Q*bert (Dec/Jan 2023) Release Overview

The information in this article is the intellectual property of xMatters and is intended only for use with xMatters products by xMatters customers and their employees. Further, this intellectual property is proprietary and must not be reused or resold.

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This is it! We've reached the main inspiration for our choice to name releases after classic arcade games: Q*bert! Nothing else quite captures the frenetic nature of real-time problem solving and adaptive response quite like our little orange friend's attempts to avoid Coily, Wrong Way, and Ugg— all while achieving perfect coordination across his entire environment.

In our Q*bert release, we introduce features and functionality to enhance the situational awareness of your resolution teams and better equip them to adapt to ever-evolving issues. Our new AI-powered insights provide resolvers with real-time suggestions for actions to mitigate and resolve incidents faster. We also enhanced the diagnostic capabilities of our performance reports to increase your ability to analyze and improve your teams' incident response.

All this and a host of other useful features make xMatters the reason you never have to say @!#?@!

Before you dive in to learn about all the improvements, here are some important dates:

  • Non-production environment access: Tuesday, December 6
  • Production environment access: Tuesday, January 10 (enabled between 10:00-10:30am Pacific)

Future feature release

As a special bonus, we'll also give you a sneak peek at enhancements we're working on for a future release:

  • Moogsoft workflow – initiate incidents and send updates back & forth between xMatters and Moogsoft.
  • Dynamic Teams redesign – create and manage teams that match specific criteria at the time of an alert.

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Jump ahead

In a hurry? Here's an overview of this doc if you want to skip ahead to something awesome:

Incident response & service intelligence

The xMatters service reliability platform embeds services directly into its incident management capabilities to supercharge your response to digital service interruptions and continually provide value to your customer. This release we offer exciting new capabilities to our already robust service intelligence offerings, with the addition of AI-powered insights and incident links that together build the foundation for exciting new prescriptive incident resolution recommendations.

Digital operations insights

Availability: Base & Advanced plans

The latest addition to the xMatters adaptive incident management suite, AI-powered insights provide suggestions to incident commanders in real time to help them mitigate and resolve incidents faster and provide additional context during post-incident review. 

Driven by machine-learning, insights offer immediate, actionable information to incident commanders and resolution teams. These actions are based on AI technology that matches incidents by their shared services, common resolvers, or similar descriptions. You can access these insights from a new panel located at the top right side of the xMatters web user interface.

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The Insights panel has three categories: New, Actioned, and Dismissed. If you select the suggested action in the insight, it moves to the ‘Actioned’ section. If you decide that the insight isn’t relevant to your incident, you can move it down to the ‘Dismissed’ section by clicking ‘Dismiss’. Insights for an incident remain under ‘New’ until you select the suggested action or dismiss it. Make sure to check the panel for new and updated recommendations as you go through your incident resolution process. 

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Each insight includes the reason for the suggestion. Insights are scored and ranked using multiple algorithms so those most helpful to an incident commander are at the top of the list, and users can rate insights as helpful or not by pressing the thumbs up and thumbs down buttons on the insight cards to help continuously improve insight relevance over time. 

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From the Insights panel, you can view suggestions to invite resolvers of similar active or historical incidents to help resolve your current incident. Awareness of similar active incidents is important for identifying related or duplicate incidents where you can combine or coordinate efforts. Historical incidents may offer key insights in their post-incident reviews, such as resolver and automation recommendations.

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Suggested resolvers can also be viewed directly from the Resolvers section on the Incident Console. Simply click the 'Add Resolvers' button, then select 'Notify to Engage'. In the 'Add Resolvers' modal, there will be a new Suggested Resolvers section that contains the same content as the suggestions on the Insights panel.

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The Insights panel also suggests linking to related incidents to help incident commanders and resolvers gain better situational awareness and to minimize duplicate effort. Read on for more information on this new feature!

Linked incidents

Availability: Base & Advanced plans

As we introduced in our recent Awareness, adaptability, and AIOps in xMatters article, incident links are just one of the data sources that populate incident insights. You can now link related incidents to each other with different relationship types depending on your use case.

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Resolvers and stakeholders can glean important situational insights from related incidents to reduce the time to mitigate or resolve, track duplicates and merge resolution teams, and group incidents by problem for post-incident follow-up.

For details on available incident relationship types and instructions on how to link incidents, see our online help.

Redesigned incident initiation forms

The forms to trigger incidents from the xMatters web user interface got a refresh this release, using all our latest and greatest design components. You can now see at a glance exactly what you need to fill out in your custom incident initiation forms:

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Services as recipients

We've added services as official recipients in xMatters — just like users, groups, and dynamic teams. Previously, you could search for a service and select the group that owns it to be a recipient or resolver. Now, by having services as proper recipients, you'll never need to worry about notifying the wrong group if ownership of the service changes.

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Chat app support for services & more (Microsoft Teams & Slack)

Chat apps, such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, are among the top collaboration tools our customers use for incident triage and response. In this release, we make important updates to our Microsoft Teams and Slack integrations, including support for services and different group types (on-call vs. broadcast).

Microsoft Teams

  • You can now use the find, invite, and on-call commands to search for services, invite the owner of a service to a channel, or look up who's on call for a service.
  • Results of the find command specify if the result is a service, on-call group, or broadcast group.
  • We've added a new service details card with on-call information for the group that owns the service.
  • The details card for groups have been upgraded to include the services a group owns, an easier-to-read escalation schedule for on-call groups, and a members list for broadcast groups.
  • You can link directly from a service or group details card to xMatters if you want to see a service or group in more detail.
  • You can now respond with comments directly from within Microsoft Teams instead of being redirected to a browser.

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Slack

  • You can now use the find, invite, and on-call commands to search for services, invite the owner of a service to a channel, or look up who's on call for a service.
  • Results of the find command now specify if the result is a service, on-call group, or broadcast group.

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View recently impacted services in the Incident Console

Impacted services in the Incident Console now display a blue badge if the service was changed in the past 24 hours. By presenting relevant changes within the context of an incident, resolvers can get greater insight into potential root causes and immediately take action to mitigate and resolve the issue. Opening the impacted service info card will display the timestamp of the last change, and users can click through to view details of recent changes.

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Add private Slack channels from Incident Console

When you add a Slack collaboration channel from the Incident Console, you can now set the channel  as private. This is useful when your team needs to chat privately or share sensitive information in relation to an incident. The user who creates the channel can then invite other users to join, and when searching for channels to add to an incident, only the private channels created by the user authenticating to Slack from the Incident Console will be returned.

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Updated Incident Resolution workflow

You asked and we listened! We've made some exciting updates to the default xMatters Incident Management workflow and our customizable Incident Resolution workflow based on extensive customer feedback. These workflows now use the Create Alert step for incident notifications and take advantage of the Notify to Engage trigger and our new Get Incident Collaboration Channels step.

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This allows you to include details and links to the incident's collaboration channels when you notify additional resolvers to engage, reducing the time it takes resolvers to join the conversation.

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Reporting & analytics

Visibility into your incident response landscape is a key aspect of continuous improvement and more efficient incident response. In this release, we introduce new diagnostic analytics to help supervisors understand how their users and groups are responding to incidents. We also make additional updates to the Alert Performance and User Delivery reports and introduce a new permission so users can only view alerts for which they have sender permissions on the associated messaging form.

Incident performance reports

The User and Group performance reports now have an Incidents tab to allow incident managers to review how incidents are affecting users and groups. This tab includes details about the Mean Time to Acknowledge and Mean Time to Resolve to help identify opportunities for faster incident response.

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The reports also now display the amount of time resolvers were engaged with incidents. This gives you an opportunity to understand how long teams spend responding to and resolving issues. You can then drill down into underlying groups to see specific member performance.

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You can export the report to review offline or share with stakeholders. Simply click ‘Export’ to download the report in an Excel format.

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Alert performance report updates

We've also made additional updates to the Alerts report tab of the User and Group Performance reports. These include Source and Priority filters so you can streamline the data to focus on the alerts you care about the most.

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To help supervisors and group admins better visualize user and group performance over a period, both reports now include new data graphs for ‘Alerts’ and ‘Escalations’.

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See some data you want to investigate further? No problem! Simply click the values in the Alerts column to view information about the underlying alerts that support the data.

Filter alerts by response options

To make it more convenient to review the Alerts report, we've added a new Response Options filter that allows you to search the report by one-way and two-way alerts or choose to view data for all response options.

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User Delivery reporting updates

Usability is as important to us as it is to you, so we’ve overhauled the User Delivery tab to the Alerts report with ease of use in mind. This tab includes a new user search so you can quickly find and review information for specific people, and ‘Targeted Recipient’ and ‘Notified Recipient’ filters to make checking the notification status of specific recipients a breeze. The export now respects any applied filters, so the exported spreadsheet file only includes the information you want to see.

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We've also updated the look and feel of this screen to be consistent with our modern design language for a more aesthetic reporting experience.

New permissions for viewing alerts you have sender permissions for

Do you require more granular control over which departments or organizations in your company have access to particular alerts? We've just added a new 'Manage Alerts With Sender Permission' function that administrators can assign to specific roles to enable users to view and act only on alerts created by messaging forms the users have sender permissions for. This is useful for controlling the privacy of alerts from different roles, departments, or subsidiaries in your organization, and helps streamline the experience as users only see the alerts that are relevant to them.

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Automation

In addition to an updated Incident Resolution workflow that you can use to customize your resolver notifications, our major focus was to continue making it easier to get integrated with xMatters, with more Flow Designer native workflows and new App triggers. We've also introduced new steps for getting and updating xMatters incidents and collaboration details, plus a bunch of great Flow Designer usability improvements.

Flow Designer

Flow Designer provides an all-inclusive visual canvas that allows users of all levels of technical ability across the enterprise to integrate and create incident resolution workflows with ease.

New & updated workflows

This release we added several new low-code workflows to our integration directory (including new change intelligence workflows), and certified the xMatters application for ServiceNow for its Tokyo release.

Low-code workflows (& triggers too)

Our 'low-code' workflows simplify the process for getting integrated with xMatters. You can install these workflows directly from within xMatters just select the workflow from the list of available templates and follow the on-screen steps to set up the connection.

These workflows include new App triggers to accept the incoming signal. The triggers are connected to a pre-built flow that — depending on the type of workflow — either adds change records to xMatters or creates an alert that on-call resources can respond to and have the option to initiate an incident. With all types of workflows, you have the option to use Flow Designer's powerful visual interface to further customize or enhance the workflow's functionality to meet your organization's specific needs.

Change intelligence workflows

This release, we're adding the following new low-code workflows that support feeding change data into xMatters:

azure-pipelines-workflow.png Microsoft Azure Pipelines
Create a change record in xMatters for build events, deployments, and code changes in Azure Pipelines. You can build automations to take action in Azure that can help mitigate incidents.
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Create a change record in xMatters to monitor how changes impact your service health, then build automations in response to additional changes in GitHub.
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Create change records to monitor the impact of Jenkins changes on your service health. You can then build automations to update stakeholders or send messages to respond to events in Jenkins.

Updated workflows

We've updated the following two workflows (and associated App triggers) to take advantage of feature changes in the source application.

grafana.png Grafana
Turn observability insights from Grafana unified alerting into actionable alerts with xMatters and send notifications to on-call resolvers who can initiate an incident with the press of a button.
new-relic.png New Relic
Send alerts to the right on-call resources when xMatters receives a signal from New Relic, including key alert details so responders can start resolving the issue right away.

Other workflows

We also added these new Getting Started workflows to the directory. These are a great starting point for building or testing integrations with applications that can send signals via email or HTTP request.

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Trigger Alerts by Email
Alert your users by sending emails to xMatters. Use this basic workflow to quickly send test messages, learn how workflows work, and as a starting point for creating integrations with applications that can send emails.

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Trigger Alerts by Webhook
Alert your users by sending webhooks to xMatters. Use this basic workflow to quickly send test messages, learn how workflows work, and as a starting point for creating integrations with applications that can send HTTP requests.

Sneak peek: Moogsoft workflow

We're working on making your Moogsoft integration easier, faster, and just plain awesome with a new trigger and threethree!built-in steps, all available in a new two-way workflow. Look for these early in the new year and watch this space for details.

New & updated App triggers

Our workflows are built using triggers and steps and we also release these for you to use in your workflows. That means you can take advantage of the following new App triggers to build your own custom signal handlers in xMatters:

  • GitHub Events
  • Split Alerts
  • Simple Webhook - Alerts
  • Simple Webhook - Incidents
  • Grafana Alerts (updated)
  • New Relic Incidents (updated)

ServiceNow Tokyo

If you're using the latest version of ServiceNow, then you'll be happy to hear that Version 5.7 of the xMatters application for ServiceNow is certified with Rome, San Diego, and now Tokyo!

For more information about getting integrated with ServiceNow, see our integration guide.

New & updated steps

In addition to the App triggers we discussed above, this release includes new steps to improve your incident management processes, updates to custom HTTP triggers so you can include a specific configuration payload required by the source application, and new constants that step developers can use in scripts to reference incidents and workflows in different xMatters instances.

Get Incident

We've introduced a new Get Incident step to get current information about an incident such as its severity, status, impacted services, and incident commander and be able to pass this info on to other steps in your flow. For example, you can send incident information to external systems like Statuspage to update stakeholders and customers.

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Update Incident

We've also introduced an Update Incident step, which allows you to update the details for an existing incident when information changes. You can use this step to ensure actions taken by resolvers — or changes from other systems that impact the incident — are reflected immediately and can be communicated to stakeholders. All updates are logged in the incident timeline.

Since values provided by this step will overwrite the existing values in the incident, if you want to update an incident you can always use the Get Incident step to retrieve the current details, then use this step to append updates to them.

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Get Incident Collaboration Channels

Our new Get Incident Collaboration Channels step allows you to get details for the collaboration channels associated with the incidents in your system (their names, URLs, details, and number). You can pass this information as text, HTML, or JSON to other steps in your flow, such as resolver communications, chat channels, or other external systems.

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Add configuration payloads to custom steps

Does the system you're integrating with require a specific payload for configuring a webhook? You can now add configuration payloads to custom HTTP triggers, so people setting up your custom workflows can just copy the required payload right from the trigger and paste it into the source application during setup.

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Include base URL and workflow name in scripts

Even though Flow Designer is powerful enough as a drag-and-drop workflow builder, we know there are plenty of people using it that like to dig in and put their coding chops to the test. To make things even easier for anyone building custom steps and working with scripts in Flow Designer, we've added two new built-in or reserved constants that give quick access to vital environment details:

  • constants.builtIn.baseUrl – the base URL of your instance.
  • constants.builtIn.workflowName – the name of the workflow the step is running in.

We're planning some future stories to make these visually available in other areas of Flow Designer (like other, user-defined constants) and looking at adding more built-in constants, but you can access both baseUrl and workflowName in your custom steps right now.

Usability improvements

Flow Designer may be the premier low-code automation tool for service reliability, but that doesn't stop us from looking for ways to make it better. In this release, we've added the ability to search the workflows list, updated our workflow installation screens to streamline the configuration process, and added helpful tips and links to assist with troubleshooting.

Search for workflows

If you have multiple workflows in xMatters, you can now search for them using terms in the name or description. From the Workflows page, define if you want to search for 'All' or 'Editable' workflows, and start typing in the search bar to view workflows that match your search term. 

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Display URLs for all triggers on canvas

Our workflow installation screens now display all the trigger URLs required to configure the source application. This is helpful for workflows with more than one trigger, since you won't have to go into the canvas to retrieve the additional URLs you need as you're setting things up.

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Open canvas and Activity panel from workflow installer

Once you've installed a workflow, set up the connection between xMatters and the source application, and sent a test signal, clicking Open Workflow will now take you directly to the Activity panel on your canvas. From here you can check if the signal was successful or troubleshoot any issues by reviewing the payload and any log messages.

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Flow Designer tab shows when trigger not present

Your list of Flow Designer canvases now helps you troubleshoot basic flow configuration issues without having to open the canvas. For example, if your canvas is empty, we'll prompt you to 'Create a flow to automate processes' and if you have a flow that's missing a trigger we'll let you know to 'Add a trigger to initiate a flow':

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Link to Activity panel directly from Signals report & troubleshooting emails

When you're troubleshooting an issue with an integration, you want to be able to find the information you need to solve the problem as quickly as possible. To assist with this, we've updated the Signals report and the email you receive when your integration has a problem to include links directly to the request in the associated workflow's Activity panel.

On-call management

Nobody does on-call management like xMatters. We've long had the most advanced on-call scheduling system on the market, and we're continually looking for ways we can improve and update our on-call platform based on customer feedback, usability studies, and trends in the marketplace. In this release, we continue making improvements to the recently redesigned group interface, and we introduce a couple of requested configuration options for device waits and temporary absence notifications.

Redesigned members & roster

For this release, we’ve continued to improve the Groups experience by redesigning the Members section, with a number of new features to help manage your people and shifts.

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We’ve made it simpler to manage larger groups. Admins can quickly search, filter, and select multiple recipients at the same time and add them to a group.

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It’s also more convenient for group admins to manage members across shifts — we’ve updated the group’s roster so you can add members to the group’s roster without being part of a shift.

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It’s more convenient to add group members to shifts. Simply select the members you want to include and click ‘Add to New Shift’ to quickly create a new shift for the group. (You can also remove multiple members from the group in the same way — select the members you want to remove and click ‘Remove Selected’.)

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And that's not all! There are now additional columns that include site and login information about users in the roster to help admins quickly audit the status of their group. 

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Redesigned scheduling

To make the Groups experience more streamlined, we’re reorganizing On Call Group calendars and shifts into a single tab called ‘Schedules’. This reorganization is just a first step to making it easier to build your schedules in xMatters and sets the stage for some exciting future updates to the calendar and how group admins manage shifts.

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Sneak peek: redesigned Dynamic Teams

In the new year, we'll be redesigning Dynamic Teams to share the same look and feel as our latest groups interface. We'll also be incorporating a lot of the enhancement requests we've received over the years for this feature to simplify the creation process of defining the criteria teams are based on.

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Remove a user from a group from their profile

Group supervisors and admins, rejoice! If you want to remove a user from a group, you no longer need to go into the group and scour the list of sometimes thousands of members to find the user you want. Instead, you can save time by simply going to the user's profile and selecting Remove from group for the group you want to remove the user from:

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Customize the default wait time between devices

Wait times between devices allow users to respond before their next device is notified. By default, xMatters automatically adds a 5-minute wait time after each new device added to a user's profile. However, we've had feedback that some customers would prefer not to automatically add wait times or be able to modify the default time to shorter or longer than 5 minutes.

Using a new company level device delay setting, Company Supervisors can now customize the wait time that's automatically added between user's devices from 1 to 99999 minutes. Or, if they'd like all users' devices to be notified at the same time, they can disable this setting. (As always, individual users can add, modify, or delete any wait times that are automatically included by the system when they add devices.)

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Include direct notifications in temporary absences

We've added a new Include Direct Notifications option to the Add Temporary Absence configuration screen. You can use this setting to explicitly control whether notifications that target you directly as a user (rather than as a group member) should be sent to your replacement while you're away.

A couple of things to note:

  • This setting is only available when the absence affects 'All Groups'.
  • If you select this option and do not set a replacement, your direct notifications will be discarded.

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User experience

Usability is a central theme for every new feature or enhancement we addbut also for making our existing features even better. In this section, we'll review some major new improvements we've made for adding and managing sites in xMatters, setting up and using OAuth authentication, as well as managing and updating voice recordings.

Improved site management

If your teams are based in multiple locations, you can now take advantage of our new Sites page. We've made it easier to add, manage, and find sites with an updated design that features a side panel for easy editing, and enhanced address searching and geocoding so you can notify users based on their geographic location.

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Redesigned OAuth screen

Our redesigned OAuth page now gives clearer instructions on how to use OAuth with xMatters, as well as providing client IDs, and options to revoke all OAuth tokens. 

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Easier management of custom voice recordings & TTS

We're combining multiple screens that exist for managing recordings into a single 'Voice Recordings' screen in the web user interface and redesigning the text-to-speech (TTS) dictionary. The enhancements to these screens will improve the usability of managing and updating custom voice recordings for specific situations and languages, to override provided system recordings, and to specify the way TTS pronounces common acronyms, shorthand expressions, or abbreviations so listeners better understand them when spoken aloud.

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Mobile updates

This release includes troubleshooting tests to solve problems with your push notifications and the ability to add custom values to combo box properties when sending messages from the mobile apps.

Troubleshoot push notifications

Not receiving notifications on the mobile app? Want to pinpoint the exact issue without having to contact Support? Or maybe you just want to send yourself a test notification to confirm your notification settings are properly set up? We've added a new troubleshooting screen to our Android & iOS mobile apps that you can use to run tests to confirm you can receive notifications for low, medium, or high priority alerts:

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If the test notification is unsuccessful, the app will help you diagnose and resolve the issue:

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Add custom values to combo box properties

In our last release, we introduced the ability to add custom values to combo box properties in our web user interface. This is useful if someone goes to send a message and the value they need isn't an option. For example, what if a new server type or affected area hasn't been added to the list yet? What if the choices are "Yes" or "No" and neither apply?

In this release, we extend that functionality to our Android and iOS apps. If the combo property is configured to accept custom values, message senders using the xMatters mobile app will be able to select to Add "[Your Input]" as a value.

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Other product updates

With every release, we find a way to pack in a couple of extra goodies for our customers. We hope you'll find these ones handy.

Allow users to log out of all devices when changing passwords

To improve account security, we've added the ability for users to log out of all active web and app sessions when updating their xMatters password. To do this, users can select Sign Out Everywhere from the Change Web / App Password dialog box:

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Recover locked accounts

Based on a company's security settings, when a user enters incorrect login details too many times, the account is temporarily 'locked' for security purposes. If necessary, Company Supervisors can now override the lockout time and 'unlock' accounts from the user's profile:

recover-locked-account.gif

xMatters REST API updates

We continually enhance our xMatters REST API calls to replace older REST methods and add more endpoints to increase programmatic interaction. These calls not only support customer integration needs, they're also the foundation for data access by our mobile clients, the web user interface, and other key xMatters services.

Trigger an event

When triggering an event via the REST API, you can now submit text property values for translated languages with the request. To send translated values, all property fields must be encoded as arrays. See the Properties object for tables and code samples showing the required format.

Scenarios

Want to find information about or update which users and roles can edit and initiate specific scenarios? We've just added the following endpoints that can help:

  • GET /scenarios/{scenarioId}/share-permissions – Returns a list of users and roles who have permission to view and edit a scenario in your system.
  • PUT /scenarios/{scenarioId}/share-permissions – Allows users to set which users and roles can edit and initiate scenarios.

Subscriptions

You can now use the subscriptions endpoint to review and manage who is subscribed, and who can view, edit, and share a subscription:

  • GET /subscriptions/{subscriptionId}/subscribers – Returns a list of all users that subscribe to a specific subscription.
  • GET /subscriptions/{subscriptionId}/share-permissions – Returns a list of all users that have permission to subscribe (and unsubscribe) to a subscription, and who has permission to share, view, and edit the subscription.
  • PUT /subscriptions/{subscriptionId}/share-permissions – Allows users to set the permissions of users and roles for a subscription. 

Early Access Program & feature delivery update

The goal of our current delivery model is to balance feature delivery with customer change management processes. This means providing visibility into upcoming changes for customers that want it, while allowing other customers to have a more standard non-production environment that matches production.

If you aren't familiar with the current model, we release features only visible to admins/developers at a faster pace than the quarterly release process. These features should not impact end users until a customer provisions them into their workflow. Customers can opt their non-production environments into the Early Access Program to see features and functionality enhancements that impact end users before they're released on a quarterly basis. All customer non-production environments are updated two weeks prior to an official quarterly production release to allow for testing and training on new features.

We regularly reevaluate and improve our deployment processes to ensure they reflect industry best practices and customer feedback. For more information about our deployment process, see our On-Demand Deployment Process and Early Access article. We'll update that document whenever we make a change, and let you know about the change through other appropriate channels.

Learn more

These are the main features for this release, but be aware that there are several other small changes and enhancements we're delivering to keep xMatters looking sharp. Detailed information and instructions for using these new features will be available in our online documentation.

We hope you enjoy this release! See you again soon...

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