I think that the number one question I hear from our customers is “When is the next version coming out?” This is immediately followed by the number two question – “What new features will it have?” Since it is my job to communicate with our customers (and try to make them happy too!), I usually reply with something pithy like: “I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you,” or “Soon, and it’s gonna be awesome,” or the complete conversation killer: “I’m sorry, I can’t comment on future versions.”

Before I address those two burning questions I would like to set the stage and put the past couple of years into perspective. We all know that our industry was hit particularly hard by the recession. We’ve all got stories – belt-tightening, friends and loved ones losing jobs, depressing news, etc. We’ve written about many of the things that we here at D-Tools tried to do during the past couple of years, but the one constant among them was – improve. Get better. Look at our processes and see what we can do to streamline them. We put most of our focus into product development and data, the two core areas of our business.

In the past months since we released System Integrator 5.5 we have released a number of service packs. While these have not been full-blown product releases on the scale of what is considered a “major” release, each of these releases have introduced new features and enhanced functionality along with the required fixes that normally defines a service pack release. Our CTO has written about the development philosophy and method that our team uses called “Agile” in a past blog entry. You can read more about it here. But what that method has really allowed our team to do is to look at our solution as whole, determine what areas need to be worked on, improved, fixed, added, streamlined, etc. – set a schedule, develop the features, then determine a timeline for release of those specific features.

The benefit to our customers from this method of development is that we have been able to consistently improve the product and release new features over the past 24 months – even though we have not technically had what would be considered a “major” release. I like to point out the fact that our service packs are so good, they win awards (It’s true – both SP1 and SP2 have received Exite award winners by Custom Retailer), but the reality is that we have consistently and significantly improved our software with every new release.

So back to this year – we just released SP3, our latest service pack release. More about that here. It has a number of significant improvements and enhancements that will make it easier for our customers to do their job. We are already working on the next release. Everything we have done in the past two years has prepared us for the Next. Big. Thing.

One of the things I like best about working here at D-Tools is that we have an incredibly creative and hard working team that likes to push the envelope – on almost everything – from development to sales and marketing, to operations and support. I would like to think that it is due to our our passion for our work and that our culture kind of inspires it, but really I think it’s due to the fact that we are a bunch of type A personalities that really don’t like to take “no” for an answer.

So this year, when our customers ask me “When is the next release coming out?” and “What new features is it going to have?”, we are going to do something different – we are going to tell them. Our goal is to have our next version out this year. We’re already working on it. It will be new. It will be cool. It will be the best software that this company has ever produced. I am 100% certain of that and 100% confident in our team’s ability and commitment to deliver. We do not have a release date as of yet. However, we will discuss feature sets and concepts as we develop them. We are going to write blog posts and publish video interviews with D-Tools team members on our philosophy, direction, progress, and yes, new functionality. We plan to preview new features as we develop them, and will invite our users to participate in the process. We want our users to be a part of the experience and be right there with us. Stay tuned. The year has just begun, and it’s gonna be a good ride.