We are supremely proud of TOTAL 2010. Not because it’s the result of ace programming. No, we’re proud of it because it’s the result of listening to our customers and those who aren’t our customers... yet. We listened to those of you who said you didn’t want “bells and whistles”, and after gathering all that feedback, and sending out all those prototypes for review, and after all was said and done, TOTAL 2010 came out the other end of the grinder exactly as intended. That’s pretty rare. And that’s a pretty good feeling.
WHAT IT MEANS TO LISTEN
Like you, we go through CE for our respective fields to stay current, exchange ideas and grow professionally, although it’s not as structured as it is for appraisers. Several years ago, a group of us were taking a Product Management workshop and one of the instructors said something that has stuck with us ever since: Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant.
What she meant by that was simple and applies to every software vendor. We are not in your shoes daily, and as a result, cannot know more about what you need than you do. To think otherwise is arrogant, condescending and incredibly amateur. The only opinion that matters is yours, the customer’s.
Now, obviously total implementation of that phrase is impossible. You can’t please everyone, and there will always be conflicting needs, but the spirit of “your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant” is one we’ve both adopted and actually built software around. We think we’re unique in both how we listen, and in how far we’re willing to go to implement your feedback. And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
I don’t even have to check with Legal on this claim: We’re the only appraisal software company with a labs environment. We launched it in 2006, and since then its results have been profound. We hired customers to work in it as Research Fellows. We’ve solicited feedback at least monthly from our entire user base. We’ve released prototypes of tools to get feedback and involved users in the direction of products early. In short, we took all the guesswork out of “will appraisers like A or B” or “do appraisers want Y or Z”. You tell us what you want, and we do our best to deliver given our overall project list, development resources, time, and common sense. To date it’s responsible for the desktop, tablet and iPhone versions of DaVinci (soon an Android version too), Bird’s Eye mapping in WinTOTAL, and now TOTAL 2010, just to name a few. So what about TOTAL 2010 is representative of appraisers’ requests? Glad you asked.
REQUESTS COME ALIVE IN TOTAL 2010
Undo: Without question, one of the most requested additions to TOTAL 2010 is the Undo/Redo and the global Find/Replace All. That seems like a simple enough request, right? Actually, it required a complete rewrite of our forms engine, but we’d already planned to rewrite it from scratch anyway. It’s in there, and I’ll be shocked if anyone can actually hit the limit on the number of “undo’s” it stores. And keeping track of them all doesn’t eat up memory, adding further to the program’s stability.
Simple: There are lots of ways to interpret “I want it simple”, but we implemented simplicity everywhere we could, as often as possible. The interface is a great example. The previous version of WinTOTAL has seven different PowerViews. TOTAL 2010 has two. The toolbars are “flat” in that you don’t have to dig around to find tools you need, and you can even hide the toolbars to give you more screen space. And the things we could make “in-line” to save clicks and jumping around in the program, like adding photos or maps, we did.
Starting reports: In WinTOTAL Athena, starting reports was done with the Requester. The Requester was a series of data fields that told the software how you wanted the report started and with what information. “Takes too long” the people said. In Aurora, we dropped the Requester in favor of the Order PowerView. “Too complicated” the people said. So in TOTAL 2010, we hit the nail on the head. The JumpStart tool lets you quickly enter basic report info, then move on to SmartMerge from past reports. But the order form view is still available for those that want it. Everybody wins.
In-line maps and photos: “I just want to be able to add a photo or a map without jumping through hoops” the people said. In TOTAL 2010, just head over to your map or photo form, click on the slot where you want the map or the image, and you get a small menu that lets you do everything you need, right there on the form. If you’ve used Microsoft Word or Outlook 2007, you’ve seen something similar. When you highlight text you’re given a small, contextual toolbar “in-line” with the text you’re working with. The way we handle photos and maps in TOTAL 2010 borrows from that concept. It’s a good idea, so why not?
SureDocs signature security: TOTAL 2010 verifies your identity when you sign, adds a serial number to your report, and then stores the salient data from the report, like a “digital fingerprint” of the whole PDF. It then creates a link to your appraisal credentials (nothing that others can steal), on our secure escrow servers. Anyone can type in the serial number on the escrow website, and compare what it shows against the report they’re holding. Appraisers have told us for years they want a more secure solution, and TOTAL 2010 is the only one that delivers.
Cross-version compatibility: In the past, when you installed a new version of WinTOTAL, it replaced your current/previous installation, and updated your files. If you had a problem or didn’t like the new version, you were basically stuck. With Aurora’s release, we heard about this a lot, and decided that we’d make TOTAL 2010 install separately from previous versions, but we didn’t stop there. We also made sure that you can start a file in Aurora or Athena, open it in TOTAL 2010, then reopen back in Aurora or Athena. That’s no small engineering feat, but we’ve successfully made file compatibility virtually seamless. The only thing that doesn’t transfer backwards from TOTAL 2010 are SureDocs secure signatures, because SureDocs doesn’t exist in Aurora or Athena.
Dual monitor support: In a survey of our customers, we found that over 40% use dual monitors. (If you don’t use dual monitors, you definitely should. You’ll be shocked at how much more efficient you’ll be. Don’t take my word for it. Ask your peers.) So we made TOTAL 2010 truly dual monitor friendly. The built-in addenda writer can be completely undocked from the TOTAL 2010 program window and moved to a second monitor. The same is true of the E&O checker and the QuickLists panel. Helping you better manage your workspace helps you save time.
For a more complete list, see "20 Ways TOTAL 2010 Differs from Aurora."
I ALREADY HAVE A FORMFILLER. WHY SHOULD I CARE?
If you’re an existing WinTOTAL user, you’re going to fall into one of two camps, relative to this discussion anyhow. Camp A thinks WinTOTAL Aurora and Athena are “too heavy with bells and whistles” and wants a lighter, simpler formfiller. Camp B likes the bells and whistles and wants to stick with that Enterprise level software.
No matter which “camp” you’re in, so long as your membership is current, you get new versions free of charge. So if you want that lightweight formfiller, you got it and can start using it today. Just visit www.alamode.com/MyAccount and log in to download it. If you’re in Camp B, and like all the tools in Aurora, you can still use TOTAL in the field, with trainees who need an inexpensive formfiller, and with office staff. Remember that files are compatible across versions. And it’s also important to note that TOTAL 2010 is the core upon which even more robust products will be built. This foundation matters to all our customers, whether you’re using TOTAL 2010 right away or not. (pq)
If you’re not an existing customer of ours, there are three significant reasons you should care. First is pricing. The everyday, retail price of TOTAL 2010 is $299. That’s not a sale or promo price. Compare that to ClickFORMS or ACI. The everyday price of our Silver Membership, which provides unlimited aerial and Bird’s Eye maps and imagery, live phone support, sketching, software updates, and training webinars for all your PCs, even on a network, is $349. Compare our Silver Membership with ACI’s basic membership. They don’t include maps, and charge extra for them. Or compare our Silver Membership with Bradford Technologies, who doesn’t include phone support by default in their lowest level membership, and charges extra for it. And in both cases, compare the everyday, retail price. Ours is more affordable and has been for years.
You told us you want an inexpensive solution. Dollar for dollar, TOTAL 2010 wins. You can verify all that on each company’s website.
To make sure there’s absolutely no confusion about which package is more affordable, during March, the month we’re launching TOTAL, we’re making it easy for you. Get TOTAL 2010, a Silver Membership and a Standard level Appraiser XSite (for a listing on our Mercury Network, working with lenders and AMCs, and for a professional web presence), all for $299. Do the comparisons for yourself. Again, dollar for dollar, we win every time.
Second is the software itself. Hit our website, get a free trial, and see for yourself. We think when you try it, you’ll immediately get the sense that appraisers weighed in on the design. Everything has a learning curve. But you can pick it up and start using it immediately. And while TOTAL 2010 skips the bells and whistles, you’ll see that each feature is clearly well-designed, solid, and better than what you’re using now.
Third is the way we approach solving your problems. We have a labs environment dedicated to doing nothing but taking your feedback and using it to improve products. We ask for and reply to your comments, even the tough ones. We’re connected, and we listen. Contrast that with any other appraisal software provider. Are they listening or do they seem distant, like they’re in Mongolia? Have they done anything innovative lately? Or is it business as usual and you’re funding it year after year? These are some questions worth asking. Of course with us, you already know the answer.
THERE ARE MORE GOOD THINGS TO COME
Again, this version of TOTAL 2010 is our Standard version, and is the core foundation for our development efforts going forward. We’ll continue to push out early prototypes through our labs program at www.alamode.com/labs. In addition to ongoing TOTAL development, you’ll also want to stay up on our efforts to help you gather, analyze, and report data more quickly, easily and inexpensively. Look for a project called Data Desktop. You’re going to love it, and we’ll be asking all appraisers for their input, whether they’re current or future customers. We strongly believe that we succeed, both on a personal level and financially, by helping you succeed. We know where our bread is buttered, and we’ll never forget it. It’s clear to us that our competitors forget it long ago. TOTAL 2010 is a daily reminder of the good that comes from listening to our customers.