Merging Organisation Records

One of the difficulties when using software is in the event that multiple records get created. Let’s say for example one user creates “Cliftons” and enrols some of their people on courses. Next week another operator creates “Cliftons Ltd” as part of a new enrolment.

We now have the annoying (and problematic) situations of two organisations, with two sets of employees, two sets of contact information and two sets of historical records – not ideal!

LearningSource has introduced  solution to this problem – our new merge function not only merges the information from each record, such as the phone number and address details, it also merges all associated notes, orders, and contacts from each record.

So, how do you use it? It is really easy, just by following these steps;

  • In LearningSource, select Contacts from the main menu.
  • Select the Organisations tab.
  • In the search on the right, enter the name of the duplicate record.
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    The results will appear in the list.
  • Tick the two items in the list and press Merge.  The Merge Records window will appear.
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  • For each field, LearningSource will use data from either record if content is available.   Where both records contain data for the same field, select the record you would like to use.
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  • Press Merge Records

It really as simple as that. We have even gone one step further however and built a special view on the organisation list to view Duplicate Organisations.

Developments like this are a direct result of customer suggestions – we are always keen to hear more ideas for things we can do to make your life easier inside a training organisation – feel free to comment on this below.

Email Reminders

We are all about making life easier for training and event providers, letting them forget about routine tasks so they can better focus on the important parts of their businesses. A big body of work for us is lumped under the heading “scheduled task manager”. This is a series of product developments that will manage all time stamped events. We are going to be launching a number of new features in the weeks ahead – things like SMS reminders, follow up emails and overdue payment reminders.

To allow providers to utilise our first step in this process, email reminder, all you have to do is select the ‘Send reminders’ option in the course wizard, or for existing courses the options is within the Communication menu on the Details tab.

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Watch out for more developments like this coming soon – all in our continuing aim to make life easier for our customers!

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Electronic Calendar Appointments – Keeping You On Time, Every Time

As life and business get busier, more and more people are relying on their digital calendars to make sure they keep to their schedule – there are many different calendaring applications from Google, Microsoft and others but luckily for you and us, most of them support the standard format for calendar entries, iCal.

Using this format we have recently introduced functionality whereby a file is attached to course instruction emails.  This file is an iCal appointment and this means users can have the appointment appear directly in their calendar application of choice, be it Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Entourage, or any other program that supports iCal appointments.

As a standard feature, the calendar appointments include a reminder 24 hours before the course start.  A really useful feature is that if the course owner changes details of a course, such as the date, location, or room, LearningSource will give them the option to send email updates to all involved.  These emails will also include a calendar appointment update.  When recipients open and accept the change the original appointment will be updated with the new information.

We have got full instructions about this functionality on our support page and below are some images showing how this works. The great thing about this is that these reminders will also show on mobile phones that have calendar integration, meaning those missed appointments will be (notwithstanding car breakdowns and domestic incidents) a thing of the past.

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LearningSource Reports, Even More Visibility

Before we started developing our reporting engine, we had a key goal in mind and that was to make reporting simple and easy to use.  We wanted to make it easy to run the sort of reports customers need on a regular basis at the click of a button, but to also provide the flexibility to customise certain reports to access specific information.

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During the past month we have focused a significant part of our development on building a fully featured reporting engine.  Now we have engine in place we can deliver new reports rapidly.

One of our goals was that we wanted to make the layout and the presentation of information on reports clean and easy to read.  A report heading, a simple description of what the report is presenting, a clear list of any filters applied, the date the report was run etc…. The idea is that you should be able to pick up any printed report and know exactly what is been presented.

We are now offering our reports in a number of formats – Onscreen, Printable, PDF, Excel, and CSV, to provide for all of these various use cases. The best way to see what we have done is just check it out for yourself on our demo site but to give you a taste, below are the reports we are currently supporting:

  • Registrations List: List of all registrations received within a given period.
  • Orders Paid: List of all orders and credit notes marked as paid
  • Course Calendar: List of each individual course sessions scheduled to be delivered within a period.
  • Course List: List of courses starting within a period.
  • Course Registrants: List of individuals enrolled on a course.
  • Attendance Register: A form to record attendance for each session of a course.

This is just the start – watch this space!

Every Permutation Under the Sun

We spend a lot of time thinking about the various permutations and combinations involved in managing a training business – sometime people say to us “but what can be so complicated about training organisations?.” It’s not a surprising comment, unless you live and breath this every day you are unlikely to see the complexity.

We thought we would give one example of just how complex this can be. For the purposes of this example we’ll be running a training course for The Three Musketeers, in this example we’ve got Huey, Duey and Louey all signed up. The registrations are all included on a single order, the tax invoice has been sent, order paid, and course instructions delivered. Read on and see what happened.

Scenario one – Huey can’t make the course but wants to transfer to another date.

LearningSource resolution :

  1. Order change email sent to assigned contact on the order (the order contact) confirming the transfer of Huey
  2. Transfer email sent to Huey (see in the example below how the old date is crossed out and the new date is clearly showing in red.”

Scenario two – Huey can’t make the course but wants to send Fouey in his place

LearningSource resolution:

  1. Order change email sent to order contact confirming registrant change
  2. Registration cancellation email sent to Huey
  3. Course instructions email sent to Fouey

Scenario three – Huey cancels his registration altogether

LearningSource resolution:

  1. Order change email sent to order contact confirming cancellation of one of the registrations.
  2. Registration cancellation email sent to the registrant who can no longer attend.

Bonus resolution if a refund is required:

  1. Press the “Mark a Refund” button
  2. The refund transaction is processed automatically
  3. A credit note is created and sent

As you’ll see there’s much more to training than meets the eye. Luckily it’s something we obsess about and every permutation under the sun is catered for in LearningSource!

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Notes – Simple, Yet Powerful

We often talk about the power of online software – the fact that we can make small changes and roll them out to customers is a wondrous thing.

Here’s another example of that in action. Talking to customers, it became apparent that people wanted a really simple notation function on orders within LearningSource – the sort of thing that would cut down the number of Post-It notes people had stuck to their monitors.

The use for this is pretty obvious, here’s an example:

  • Sally wants to note that she will confirm the final list of attendees from her company by 23 June.
  • John wants everyone to see that he followed up with Jessie regarding an overdue payment.  Jessie undertook to pay this by bank transfer next Wed (25 June)

We have designed it so that it’s easy to see when an order has a note against it (see below). Order notes are a simple feature but one that is already making life easy for a number of current users – the feedback on this has been great.

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New Look, Even Easier to Use

Some of you will have noticed that we’ve recently updated our user interface (UI) for contacts, presenters and organisations. One of the benefits of our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is that we can roll out changes to all users without worrying about version control, someone having to be onsite to install updates, or conflicts with customisations.

This new UI is an example of that put to the benefit of end users. With this change we’ve found a sweet spot that works equally well in the situation where there is minimal information about a contact, as it does when there is lots of information.

Below we’ve given a couple of examples of screenshots showing a contact with very few details, and underneath that a contact with a lot of information, you’ll see how intuitive and easy the screens are to use.

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We really believe that SaaS brings huge benefits to organisations – changes as simple as our new UI show how this is the case.

Reducing email bulk… automatically

We have created what we consider to be a really clever system that allows for;

  • Orders containing multiple registrants
  • Orders containing multiple courses
  • Someone placing an order on behalf of someone else
  • Course registration not being ‘confirmed’ until the order is approved

These features provide some great flexibly and in a number of cases reduce a significant amount of administration. For example, allowing multiple registrations on an order can mean that instead of needing to produce and track a single invoice for each registration, they can all be combined onto the one invoice.  

Part of supporting this is having an ‘order contact’ for each order; a person who receives all communications relating to the order.  For example, when an order is submitted, they receive the ‘tax invoice’.   The order contact also receives an ‘order approval’ email when the order is approved while the registrants each receive the ‘course instructions’

There’s a flip side to this however – when an order is for a single registrant and it is the registrant themselves who has placed the order then they can potential receive the following multiple confirmation email for the various stages of the process. People have told us this was a bit of a pain and we’ve listened and have some great news.

We’ve made some changes and now the system is clever enough to know when this situation exists and will automatically reduce email quantity.

We have also added this enhancement across other parts of the system.  For example, order cancelations.  Instead of  sending an ‘order cancelation’ and a ‘registration cancellation’, the system just sends  ‘registration cancellation’ if the person who placed the order is the registrant themselves.

This can seem complex to get your head around, but there is some really clever stuff going on.  In fact, in most cases what seam really simple is in fact only simple to the user  because  there has been a lot of thought and extra development gone in to make it that way.

Sometimes It’s the Simplest Things….

We had an email the other day from a customer who was having difficulty navigating through LearningSource. It seemed the person wanted to copy the text from course A to course B but was loathe to lose the work they’d done already in course A.

Well there is a way around this and it’s easy and elegant. Modern web browsers (Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) have a multiple tab feature – that is multiple web pages can be open simultaneously within the browser by adopting a “tabbed” approach. It’s an incredibly simple, yet incredibly useful tool. So.. how do you do it?

First of all make sure you’ve got a modern browser (honestly – to get the best out of the internet you should be running the latest version anyway). Once you’ve done that the rest is easy.

Firstly right click your mouse while hovering over the icon of the link you want to open:

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Next select “Open link in new tab”:

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Magically you’ll now have two tabs open – the original one with all the work you’ve entered so far, plus the new one you just selected – you can switch between the two tabs quickly and easily by clicking them.

Sometimes the simplest things can make a big difference!

Rolling Out the Features

A theme that we return to often on this blog is that of our Software as a Service (SaaS) model allowing us to roll out features far more rapidly and frequently than is the case with traditional installed software. A case in point was our release that enables organisations using LearningSource to schedule multi-session courses and also to add terms and conditions within course descriptions.

Our customers have told us that multi session courses are very useful because the functionality gives them a lot of flexibility when scheduling courses that are disjointed for some reasons – for example by holidays or because they have multiple sessions over differing periods of time.

Here’s a real world example of this being important – a provider may have a course that runs for 5 weeks, and has 2 modules per week, which is then split up by a two week holiday in the middle of the programme. Traditionally this would require scheduling a lot of independent courses which would take extra time and be frustrating for whoever had the fun task of data entry. With our multi session courses this can be handled by a simple dialogue box (see screenshot below)

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Again it’s another example of us rolling out improvements and refinements frequently and, even more importantly,taking the burden of managing upgrades away from our customers.

We’ve got a lot more of this sort of stuff coming – be sure to check back in frequently (or even better subscribe to the blog) to keep up to date.