Greetings and a much belated Happy New Year to all of you. As I reported in my last blog post, the Ascend Team met a challenge I issued to them last year. With your cooperation they got over 90% of our locations to upgrade to version 2.5. It was no small feat. To date over 875 locations have updated. If you’re among the few locations that haven’t, please give our team a call and they’ll be happy to take care of you.
On January 3rd I delivered on my promise and got my blue crew cut and mustache. As you can see, it was not a pretty sight. But I was happy to recognize all of the hard work that everyone put in to make this happen.
The budget feature in Ascend Analytics is an outstanding way to set targets for your staff and to keep you on pace to reach your goals. It’s very simple to use as well. Already 40% of your have entered your 2013 budgets. That is fantastic! But that means 60% of you haven’t. So while you have time, go to our Analytics Help Page for step-by-step instructions on creating a new financial budget. If you need more help, feel free to contact the Ascend Support Team.
On behalf of the entire Ascend Team I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for a wonderful 2012. Together we’ve accomplished some great things. We’re looking forward to an exciting 2013.
I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Because of You
Back in September we released Version 2.5. Since this was the last release before Version 3, we wanted to get everyone on it. I challenged the team to get 90% of our locations on 2.5 by December 31st. If they did, they could give me a crew cut and color it blue. Then along came Movember and I threw in my mustache for good measure.
I am happy (?) to report that last Friday (12/14) the goal was reached! Thank you to everyone for joining us. If you’re part of the 9% that isn’t on 2.5, give the Support Team a call and we’ll be happy to help you get there.
So with a bet being a bet, I arranged for my personal stylist to come to the office yesterday for the ceremonial cut and color. Unfortunately a blizzard hit and foiled our plans. So I’m blue that I have to wear this mustache for another two weeks. My blue hair will have to wait until January.
Onward to 2013 and Version 3!
Our progress continues on Ascend Version 3. As with most major projects we’ve had some surprises and things are taking longer than expected. We’re focussing all of our energy on providing a fast and reliable system to carry us all into the future. We’re targeting the 2nd half of 2013 for release. Sometime after the 1st of the year our Ascend Sales Team will begin using V3 to run our own day-to-day software business. I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.
In the meantime there are plenty of things you can do to get ready for V3. This is a first in series of blogs detailing steps you can take now to be ready to upgrade.
- Upgrade to Version 2.5: Before you can upgrade to V3 you need to be on Version 2.5. Many of you already are. Some of you aren’t. Our goal is to have 90% on Version 2.5 by the end of December. It’s a tall task but we’re getting close. If we hit the goal, I’ve agreed to get an Ascend Blue crew cut. And, as an added bonus, I will also dye my Movember Mustache blue. Currently you have to stand a foot away from me to see it. But trust me, by the end of December, it will be awesome! Don’t worry. There will be pictures.
- Replace your old hardware: If you have any of this hardware it’s time to think about replacing it:
- Windows XP PC’s
- Epson III Receipt Printers
- Cognitive Del Sol Label Printers
- Verfione 1000SE Serial Port PIN Pads
If you need help with either of these steps feel free to call us, email us or visit us at www.ascendrms.com.
With a nod to the old Coca-Cola campaign, I’m officially announcing that “Chrome Is It!”. Google Chrome is the official web browser of Ascend Version 3.
Why only one browser?
My decisions regarding the development of Ascend are guided by the following principles:
- We will maximize the time we spend programming new features and improvements.
- We will deliver them to our customers as quickly as possible.
- We will deliver a quality product.
Supporting multiple web browsers works against these principles in several ways:
- Extra time would have to be spent programming each new enhancement. Our programmers would have to make sure every browser is accounted for.
- We thoroughly test every new feature. Our testers would have to repeat their tests in every browser we support.
- We would likely have to spend additional time fixing bugs because of differences between browsers.
- We create automated scripts to make sure that everything that was working fine before is still working after making changes (aka Regression Testing). Our testers would have to create and maintain a set of scripts for each browser.
We chose Google Chrome as our official web browser for several reasons.
Version 2.5 Update:
We released Version 2.5 to everyone on October 1st. Nearly 400 locations have upgraded so far. If you haven’t joined them yet, click here for full details on what to do next.
Inventory Fantasy Camp:
Our spots are filling up for our November and December camps. Click here for details and instructions on reserving your spot.
Have a great week!
Last March I blogged about my Ascend dealer visits in Germany (read Das ist cool!). The short version of the story was a German dealer was very excited to see the new feature to print special order receipts at receiving time. The bad part of the story was they could have been using the feature for months before our visit. They just didn’t know about it. The moral of the story: Don’t let our cool new features go unnoticed and unused.
Last night we released Version 2.5 to everyone. Once again we are delivering more “Das ist cool!” features. So take a few moments this week to do your part:
- Upgrade to 2.5. Over 150 locations are already on the new version. Plan to join them.
- Get educated on the new features. Watch our new release webinar. Click here to view it. You should also read our release notes for additional details:
Just a reminder that this is our last major release on the Version 2 platform. We are now putting all of our efforts into Version 3. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates.
On Monday night, October 1st, Ascend Version 2.5 will be available for you to download in your stores.
We want you to make the most of this new release. With features like integrated SMS text messaging and Red Shield integration, you’ll want to update soon. Please join us on Tuesday, October 2nd, at 9am CST or Wednesday, October 3rd, at 11am CST for an overview of these new features and more.
To register for the Tuesday session go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/519072568.
To register for the Wednesday session go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/987876153.
We’ll talk to you then!
We’ve rescheduled our release of Version 2.5 to October 1st.
With every new version of Ascend, we schedule a “Release Candidate” phase. One month before our scheduled release date, we give the latest version of Ascend to a large group of dealers to use in their stores. If we discover any problems, it gives us time to fix them before we give the new version to hundreds of stores. This has worked very well. Since releasing Version 2.0 in March 2011, it has helped us to release four quality updates on the scheduled date. This is something we’re very proud of.
Since August 20th we’ve been in the Release Candidate phase for Version 2.5. Nearly 90 locations have been running this new version in their stores. With their help we’ve identified and fixed a few issues that the rest of you will never see. Late last week we identified an issue with adjusting inventory quantities when turning a quote into a sale. It is not a common scenario. It only occurs if you start a quote, hit Preview to print a full-page receipt, and immediately take a payment all in the same session. We must fix this. We need to take the time do it properly and make sure it’s well-tested. We will be spending the next two and a half weeks to do just that.
We take great pride in our on-time delivery record. However, we won’t sacrifice quality just to meet a date.
I’ll keep you updated on our progress in the next two weeks as we get closer to our new October 1st release date.
With Version 2.5 we’ve made it easier to sell and register Red Shield extended warranty contracts.
Previously, to register the contracts you had to get out of Ascend and go into Dexter. That either slowed down the sales process or meant that the contracts had to be entered later on. Because of that some contracts were never registered.
Now when you add a Red Shield SKU to a sale, Ascend will automatically bring up the registration screen. As an added bonus, it will automatically fill in the customer information you’ve already entered in Ascend. For verification purposes, you will still need to manually enter the bike and Red Shield SKU information on the second registration screen.
If you’re not registered to sell Red Shield contracts, contact your Financial Services Representative to get set up.
If you are already registered, make sure your employees are offering to sell contracts with every Trek bike sale.
Version 2.5 is currently in our early release period. Over 70 locations have updated and are using the new version. We will make it available to everyone to download on 9/17. We will offer overview webinars on 9/18 and 9/19. Watch here for more details.
On August 20th we will make Ascend Version 2.5 available to our Early Release dealer group . We will make it available to all dealers next month on September 17th.
Here are some highlights of what’s included:
- You’ll be able to text message your customers from Ascend. See my previous blog on this topic for full details.
- We’ve enhanced the process for verifying your cash count at the end of the day.
- For our U.S. dealers, we’ve added the ability to register Red Shield Extended Warranty Contracts directly from the Sales screen.
- For our U.K. dealers, we’ve added the ability to check product availability from Madison.co.uk.
- And more….
We will be previewing these additions at Trek World next week. We’ll also host a live webinar on August 21st for our Early Release Dealers to demonstrate these functions.
If you’d like to be included in the Early Release group, please contact the Ascend Support Team. We’d love to have you join us.
As we enter the second half of 2012, here’s an update on the major initiatives we’re working on at Ascend.
1. We’re winding down work on Ascend Version 2
We’re putting the finishing touches on Version 2.5. It’s the last planned update for Version 2. It will go to early release on August 20th and will be available to everyone on September 17th.
In preparation for V3, we’ll be working to get everyone on the latest Version 2 release. Version 2.4 is available now. Over 500 locations have upgraded. If you haven’t yet, plan to upgrade soon.
2. We’re focusing on Version 3
Our goal is to make Version 3 available to everyone in the 2nd quarter of 2013. We have a lot of work to do to get there. We’re focusing as much of our time and energy as possible on this project.
3. We’re planning for Version 3.01 and beyond
Once Version 3 is out, we’ll get back to work on new features and enhancements. To get ready, we’re identifying our projects and priorities now. Your feedback is very important for this. Continue to submit your ideas and to vote on others on our UserVoice forum. If your store doesn’t have an account, contact our support team to get set-up.
4. We’re providing the best support
We’re always working to provide you with the best support. Watch here for updates on all the new resources we’re creating to help you and your employees take advantage of everything Ascend has to offer.
We’re looking forward to a great rest of the year!