ORCHESTRA 1.7 is here!

Enrico Bottani
Enrico Bottani
CTO of Orchestra
March 3, 2020

Vehicle & new item storage

The past year we started the transition to our new storage technology, and it is going to represent the foundation for the offline application support we have added in the next releases. It is a continuous process that grows our application and matures into a full Progressive Web Application. The transition was necessary to improve the load time of our web pages dramatically.
We are proud to announce that 95% of the application now uses this new storage mechanism exclusively and that finally, both Items and Vehicle modules are compliant.

Brand new inventory system

After an in-depth analysis that ended around December 2019, we realized that the inventory was not standing to our quality expectations. Some time to make a step forward, you have to make one backward. Hence we decided to restructure our inventory system completely. We started by differentiating between items and elements of the stock. One can now create Items, Warehouses, and Vendors from their own windows easily. Once the setup is ready, the user can now access the Stock page and start creating transactions (add, move, and remove items to the warehouses).

This screen allows to move around all your goods between warehouses, load, and unload material from your stock. From here, one can access the Item Detail page, which summarises all the information about a specific item. From the detail page, one can see all the stock available for a specific item and see each item status (assigned, available, out of order, in maintenance, need maintenance), update its status, assign or return it to and from a user or group, create one or multiple alert (today you can create time-based alerts, next release is going to allow to create alerts based on quantity). Overall we believe this new version of the inventory is much easier to navigate, as it rightly divides the different logical units within a warehouse.

This release is just the first version, and we are already working to extend the functionalities of the warehouse. In particular, we want to add more ways to create an alert (quantity in a single warehouse, quantity in all warehouse), we want to add easier option to load items in the warehouse (load from file and scanner though the mobile apps) and improve all the vendor management.

New detail page

Orchestra now has a new design for the detail page. The detail page is not an entirely new concept on the application, but we finalized this into a component so that we can easily refuse it across our application. The idea is that modules that need deeper/extended functionality needed a standardized interface to control it. The list and panel are excellent to provide basic functionality on content, but for more complex operations, a new control area was needed. This is why we created the detail page, a new area where users can access specific functionality.

Overlay

Up till today, most of the interaction with the application relies on side panels, now that we are adding secondary and tertiary functionality, we needed a different approach. This is the reason that brought us to the overlay, a small window that opens up where the user is clicking. The overlay allows for specific functionality to occupy a limited amount of space within its context. The result improves navigation clarity and speed; it enables interactions to be streamlined around their presentation, helping the user to stay in context while he tries to access the most remote application functionality.

Dynamic forms

The inventory and shapes of the previous version’s vehicles sounded a wake-up call in the very early stages after release. The use of this system was confusing, there were too many parameters available, and the separation between the mandatory and optional parameters was unclear. After some prototyping, we came out with a simple and elegant solution that allows users to customize their modules according to their needs. Initially, the form shows only a tiny portion of data, the mandatory on the most important ones, usually from 2 to 4 fields. The user is now able to add and remove sections and fields at will. We believe this is another step forward in making Orchestra easier to understand, faster to use and more beautiful to see.

Alert bar

It’s fundamental for the application to communicate to its users when something needs their undivided attention. Different situation, like an item expiry date approaching, or a warehouse item that is ending its availability needed a clear way to alert the institution of the need to take action on a specific location of the application. This way, we supercharged our navigation component, the side menu, to host a new area. The Alert Display summarises what is pending on the applicant. Further, it clearly highlights what is about to expire, to what has already expired. Clicking on an alert moves the user to the interested page, thus making it easy for users to understand what needs their attention. On top of the alert we extend our table to highlight rows that are expired or that are about to expire. We also added the possibility to filter the table only by what has an active alert. We believe these three mechanisms together enable your organization to always be on top of your deadlines.

Application tags (objective situation groups Abd events)

Our application provides a broad set of functionality, thus result in a large amount of data to navigate around. Talking with you, we understood that your institution is divided into logical groups/services. Thus most of the time, a user would need to focus only on content that relates their division. That is the reason we added the possibility to group Events, Situations, Groups, Objectives, or Tasks within their logical structure. Thanks to application tags, this is very easy today, one can define application tags for a specific event, and efficiently use the filtering option to display what is relevant to him. 

Events and situation archive filtering 

We know that data is critical, but that too much data is oppressing, too little is useless. Following the same reasoning of the application tags, we understood that the event list was starting to grow out of control; it was full of archived events and became difficult to navigate. We finally added a default filtering option that ensures one can see only the current events. From the table filtering, when necessary, one can show or hide the archived event, as one would expect. The same concept has been applied to the situation list. 

Mobile

We have been very hard at work on our mobile applications lately, performance and quality were at the center of our efforts.
These last months have seen significant advancement in the quality of our mobile applications. We have been focusing on creating a structure that enables our engineers to create automated tests every time we add some functionality. This approach is a huge step forward for our organization, and it’s going to result in a more stable product, fewer regression problems, and finally, happier customers!
On top of the quality, we have been finalizing our release strategy. After using the business program created by Apple for our particular situation, we decided that we are going to move Orchestra from the private to the regular public store. The complicated and user-unfriendly process Apple provided us with did not meet our quality

Internal channels

While all these structural changes where discussed and operated, we finally enabled our mobile applications to create private and group channels. It’s a straightforward feature, but that turns our mobile application around, allowing institutions that trust their users to start communications proactively. The internal communication role limits the channel creation, so at any time, one can decide whether his users are allowed or not to create channels.

Attachments

Our mobile applications allowed users to read and download attachments from both the task and communication modules. Many users requested that both modules would allow creating attachment from the same modules. We are proud to communicate that our users can finally take a picture and share it on their favorite communication channel, so that the organization is always aware of critical situations.

This last release was massive, the transition to this new storage technology very demanding, and the iteration of the new inventory system has been asking the best of our professional selves. We are proud to deliver to you version 1.7, and we are thrilled to hear feedback from you. As you know, when we go through these massive transitions, something can always fall off our radar. Thus we thank you in advance to notify us as soon as possible any quirks you might encounter. As always, it is going to be our priority to ensure the best quality in the lowest amount of time.

Internally we continue to assess and iterate our development processes. We are excited to share with you that starting next week, we are going to move to a new iterative development process that enables our team to release much more frequently, but in smaller chunks. We believe this process is going to allow you to see the continuous improvement of our application, to provide feedback in the shortest time, and to be more close to the latest developed feature. We think this is a win-win for everybody, and we can’t wait to get all this going.

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