    Help Articles

    There is a library of solutions, step-by-step instructions, and answers to common questions that can be read in the Help Articles area of the ‘Help’ page. These articles can be browsed, or you may search using keywords or phrases the find the topic you wish to read up on.

    iCarol Ideas Portal

    Earlier this year we introduced the iCarol Ideas Portal. In this area of iCarol you can view the feature enhancement ideas submitted by your peers, vote for the ones you like most, submit your own ideas for consideration, and subscribe to ideas that interest you. When you subscribe to an idea we supply ongoing email communication to you about its progress toward potential implementation. Not only do we discuss this new area extensively on the blog, but we also covered it in a recent webinar as well.

    In-system guides

    Though not yet available to all of our users, for some time now new iCarol systems in trial have included in-system guides to help users learn how to use iCarol. These smart guides present themselves to a user when they enter a certain feature area to encourage them to take a brief tour or learn more about how to use a certain element of iCarol, and then walks them through the process. These guides are tailored for users based on their security level, ensuring that everyone gets a walk-through that is appropriate for their role. We’ve discussed these guides in past Enhancement Review Webinars and will be sending our users more information about them, as well as posting blogs and offering other communication, when we are nearing the wide release of these guides to all of our users.

    Submit a Case

    If you can’t find the answer to your question by searching in the Help area or elsewhere, or if you need to report an issue, then we welcome you to contact our Support Team for additional assistance. This is done by opening a case in the Case Management area. You can read our full instructions and tips for the best way to do this here.

Website and Blog

The iCarol website can be a great source of information about software features, including new feature released. Our primary features and sub-functions of those features typically have web pages describing their purpose and use, and visitors to our website can easily explore what iCarol has to offer.

On the iCarol blog we will post about new features and notable enhancements as they are added. Often our blogs will highlight how this new enhancement works, the solutions it aims to present to our users, how to enable it, instructions on use, and ideas for how you might use a feature at your organization. If you are signed up to receive our Weekly Blog Digest, you’ll receive a single email per week delivering links to all the blogs from the previous week.

Emails

We realize that your email inbox can get really full really fast, and so we try to be mindful of that by carefully deciding when to directly send you feature news via email. When a new feature or enhancement is particularly impactful or presents major opportunities for our users, then we may choose send direct emails. You can manage your communications with us, though keep in mind that as an iCarol user you may get necessary and important system emails from us, or shift reminders and other system notifications, even if you have unsubscribed from “marketing” emails.

Webinars

We recognize that sometimes it’s nice to hear from us live and “in person” and so we occasionally offer webinars to discuss new features or enhancements to features. Once every few months we’ll hold our “Quarterly Enhancement/New Feature Review” webinars. These webinars are a chance for us to look at the most noteworthy system enhancements of the last few months and present them to you, consolidated, in the webinar. We’ll discuss the purpose behind the feature and the problems it aims to solve, talk about how it could potentially be used by you, and the benefits it delivers to your organization. Note that these enhancement review webinars are not trainings or walk-throughs of the features, but rather a chance for us to provide you with an overview of its use and purpose, as well as give you an opportunity to ask us questions about these enhancements. In addition to the regular enhancement review webinars, when a new feature is released that has a far-reaching impact, or presents a major change in functionality, we’ll also hold webinars about that particular feature, to provide an overview or also to train users on how to use it.

Annual Customer Survey

While we send out various communications to our users, it’s also important that we invite you to communicate with us and give us feedback. Each year we send out a survey to our Admin and Supervisor users asking for your input on a variety of topics pertaining to iCarol and your use of the platform. If you’re an Admin or Supervisor you’ll be receiving this email very soon, and we hope you’ll take a few moments to respond and let us know how we’re doing.

As a web-based and ever-evolving software solution, we recognize how imperative it is that we communicate effectively with our users so that they can make the most of using their iCarol systems. If you have any questions or feedback about how we communicate with our users, you can feel free to . And as always, if you have a specific question about how to use iCarol that isn’t covered or the answer can’t be found in one of the various places described above, please reach out to our Support Team for assistance.

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Dana

Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties at a suicide prevention, crisis intervention, and empathetic listening helpline that also served as a 2-1-1 information and referral service. As the Communications and Social Media Manager at iCarol, you'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials that aid helplines in their work. In her spare time, Dana enjoys birdwatching, gardening, animal caregiving, and spending time with her family.

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