20140925-_MG_5829Over the course of customizing Urban Forest Metrix for dozens of different firms and arborists each quarter, we get to know how people work alike and how they work differently. Here are the key desires arborists said they need and haven’t been able to find:

–       Desire for a simple mapping solution

–       For institutional clients, a need for information about what the client has done to trees between visits

–       Automation for tree risk assessment data taking and for appraisal calculations

–       Software sold with service, so calls are answered and new features created quickly

But, after those common desires, there are all sorts of stark differences in additional needs. These can often be explained by the different sorts of tree care specializations  – such as root specialists, construction consultants, IPM servicers, risk assessors etc.

Other differences are regional, with local regulations often determining special data taking and processes. My favorite example is a new client down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Bob works with many coastal landowners who are keen to maximize their view of the Chesapeake Bay, but the Army Corps of Engineers restricts how much canopy that can be cut as a percentage of the canopy on the lot. So Bob had us create a measure of tree structure that blocks view. That, plus the drip line radius figures allow the application to automatically map which trees will give the biggest views relative to the smallest canopy cuts in relation to the places where views are most important.

These don’t become features of Urban Forest Metrix, but rather customizations that live in those clients’ versions – or perhaps live among the versions of those tree care people in a limited region.

It has been pleasing for our staff to see how functions we’ve built for one group of tree care people often wind up becoming handy for others for slightly different purposes. Out in California, one client is even using our tree appraisal functions – which we’ve automated in several handy ways – to assign values to trees for which the client isn’t paying her to appraise. She does this because her construction plans often recommend keeping trees that the construction contractors then opt to cut down anyway. By assigning dollar values to these assets, owners think twice about allowing the general contractor to mow the trees down, as is their tendency.

When we speak to new clients, we like to ask them pretty detailed questions about what they do, which inevitably brings up suggestions for customized features we’ve done for others. To give people a view into the statistics of what we are doing, here are some figures from our customization work over the past six months:

Most common customizations:

–       Value list modifications

–       New fields added to track different information

–       Additional mapping criteria

–       Custom export or import

–       Completely novel function

Average Time for Customization Completion:

–       10 days

Average Time Training to Use an iPad:

–       2 hours

Average Time Training to Use Urban Forest Metrix:

–       1 hour

Percent Satisfied with Customer Service (poll 11/1/2014)

–      100