Helping people parachute into projects faster

In many of our customers, we find there are specialists who get pulled into many different projects (boards) at the same time, to do very specific tasks.

An example would be an security specialist who is called in to do a vulnerability assessment on every development effort that’s underway within an IT organization. Or, corporate counsel who are asked to review final drafts of every contract, after everything else about the negotiation has completed.

In all situations it’s important to help new team members come up to speed as quickly as possible, but for situations where people are parachuting in to handle specialist tasks, the motivations are a little different: the specialists often don’t care about every detail of the board — which means they don’t care for most of the cards that are already on the Task Board or Scrum Board.

Instead, they want to quickly see what’s been assigned to them, get these work items done, and (hopefully) get out quickly.

So, how can Kerika help people who parachute into projects in mid-stream? By drawing their attention to what’s expected of them.

Here’s how it works:

When you invite someone to join a board’s team, their status is shown as Pending invitation in the Board Team dialog:

Pending Invitation
Pending Invitation

Kerika lets you pre-assign cards while you are waiting for the new team member to join: in the example above, Dennis could be assigned cards while the team is waiting for him to act upon the invitation.

When Dennis does accept the invitation, the Kerika welcome dialog works to guide him to a fast start in his new project:

Welcome message for invited users
Welcome message for invited users

The welcome dialog starts by giving the new team member a quick overview of the project’s state: how long it’s been going on, how many cards are on the board — and, critically, how many cards are already assigned to the newly arrived team member.

Clicking on the See My Cards button in the welcome dialog provides a fast way for the new user to see what’s expected of him/her in this new project:

Highlighted cards
Highlighted cards

This feature will be especially useful for specialists who are called in to handle specific tasks on many simultaneous projects: they won’t care about all the cards on each board, just what’s assigned to them.

Get in quick, get your work done fast, and then get out again.

Visitors can view chat on public boards

Some of our users are working on open-source, advocacy, or volunteering projects, and for these people privacy is less important than publicity: rather than hide their work, they would prefer to have as many people as possible view it, in real-time, so they can build momentum for their initiatives.

Here’s an example of a public board:

Example of public board
Example of public board

We have always accommodated such users, by offering an Anyone with link option that Board Admins can use to make their boards accessible by anyone who has the URL of that board, even if they aren’t Kerika users:

Making boards public
Making boards public

When a board is made public, all the files attached to and all the chat as well can be viewed by anyone.

As with any other Visitors, members of the public cannot make any changes.

Our latest improvement to this public boards feature has been to make the chat also viewable by anyone who has the URL of the board.

Note: a Board Admin can change their mind at any time, and revert a public board back to one that’s restricted to the board team or account team.

 

More options to add Google files to your Whiteboards

We have added more options for you to add Google files to your Whiteboards.

We used to have a quick way to create, name, and add a new Google Doc to your Whiteboard:

Old options for adding content
Old options for adding content

As part of our big redesign earlier this year, we added more options for people to create Google documents from within Task Boards and Scrum Boards; now we have the same flexibility for Whiteboards:

Google document options
Google document options

With this new functionality you can create a larger variety of Google Documents from within your Kerika Whiteboards:

  • Google Docs
  • Google Sheets
  • Google Slides
  • Google Forms

After you name your new document, it is automatically added to the canvas you are working on, while the new document itself is opened in a new browser tab for you to start working on.

Enjoy.

Changing the Owner of a Board

People usually don’t pay attention to the question of who owns a particular board, but it is an important question to consider when you create a new board: the Account Owner owns not just the board, but also all the files attached to cards and canvases on that board.

This is not always important (and often not important in day-to-day use of Kerika): our deep integration with Google and Box ensures that everyone who is part of the board team has automatic access to all the files needed for that board, with access permissions managed according to each individual’s role on the board: Board Admins and Team Members get read+write access; Visitors get read-only access.

(And, as people join or leave board teams, or their roles on a particular board’s team changes, Kerika automatically manages their access to the underlying project files, regardless of whether these are being stored in Google or Box.)

But when someone is planning to leave an organization, the question of ownership can suddenly become important: you don’t want an ex-employee to continue to own critical project files.

Changing ownership of boards was not something that was easily done in the past — there were workarounds, but they were fairly cumbersome and obscure — and we mostly handled these as special requests, on a case-by-case basis.

With our newest update to Kerika, this is no longer the case: changing the ownership of a board is a simple process that can be initiated at any time by the current owner of a board:

Change Board Owner
Change Board Owner

You can ask any other Kerika user, who has signed up the same way as you did (i.e. either as Kerika+Google, Kerika+Box, or by directly signing up) to take ownership of a board. Because this is a consequential action, not something you should rush into, you are asked to confirm your intention by typing the word “YES”:

Confirming change in ownership
Confirming change in ownership

Once your request is sent off to the other user, the board is in a frozen state: existing members of the board team can continue to view the board, but no one can make any changes:

Board waiting for new owner
Board waiting for new owner
Board frozen while waiting for new owner
Board frozen while waiting for new owner

If you change your mind, you can cancel the request before it has been accepted.  This can be done by selecting the board from your Home Page:

Cancel ownership request
Cancel ownership request

You can also find your pending request in your Sentbox, and cancel it from there:

Cancelling pending request
Cancelling pending request

Note: once a board’s transfer is complete, it can’t be undone by you. If you really need to get ownership back of a board, you will need to ask the new owner to transfer the board to you.

An important caveat for Kerika+Google users

We try to ensure that files attached to a Kerika+Google board have their ownership changed at the same time as the board itself is transferred, but there are some limits to how Google will allow for a change in ownership:

All Kerika-related files are stored in a set of folders in a user’s Google Drive, organized by account and board.

Google let’s us change the owner of a folder, so we can make sure that when a board is transferred the ownership of the associated Google Drive folder is also changed.

However, for the individual files contained within the folder, Google only allows for a change of ownership of files that are part of Google Docs: documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, etc.

Files like images (.jpg, .png, .gif), zip files, and PDFs, for example, retain their old ownership between the Google API doesn’t let Kerika change the ownership of these “non-Google-formatted” file types.

Updating the look-and-feel of our Whiteboards

Something that we didn’t finish as part of our year-long redesign of Task Boards and Scrum Boards: moving to Material Design-style icons and dialog box layouts for our Whiteboards.

Well, we are caught up now: the Whiteboard toolbars and dialog boxes have been redesigned to be conformant with Material Design guidelines.

The basic toolbars for Whiteboards used to look like this:

Old Canvas toolbar
Old Canvas Toolbar

This is how it looks now:

New Canvas toolbar
New Canvas toolbar

The old table formatting toolbar used to look like this:

Old Table toolbar
Old Table toolbar

Now this looks cleaner and more modern:

New Table toolbar
New Table toolbar

The larger icons and buttons make for a more touch-friendly user interface as well.

Starting new boards in Kerika: an alternative for experienced users

For experienced users who don’t need as much help in starting new boards, we are providing a faster mechanism that skips some steps that are currently shown to new users.

You can access this faster mechanism by clicking on the Skip Suggestions link in the current Start New Board dialog:

Skipping Suggestions
Skipping Suggestions

Once you click on Skip Suggestions, Kerika will recognize you as an experienced user who prefers a path like this:

Starting a New Board
Starting a New Board

Once you pick the kind of new board you want — Task Board, Scrum Board, or Whiteboard — you can immediately name your new board:

Starting a new Task Board
Starting a new Task Board

Kerika will assume your new board will use the same template that you last used, but if you like you can change to a different template by clicking on the Change Settings link:

Selecting a Template
Selecting a Template

This should save our experienced users a few clicks when they want to start a new board…

Usability tweak: a restyled My Profile page

We have updated the My Profile page (you can access yours at https://kerika.com/my-profile) to be consistent with our new look-and-feel:

My Profile
My Profile

Updating your photo is easy: you can either upload something from your laptop, or get something that’s already online, e.g. your LinkedIn profile photo:

Change Photo
Change Photo

If you are a Kerika+Google or Kerika+Box user, it will look a little different, since we never see your Google or Box password (and hence are in no position to help you change it), and we also rely upon Google/Box to give us your name and photo:

Kerika+Google Profile
Kerika+Google Profile

Bug, fixed: Handling the newer top-level domains

One of our users pointed out that Kerika wasn’t allowing people to be invited if their email addresses were from one of the newer top-level domains that are being used: e.g. “.build”.

We have fixed that.  The problem was the client software had some validation rules, written a long time ago, that checked for three characters to appear after the “.” in the end of an email address.

That’s obviously not a good idea anymore, now that there are dozens of top-level domains…