Editor's note: 2011 was another incredibly productive year at Bamboo, seeing growth in every measurable category, not least of which was the size of our product line. As we wrap up the first week of the new year, let's take a few moments today to look back on the past year's accomplishments (and also sneak a few peeks into what's in store for the year ahead) with each of our product management team leads…
This past year was another busy one for releases of your flagship product, Workflow Conductor, with ongoing development and support efforts for both SharePoint 2010 as well as 2007 versions of the product. How many releases were there during the course of the year?
The workflow team here at Bamboo had a pretty busy 2011, including several new product releases which brought with them a lot of exciting new features. After ending 2010 with two releases of Workflow Conductor 1.5, for SharePoint 2007 and (for the first time) SharePoint 2010, we quickly followed up with simultaneous releases of 1.6 for both 2007 and 2010 in February. While not "packed to the gills" with new features like 1.5 had been, Workflow Conductor 1.6 still squeezed in some great new widgets (including "Collect Data from User" and "Create a SharePoint Group"), some new date/time branching conditions, and killed some pesky bugs. We continued our bug-killing ways with a 1.6.1 patch release for both 2007 and 2010 a month later. From there, we buckled down and worked on our big 2.0 release which came out in July for 2010, and in August for 2007. That release was one of our most ambitious yet. We added 10+ widgets and introduced three entirely new publishing styles to provide even more flexibility in how workflows can be used and reused. After that we stopped briefly in September to squash a few more bugs with another patch release, then churned out another feature-rich release in the form of 2.1 for 2010 (October) and 2007 (November). Not content to wait and see if we were on Santa's "naughty" or "nice" list, the team squeezed in a couple more patch releases before closing out 2011. Our release tally for the year came out to two major releases, four "minor" releases (adding up to a lot of new features), and six patch releases.
Would you compare Conductor today to where it was a year ago, noting the key developments and new features which were introduced?
The product has really grown over the last year. When we released 1.5 at the end of 2010, we had added so many new features that it was hard to imagine we could continue at that pace. As it turns out, that wasn't a problem. We got faster. We have a great team working on the product, and they were able to make a lot of big changes that really enhance the flexibility of Workflow Conductor as a platform. New deployment methods were added that give organizations more choices when it comes to how workflows can be used/reused. More flexibility was added to the cross-site collection capabilities as well, allowing lists/sites/site collections used in widgets to be defined by additional lookups, which means less "hard-coding" has to be used in workflows. The last year also saw the addition of over a dozen new widgets, enhancing functions like group/user management in SharePoint and Active Directory, and adding entirely new feature sets like site creation/management, item permissions management, and even the ability to extend workflow capabilities by adding custom code. On top of all of the new features that were added, we also improved existing features. The Workflow Conductor Studio saw a slew of improvements, including a new "Ribbon" interface, a streamlined UI for better display on lower resolution screens, and a revamped template gallery with sorting and filtering functionality.
Looking back on the advances made with Workflow Conductor over the past year begs the question: What's on the drawing board for Conductor in the year ahead?
We have some pretty big plans for 2012. We're currently working on a 2.5 release that should be out in the next few months, and while I don't want to give away all the secrets about the fun stuff we'll have in that one, I will say that there are some cool changes with how templates are shared (or not shared), improved error handling, and a few other changes to help keep your Info on the right Path. Looking beyond 2.5, we have some big plans for a little latter in the year, but it's a little too early to be giving away spoilers there. You'll just have to stay tuned to Bamboo Nation.
You recently returned from your second trip in the course of a year to our R&D center in Vietnam, working side by side with the Workflow Conductor team of engineers and designers. How does the ability to work together and collaborate in person improve team relations and enhance product development?
First, I have to say that we have a great team in Vietnam. They've been working on Workflow Conductor for a few years now, and are really hitting their stride when it comes to cranking out great products. Since they are literally located on the other side of the world (it's a 12-hour time difference), most of our day-to-day communications are not in "real time." We use SharePoint discussion boards and emails a lot, supplemented with occasional calls, so the ability to spend time in Vietnam and interact with them in person is wonderful. Something that might otherwise be a multi-day email thread where we discuss a topic can be boiled down to a quick 30-minute meeting. It's also great to get to know the team on a personal level. We really have a team of smart, hardworking, talented people there. I feel lucky that I get to work with them. I can't wait to go back.
Read the Year in Review from all three Bamboo Product Team Leads: