Open Collective 2023 Product Summary + 2024 Objectives
Published on February 12, 2024 by Shannon Wray
What did we do in 2023?
In 2023 the product focus was to transform Open Collective from an incidental to an intentional workplace. There are people for whom the Open Collective platform has become a place-of-work and we would like to make it a pleasant and effective place-of-work. Fiscal hosts are the groups who spend the most time on the platform so our attention shifted to them. As the year unfolded this was confirmed by the needs that surfaced from our two largest fiscal hosts (OCF & OSC).
This brought to the forefront the “Workplace” strategic objective (which was eventually renamed “Dashboard”). In it we set out to discern and separate between the public-facing and the administrator-facing platform experiences. Now, when users are logged-in to the platform they are directed to the Dashboard experience where they can find the administrative tools they need to do their jobs. The Dashboard enables them to easily switch platform contexts from their personal profile, collective profiles and fiscal host profiles.
Over the course of the year we:
- Built out the dashboard experience.
- Re-organized the tools inside it.
- Enhanced existing tools.
- Migrated tools from public profiles into the dashboard.
- Introduced the personal timeline experience.
- Evolved a better and more consistent user experience (alongside the engineering shift to building with ready-made component libraries).
Having the Dashboard dedicated to administration needs (and free from public profile considerations) made it possible for us to more effectively focus on fiscal-host needs.
Fiscal Host Efficiency
With the Dashboard available to build-out better administrative tools we engaged with many projects related to host-efficiency:
- We created an “expense pipeline” experience where fiscal hosts can get an overview of the expenses that await their attention in their different statuses.
- We enhanced the payment processor overview to give hosts indicators if they have enough funds available to pay the ready-to-pay expenses in the pipeline.
- We made improvements to the way expenses flow between expense submitter, collective admins and fiscal host admins.
- We made improvements to the expense review and payment screens to speed up fiscal hosts ability to process expenses.
- We built an MVP for “Agreements” with an eye for future enhancements.
- We made improvements to fiscal host search tools within the dashboard.
- We updated the “Hosted Collectives” tool to adopt the dashboard patterns and prepare it to become a tool that serves more fiscal host needs.
We also implemented automated OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on submitted receipts to both improve the reliability of submitted expenses and reduce the number of expenses that have to to through an “incomplete” process (while creating an improved user experience for expense submitters).
This year our attention turned to the major pain point of fiscal host accounting. We’ve adopted the term “accounting readiness” to remind ourselves that:
- We acknowledge that it is critical for fiscal hosts be able to effectively and reliably integrate information from the platform into their accounting platforms and processes.
- We do not aspire to become an accounting platform.
- We do need to make a concerted effort to gracefully address fiscal hosts accounting needs in order for the platform to become an appealing solution for fiscal hosts (and any other organizations that will attempt to use the platform for money management).
In 2023 we engaged with this by:
- Enhancing pending contributions to enable fiscal host to track and reconcile expected incoming funds.
- We corrected some tax-related issues and then towards the end of the year completed a ledger refactor in which both payment processor fees and taxes are recorded as separate transactions.
- We enhanced the CSV export capability.
- We built Vendors to enable fiscal hosts to properly account for expenses and contributions without having to create pseudo-profiles on the platform.
- We built a chart-of-accounts tools focused on expense-related accounting categories.
- We used that chart-of-accounts for implementing an expense categorization process that both enables fiscal hosts to categorize expense and (if the fiscal hosts choose to) involve expense submitters and collective admins in expense categorization.
- Introduced a major redesign of the ledger transactions tool (for both fiscal hosts and other platform accounts).
We also redesigned the expense submission flow to provide both a better guided experience for expense submitters while keeping in mind that the improved quality of submitted expenses should reduce fiscal work load and result in less incomplete expenses.
While addressing these strategic objectives, we continued to respond to bugs and fixes, to make under-the-hood infrastructure improvements and introduce additional functional enhancements:
- Enhanced our Stripe integration to allow for more payment methods.
- Introduced password logins (finally!), Yubikey support and enhanced Webauthn support.
- Performance improvements.
- Expanded our fraud protections into a broader expense validator.
- Adopting a UI component strategy and library and revising our design guidelines to accommodate it.
- Added a personal timeline experience in personal dashboard.
- Introduced the ability to follow a collective and have their updates show up in the personal timeline.
What awaits us in 2024?
- Accounting readiness continues to be a primary focus. It is key for the scalability of hosts and Open Collective ecosystem. We are starting with more improvements to our export and testing the possibility and potential of integrating with accounting systems.
- We would like to offer better fiscal hosts in-platform reporting tools.
- Our crowdfunding capabilities are also up for review. We’ve given the administrative tasks a dedicated home in Dashboard. This makes it possible for us to redesign collective profile pages to uniquely and properly serve the crowdfunding function.
- Continued dashboard work on missing tools & capabilities and enhancements to existing tools.
- Research into how we can better serve funds and grants on the platform.
- Further improvements to host efficiency with a focus on host-collective communications.
- In order to deploy changes to our business model we will need to work on both our marketing pages and potentially back-end and administrative tools.
- Starting a conversation about refined transparency. The platform was built for “radical transparency” which is not always what is called for. We would like expand our “transparency offering” to address the needs of users and organizations that could benefit from our collective money management but cannot do so because of the transparency it currently forces upon them.