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Delightful Collaboration XI: Client Present Mode

It’s been a while since I’ve written up an entry in the Delightful Collaboration series.  Though it may look like it’s only the 11th time (judging by the roman numeral above), acting on the input of our community to make CA better happens roughly once a week!

This one comes from Michiel Bosman of Open Forest Evidence-Based Online Coaching.  He wrote:

I am probably asking for the impossible, but this is very important to me from a privacy/NDA standpoint: I do a lot of CA screen sharing with my clients.

I would love to have a Single Client Mode: I click a checkbox, system will not show anything related to any other client, until I click that checkbox again.

This immediately jumped out at me as interesting.  CoachAccountable has always had the power to serve as a de facto shared, virtual workspace between coach and client.  Coach sharing his or her screen with client (or vice-versa) is a powerful way to invite structured collaboration (e.g. during a session, when actions are being planned, insights are being captured, and so forth).

But I really appreciate the abundance of caution that this request entails.  Indeed, when it’s coach doing the screen sharing, well, there’s a LOT of other data that coach can bring up with a click or two (a convenience that is quite intentional!), yet much of it is data that’s NOT suitable for a given client to see.

So I get the desire for a sort of “single client mode”: that power to accidentally wander over into another part of the system not meant for a client’s eyes could make the prospect of sharing your screen nerve wracking.

We’re always keen to make CA more thoroughly accommodating to expectations of privacy and confidentiality, for they are expectations that such sensitive work truly merits.  To that end, I present to Michiel and the rest of the CA community what we call “Client Present Mode”.

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration XI: Client Present Mode”

Delightful Collaboration X – Client Activity Stats

I got an email from Arne of Empowerment Holdings with a request:

I have a question regarding the statistics for client engagement.

Since we have to report how active all of the coachees are we need to go to client activity and count all action assignments/completions by hand. Is there a possibility to add a feature where we you can list all stats in a certain timeframe for the whole client stock with one click?

That would be great!

A great thing about the record of coaching happenings (that CA naturally accumulates over the course of common use) is that there is a lot of insightful data that can be drawn from later to summarize and analyze things like participation, effectiveness, and ROI.  In this case I could see how the particulars of how many times a given client has done this or that would make a useful report, and one for which CA has all the data.

I sometimes get requests like this, and when I do what’s incredibly helpful is to have a mock up.

So I replied:

Possibly! It would help to have a concrete example of what sort of report would be useful in terms of tabular data.

If you mock something up as an example of what would be genuinely useful as a simple CSV, containing information and/or stats derived from what CA would have available, I’ll see about adding the ability to generate such a report automatically!

Often times when I pose the challenge, more or less to the tune of “sounds promising, please mock it up for me”, I don’t get anything back.  That’s problematic, because that means the idea for the report likely isn’t yet clearly based on a thought out use case, OR that the desired information might not actually be readily known to CoachAccountable (and if all that is clear, lacking a mock up still means I’m likely doing a lot of guesswork to create what would actually serve the need behind the request).

No such issue here.  What Arne gave me back was exactly what I needed, PLUS a little more insight into the desire fueling the request:

Hey John,

Sure, so for our client it’s super interesting to see how active the coachees are. So I could imagine a Report like this to answer the question: How actively engaged was a certain group of coachees during a certain time.

Coaching Report
Cycle I Cycle II Cycle III Total
# Coaching sessions that have taken place 231
# Coaching time in hours 288,75 h
# Milestones & Goals formulated 276
# Actions formulated 855
# Actions completed 340
# Actions incomplete 515
# Cancelled Coaching sessions 22
# Worksheets assigned 100
# Worksheets completed 60
# Data points added 100
# Metrics added 400

Perfect! Now this I can work with.  The vast world of all possible things that CA tracks (and thus could ostensibly report on) is reduced down to a set clear stats that I am assured would be interesting and worth including, and the insight into why this would be cool at all (“for our client it’s super interesting to see how active the coachees are”) made me excited to cook this up.

You can see the end result in Reports >> Data Lab >> Client Activity:

Lots of data to look at, but no need to feel overwhelmed! You can modify what’s included to get only what’s interesting.

As you can see, it’s not verbatim as suggested.  While building it I realized there were other similar categories of stats that might be interesting, and that breaking it in to sections made it more clear to follow.  I also added flexibility in letting the user choose how the data is broken into columns (either by day, week, month, quarter or year).

This is significant to point out, because it highlights an important fact: we never do programming for feature development to spec for a customer’s request (no matter how big the customer), BUT we very often run with input about what would be useful in order to create something that has the potential to be generally valuable.

Fun fact: while composing the above portions of this blog post this morning I noticed that Arne’s mock up contained a “Total” column, yet that wasn’t in the CA report as originally released last month. So I just spent a little time to add it, as well as the options to include averages and percentage stats.  Do I love my job and feel empowered to act?  You betcha!

When I originally released this I was delighted to hear back:

Thank you so much! This helps us A LOT!!!

Music to my ears: to save an organization time AND help them to better show off the work their doing to the folks that hired them?  That’s a serious double win, and I hope you’ll get similar value from this.

My thanks again to Arne who was thorough enough to illustrate what he was needing… CA is better for everyone because of it!

Delightful Collaboration IX – Smarter At-A-Glance Displays

It’s just occurred to me that it’s been a LONG time since I wrote up a blog post under the “Delightful Collaboration” theme.  It’s not for lack of that sort of thing happening: feature requests stemming for good ideas, insightful perspectives, and specific use cases still come to us at a regular clip and we still act upon them to make CA accordingly better for everyone (recent examples include this and this!).

I figure it would be a shame for anyone to get the impression that we don’t do that sort of thing anymore, so here’s a pair of suggested improvements to CA that came in recently!

The first is another from Megan of Fidelity National Financial.  She wrote:

I had another idea for a new feature.  Would it be possible to add an option in the “What’s New” tab that would allow you to pull new items not only from a specific date (“show from..”) but also “since our last call”?  Or a drop down list of the calls logged in CA.  That way, coaches don’t have to look up the date of the last call.  They can select a call in the past and easily see what’s been accomplished since the selected call.

Let me know what you think.  Thanks!

I admit, I had to think on this one a bit.  Should the dates suggested by the system here be based on recent session notes?  Or recent scheduled appointments?  What about coaches who are prone to using one and not the other, or vice-versa?  Maybe include both, with filtering out the duplicates?

And how can I add this without cluttering up the UI for everyone with what might be a very niche-desired feature?  (After all, this was the first time I’d heard such a request in 7 years!)

The current system simply recalls your preference of your preferred look back window of X days, but there’s something nice about the precision of seeing what’s new precisely from the last call, which of course will vary from client to client.  Then I figured out an elegant way to tuck that new feature away, and I was sold: this could be a very cool thing to add for everyone.

Here’s the result:

When there is one or more to choose from, click the little appointment icon just right of the “Show since” date picker to reveal options.

I can’t deny I was tickled and stoked by the reply I got for adding this:

This is AMAZING and will make our jobs as coaches SO much easier! We’ll be able to easily narrow down what has been accomplished since the last time we spoke to our clients!  Thank you thank you!

Talk about good deeds being their own reward, and then some!  That I’ve managed to make any coaches’ lives easier is music to my ears (and something I daresay I’ve developed a healthy addiction for).


The second recent suggestion came from Twila Gates, long time CA user and generally a fan.  Twila asked:

Quick question: Is it possible to have a magic tag for “date of next appointment” and “date of last session notes” that I could place in the “profile extra” space in the settings.  It would make it quick and easy to see if each client has a next appointment set and also to know if I have completed all notes.

This one, too, I had to mull on.  A magic tag seemed a bit clunky: it would be such an easy-to-miss thing that one would have to manually add to each client’s Profile Extra.  I could see the next appointment date being universally handy, but date of last session notes felt a little niche in terms of utility and, coupled with the next appointment date, perhaps too much clutter to add to the standard display.

Ultimately I settled on adding just the next appointment date, when present, displayed standard for all clients in the My Clients listing (one out of two ain’t bad!).  To make space and prevent information overload in that listing I removed client physical addresses, figuring that sort of thing it’s nearly as a timely or topical in an at-a-glance listing (and not apt to change often, to say the least!).

And I saw a way to do Twila one better on her suggestion, which was to enable sort by next appointment, thus allowing the soonest-for-next-conversation clients to bubble right up to the top.

Here’s what this looks like:

“So, who am I working with next? Ah right, these guys!” Hover your mouse over the appointment date for more information.

And there you have it!  Delightful collaboration with the CA community remains alive and well, and everyone’s happier for it (myself included).

What I really love about these two requests in particular is that their born of nuanced experience of routinely using the system over time, and doing so with particular habits, patterns, or workflows.  Megan and Twila were both crystal clear on what would make those workflows more convenient, and clued me in to what would otherwise be a blind spot.

So to Megan and Twila, and the countless other coaches who have weighed in on how CA could be better, I say thank you!

Delightful Collaboration VIII – Setting Location and Description for Appointments

Here is a great example of where CoachAccountable’s coaching software gets better through me being exposed to a style of doing things other than my own.

The calendar feed of appointments is a lovely thing, allowing both coaches and clients to have appointments [set within CoachAccountable] appear right within their usual calendars (like Google Calendars, iCal, and Outlook).

Beyond the what and when, calendar software aficionados know that it’s handy to have location and descriptive information about a calendar event right there as well.

For my sake when it comes to coaching appointments there’s nothing to it: “where” is invariably on the phone, and there are no access or dial-in details to speak of, or really anything else–I call them and that’s that.

Liz HeimanBut last Thursday I had a great call with Liz Heiman of Percio Strategies.  We went over a bevy of great questions of how to set up and do this or that within our coaching tool, and Liz made a great case for how useful it would be to have location and description information about an appointment appear right along side appointments within people’s calendars: vital for coordination of meeting locations and a great boon to timely attendance to have dial in information right there for attendees. » Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration VIII – Setting Location and Description for Appointments”

Delightful Collaboration VII – Course Whiteboards

Sometimes a would-be user of CoachAccountable just knows what they’re looking for.

This past Wednesday I got an email from Jason of Merchant Capital Partners, a company which offers loans and training programs to help entrepreneurs build sustainably profitable businesses.  He and his colleague Robert that got right to the point:

Hello,

We are evaluating your platform for use with our customers… would it be possible to hop on a call and talk through some of our questions and what a possible partnership would look like?  We’re looking to make a decision quickly so the sooner the better.

Please reply with some times that you are available.

The following day we spent nearly 2 hours on the phone and connected via screen share, them showing the ins-and-outs of the program they’re aiming to deliver at scale, and me taking it in and in turn advising how to best deliver it via CA.

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration VII – Course Whiteboards”

Delightful Collaboration VI: Getting Right-Brain Friendly

Marney MakridakisI first really made the acquaintance of Marney Makridakis of artellaland.com about one week into her trial, when she sent a lengthy email containing about a dozen questions about CoachAccountable.  Pretty much all of them were of the hard-hitting variety: questions that came from savvy about the how the system worked and thus whose purpose was to push for more.

Marney got right to the point:

Hello. I’m a new user (currently on the trial) with a handful of questions.  I’m starting with about 30 clients, though in the future I may have more than that, as I may be planning a Team setup, where I can supervise my coaches’ coaching – in which case I would have a pretty robust team system.

My questions are below. Some of these may be more along the categories of “wish list” items – but perhaps you might be able to direct me through a workaround for things my client and I might try.  If a phone call is easier for providing support, let me know and I’m happy to call over phone

I opted for the phone call–actually chatting with a coach is way more fun than banging out a detailed email in solitude.  As luck would have it, the answers to a few of her questions were already in my immediate plans and would soon be released (Action Projects and Client Exports).  For the other things we got deep into the nitty gritty of flow (eliminate all emails flying back and forth and have it all instead in-system), scale (manage a large pool of clients in a very high-touch manner), groups (lots of group interaction, collaboration, and sharing), and user comfort (having system be friendly for creative and very visually oriented types).

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration VI: Getting Right-Brain Friendly”

Delightful Collaboration V: Appointment Enhancements and Client Abilities

The subject of today’s Delightful Collaboration is Michael Leahy of Brave Hearts Mentoring, who since becoming a user of CoachAccountable has had an exceptionally high percentage of his suggestions make it in to CoachAccountable.  Michael comes from a background of software development, and that has a lot to do with the regularity with which he’s able to perceive new features which would be more universally beneficial.  But moreover he’s a power user, and, for example, the sheer volume of appointments that he schedules per week gives him a unique insight into how things would be better to serve both power users and regular users alike.

So let’s take a look at his contributions thus far:

Smarter Appointment Listings

When you have a lot of clients and they each have a few scheduled, the dashboard listing of all upcoming appointments can be quickly overwhelming.  Sorted as they were (strictly by date), the pending appointment requests easily got lost in the shuffle.  Since each pending request begs a response, accept or decline, that turns out to be a problem.

Now the pending requests are floated up to the top, ready for responding to.  And among all upcoming appointments, now only the first 10 appear.  This puts into focus only the most immediately relevant ones.  To look further out, a handy “View all upcoming” button reveals the entire collection.

Coach-Only Appointment Types

Previously, any type of appointment that a coach could schedule was available for a client to schedule as well (assuming client scheduling was enabled).  But sometimes that’s not ideal, and there are some types of appointments which should be reserved for only the coach.

Now appointment types can be designated as schedule-able only by the coach.

Calendar-Embeddable Exceptions

Contrary to the model I’ve worked in and assumed of others, where the “office hours” into which clients can book themselves are more limited, the way Michael works is that essentially all work hours are open to client scheduling.  So keeping accurate exceptions to availability is critical to ensuring that clients schedule themselves at workable times.

Rather than have other life happenings in a separate calendar and have those happenings also need to be entered as exceptions in CoachAccountable, Michael figured it’s much easier to setup those exceptions once in CoachAccountable and then have then appear in his regular calendar software.  So now the collection of availability exceptions can be embedded into iCal, Outlook, and other systems much like appointment calendars can be.

Private Notes for Clients

In Michael’s work, where clients are working on overcoming sexual addiction, privacy is of utmost importance.  In the past I’d been remiss to add much to do about privacy between coach and client, reasoning instead from a premise of totally open and shared collaboration, but Michael sold me on a very good point: yes, client accounts are akin to a guest in the coach’s house, but more than that client accounts can be a certain sanctuary for clients where everything is kept all together as a useful resource, and that resource gets even better when a client is free to have their own privacy within it as well.

Thus clients too can create private journal entries for their eyes only, allowing them to feel even more at home within their client account.

Self-Assigned Worksheets

Here again Michael’s status as a power user reveals insight: before an appointment, Michael’s clients fill out a worksheet.  With so many clients having so many regular appointments, the need for coach to assign the worksheet for each one becomes cumbersome quickly.

Thus now specific worksheets can be made available for self-assignment by clients.


There are a few other tweaks,  and a spelling mistake catch or two, but the above captures the broad strokes of Michael’s contribution to date.  It’s an impressive set and speaks volumes to Michael’s sense for what’s widely useful.  In fact, while writing this post Michael had another good idea in my inbox which I reckon I’ll be adding: the ability to share library files with some or all clients in one fell swoop.

Thanks Michael for bringing your insight to the party, CoachAccountable is even better for it.

Delightful Collaboration IV – A Spiffy, White-Labeled Login Screen

Sometimes a simple misunderstanding reveals a good idea I never thought of.

In this instance of Delightful Collaboration that good idea came from David Green of LeadershipMARC, who forwarded me a URL for a page on CoachAccountable and wondered how to have that page be without the name of one of his clients:

This screen was intended to be where a client first registers herself, and since that was already done a place to login shows instead.

The name is a fake but the branding is real.

I explained the misunderstanding, that this link was meant only to be the special page for his client to register her account (and that since that registration was already done, that’s why a login shows instead).  He countered with a most sensible expressed desire:

But I am looking for a landing page like that off of my website.
It’s a very good look.
Please tell me it’s possible.

Prior to this moment that screen, in all its customized, white-labeled glory, was only meant to be a one-off experience for clients.  But indeed it is a snappy login page, and a useful alternative to embedding a small login widget on one’s own site.  Immediately I agreed that it should be available to serve as coach’s own login page for their system, and took about 15 minutes to cook up a client-neutral variation:

Fit for any client of a given coach to login, branded to match his or her white-label settings.

Fit for any client of a given coach to login, branded to match his or her white-label settings.

Then I sent this reply:

David, I gotta hand it to you:

That’s a REALLY good idea.  So I’ve cooked up just that for you.  If you go to My CA >> My System >> White-Label Branding you’ll find a new piece there, “Customized Login Page”.  There you’ll find a magic link that is suitable for linking to as a branded, general purpose login for your clients.

Thanks for making the request, I imagine many other coaches will enjoy it as well!

I hope that they will!

Delightful Collaboration III – Coach Yourself

A few weeks ago I got a request from one of the coaches on CoachAccountable:

I set myself up as a client and am essentially coaching myself.  I setup metrics to daily enter things from productivity level to weight lost.  I wondered if there was a way to have ourselves in the system but have it not count against our total clients?  It has helped me better understand how to use the tool with clients but as I get closer to ten clients I hate to have to pay for the higher tier.  Is there already a way to use the tool for ourselves or is this a possibility in the future?

At first I didn’t give this request much heed: doing extra coding and adding complexity to the system to have it track which client is technically the coach him or herself didn’t seem appealing, just to accommodate the (overall) rare event that a coach coaching themselves would push them over the threshold of the next subscription level.

But then I meditated on it, quite literally.

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration III – Coach Yourself”

Delightful Collaboration II – Externally Hosted File Sharing

A few weeks ago I reached out to a coach who was new to the system to see how it was going for him.

Though “so far so good” was the overall message, part the feedback was this:

There are a few issues. Can I send Audio (.mp3) or videos thru the system? It would be terrific to integrate links to sugar sync or dropbox folders so as to not get heavy on the files I send.

At first glance my answer was clear, of course!  I proudly began to type out my reply:

You’ve got a few options for sending audio and video though the system.  You can upload those files into your library once (My CA >> My Library) and then share them with clients with a few clicks on the Files tab of their respective client pages.  Or in your case (and this might be better as you’ve already got your files already online) you can share links to those files with your clients via CA in, say, a journal entry or as part of a worksheet assignment, or in a Stream comment.

As I wrote this I got to thinking this was actually a lackluster answer, and I was surprised to realize it.

» Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration II – Externally Hosted File Sharing”