Four51 Application: R8 Refresher

I know that things get to be a little crazier than usual around release time at Four51 and I’ll bet that may be the case for others of you as well. There is scheduled downtime to announce, training to complete and documentation to update, never mind actually implementing the cool (and helpful) new features!

It has now been about eight weeks since Release 8 was deployed so I decided to take a few minutes to compile a list of some of the features and provide a quick refresher.

Split Billing
Setup a buyer with a spending account and if the order total exceeds the account balance the user will be prompted to select another payment method to cover the difference.

Shipment Report
This report contains all shipping information that is entered on the seller interface including the quantity shipped, date shipped and tracking number.

Product Detail Spec Form
Enhance the buyer users’ experience by customizing some of the information on the product detail page per product.

Themes–Custom Error Page
Buyer sites with custom themes can now have a custom error page as well. Just be sure to include the necessary tokens so Four51 Support can assist you if problems arise!

Click here to find the Release 8 Release Notes which lists all the features that were included.

The technology team at Four51 has jumped right into tasks related to Release 9 and I’ll be back soon with updates!


Four51 Application: One Last Thing

Cap'n CrunchI am sure you have played the game One Last Thing.  Like, if you could only eat one last thing, what would it be? (Bacon.) Or, if you could only have one breakfast cereal, what would you choose? (Captain Crunch.)  This is the very discussion we have when trying to figure out the most important feature of our next major application release:   If we could build only one more thing, what would it be? 

The “one” feature we focused on for Release 8 was the ability for buyers to pay for orders with a spending account and an additional payment method.  Release 7 was about security and PCI compliance. And Release 9 will be about,  well…..hmmmm……we are thinking that if we could only build “one last thing”  it would be allowing a coupon to be used on an order.  What would you say if you were on the Four51 product development team?

You can click here to create a product suggestion on Access Four51, the Four51 Customer Resource Center.


Four51 Application: Release 8 is coming soon!

I am happy to announce that we have selected Thursday, June 19, 2008 as the evening that we will deploy the Release 8 code to production! The application will be unavailable from 10 pm CDT on Thursday, June 19, 2008 until 2am CDT on Friday, June 20, 2008 and when you arrive at work on Friday morning, you will have the latest and greatest available to you!

New features include:
* Split Billing
* Shipment Report
* Supplier Interface Enhancements
* SAP Punchout
* Spec Form Enhancements

If you have not logged onto our Staging environment yet to make sure your current processes still work as expected, please do! Be sure to submit comments, questions and feedback using the beta feedback form found on Access Four51.

Thank you,

New Features of Release 8: Variable Spec Form

Hopefully you all know that Release 8 is just around the corner, and you have logged into the beta site to see the new features highlighted in the demo. Once again there are a ton of new features, many of which that will affect you immediately. Today I’m going to discuss some new enhancements to the Variable Product Spec Form. Our primary goal in these changes was to increase design time by creating a form as close to production-ready as possible. The fewer edits needed, the faster to production you can be with your products.

First, we tackled the task of redesigning the default form. The previous form was very vertical. Each spec was listed individually down the page with the label directly above the control. Any product with more than 5 specs causes the page to scroll, and most user input forms have labels on the left of the control. After Release 8, the default form will be more horizontal. Here is an example:


Much of the padding and spacing was reduced to shrink the space used on the screen. Prefix, Suffix and required marker are also taken into consideration so the controls align neatly.

Secondly, we added default css definitions: SpecForm, SpecLabel, SpecControl, SpecSuffix, SpecPrefix, SpecOddRow, SpecEvenRow. These definitions exist as defaults in the global.css file, but you can override them in your theme projects. Choosing to include these styles in your theme allows you to maintain a consistent look to your spec forms that will persist to ALL of your products.

With these two changes, we hope that you are able to minimize the effort in a new product rollout. I cannot demonstrate this functionality through the usual methods until the release is completed. Rest assured, I will have a quality demo available at that time.

Next week I’ll discuss the new Product Detail Spec Form and list some new innovations that are now possible.

Four51 App: Why you should participate in the Beta Program

We may be in the final weeks of preparation for our next major feature release, Release 8, but it’s not too late for you to participate in our Beta Program!

Some of you have already logged on to Staging to take a look at the new features but many of you have not. I am sure past participants could list plenty of reasons it is a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity (and please do in the comments if you’re willing to share), but for now I thought it might be helpful if I listed some of the benefits that I see of being a participant in this part of the process.

Why should you participate in the Beta Program?
* See the new features before they hit the live environment
* Identify if anything is changing for you or your buyers and communicate appropriately
* Update or create training materials as needed
* Confirm that your processes work as they currently do in the live environment
* Give feedback to Four51 which may initiate an update prior to the release date

We have created an area on Access Four51 to track all the important information about Application Updates. Once you are on the Release 8 page, you will find a link to logon to the Staging environment (a copy of production that we made so you could test with real data), the ability to download release notes and more detailed information about some of our new features. We even wrote up a sample test script to help you get started!

Also available within the Release 8 section is a feedback form. When you fill that form out, the message will be sent directly to me and I will get back to you with an answer.

Once we have confirmed a release date we will be sending out a communication and will also be updating Access Four51 so please stay tuned.

Thank you!

Four51 Application: Join us as a Beta Program participant

As you well know, the technology team works hard year-round to provide new features and enhancements to the Four51 application. At the end of each development cycle, we like to give a sneak preview of the new features to our customers and the time has come for the Release 8 Beta Program!

The beta program exists as a tool for communication about the upcoming changes and also as an opportunity for Four51 customers to take a look at the new features and enhancements before they are made available on the live environment. In the past, we have received valuable feedback during the beta program that has helped improve the final product that goes out on release night.

Do you want to be fully prepared for the new features and add to the overall quality of the release by providing feedback? If so, register for the kick-off webinar at which I will be presenting a demo of some of the key new features and explaining the full beta program!

The beta program kick-off is Wednesday, May 28th at 1PM CDT. Register here.

If you are unable to join the beta meeting on May 28th, a recording will be made available on Access Four51 the following Monday, June 2nd.

I look forward to your participation!

PS If you missed the email we sent out earlier this week, check your spam folder and add us to your safe senders list. It’s important that you receive the Release messages in the coming weeks!

Four51 Tools: We don’t know what we don’t know!

My name is Oliver Lederer. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new leader of the support and training group here at Four51. Collectively, we refer to this function as Customer Experience, since the customer is really at the heart of everything we do.

Being new to the business, I took it upon myself to get trained in the various applications that we support and was pleasantly surprised at the depth and breadth of knowledge that exists within Four51. I attended one of our regular training sessions along with representatives from various customer companies. There is this wealth of information that is shared during training–one can literally become an expert in the use of the Four51 application in the space of a week.

It occurred to me while attending these training sessions that many more of our customers can benefit from this training, since the application is so rich in features and we constantly add new functionality to the product. Currently, we are preparing for Release 8. It would seem to me that someone who last came to training some years ago may not be aware of all of the new features introduced since then, and perhaps even if they are aware, they may not be fully adept in the use of any such features.

Speaking for myself, and I am sure many of you have experienced this too, I often attend training and am taught a whole slew of new things. Once I get back to my job I am immediately buried in the day-to-day business and quickly forget all but the most relevant subjects I was taught during training, unless I immediately get to use my newly gained knowledge. It is said that the average student only retains 33% of the knowledge gained after two days. After three weeks this number drops to 15% knowledge retained.

Having experienced our training first hand, I would highly recommend that our customers periodically consider coming in to refresh their knowledge and learn about new features. In fact, I will look into the possibility of introducing a refresher course for those of you well-versed in the use of the Four51 system, but who may want an update on what is new and how to use these features. Who knows, we might all learn something new and actually be able to use it to benefit our customers. Until we do so, we may not know what we don’t know.

~ Oliver