Blue 8.0 – A Q&A with Director of Product Management, Nitin Sharma

Written by Lorcan Archer, Explorance.

A Q&A blog with Blue Product Manager Nitin Sharma

Blue is Explorance’s best-in-class Experience Management (XM) platform, capable of centralizing feedback processes at any organization or institution – easily facilitating course evaluations, surveys, 360 degree reviews, and more.

Blue easily supports both Student Experience Management (SXM) and Employee Experience Management (EXM) frameworks, helping optimize individual journeys at every touchpoint.

The latest major update to Blue – Blue 8.0 – delivers an ambitious new visual experience for all stakeholders in the feedback process. Bringing down the traditional barriers to engagement, Blue 8.0 helps deliver high-quality feedback in greater amounts, helping institutions and organization make better informed decisions.

We sat down with director of product management, Nitin Sharma, to go into the details of what makes Blue 8.0 such an unprecedented experience for users, instructors, and administrators.

What’s new in Blue 8.0?

  • A fully redesigned survey experience that is set to improve engagement amongst recipients and participants.
  • Full visibility for Subjects (those being evaluated) of their evaluation activity in a single space, including incomplete tasks and produced reports.
  • Provision of survey completion certificates to encourage engagement.
  • Improved Question Personalization with a table of contents, default options, the ability to add questions from previous evaluations, and more.
  • Refinement to the 360 degree process, including invitation limits and built-in warnings.
  • Introduction of self-enrollment, QR Codes, SMS, to widen your survey audience.

How would you generally describe the Blue 8.0 update, Nitin?

Nitin: I would describe Blue 8.0 as scoring high on the ‘Wow!’ factor. The most immediate change that end users will note is that Blue 8 really has a totally new look and feel, while still maintaining the configuration flexibilities that help make Blue truly best-in-class.

 The release has been in development for over a year and comprises a number of significant changes to how Blue functions, which we believe will significantly bring down the barriers to engagement and ensure better completion rates in evaluations and surveys. Essentially, it will look and feel like a major update.

What drove the decision to redesign Blue’s visual identity in this way?

Nitin: The overall goal for Blue 8 was to really deliver a product that is visually intuitive and unified, and I would say human-centric, especially for end-users. What we wanted to do was provide a user experience that helped to minimize their workload, and which is truly reflective of what Blue can deliver in 2021.

What kind of feedback have you been receiving regarding Blue 8.0?

Nitin: The scale of this update necessitated a limited beta launch, and we worked closely with a small group to assess their feedback of Blue 8.0. We went through all the headline features that are added in this new version with both group and individual sessions, including the Question Personalization, self-enrollment, certification, and more.

The comments we received indicated strong approval, focusing on the improved user experience, with the “cleaner”, “more modern” interface being particularly praised. These testers also indicated that they appreciated how the new functionality will make it easier to evaluate one-day modules and non-credit modules.

Another very positive feedback point is how the new scheduling capabilities will allow admins to manage fewer projects while having greater flexibility as regards notifications.

Where specifically can we expect changes to the UI/UX of Blue?

Nitin: Users can expect changes to the task list, which received a major overhaul, including opt-out and opt-in options. Once the user progresses to the fill-out section, they will hit a redesigned welcome page. All question types will be refined along with a more informative summary and customizable thank you page.

This will all make the Blue experience even smoother and more easily navigable, with positive changes present in the Rater Selection, Question Personalization, and the Admin settings.

Admins spend a lot of time working with Blue. What sort of new functionality can they expect from this new version?

Nitin: New logic for scheduling is now available for admins. For example, multiple schedules can now be set up, and launched when certain selected conditions arise. This could be demographic based for example and combined with conditional logic.

Additionally, there is a lot more provided in terms of reminders, with the ability to program up to five reminders that can be sent out to those scheduled for an assessment. In Blue 8.0, we expanded on the task types that can leverage SMS, and now Blue allows all notifications in a schedule to be emailed, sent via SMS, or both, which is totally new

What about using Blue 8.0 on mobile and tablet devices?

Nitin. I’m happy to report that Blue 8.0’s interface will look and feel very smooth on every possible device, including cell, tablet, and desktop devices. Blue 8.0 has a fully responsive design that will auto-adjust for your specific device, and features redesigned tables, drop-down menus, a handy ‘Back to Top’ button to improve the experience of interacting with a survey or assessment. 

There are some real changes coming to the Subject Management experience in Blue 8.0. Can you break them down?

Nitin: Sure! The new Subject Management experience creates a truly centralized space to see and manage all the tasks, settings and reports of a subject. That could be specific courses instructors were evaluated on, or an employee’s evaluation in a 360 review processes. Blue 8.0 helps these subjects to see exactly where they are in these processes with a single comprehensive overview. This helps them to see what remains to be done on their end, and to see the response rates related to their evaluations. Blue 8.0 makes it very easy for subjects to access this overview.

The selection of questions is a big part of the assessment process. How does Blue 8.0 impact this process?

Nitin: One of the most useful additions is a new table of contents section within Question Personalization (QP), allowing for admins setting up assessments to see all the questions and sub questions that have been applied. This includes a quick, expansion option, with a single click bringing you directly to that selected section. We also added the notion of copying from a previous project, allowing an admin to copy directly from a previous QP. There are also new tags visible in the question section, highlighting that these tags are customizable.

We believe these new additions make for a visual experience that portrays where to go and what to use more efficiently. It allows for work done in the past to be rapidly re-used. The ‘Copy from’ function will be a very big time-saver I believe, which will help instructors more easily engage with the survey process.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of ‘Self Enrollment’, can you explain what this is, and how Blue 8.0 facilitates this?

Nitin: Essentially, this allows for users to optionally enroll themselves to a subject. This could be very useful for example in a scenario where you have a list of people who will be present at an event, but don’t know which sessions they might decide to attend. The new feature allows a user to access a list of optional subjects, and choose the ones they want. They can then do the evaluation. This can occur while they’re already enrolled at the system level.

Scannable QR codes can also automatically enroll a user to a specific subject which is available to them.

The addition of certificate provision sounds like it could be very useful. What was the reasoning behind providing this?

Nitin: We think this will be a very useful and customizable feature. The admin can configure the title of the certificate, add signatures, images, branding etc. that is provided upon successful completion of a survey. This is provided, in downloadable PDF form, on the Thank You page, or could be delivered via email with a completion notification.  For example, the fact these can be produced with a unique identifying number on the certificate could be very useful within a Higher Education setting, or to prove certification in an Enterprise role. 

Many users will be wondering about their pre-existing surveys or projects in relation to this new update. What implications does this update have for them?

Nitin: We understand many institutions will have ongoing projects with little downtime.

It should be noted that all of the Blue 8 features, with the new task settings and configurations, will only be available when creating a new project, post-upgrade. Your existing projects will remain the same, with the same older UI, until you copy and re-create them in Blue 8.0.

For a client engaged in a live, ongoing project, there will not be an impact on that project, should they choose to upgrade. Should the functionality of Blue 8 be desired, they will need to create a copy in the Blue 8 environment, and create a new project.

What message would you send to an organization or institution that is excited about this update?

The message we would send is if you’re excited to start using this new functionality, reach out to your account manager to schedule your upgrade, and we will get to work facilitating this for you. We are ready to help all our clients with an efficient update that delivers all this functionality we’ve been discussing.

Thanks for your time Nitin. Do you have anyone you’d particularly like to mention or recognize as having been a key contributor in developing this major release?

A release like Blue 8 is a total company wide effort, seriously, every department and team played a part in getting Blue 8 to the market. I do need to take a moment to recognize our Developers, QA, Designers and Analysts. They’ve been superstars in defining, building and testing Blue 8 – all while dealing with the challenges of a global pandemic. Those Explorer’s have been my inspiration over the past year! ❤️

Additionally, a big thank you to our beta testers, and our clients for their continuous, vital feedback that allows us to continue to improve Blue and all our products.


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About Nitin:Blue Product Manager Nitin Sharma

Nitin Sharma is the director of product management, Blue and Bluepulse, at Explorance. He is a technology enthusiast at heart and has been an Explorer for over four years. He enjoys the challenges and teamwork involved in creating useful innovations which offer memorable experiences. When not reading up on new trends or technologies, he enjoys spending time outdoors and experiencing new cultures.

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