Rogue (Dec) 2016 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.

We're celebrating this release with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story... but instead of banding together to steal the plans for the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction, we're equipping you with the tools you need to have better command of your major incident processes. We've also refined many other product areas, and continue to add support for end users managing day-to-day activities from mobile devices.

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

  • Release webinar (feature walk-thru): Tuesday Nov 29 (8am Pacific)
  • Non-production environment access: Tuesday Nov 29 (10am Pacific)
  • Production environment access: Tuesday Dec 13 (triggered between 10-10:30am Pacific) - Available Now!

Rogue Webinar Recording

The Rogue release webinar recording below features product managers Iain Rose and Mandeep Jassal covering a selection of release highlights, including enhancements for managing major incidents, the mobile apps, and the Integration Platform (for full release details, read on!).

Future feature release

As a special bonus we'll also give you a sneak peek at a couple of enhancements we're working on:

  • Updates to the xMatters endpoint to automatically use your user credentials
  • A newly-redesigned Who's On Duty report for groups

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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:

Early Access Program & feature delivery update

The goal of our current delivery model for xMatters On-Demand 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.

In our current model, features that are only visible to admins/developers are released at a faster pace than the quarterly release process. These features should not impact end users until a customer provisions them into their communication plan. Customers can opt their non-production environments into the Early Access Program to see features and functionality enhancements that impact end end users before they're released on a quarterly basis. All customer non-production environments are updated two weeks prior to 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.

Messaging

Messaging is our business and every release includes improvements big and small representing the feedback we get from our customers and the best practices we observe.

Communication plan access permissions

Our Communication Plan Builder's drag-and-drop interface is simple enough to allow almost anybody to develop and build out a communication process. We've heard from customers that once they've built a plan they'd like more control over who can access and edit it. Right now there are no fine-grained access controls for communication plans - instead, customers limit access to the Developer tab. However, only restricting access to the Developer tab to certain groups or departments may not be enough security for your organization to feel comfortable to share the xMatters communication platform across departments.

We've now added new, finer-grained security options to lock down who can edit each communication plan. This allows different departments in an organization to experiment with the xMatters platform to build out their communication processes without having to worry that another department might make accidental changes to their production plans.

Here's a screenshot from the Developer tab showing the new Access Permissions menu option in the Communication Plan Builder:

And, here's the selection screen showing that you can grant access permission to users, roles, or groups:

BTW, we've had a number of requests to use groups for defining permissions, and this is the first place we're doing it - thanks for the idea!

Here are a couple of key points about the roll-out of this feature:

  • Existing communication plans will be Accessible by All and can be restricted as necessary.
  • New communication plans created after deployment 138 will by default only be accessible by the user that created the plan. They can then grant additional access as necessary to support the security needs of their business.

Updated email response instructions

We've had many customers request that we remove the default text that appears below response options at the bottom of email messages, which instruct users how to respond by replying to the message:

These instructions are important for our customers that do not have HTML enabled in their email messages for security purposes. Their plain text emails do not support hyperlinks and they are unable to click the response options. For customers with HTML enabled, the instructions seem unnecessary and confusing.

So we've removed these instructions from HTML email messages. For plain-text emails, the instructions will still appear and we've made them easier to follow:

Major Incident Management

This release includes several product enhancements important for the more manual-oriented processes used during major incidents.

'Mute all' and 'Unmute All' in conference bridges

We all get annoyed when a conference call is interrupted by background noise like people talking or typing, or someone's hold music. When you're on a conference bridge to solve a critical issue it's important to minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand.

In our Task Force X release we mentioned that the Conference report would gain a Mute All/Unmute All button in the Rogue release. One small but useful update we've also added is that the button is a toggle. This means if the toggle is set to a "mute all" state we'll mute any new attendees to the bridge when they join - very useful when you're managing large-scale conferences.

Full response comments on Tracking report

We've improved the usability of the tracking report by displaying the full text of comments in the comments section of the report (previously, longer comments were truncated and could be viewed by moving the pointer over the comment, which displayed the full comment in a pop-up).

With this redesign, incident managers can quickly scroll through and read comments in their entirety. This makes it easier to manage incoming comments on an event, which is especially important for customers who use comments as a way to communicate status updates or actionable requests.

Edit Scheduled messages

We've added the ability for users to edit the content of their scheduled messages. Before, it was possible to edit a message's schedule, but we know that situations can change and our customers may also need to update the content of their message, the list of recipients, or other message settings.

To edit a scheduled message just click the Name of the message to open the message form and update its content, or click the Date & Time link to edit its schedule:

A couple of things to note:

  • You can only edit the content of messages that are scheduled to be sent in the future. To reuse an expired message, you'll need to first edit the schedule of the message to a future date before you can update its content.
  • If the form layout for a message has changed since the message was originally scheduled, editing its content will open the current version of the form. Sections removed from the form will no longer be displayed in the message, and new properties or sections that have been added to the form will display default values until they are edited and saved.

Sneak peek: Who's on call?

With our recent investment in the On Call Now feature for our mobile apps, we thought this would be a great time to redesign the Who's On Duty page in the xMatters web user interface. This page allows you to search for users who are currently on duty across multiple groups (unlike the app feature, which is a single group at a time).

We've only just started our work redesigning this feature, but as you can see in the mockup below we're likely renaming the feature to be more aligned with the mobile apps - and it will be much more intuitive and easy to use:

Mobility

Many of our customers use xMatters from their mobile phone - in fact, some of them use their phones exclusively and never log into the xMatters web user interface. The major theme for mobile in this release is to continue support for our end users - like an Operations team resource down in the trenches - to manage their day-to-day activities from their preferred mobile devices.

On Call Now

Need to talk to a DBA right now but you're not sure who that is? No problem! The new On Call Now feature available for Android and iOS allows you to view the timeline of any shifts that are currently on call for a selected group so you can be sure you're contacting the right person to get your issues resolved as quickly as possible:

For example, do you need some help from a DBA? As shown above, you can use this feature to quickly look up the current on-call schedule of the DBA group. Just tap a member of the shift to drill down into their detailed contact information, and to initiate a message or a phone call.

Available: Mid-December

We've just given the Android menu panel a makeover. The new design includes updated icons and a better use of color and space that make it easier to identify and access your accounts.

The top of the menu displays details for the account that you're currently signed into. Different colored icons are also used to identify your current account and up to three other recently used accounts. The icons display the first initial of your sign-in name and a "P" or "NP" badge to indicate production or non-production environments:

These design updates to the xMatters Android app align with the latest guidelines for the interaction and visual design of Android applications. We expect this enhancement to be available from the Google Play store in mid-December.

Names of temporary replacements in My Schedule

When you're a temporary replacement for a shift, knowing who you're replacing provides important context about your on-call responsibilities. We've updated the temporary replacement indicator in the My Schedule view in our mobile apps to now also include the name of the person that you are covering for a shift:

Display a contact's local time

Available (estimated): December on iOS; January on Android

A user's contact details screen will soon display their current local time. It can be incredibly useful to know whether the person you're trying to contact to help resolve a critical issue may not respond because it's the middle of the night!

For example, if an IT personnel assigned a ticket to deal with an SAP system attempted to contact Ingrid Schmidt, they would now notice that it's 1:15 AM in Ingrid's local time and she's likely asleep:

Instead, the IT user decides to use the On Call Now feature to look up which user is currently on call for the SAP Support group. This enhancement is expected to be available in December in the iOS app, and January in the Android app.

Dynamic conference bridge numbers

Available (estimated): January on Android; February on iOS

Some external conference providers supply customers with a permanent dial-in number that they can use to initiate a conference call and then allow users to generate their own bridge numbers to use. To support these dynamic bridge numbers our TFX release provided the ability for message senders using our web interface to enter the bridge number when sending out conference bridge invitation:

In this release, we've extended this functionality to the mobile apps. Now when you send a conference bridge invitation from the mobile app, you'll be able to dynamically enter a bridge number for an external conference bridge:

This enhancement is expected to be available in January on the Android app, and February on the iOS app.

Android response usability improvements

Available: January

We're currently in the process of making it easier for users to respond to the long status updates common in major incident updates from the Android mobile app. Instead of including response options at the bottom of the email body - which you'd have to scroll through long messages to get to - a task bar at the bottom of the screen will indicate that the message includes response options. Simply tap or drag the task bar up the screen to expand it over the current view and see the available response options:

Once you've made your selection, the task bar will show that you have responded. Of course, you'll still have the option to respond with a comment:

Usability

As always, usability is a major theme in our quarterly release and in this section we'll cover several usability updates to different parts of the web user interface, mainly based on customer requests. So, thank you very much for the ideas!

Improved display of multiple temporary replacements

We've improved how temporary replacements are displayed on the Calendar and Group Overview tab when a user has more than one replacement scheduled during their shift. The On Call Right Now view will list which users are scheduled to cover each portion of the original user's shift from start to finish, highlighting the currently on-call user (in this case, Mary McBride):

If temporary replacements only partially cover a user during a shift, the On Call Right Now view will also display which portions of the shift the user is scheduled to cover themselves. This updated view makes it much easier to see at-a-glance exactly which user is scheduled to be on call throughout a shift's duration.

Device page improvements

We've made a couple of updates to the devices page based on recent client feedback. First up, we removed the check mark icon that was displayed next to any device set as a failsafe. The check mark icon is also used on the device options menu to indicate when a device has been tested, so the dual use of this icon was confusing. Now all device-specific configuration settings can be viewed in one location: on the options menu for each device.

The other update we made to the devices page was to improve how externally owned devices are identified. Externally owned devices are maintained in other systems and imported into xMatters through through a data synchronization process (for more information, see External ownership and locking).

Any changes made to externally owned devices in the xMatters user interface will be overwritten by the next data sync process. To prevent that confusing situation, we've now identified externally owned device with a disabled delete button and a tooltip explaining that the device is externally owned and cannot be deleted:

Specify session timeout values

In response to requests from our customers' Information Security teams, this release adds the ability for companies to control the timeout value of user web sessions. A new Company Details setting on the Admin tab allows you to specify a web session timeout period between 5 and 60 minutes.

And to give you even more control, we've also added the option to specify whether this setting applies to all pages, or whether reporting pages are exempt (useful for users that keep separate monitors open to reporting screens to track event statuses, such as in a Network Operations Center):

For existing companies, the default settings for web session timeouts will continue to reflect current product behavior; that is, a Max Session Duration of 30 minutes, excluding reporting pages.

New user profile site selector

We've significantly reduced the time it takes to open the user profile page for customers with a lot of sites configured in their companies. Slow page loading sometimes occurred because the drop-down list of available sites on the user profile was being populated as the page loaded.

To improve this performance and enhance usability, we've changed how users select their site. Instead of scrolling through a long list of sites, users will use a search field and then select their site from a dynamic list of suggestions that appears as they type. So now it's easier and faster than ever to select a site, and the user profile page will load within seconds - even if you have thousands of sites in your company.

Subscriptions shortcut

It's now easier and faster to access your subscriptions. We've added 'Subscriptions' to the drop-down menu that's accessible when you click your name in the top-right corner of the web user interface:

This shortcut will take you directly to the subscriptions screen of the user profile. This saves time - and clicking - for our customers that frequently manage their subscription settings.

De-support for Internet Explorer 9

We recently announced that the Rogue release will be our final release that supports IE9. Although Microsoft ended support for all versions of Internet Explorer older than IE9 in January, we'd continued to support IE9 until now to honor some customer support commitments (which have now ended).

We will continue to test and support existing features on IE9 until our next quarterly release - codenamed Ghost - which is tentatively scheduled for March 2017. Features developed for Ghost after the Rogue release will not be tested or supported on IE9.

If you haven't already upgraded to IE11, there are some compelling reasons to do so:

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact our Client Assistance team or your Client Success Manager.

Integrations and Development

The major themes for our integration platform this release were to empower other teams to safely integrate xMatters with other products and services by providing developer access to specific communication plans only, to reduce complexity and duplication of code across inbound and outbound integrations, and to support enhanced security when using the xMatters REST API.

Integration Builder

The Integration Builder allows cloud-to-cloud integrations between xMatters and other products or systems, letting you easily add an automated, closed-loop communication plan linking these systems. The main enhancement to the Integration Builder this release is the new Shared Libraries feature, as well as several usability improvements to integration configuration workflow.

Shared libraries

We've added a new feature enhancement to the Integration Builder that integration developers will find very handy. The 'Shared Libraries' feature allows you to store common or useful code functions and reference them from any inbound or outbound integrations in your communication plan:

In addition to reducing code duplication, shared libraries also simplify integration maintenance. For example, instead of including the code for a function called getUserID in multiple transformation scripts, you can add this function to a shared library and call the function from your scripts. If you later need to update the function, you only need to do it in one place.

You can access or create shared libraries from the transformation script editor as shown above, or from the Integration Builder tab of your communication plan as shown below:

Indicate unsaved changes in script editor and shared libraries

We've added a small but very useful enhancement that integration developers will appreciate when they're editing their transformation scripts or shared libraries. The script editors in the Integration Builder now indicate when there are any unsaved changes in your scripts:

Now you'll always be aware if you've made changes to your scripts - intentional or not - and can save them before you close the script editor. To be extra sure that you don't lose any work, we'll also alert you when you attempt to exit the script editor and there are unsaved changes.

Preview of URL for 'Send a Webhook' integrations

Another usability enhancement we've added to the workflow of configuring 'Send a Webhook' outbound integrations is the ability to preview the URL being targeted by the integration:

As shown above, when you're configuring a new outbound integration the endpoint's Base URL (configured on the Endpoints screen) is automatically populated in a field where developers can append an additional path to the URL. The ability to preview the combination of Base URL and path in one location makes it much simpler to determine if the URL being targeted by the integration is configured correctly.

Optimization of outbound integrations

Integrators, rejoice! We've optimized our outbound integration pipeline, which should result in much quicker firing of your outbound integrations.

Slack endpoint

A new endpoint is available in the Integration Builder that supports compound integrations between xMatters and Slack. For example, you can use this endpoint to post messages in Slack whenever certain activities take place in xMatters, such as when new events are created, if messages are delivered, or if responses are submitted.

We've pre-configured the Slack endpoint so that integration developers won't be required to enter a token URL, client ID, or client secret to connect to their Slack account. Instead, they can just click 'Connect' and a new window will open where they can authorize access to their Slack team:

Sneak peek: Automatically configure the xMatters endpoint

Available (estimated): Dec 15 in On-Demand

The default 'xMatters' endpoint included in every communication plan is used to make web service requests in the xMatters REST API. Currently, to use this endpoint developers must enter the username and password credentials of an xMatters user that has permission to execute API requests.

We're currently simplifying this workflow to automatically assign the xMatters endpoint to the account credentials of the user setting up the integration:

As shown in the screenshot above, if you later need to update the user credentials you can easily reassign the endpoint to be associated with another user's account.

xMatters REST API

In this release, we continued enhancing our xMatters REST API calls to replace our existing SOAP and older REST methods. These calls support not only customer integration needs, but are also the foundation for data access by our mobile clients, the web user interface, and other key xMatters services. In addition, we've also added an alternative authentication method for using the xM REST API, and published new developer-friendly online REST API documentation.

xM REST API enhancements

We've enhanced the following endpoints related to users and group management (click the name of a method for more information):

GET /calendar

This method now allows you to retrieve shift names and the names of device owners in a single call to the REST API. Include the following optional query parameters to retrieve this enhanced information:

  • shift: Retrieves the name of the shift and a reference to the group it belongs to.
  • member.owner: Returns information about the owner of devices, including their name and user ID.
GET /events

This method returns the following properties of an event:

  • the form used to create the event
  • the response choices included with the event
  • conference bridge details (if the event uses a conference bridge)
  • the person who initiated the event
  • up to the first 100 directly-targeted event recipients

Over the next quarter you can expect to see additional REST web services, mostly related to event management.

You can learn more about the new xMatters REST API in our online help

OAuth support for the xMatters REST API

We've enhanced the xM REST API to support OAuth authentication (in addition to the existing basic authentication). OAuth provides enhanced security by allowing you to access the API by providing an authentication token in the header of each request instead of storing a user name and password.

The Developer tab has a new OAuth page where you can obtain the Client ID for your company, which is necessary to obtain and refresh tokens in the xMatters REST API:

This feature also includes the ability to revoke OAuth tokens in the event that a user's account is compromised or requires forced re-authentication for another reason. You can revoke authorization tokens for your account from the OAuth screen shown above, or for another user's account from their user profile sidebar:

New online xMatters REST API documentation

We've released a new version of the xMatters REST API documentation and you're definitely going to want to check it out. Not only does it have code samples in three languages - including samples tailored for the Integration Builder - the samples are dynamically updated when you enter your user name and host name. Now that's slick! Click the image below to embigify:

Learn More

These are the main features for this release, but be aware that there are a number of other small changes and enhancements we are delivering to keep xMatters On-Demand looking sharp.

Detailed information and instructions for using these new features will be available within xMatters' online documentation. We hope you enjoy the new release! We're already hard at work on your next release...

Until the next update,

The xMatters On-Demand Team

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1 Comments

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    Karla Poplawski

    The Rogue Quarterly Release is now available on all production environments.

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