What’s New in Advantage?
Midyear Product Update
Each year during our Advantage Users Group and European Advantage Users Group conferences, I highlight notable features and advancements of the past year and review what percentage of our efforts was spent on the various development initiatives. Our clients appreciate knowing where our efforts are going and being reassured that we are growing together along the same path.
We perform around 60,000 hours of development annually. Each year, the amount of time spent on different areas varies due to factors such as client requests, new client signings and major research and development projects. As you can imagine, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic heavily influenced how we focused our engineering efforts in 2020. Our company is structured to be agile and to pivot as necessary, so as other businesses pulled back, we adapted and accelerated our Sky UI project to great success.
Since our bandwidth is not unlimited, we are constantly reevaluating our priorities and resource allocation. Each team within our software development pipeline—design, development, quality assurance, documentation and delivery—stays in sync to ensure we are efficient and can adjust at any moment. For example, signing a new client might require transferring resources from a research & development project. All our teams need to adjust within days, not weeks or months. It is a delicate balancing act—software is hard! But, because we have been doing it for 40 years, we are confident we can meet the challenge.
So, what have we been up to in the first half of 2021? Well, a lot of things across several diverse development areas. Here are a few highlights:
- Integrating, integrating, integrating – Building systems integrations and enhancing our integration infrastructure has been an important part of our open system strategy. This year, we have continued to expand the security, performance and breadth of our REST API. Advantage now supports multiple third-party authenticators for user access to the system (e.g., Okta). In addition to other taxation platforms, Advantage now supports another market leader in that space—Avalara.
- Keeping the foundation tidy – Here is an industry secret: many platforms run on legacy architectures that are held together with digital “duct tape.” There are three basic options to address this:
1. More digital duct tape.
We have always opted for continuous improvement, which means we continue to have the most feature-rich software on the market while also maintaining solid architecture principles. This year, we have focused on data architecture improvements to a few key areas of our software, which will soon lead to more exciting opportunities. We have also been working on incorporating the latest .NET features along with Azure technologies. And clients can be assured that our revision updates make these improvements available to all, guaranteeing a path forward.
- Feature Innovation – No software company would survive without continuing to develop features that clients need for their business-critical objectives. We release monthly software updates that include new features across all parts of our software—some big, some small. The first half of this year’s development added features for enhanced continuity handling (think boxed subscriptions or classic book club handling). These continuity features offer marketers more pricing and incentive plans, while also allowing customers increased flexibility for managing their subscriptions. Also, several enhancements were made to Advantage’s synchronized subscriptions feature, which allows Advantage clients to bundle print and digital content with incredible flexibility in areas such as pricing behavior, recurring billing options, fulfillment controls and more.
- Research & Development – We typically have 1 or 2 large research & development projects in progress. In the first half of this year, we worked on the design for several upcoming projects while simultaneously initiating several others—we are busy! Our active projects involve enhanced group membership management and the next generation of our eCommerce platform, Cider. Additionally, we have begun the investigation and design for advanced reporting and advanced marketing capabilities. We look forward to sharing more details about these projects in the upcoming months.
As you can see, we are covering a lot of diverse ground within the software landscape of our application. We have consistently produced impressive results with our strong, well-connected team. We are excited to continue working in these areas and to start on a few new things we have in the queue. As always, don’t be surprised if you see a completely different list of developments 6 months from now—we may have pivoted dozens more times by then!