Following the soft launch of our brand new app, we wanted to take some time to answer the questions our users have been asking and to give some more background on what it means for Money Dashboard.
Why have Money Dashboard created a new app from scratch rather than updating the existing one?
The existing application has served Money Dashboard really well to date. However, from a technical standpoint, it would not allow us to cost-effectively scale our user base or deliver features as quickly as we would like.
It also does not take advantage of some of the new technology other parts of the company have developed more recently, such as machine learning (ML) based categorisation with feedback loops that enable us to sort your transactions with a high level of accuracy.
To tackle this, the first thing we looked at was "can we re-engineer what we currently have?". The answer, of course, was "yes". However, the deeper question was "can we re-engineer what we currently have to obtain the key benefits of development speed and scalability in a cost-effective manner". This is a trickier question to answer and required us to go into a deeper level of technical detail. When evaluated against the criteria of what we are trying to achieve, the answer to the question was "no". We devised a plan that would allow us to re-architect various parts of the application. However, as we started to tick off against the criteria list we got two things happening - cost started to go up and the amount of code we would rewrite was increasing.
We also knew that we would need to access banks and institutions in a new way due to the PSD2/open banking legislation which came into effect on 14th March 2020. When the factors of cost, new code, existing building blocks, product issues and technical debt were taken into consideration the best route to achieve the goal criteria was a ground up technical rebuild. And, as we were doing that, a new product rebuild seemed in order too - allowing an easier more coherent way for users to achieve the "jobs to be done" of a financial application.
Over the last few months we have been working through all of the things we feel apps like ours should be able to offer for users, and launched the first version of the new vision of Money Dashboard as an ‘MVP’ (Minimum Viable Product), focussing on its first core feature under the name of “Balance after bills”.
The things you love in the original app, like offline accounts, ability to drill into spend, custom tags and further customisation of future planning are all being worked on at the moment to get the app up to parity (and beyond) with the original app. Getting the feedback on what users see as the highest priority is paramount in rapidly building on this first version.
Why do users have to create a new account, losing historic transactions & tagging?
One of the downsides of creating the app on new systems is that it does require users of the old app to create a new account in order to sign up. While we know this is far from an ideal solution for existing users, we must consider what is different in the new application; we have a different way of budgeting, no support for non API-based institutions, a new transaction categorisation system and a new authentication system. With those factors combined, we cannot migrate user data in a meaningful way.
The feedback we’ve had so far is that some users have devoted time to setting up custom tags and tagging rules that make Money Dashboard work just how they like it. With the new app, we devoted a lot of resources into understanding what a good categorisation system looks like. We’ve designed a brand new categorisation engine that we think can cater to the largest audience and make money management as easy as possible.
We deliberately started with a basic category structure for tagging transactions using the feedback from our current app to allow us to get feedback before developing it further. We also re-balanced our category listing to split up our larger high level categories and consolidate some of the smaller ones. For example, the old Enjoyment category is now split into Food & Drink, Experiences and Holidays in our new app. Smaller categories like Insurance, Repayments and Bills now all sit in the consolidated Bills category.
The current version is only the beginning, and we are already exploring how best to implement things like custom categories and rules to cater to those users who like to get more granular with the data.
Furthermore, in the new app - using open banking connections - we expect to be able to pull back 3 years of transaction history for most users, so the majority will retain a large proportion of their historical data. If you have transactions that are more than three years old that you would like to retain, you can export these from our website. Log in to our website, go to the Transactions screen and select the date range you want to export, then select download. This will download a spreadsheet with all of your transactions.
Why have we not offered a migration tool for moving transaction data?
As the new application uses a new categorisation system it is not possible to just import the existing transaction data (though new open banking connections pull in somewhere between 18 months and 3 years of historic data, bank dependent). There are a few options that we are exploring, but none seem to solve the issue:
- Import old transactions and re-categorise to the new categories. However, for users who have spent time re-tagging their data in the old application, this would not solve their issue of losing re-tagged information.
- Import old transactions with the old categories. There are two issues here - firstly a new transaction will now be tagged differently to how that transaction was previously tagged - so no continuity of categorisation. Secondly all the old data, with the old categorisation scheme, would have to be explicitly excluded from features such as spend analysis or budgeting (or any future features we roll out).
- Import old transactions and continue using the old categorisation for people who want to. The issue here is we are then compromising our ability to develop new features quickly, as not only are we running multiple categorisation systems, but all new features planned and developed will need to be compatible with both systems - slowing down development.
We know some of you will be frustrated that we can not offer a migration system for your existing accounts, but hope that this article has helped to provide more context on the technical challenges and decision-making that went into this.
To conclude for now, we are hugely excited about the opportunity of launching this new app and all of the brilliant new features it enables us to build for you. Not only do we have some great updates in the pipeline for the new mobile apps, but we’re also working on a brand new web version of Money Dashboard which is scheduled to go live during the summer.
Nothing has changed as far as your use of our existing apps is concerned. You can continue to use the old mobile and web apps as before.