LightSpeed Pro 2015 is here!

The much anticipated ‘new version’ of LightSpeed Pro includes a couple of big improvements… but are they enough to satisfy the LightSpeed Loyal?

The first thing that you may have noticed about the new version of LightSpeed Pro is that it’s version number is not ‘4.0’ as was expected. Instead, the company seems to have chosen to switch to an annual versioning system with ‘2015’ as it’s first iteration. This will likely be succeeded by multiple ‘revisions’ throughout the year, similar to the way that Intuit versions QuickBooks, but their motive is still unclear. It may be due to the company’s recent push to engage it’s legacy customer base to renew their annual subscription. On one hand, it may seem wise to associate a renewal fee with something tangible such as a new version of the software, but on the other hand, it may cause some customers to skip a year if they don’t value the features presented in the new version.

Sales Events
The ability to automatically apply a discount on specific items, has been one of the most often requested features from my clients since I started implementing LightSpeed back in 2006. Now, not only can you have a discount applied to any number of products, but you can set a date range during which that discount will apply. I know… it’s a big deal. If you suddenly feel the urge to applaud or shout with joy or tell someone else, go ahead. I’ll wait.

In the screen shot above, I've created a 20% Off sales event for one weekend only that gives a discount only to specific items that I've chosen.

In the screen shot above, I’ve created a 20% Off sales event for one weekend only that gives a discount only to specific items that I’ve chosen.

This is a huge feature and, from what I’ve seen so far, they’ve done a great job with it. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into this. The organization of ‘Sales Offers’ during a single ‘Sales Event’ prevents you from having to create multiple events for a given date range just because you wanted to offer multiple discounts. Each sales offer can apply a different dollar or percentage discount across a unique subset of products. I also found it interesting that they’ve included customer categories as well which really opens up some possibilities.

My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that they’ve implemented yet one more date selection system to a system that already had more than one. In some areas of LightSpeed Pro, you must click on a date to change it, while in others, you must click on a calendar icon…. while in others, you must know the secret ‘command’ key click combination in order to change the date. The Sales Event window makes you click on a calendar icon but choosing the date and exiting the date picker is confusing as you must click on the icon again in order to close it. In other areas of LightSpeed Pro, you can double-click on the date but in other areas, you must click ‘OK’… while in others yet, you must simply click away from the date picker to make it disappear. It would be nice if they could pick one method and stick with it.

Support for OS X Yosemite
An email was recently sent out to all LightSpeed customers to warn us NOT to upgrade to Yosemite until the new version of LightSpeed was out. Personally, unless you like being an early adopter, I’d hang back for a bit. Both Yosemite and LightSpeed 2015 are brand new and my advice is to wait until the dust settles on both before upgrading. LightSpeed 2015 does not require Yosemite but it won’t run on anything less than 10.8, so don’t upgrade unless your Mac OS is older than that.

If you’re running Mac OS 10.8 and 10.9 now, and you really want the new features of LightSpeed 2015, go ahead and upgrade LightSpeed but don’t rush into Yosemite just yet. My suspicion is that the LightSpeed development team have been doing the mountain lion’s share of their testing on Mac OS 10.8 and 10.9 so stay there if you want to be a maverick and upgrade LightSpeed. (groan)

The Return of Drag and Drop
You asked for it and they listened. You can now drag and drop products into sales documents or the ‘Print Labels’ window. This feature was removed when the StoreMaster was updated with new code but the document windows were not. Now, it would seem that the document windows, although cosmetically identical, have also been updated with new code to make this possible. It also hints at the possibility that LightSpeed has shed themselves of the old code that was causing some speed issues but further testing will have to be done to confirm that suspicion.

Improved Multi-Store Passwords
Calling all Multi Store users! This is the killer feature that you’ve been waiting for! LightSpeed has employed a new password authentication system called, ‘OAuth’, to allow for simpler password management for multi store installations. While LightSpeed is still going to insist that you change your password every 90 days, the new feature allows you to ‘register’ one store with another with a secure token so that it won’t get left behind. For anyone who has spent the better part of an afternoon ‘fixing’ multi store because of a password expiry, this is fantastic news.

Advanced Reporting Uploader
LightSpeed’s new ‘Advanced Reporting’ system uses the same API system that developers such as myself use to extract data from a LightSpeed Server. The standard method is to reach down from the cloud and talk directly to the LightSpeed Server in your store but some firewalls don’t allow this outside access which has prevented some people from being able to use the API. No doubt that LightSpeed’s marketing team was quick to report this back to the development team shortly after they launched the advanced reporting as third-party developers have been screaming about this for years. The answer was to include a new feature that ‘pushes’ data up into the cloud which doesn’t violate any firewall rules. Unfortunately, third-party developers were left out in the cold as this only works with LightSpeed’s own reporting system. Speaking of LightSpeed Pro’s API…

Purchase Orders Included in API
As stated above, the API is what allows third-party developers, such as myself, to reach into your LightSpeed server and extract data for the purposes of reporting and data analysis. It can also ‘push’ data into the LightSpeed Server, such as adding a new customer, product, or invoice. However, the data that has been exposed via this API has always been very limited. So limited that it’s made the API somewhat useless.

For example, while we have the ability to insert an invoice, for some unknown reason, we can’t insert the customer’s payment that goes with it. Nor can we ask for a list of payments received on a specific date, as is often requested by ERP systems everywhere.

Recently, a minor upgrade version added the ability to insert matrix products. That’s right. We always had the ability to insert products… but not if they were part of a matrix. While I was thrilled to hear the news that this had changed, my hopes were quickly dashed when I discovered that we still had not been given the ability to insert new sizes and colours… making the ability to insert matrix products rather limited… and yes, useless.

This version of LightSpeed Pro promises to expose Purchase Orders. No documentation has been shared with third-party developers at the time of this writing so I can’t really say much about it. What I can say is that unless they add the ability to add matrix products with new sizes and colours, this feature will be useless for anyone in the apparel industry.

To Upgrade or Not?

My faith in LightSpeed’s quality control has increased immensely in recent years. I’ve said so here before that ‘point-oh’ versions are not as scary as they once were. Still, my money is on waiting for the dust to settle. Give it a week or two for them to find and fix the really serious bugs, if they exist.

Is it worth renewing your subscription?

Yes. Absolutely, but not just for the fancy new features. I’ve always maintained that keeping your software up to date is critical to the success of the IT system that your business relies on. The fact that you’ll be left out in the cold on this new version unless you renew your subscription is nothing more than a gentle reminder of this fact.

If you’ve fallen off the LightSpeed Pro annual subscription wagon, call us at 905-337-5923 and we’ll help you get back on.