Unfortunately as is the case with so many other events planned for this spring, iCarol’s annual customer conference, originally scheduled to take place in Grand Rapids, Michigan this June, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to this event each year and were very disappointed to have to cancel, as we always enjoy seeing our customers and spending an entire day with them immersed in iCarol training and a user group session.
It’s important to us that our customers still have the opportunity to connect with us, receive training, and have the option to participate in a user group session, even if this year we can’t hold the event in person.
We’re excited to announce the first initiative to provide that continuity — the user group portion of our conference will become a virtual user group session, scheduled for Thursday, June 11 at 2pm Eastern.
This virtual user group session is your chance to hear about the latest improvements and enhancements to iCarol, learn what we have planned for implementation in the coming months, and discuss and provide feedback to the iCarol Product Management team on what features you’d like to see implemented in the future. All customers or those exploring iCarol for potential use at their organization are welcome to attend.
Virtual User Group Exclusive: Attendees of this session will be the first to hear about a major feature release coming in Q4 of 2020! You won’t want to miss it!
During this session we will:*
- Review released features and enhancements from the past year
- Share features and enhancements in progress and coming soon
- Discuss iCarol strategy and priorities
- Invite your industry expertise and votes on top ideas
- Share a sneak peek at an all new, major feature release coming in Q4 of 2020!
Learn More and Register
*We reserve the right to make adjustments to our schedule and topics prior to the event date.
As another year closes and a new one begins, we naturally reflect on the accomplishments, celebrations, and important moments of 2019 while anticipating all that lies ahead. Personally, I consider the past year to be one full of progress, both in the industries we serve and here at iCarol.
All year we engage with our customers at industry conferences, forums, and in other capacities so we can be intimately aware of the topics currently affecting them and others on the horizon. This helps us to respond in kind to meet these needs with new, innovative solutions from iCarol. This year was no exception – we have seen movement across all of the industries we serve that open opportunities for our customers that we are actively exploring ways to support using iCarol software.
In the world of Information and Referral, the topics of Social Determinants of Health, Closed-loop referral, and further encouragement to engage in partnerships and collaboration all show promise for many exciting opportunities for our customers. Those working to address sexual and intimate partner violence continue to advocate for education, awareness, prevention, improved response, and justice for all those who experienced a crime. We’re excited to see their advocacy result in new legislation across several states that extend statutes of limitations for crimes, signaling better recognition of the complexities and time involved for survivors to report, and improved allocation of resources towards testing material from forensic exams, improving the chances that survivors will receive justice. In December, the United States Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to establish a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the next 18 months. This is long sought after acknowledgement that mental health emergencies deserve the same attention and response as the types of emergencies reported to 9-1-1, something suicide prevention advocates have long been pressing for as a way to prevent suicide. Finally, concerns about consent for contact and data privacy continue to loom large across the world. Previous years have given us CASL in Canada and GDPR in the EU, both sweeping and comprehensive sets of regulations. Now we are beginning to see individual states and provinces taking on the task of writing their own legislation to protect consumers from having their data harvested and sold without their knowledge and consent, most notably in California’s Consumer Protection Act. We are doing all we can, and relying on our resources available through Harris Computer, to make sure that we are in full compliance with such laws, and that our customers are aware of how these laws may impact them directly.
These are just a few examples of developments impacting our customers in the year ahead. Of course we will look for any ways iCarol can support our customers through these changes, and help them carry out their life saving work. Look for more from us on our blog and webinars for updates on how we are addressing these topics.
The industries we serve aren’t the only ones experiencing progress – iCarol, too, went through positive changes in 2019. In December we moved to a new infrastructure on which the iCarol web application runs – Microsoft Azure. The migration to this new platform was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and effort, and was not without its challenges and setbacks, but we are delighted to now be fully operational in the new environment and excited for all it means for our customers. Microsoft Azure will help us provide the most up-to-date, technologically advanced platform available. We can scale and ramp up performance as needed to meet increases in system use, whether it be due to an event, disaster, or the normal periodic demands on the system that occur for monthly exports and reporting. We are delighted not just by the way this move allows us to be more responsive to system demands, but knowing that Azure offers built-in security services that include unparalleled security intelligence. We are very excited to track data over time to show how this new infrastructure improves performance and stability, and supports the future growth in iCarol’s customer base.
I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for the great support and patience we received from our customers during this transition and in the months prior. Our customers exercised immense trust and patience with us as we developed the plan to make this sweeping change to our infrastructure. Their user testing of the new environment, feedback, and communication with us greatly contributed to the success of this project. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our customers as essential partners with us on this journey.
There is much more to share about what was accomplished in the year behind us, and what’s on our agenda for the year ahead. Later this month we will host a “State of iCarol” webinar for our customers reviewing 2019 progress and our plans for 2020. You can also look to our blogs and email updates, and for customers, our Admin Dashboard, for more exciting information as it develops.
So, as this new year begins, I wish to thank everyone who makes it their life’s work to help others, most especially our customers, on behalf of the entire iCarol Team. Every day we see the positive impact you have on individuals and communities as a whole, and we could not be more honored to play a small part in the amazing work you do. The team at iCarol is excited to see what 2020 holds and hope for continued progress towards a safer, happier, and healthier society thanks to the work you do.
Vice President, Operations
Awhile back we shared our intentions to make some changes to the terminology we use when talking about certain iCarol features and capabilities. Namely, referring to “callers” or “calls” as the standard when talking about the people served and how you serve them. Before we go any further, let’s backup and review…
Recap – Why the changes?
iCarol was inspired by the volunteer experiences of our founders in a helpline environment, which were, at the time, very much rooted in call taking as the method of engaging with and helping people in need. Over the years, new technologies that lend themselves to different and expanded ways of communicating only grew in popularity and availability, and iCarol adapted as a result by enabling into the software communication channels like Live Chat, Texting/SMS, and connecting clients with services through a public website, for example Online Forms and the Public Resource Directory.
The fact is, iCarol is such a flexible solution that since the very beginning our customers have used it for far more than just phone-based work. But, much of the terminology we use when talking about our software centers around calls. For example, the functionality used to document interactions with clients and collect necessary information has historically been called “Call Reports” or “Call Report Forms,” and the area of your system where these interactions are logged is titled “Calls.” There are other examples like “Caller Profile” and “Phone Worker” being used throughout our public website and web application (aka “web app”).
We want to be more inclusive and consider the broad scope of how iCarol is actually used by our clients by using terminology that actually reflects its full potential. It’s important that we do this so that our current customers feel their work is understood and respected by the iCarol team, but also so that potential clients understand that iCarol is the solution for them, and ensuring they don’t mistakenly think its capabilities are limited and can’t meet their organization’s needs.
What is changing?
After surveying our clients and having internal discussions, we have settled on some new terminology to transition to:
It’s important to note that these changes are cosmetic only, and none of these changes should impact the way iCarol works or how you use the software to complete tasks.
|Calls (as seen on the left main menu of iCarol)
|Call Report or Call Report Form
||Contact Form/Contact Record
||Vol/Staff, Volunteer or Staff, Worker
||Help seeker, Person in need, Client
When will these changes occur?
We have already begun making changes throughout our public website to reflect the broader scope of how people can and do use iCarol. You may also notice these newer terms on our blogs and other public-facing content, and they may be used by members of our team when they’re answering your questions or working with you on Support cases.
In regards to the iCarol software that you sign into and use each day, changing terms there will take longer to implement. We are still in the process of analyzing all the areas that need to change, and we will then decide what areas to prioritize and organize our efforts before any changes will begin. When we do begin changing terms in web app, you will find these changes will happen in phases and for a time there may be some inconsistencies, i.e. some pages use the new terms while others still use the old ones. We appreciate your patience through the process. When we know more about when you can expect to start seeing these changes in iCarol, we will communicate that on the blog and the iCarol Dashboard.
Read past blogs on this topic:
iCarol offers multiple ways for you to retrieve the data you put into your system. You can use our Statistics area to access dozens of available-on-demand charts and graphs that present information that our clients most commonly need to meet their reporting requirements. You can also apply numerous filters to these reports, drilling directly in to uncover the desired information. This area is a sufficient source of information for most of your basic reporting needs.
But, we understand that others may want or need to run cross tabulations, pivot tables, or otherwise customize their reporting experience a bit further. Our users can extract their raw data files for further analysis in external programs like Microsoft Access or Excel, or simply export the data for offline storage. These data tables contain every last detail about activities like your shifts, volunteer and staff profiles, the records in your resource database, and contact records including the data from contact record text entry fields, among other activities.
Our philosophy is this: The data you put into iCarol is YOUR data— we are simply the stewards of it by keeping it stored and protected for you, and so of course you should have access to it as needed. Many of our users choose to go to the Admin Tools area of iCarol to export this data on a regular basis. However, this does require taking a few steps to initiate the download, then waiting for the export to complete before you can begin your analysis.
We’ve created an enhancement to the Admin Tools export area: Scheduled Exports. Using this feature, our users can schedule an automatic export to occur. This export can be delivered in your iCarol system just as the manual exports, or you can set a path to a S/FTP that you’ve provided for this data to be delivered to.
Each iCarol customer is allotted one free monthly scheduled export to use in their system.
This feature is also available as a subscription — you may add on several scheduled exports to your iCarol system for a nominal monthly cost. When you subscribe to this feature, you may choose from multiple time frames for the scheduled exports to occur: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually. If you find yourself needing to export information on a repeat basis throughout your reporting cycles, having these files exported automatically is a convenient and time-saving solution.
To add your free monthly scheduled export, log into iCarol and navigate to the Help area to read our detailed Help Articles with step-by-step instructions (simply search for “Scheduled Export”).
And, if you want to save even more time and have more exports automatically delivered on a recurring basis, open a case with the Support Team to get started!
The end of a year is typically a time for introspection as we look back on what we’ve accomplished and begin to plan for the future. This past year has certainly been challenging for a variety of reasons, but you, our clients, have been a consistent source of inspiration throughout it all. You have repeatedly stepped in to assist the most vulnerable in their time of greatest need. Whether it was responding to those at risk during and after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, helping survivors in the aftermath of a violent attack and addressing the surge in awareness and discussion around those topics, assisting those struggling in their day-to-day environment, or handling countless other problems and requests, you have stepped up to make a positive difference in the world.
They say there’s strength in numbers, and you demonstrated it this year with creative partnerships to aid each other in your respective missions. In the interest of brevity, I’ll cite just two examples: first, a California 211 who on very short notice agreed to back up a Florida crisis center as Irma grew close, utilizing iCarol’s ability to share contact forms and resource data. The plan ensured help seekers would still have someone to assist them even as the Florida center lost its power and telephone service. The California 211 logged over 1,100 call reports during that crisis.
In another powerful example of strength in numbers, a group of crisis centers across Canada banded together to form the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), agreeing on a common process and technology standard in order to provide a seamless network of assistance to those in crisis. The vision of a unified national service was first championed by Karen Letofsky, and began providing service in late November of this year. CSPS uses iCarol for logging contacts, chat and texting. Their very first interaction, a chat, resulted in an active rescue of a teenager. Countless other stories could be told of the valuable services you’ve all performed throughout this year, and of the powerful network you’ve built to assist each other in times of need.
At iCarol we have always strived to provide the best possible software and service we could to empower you further. After listening closely to your feedback last year, in 2017 we focused most strongly on overall service stability, product quality and in the addition of critical functionality to iCarol. We also wanted to ensure we built in additional feedback loops from you to help us continue to improve. So, you might ask, how have we done?
I’m pleased to say that for 2017 thus far, we’ve achieved our best “up time” in the past 10 years, exceeding 99.972% system availability, per our third-party monitoring service. To put 99.972% in context, it averages out to only 24.2 seconds of down time per day, or a total of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 15.9 seconds for the entire year. We’re feeling especially good about the percentage given that this year our customers logged over 10 million contact forms in iCarol, doubling the number of forms entered just 3 years ago. Your need for access to iCarol stretches ‘round the clock, and our relatively small company has delivered this year with up times comparable to industry giants like Salesforce and Amazon, ensuring you have access to your systems as you provide vital services.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve product quality. iCarol contains almost 300,000 lines of code, which implies a significant amount of work to continually test its feature functionality. In late 2016 and throughout 2017, we’ve been investing in automated testing as a way to ensure more ongoing, consistent testing. To date we’ve created 220 automated test cases, which will be kicked off nightly as the codebase is updated with new bug fixes or features. Our plan is to grow the number of automated cases to cover more and more of iCarol, thereby relying a little less on manual testing, which can be subject to human error. The more product defects we can capture before a release, the better iCarol will perform for you. This will also help us to speed up our release cycle in 2018, releasing an update on average every two weeks throughout the year, delivering feature functionality to you more quickly. As always, check the iCarol Dashboard for news on upcoming releases and any features it may contain.
The iCarol Ideas Portal was launched this February as a more formal feedback loop for you to suggest improvements, and to vote on Ideas of fellow customers. It also enables the ability for Q&A, allowing our Product Management team to gather more detailed information about selected Ideas. We’re thrilled that you’ve jumped in and begun logging your Ideas, enabling us to see trends in your voting. We’ve implemented multiple Ideas this year, and plan to add more in 2018.
In 2017, 2,769 code changes were made to iCarol, which translates into over 790 features and bug fixes added throughout the year, as we strove to improve iCarol per your feedback. Some of the most notable enhancements this year included a new release of Messaging, which incorporated the text or chat conversation into the call report form, the massive Field Visibility enhancement for resource database managers, and an updated Public Resource Directory 2.0, with its configurable Guided Search, among other features.
Smaller enhancements can also provide a lot of value for our clients, as you reminded us through your suggestions on the Ideas Portal. These included enabling a custom date range for the Summary Report, receiving an email notification when a resource is flagged for review, requesting email outcomes from an Automated Verification campaign, receiving notifications for bounced email from an Automate Verification campaign, and initiating an Automated Verification request when editing a resource record.
Finally, we’ve also begun formalizing focus groups on particular areas of functionality we’d like to improve. If you are a “Power User” of a particular area of iCarol, meaning you use it heavily, and have strong opinions on how it could be improved, we’d love to hear from you so that we can add you into a focus group. Each group will be small, but will hone in on specialized functionality so that we can obtain very detailed feedback on what works, what doesn’t, and the special requirements and limitations you run into in your environment. As I hope I’ve conveyed throughout this note, your voice and expertise is a valued part of our business, especially as part of our product management process.
All in all, it’s been quite a year. We hope you’ve weathered the storm well in both your personal and professional life, and we wish everyone a safe, secure and happy new year. Everyone at iCarol continuously marvels at the fine work you do and your life-changing and life-saving contributions to our world, and we’re excited to see your continued positive influence in the new year. We remain honored to serve you, our clients, and look forward to another year of service and giving in 2018 and beyond.
Save the date and book your spot — our next Enhancement Review Webinar is scheduled for Monday, December 18, 2017 at 1pm EST!
A reminder that these webinars are a way for us to provide users with a summary of the latest enhancements that have been added to your iCarol systems. This isn’t a training nor do we dive deep into instructions on how to enable or use these tools, though all of that information can be found in our help articles and other training materials inside iCarol. The webinar is our chance to go over what was added, what problems it solves and what direct benefits you could see from using it, along with potential use cases.
Sign up now by clicking the button below. Remember, if you find you can’t make it on the day of the webinar, we always provide a recording and make that available on our website and we also send out a link via email to all those who attended, or those who registered but were absent. We hope to see you there!
We’ve recently added to iCarol the capability to send your Resource Specialists or Resource Managers an automated email notification when a Resource record in your database is “flagged for review.”
What Are “Flagged Resources?”
It’s important that your Resource Database information is kept accurate and reliable so that your Call/Chat Specialists are giving out the best information possible. One of the tools that help you accomplish this in iCarol is Resource “flagging” — marking a record in such a way that Resource Specialists or Resource Managers know to give it some attention.
How It Works
Say a client received a referral from your organization last week, but when they call that referral they find the number is out of service, or they reach the organization but are told the program they called about is no longer offered. Oftentimes such clients will call you back to complain or report the difficulty accessing services. In other cases, you may discover the encountered barriers on a follow-up conversation with the client. Another potential scenario — one of the employees of an organization listed in your database may proactively call your service and speak with a Call Specialist to report needed changes to their listing. Regardless of how the question is raised to a record’s accuracy, within iCarol your volunteers and staff can go into the Resource record and “flag” that record along with a note describing the necessary changes, or simply note the request that the Resource Manager follow-up with the organization.
This process is far better than taking the time to write the Resource Manager an email, or leaving them a note or voicemail. Those steps take time away from your specialists’ responsibility of answering calls or chats and providing other direct services to clients. By simply typing a note in the Resource record within iCarol and hitting the “Submit” button, your specialists won’t have to leave their workstation or stop what they’re doing to pass the information along. This not only saves them time and keeps their focus on serving clients, but also helps safeguard against this important task being forgotten or overlooked.
On the receiving end of the flagged Resource is the Resource Specialist or Resource Manager, who will see an alert on the main Manage Resources page noting that a Resource was flagged for review. Simply clicking a link on that page takes the Resource Manager to the full listing where they can review the issue and clear the flag once any investigation and adjustments are complete. Until they do this, others who view the record as a potential referral for a client will see that is has been flagged, so they know to be aware and proceed with caution before providing it as a referral.
With this latest enhancement, in addition to the in-system alert seen at the top of the Manage Resources page, certain staff can also receive a system generated, automated email alerting them that a Resource has been flagged. This additional alert helps Resource Managers respond more quickly when a Resource record’s accuracy requires review.
How To Enable/Disable This Notification
We have automatically enabled this setting for all users whose security permissions indicate they have a role in Resource Management, i.e. they can create and edit Resource records. To change settings for any of your users, take the following steps:
- Log in to iCarol as an Admin
- In the left main menu, click on ‘Vols-Staff’
- Click on the name of the person whose notifications you wish to change
- Click ‘Edit’
- Click ‘Notifications’
- Select or un-select the ‘Resource flagged for review notification’ setting
- Click the ‘Save’ button
If you wish to disable this setting for all users of your iCarol system, but the size of your staff makes this an onerous task to complete manually, please open a case with our Support Team and they can assist you. Your case should contain the subject line: “Disable the ‘Resources flagged for review’ setting for all our users.” For a limited time our Technical Team can run a script to turn off this notification en masse for all users in your system. We’ll honor requests for this action through December 31, 2017.
At iCarol we believe that our customers are also some of our best innovators. From the very start, helpline volunteers created iCarol and we’ve continued that tradition of users driving product development as the years go by. Many of the features you use in iCarol every day grew from a “light bulb moment” had by one of your peers. This community development approach drives our future product development. After all, no one knows your business or what type of tool or enhancement could improve your work like you do.
iCarol Usergroup Summit at the AIRS Conference
Our conference appearances throughout the year provide opportunities for iCarol usergroup sessions where iCarol users can discuss our software, provide feedback, and hear about our development plans, often referred to as our “Product Roadmap.” Prior to the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) conference in May we hold an iCarol Usergroup Summit where we offer trainings by AIRS Certified iCarol staff, as well as a traditional usergroup meeting.
This past spring, we asked for the AIRS Usergroup Summit attendees’ help on voting and prioritizing identified enhancements that should be first in line for development. Attendees received a firsthand look at how hard it is for us to decide where to focus our efforts. They took their task seriously, and graciously provided valuable feedback. You’ll be seeing the results of their efforts soon as these new developments start to be released in your iCarol system. As always, watch the iCarol blog and the Dashboard in your iCarol system for details.
Following the Summit one attendee described iCarol as, “Not just a vendor but a partner” in their organization’s mission. This is absolutely our goal as we work with all of our clients as we believe deeply in helping you to affect positive change in your communities. We’re happy to share that 100% of Summit attendees described themselves as Satisfied or Very Satisfied overall with the material presented at AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit, and 100% of the group found the individual session content relevant to their everyday work. We think it’s a great event that you should attend next year, but you don’t have to take our word for it – 91% of attendees said they are likely to recommend attendance to others. We’ll be announcing future AIRS iCarol Usergroup Summit plans in 2018 so stay tuned!
Advisory Boards and Focus Groups
In an effort to keep client discussions going not just when we see you at conferences but throughout the year, we’ve recently kicked off a new and exciting venture — creating two separate iCarol Advisory boards, one to represent Crisis Centers/Helplines, and one to represent Information and Referral organizations. Each iCarol Advisory Board will ensure representation of industry voices in our development process through virtual meetings year round. Goals include providing iCarol with guidance on their industry’s evolving needs, providing feedback on existing and future software development, and validating that iCarol’s strategy and development plans meet the needs of the industry being served.
In addition to the iCarol Customer Advisory Boards, we are also hosting more focus groups than ever before. Focus groups are made up of individuals to discuss a particular challenge or development approach we are considering. Focus groups give the iCarol Product Development team the opportunity to discuss challenges our clients experience and potential solutions.
Want to get involved in an iCarol Advisory Board or Focus Groups? Participants are identified and invited through their participation on the iCarol Ideas Portal, from the cases they submit, feedback from surveys or ways in which their iCarol systems are configured.
Annual Customer Survey
It’s important to provide organization leaders and management staff across our client pool with the opportunity to share feedback covering all areas of iCarol, from our customer service to the use of the product itself, and to that end we just wrapped our annual Customer Survey a few weeks ago. We’re busy compiling and analyzing those results now so we can internally discuss how this feedback will drive us in the months ahead. We truly value the time you took to complete this survey and we will share results and action plans coming from that survey in the months ahead.
iCarol Ideas Portal
And finally, we just celebrated about 7 months of having the iCarol Ideas Portal available. This has proven to be an effective way of both receiving and prioritizing client ideas, and communicating about these ideas and their progress towards implementation. You may have caught our recent blog sharing some notable stats on the portal’s usage and just how much this method of client involvement has impacted your iCarol system already. If you haven’t, you can check that out here.
We hope, with these various methods through which we receive feedback and ideas, that you feel like a part of our iCarol Community where your voices are heard and opinions are acknowledged. Your role in our product development is an integral part of what we do and we look forward to continuing that tradition in both familiar and new and exciting ways.
The iCarol Ideas Portal was released about 7 months ago, and already it is having a big impact, just as we hoped it would.
Since its release you have used the portal to:
- Add over 300 enhancement and feature ideas
- Cast 900 votes for your favorite ideas
- Submit about 150 comments to help our team better understand ideas
To date, nine ideas originating on the iCarol Ideas Portal have been released for use. We’ll talk about some of these in more detail on separate upcoming blogs, but here’s a brief summary of a few of those ideas and what they do:
- Receive email notifications and details when an Automated Verification Request has “bounced” and not made it to the recipient
- Receive email notifications that a Resource record has been flagged for review
- Initiate a new Automated Verification Request for a single record while viewing that record
There are currently 14 ideas planned and in progress, some that originated on the Ideas Portal and other ideas that were pre-existing but added to the portal so you could share you comments, feedback, and votes. Some of these planned ideas include:
- Create PDFs that include only certain fields of your Resource records
- Schedule statistics and specialized exports on a reoccurring basis
- Allow the template for sending referrals by SMS to draw fields from Site records
- Flexible date ranges in your statistical Summary Report
- Include Custom Fields in your Resource record PDFs
- Send referrals in the body of an email
- Integration with the 2-1-1 National Text Platform (NTP) including:
- Phone-to-Text referrals using 898211
- 2-way texting using 898211
- Pre-conversation surveys via SMS/Texting
- Updates to the iCarol Help area
- Applying your feedback to our Learning Guides
- Standard Resource Export using the AIRS XML 3.0 Schema
We want to thank you all again for embracing the iCarol Ideas Portal as you have, and contributing so many wonderful ideas to it. By participating on the portal and casting your vote on the ideas that would be most beneficial to you and your organization, you help our Product Management team prioritize what we work on next, and enhance the iCarol experience for everyone. Keep those ideas coming!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.