Bamboo Tools & Technologies’ 2013 Year in Review with Jeff Tubb

Editor's note: Continuing our annual tradition, we'd like to invite you to join us in reflecting on some significant events from the past "Year in Bamboo," and to offer a glimpse into what the future holds for our customers. We get the series underway with the view from Bamboo's Solutions Center, and will wrap up with the perspectives our product managers, with each of them offering considered thoughts on the products they oversee.

What has the transition to SharePoint 2013 been like from a Bamboo product manager's perspective?

In a word, "busy." From a development standpoint, we spent a good portion of 2013 porting our existing products from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013. Given the size of our product portfolio (70+ products), the release schedule has been pretty hectic. As a result, we have not been able to add as many new products-or new features in existing products-as I would like to have seen. That's not to say we have not had some great new things released (we have), but it simply has not been on the same scale as that of a non-SharePoint upgrade year would have seen. That said, there are some great new products waiting in the wings, and now that we're pretty much done with the last of the SharePoint 2013 conversion tasks, 2014 is looking pretty exciting.

Were there any surprises in store for you- customer base, marketplace performance, or otherwise- in overseeing the products whose direction you oversaw this year for the first time?

It's definitely been an interesting year, but I would not say there were too many big surprises that we saw in the market. We work closely with Microsoft, and are therefore pretty aware of what is coming down the pipe. I think 2013 has been more of the story of what's to come than what the market currently is. We know that Microsoft will continue to push for the adoption of the cloud, which makes sense based on the recurring revenue model that represents for them. We have also seen a push for the SharePoint App Store, though many companies that produce apps are still trying to figure out how to monetize any investment, and the selection of products therefore remains sparse. There continues to be increasing interest in mobile offerings, though that too has not fully taken off yet in terms of corporate priorities. As for Bamboo, we have products in the works for all of these areas, and will continue to invest more in them as demand grows. You should start seeing some of these new products as early as Q1 2014.

As the biggest Apple devotee at Bamboo, it was only appropriate that you also oversaw the production of Bamboo's first iPhone app, PM Central Mobile.  What can you tell us about the product?

I'll admit, I like a lot of what Apple offers in the way of mobile products. That said, I think other mobile platforms are really starting to mature with both Windows and Android offering some pretty compelling experiences. Personal preferences aside, the fact that our initial native mobile app is on iOS is completely coincidental. The choice to develop first for iOS was based on mobile market share and speed to market. Android is a pretty close second on our mobile development priority list and, given our connections to Microsoft, we would obviously love to be on Windows Mobile as well. As for the product itself, I'm very happy with what we are able to create with PM Central Mobile. It is a companion app for users of Project Management Central that offers a rich, native mobile experience. Since smartphone users can already access Web pages, we wanted to bring something different to the table, so we created a new user experience with some features you won't see in Project Management Central. The whole app revolves around getting the end-user access to the things they need to see and update when they are on the go, and presenting that content in a clean, intuitive interface. We've got some exciting things planned for this app, as well as some new mobile offerings coming in 2014.

Workflow Conductor is your signature product and, as always, the past year has brought a couple of major product milestones in the form of its debut on SharePoint 2013 (with version 3.0), and the bursting-with-new-features version 3.5, which was recently released for SharePoint 2010.  It's very early in the case of 3.5, but which features have been welcomed most gratefully so far from customers on each platform?  Do you have any personal favorites?

I would say the biggest functionality win (so far) has not been the entirely new features, but rather the improvements to existing features. I think the most welcomed of these are the updates to some of the custom workflow tasks, such as Request Approval and Request Feedback. In Workflow Conductor 3.5, we added the ability for these widgets to send reminders about upcoming tasks, and to escalate overdue tasks. These have been pretty heavily requested features that we have been trying to fit in for some time, and I'm happy to say that reception has been great so far. One of my personal favorite features is a new widget that supports item versioning. It lets you look up a previous value for a field when versioning is enabled on a list. There are so many customer use cases that this enables and/or simplifies that I can't wait to see how people adopt it.

When might users expect to see version 3.5 of Workflow Conductor for SharePoint 2013 arrive in the Bamboo store?

As of right now, we are targeting early Q1 for the release of Workflow Conductor 3.5 on 2013. We tend to work on a lot of things in parallel, but unless we run into an unforeseen delay, it should be out in the next 4-6 weeks.

In this year-end chat last year, we discussed the strategic focus on the increased integration of Workflow Conductor with complementary products in the Bamboo portfolio.  How did that ongoing initiative factor into the development efforts of this year's releases?

We really take a hard look at where we can provide the most value for our customers, and creating cross-product capabilities is a big opportunity. When we integrate our products together in smart ways, we get a nice "whole greater than the sum of its parts" scenario. We not only want to make sure each product has all of the features our customers need, but that when they use multiple products from Bamboo, they get even more out of them. In the last year, we've increased the number of products that integrate with Workflow Conductor and how they work together. While there are a few small items left that we want to add or improve in this area, most of our products are covered now either through direct integration, or by the SharePoint-data-driven nature of the other product. The focus going forward will shift to allowing integration with any product or LOB application, not just Bamboo's products. Extensibility is key when it comes to automating business processes, and we have some great things in store to address that need. We are also planning changes to other products for similar capabilities.

There was no SPC this year, but you represented Bamboo, Workflow Conductor, and the remainder of your products in person at several events in the D.C. area and beyond.  What questions or comments did you field most regularly from visitors to the Bamboo booth?

Besides general interest in Bamboo and what new things we have to offer, I've gotten a lot of questions around SharePoint 2013 and Office 365. In general, customers are trying to understand what all of the different platforms have to offer, so that they decide what fits their business needs and plan their next step (or their first step) in their SharePoint journey. That being said, we also see a lot of companies with no short-term plans to move off of SharePoint 2010. We even have some customers that are just now planning their move to SharePoint 2010.

Other than the SharePoint 2013 release of version 3.5, what's in store for Workflow Conductor in the coming year?

We have some really exciting things planned for the Workflow Studio in 2014. I don't want to give too much away yet, but 4.0 is looking to be one of our most ambitious releases to date. While users are waiting for that update, we'll also be rolling out some new functionality for current users of Workflow Conductor 3.5. There are some currently hidden changes in 3.5 that will allow developers to create custom widgets and import them into Workflow Conductor. We are currently working on writing up the instructions and creating some code templates that will give developers a solid foundation on which to build out their own custom functions.

Any major upcoming developments for additional products you're able to share?

We will be doing a lot in 2014 to focus on customization and extensibility of products, as well as making some improvements to scalability. There are some architectural changes in the works that will let us do some really neat things in these areas. We'll start talking about the specific products and improvements when we get closer to their release. We will also be expanding our line-up of apps for both SharePoint and mobile devices, and improving cross-browser support for our existing products. We know that the world is moving to an "access anywhere" standard, and we plan to help our customers get there.

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