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General: The Ideas Process

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General: The Ideas Process

Tutorials & FAQs: General: The Ideas Process

As customers of PlusNet, we are among the first to spot areas of the service which don't fully meet our needs, or new things we wished were provided but aren't. The Ideas and Suggestions forum has been created to provide a means of setting forth our ideas, of enabling some comment and discussion from fellow forum-users, and of providing a path into PlusNet's own internal ideas system, which could lead to the idea being adopted or implemented.

In the forum, you can set out ideas you would like to see implemented on the platform. These can include new value-added services, changes to existing services, changes in designed aspects of the service and pretty much anything else PlusNet could provide as an ISP.

This tutorial outlines how to use the Ideas and suggestions forum for raising a new idea which you'd like to see implemented, and explains what you can expect from the system.


Background

The system of raising ideas in the forums is based on a system that has been in operation internally within PlusNet for many years. Around half of all development work processed is as a direct result of ideas raised by both staff and customers.

Previously, this was a manual process where little or no feedback was given to the customer on anything processed. With new and improved forum software in operation, PlusNet and ourselves are now able to track, manage and process ideas much more easily.


Submitting an Idea

Prior to submitting a new idea, you should check to see if the idea, or something similar to it, is already being considered.

Step 1:
Look at the "Current ideas progress" thread. This contains almost all customer-submitted ideas and some that have been noted as already under development.

From here you should be able to tell which ideas are currently being processed, together with an indication of their status -- raised, rejected, submitted internally -- and ideas that have already been completed as a direct result of the ideas process.

This thread is updated as often as possible by one of the moderators, to reflect ideas that have been submitted. PlusNet staff will also try to keep items updated as to their progress, though this will happen less often, or when information becomes available. As a rough guide, the moderators will push to get at least a few updates on a monthly basis.

If you can find your idea in this list, or at least something similar, you are advised to comment on the thread related to the idea. Further functionality or other changes can be requested here. However, you may be advised that it is no longer possible to add to this idea, in which case you can then proceed to Step 2.

Step 2:
If you are unable to locate your idea in the list referred to earlier, then you can try reviewing some of the threads in the Ideas forum. Your idea may have been raised, but not yet added to the list.

Step 3:
If your idea is not covered by anything at Steps 1 and 2, you can think about submitting a new thread for review.

Click the New topic link, provide a title and compose your idea.

You are advised to take into account the guideliness below, which should save you time later.


Advice on information to include

While PlusNet will strive to see the positive value of requests, and submit them even in cases where there is no obvious need, there are many cases where an idea is returned at an early stage without being submitted.

In addition to these, there will be cases where an idea needs further justification, additional technical details or an explanation, before it can proceed.

As such, you are advised to try to post links to demonstrate how useful an idea would be, not just on a personal scale, but as a whole to the user-community. While it is understood that not every person might wish to make use of a proposed facility, how would it benefit those who would use it?


What and how long does it take once in the ideas system

Phase 1:
Initially, ideas are assessed by a member of the PlusNet communications team. This team will decide if it should be submitted on PlusNet's internal ideas system, or returned for further comments. They may research certain aspects prior to submitting or returning the idea. They will also note if the idea is already in progress (if this is not on the ideas list above, it can now be added).
Timeframe: No timeframe

Phase 2:
Once an idea has been raised on the internal ideas system, PlusNet will provide an internal reference number, and mark the thread title with this, such that both PlusNet and yourself can easily track information on the idea later.

Ideas raised will usually be submitted for review by the management team at a weekly meeting. However, this does not mean that every idea on the list will be looked at, and it is usual for 2 weeks to pass before an idea is considered by the management team.

During these weekly meetings, ideas will be accepted, rejected or passed back to the communications team for further information. The communications team will try to update you as much as possible on the status.
Timeframe: Between 1 - 3 weeks

Phase 3:
If an idea is accepted, a summary will be written for the business within 3 days and this will then be passed to the senior manager of the relevant department (ie a Portal text change will go to the content team, a change to the forums to the developers, etc) for final sign-off. The department managers will then produce a plan identifying the work required and how long it will take to implement. At that stage a scheduling decision is taken based on priority of the idea over other work and problem fixes (which always take priority). This means a low impact idea or one which is a big job to implement will normally be left lower down the priority list and will take longer to turn into reality.

Phase 4:
Once the idea is at that stage it enters PlusNet's normal workstacks. The communications team will endeavour to keep you updated with progress during the work, however it is always difficult to provide precise ETAs until the testing of the new code is complete, which is when a rollout date is confirmed. If you would like an update on a specific item, then you should make a new thread in the ideas forum quoting the idea number and any specific information you require.

As you can understand, both phases 3 & 4 can take as long as need be. Other than an ETA date, timeframes are dictated by the workloads of departments and the priority of the idea.


Reasons for Rejection

Inevitably, some ideas will have to be rejected, be this at an early stage, prior to entering the Ideas System, or after entering it, PlusNet will usually provide a reason for this action.

Some reasons may include that it simply isn't compatible with the current platform, it may be open to major or easy abuse or it may simply be a security risk.

The most often-stated reason is that an idea simply does not fit in with the business model of PlusNet. PlusNet's primary business is as an Internet Service Provider, so items that don't exactly fit in with that, are unlikely to be accepted.


I hope I have documented the process well enough. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions!

Original thread by Ian Wild, edited by acarr