Where do product features come from?

It’s Friday, 3:30pm. Everyone is beginning to wind down in advance of the weekend. But wait.

Our new customer has a problem.

Their shiny new cloud-based CRM system is full of essential data that the rest of the business really needs, only it’s not on their internal customer data platform (you know – that one that only supports SFTP or manual uploads).

Their solution?

Call that new data portal supplier (that’s us!) – they’re more responsive than the CRM vendor.”

Our solution?

Build shiny new features to make it happen!

This is one of those anecdotes that could have had a humorous tagline on The Register. We were two weeks into a new customer relationship, and things were going well; they were happy, we were happy, and we’d even started talking to them about adding our email integration service.

However, we didn’t expect the next step to be a call late on a Friday afternoon asking us if we could help out with a data transfer & integration issue. “Probably”, we said at first, but it turned out that we couldn’t – at least not immediately.

We learned that the source service was a cloud-based CRM system, with a delightfully easy-to-use API built in which did everything they needed to create the data. They already had code calling the API to generate reports which their staff could download, then manually transfer internally. But they needed that to happen automatically, as well as be able to share it with other teams.

The DOQEX service includes Virtual File Stores (VFS), which can be used to interface with and transfer data between various types of system. Unfortunately, at the time of the call, the cloud CRM wasn’t one of them.

During a three-way call, we discovered the API could do a callback when a report was generated. We then added a hook to our workflow engine, making it available to our VFS as a source and therefore available inside DOQEX for sharing. Job done.

It should have been easy from there, right? Alas, not. Although we supported SFTP (and they needed the files sent to them via SFTP), and we have file-forwarding specifically for such situations, this particular system had no support for the (modern, secure) cipher suites we support for SFTP, making it a fairly significant risk in our eyes. Point of note: API integration is rarely straightforward with legacy systems.

So how did we fix the client issue?

In short, we built in a VPN client system, which makes their DOQEX service look like one of their staff connecting to their network, enabling it to talk directly to their internal system without having to fall back to plain FTP.

So, this is where we answer the question: Where do product features come from?

Customers!

As far as DOQEX is concerned, every feature in our service is there because a customer needed it. The new VPN and VFS features developed here immediately became available across our entire DOQEX estate. Our unitary codebase is not only more secure and manageable, it’s essential to make new features like this available to all our customers.

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