Time Tracking at Codeworx with Time Cockpit

Raphael Schwarz, codeworxRaphael Schwarz

For this month's issue, we interviewed one of our time cockpit "veterans": Raphael Schwarz is a freelancer who provides his services under the brand name codeworx. Over the last years he has become a well-known .NET consultant and conference speaker in Austria and Germany. In this interview Raphael talks about the challenges a freelancer has to master and SaaS solutions like time cockpit which he uses to successfully administer his business.

The .NET Guru

Successfully competing with the big players in the .NET consulting business is challenging for a freelancer. Some years ago Raphael Schwarz decided, it would be time for a change. He started his own business as a self-employed software consultant. Today Raphael has an excellent reputation as a trainer for .NET topics like UI-development (XAML/WPF/WinRT), WCF, and Entity Framework. Customers who participate in Raphael’s trainings regularly hire him afterwards as a coach and external code and architecture reviewer. In some cases he also joins teams for a certain period of time to contribute specific knowledge to projects.

Time Cockpit + Office365 = Perfect Platform for Administration

The administrative challenges that Raphael Schwarz is faced with, are not much different from the ones that larger companies have to solve. Raphael says, “Time management, communication, and accounting are the three most important administrative topics I have to solve. I cover the first two with Microsoft Office365. Everything regarding accounting is done with time cockpit. Obviously it starts with time tracking. However, I go one step further. I have extended and customized time cockpit so that it supports my entire accounting workflow from billing to cost accounting.”

Create Invoice Create Invoice
With a single click Raphael can create invoice detail records from time sheet records.
Export Invoices Export Invoices
Raphael has created a small time cockpit script (Python) to send data from time cockpit to his report generator for creating PDF invoices.
Exported Invoices Exported Invoices
Raphael archives his invoice data in XML format in the cloud (SkyDrive). It is also the basis for creating PDF invoices with IReport.
Invoice Template with iReport Invoice Template with iReport
Here you see how Raphael uses IReport to generate PDF invoices from his accounting data in time cockpit.
Outstanding Items Outstanding Items
Keeping an eye on unpayed invoices is important. Raphael uses time cockpit's conditional formatting function to highlight overdue invoices.
Cost Accounting Cost Accounting
Raphael has extended time cockpit with his specific cost accounting module.
Turnover Tax Advance Return Turnover Tax Advance Return
Raphael can even generate the base data for his VAT declaration directly from time cockpit.

Time Cockpit for Accounting

In our interview Raphael describes how he has used the extensibility functions of time cockpit to turn the system from a pure time tracking solution into an integrated ERP system.

  1. As a starting point Raphael has defined a tailored list in time cockpit that shows him all unbilled time sheets. It prevents him from forgetting to bill time sheets even during a busy month.
  2. When it is time for creating invoices, Raphael selects the relevant time sheet records and transfers them with a single click into his accounting module. He has configured this module himself as an extension to time cockpit (read more about time cockpit’s extensibility mechanisms). Raphael completes his invoices in time cockpit by adding clearable costs like travel and accommodation expenses.
  3. After Raphael has entered all information for billing, he uses a time cockpit script to generate a PDF invoice. For this purpose he has integrated his time cockpit with the open-source report generator IReport. Technically data is exchanged using XML.

“The creation of the invoice is not the end of my accounting process in time cockpit”, says Raphael. “I am using time cockpit also for monitoring my overall revenue and expenses. To see my entire business results I enter incoming invoices which cannot be assigned to specific customers, too. In this context time cockpit’s formula language made it quite easy for me to configure business logic like country-specific VAT rates. Finally the time cockpit system provides me with all the data and reports that I need to monitor my business. I can even generate the base numbers for my monthly VAT declaration in time cockpit.”

Time Cockpit’s Activity Logging

The customers of Raphael Schwarz are spread all across Austria and Germany. He spends much time travelling in addition to his normal working days. Therefore Raphael enjoys every spare minute he can be at home with his family. In this context time cockpit’s activity log has become essential for his way of working. Raphael describes: “When I come home after a long project workshop and many hours of travelling, I don’t want to think about administrative stuff like time tracking. At home my family, especially my little son, are my top priority. Therefore it happens that I don’t find the time to deal with time tracking for days or sometimes even weeks. Without time cockpit’s activity log I would be lost. Time cockpit’s activity log combined with the product’s Outlook integration makes it easy for me, to retrospectively create correct time sheet records for customer projects. The activity log has become a business-critical function for me. Without it I could not work the way I successfully do today.”

My Office is where I am

“My office is where I am” is a popular slogan nowadays. For Raphael Schwarz this has been true for quite a long time already: “Running my own servers would be unnecessary ballast for me. Only SaaS in the cloud provides the security and flexibility that I need for running my business. Whether it is my Active Directory in Microsoft Azure, mails and calendar in Office365, documents in SkyDrive, or time tracking and accounting in time cockpit – all my systems are running in the cloud, are highly available and I can access them from wherever I work.”

Because of his frequent travelling, Raphael does not always have a reliable internet access. Therefore he puts emphasis on being able to work offline: „I spend many days each month in planes and airport lounges. Of course I want to use this time which otherwise would be wasted. Who thinks that internet is continuously available at those places is absolutely wrong. I can only use the cloud as long as I have fully offline-enabled applications like time cockpit or Outlook. They enable me to do my monthly accounting during a long flight so that my administrative work is done when I arrive at home.”

Exchanging Data with Customers

Raphael uses time cockpit’s Excel export feature for exchanging data with his customers: “Exporting time sheet records into Excel is a function of time cockpit that comes out of the box. It is important for me because my customers partly resell my work in the context of larger projects to end customers. For this they need detailed time tracking data. One of my largest customers uses time cockpit himself. They gave me access to their time cockpit tenant using the web client. With this, data exchange is easy. I export my data to Excel and use the Excel import in my customer's time cockpit tenant to provide them with the data they need. The effort for me is virtually nothing.”

The Future

Raphael Schwarz told us, that he learned to love the freedom that comes with working as a freelancer. He likes travelling and the daily changing challenges. Raphael says, “My long-term dream is to build a small team of outstanding software developers who use their development knowledge to create developer tools or libraries. Even if it might take some time until this vision will become reality, I already try to keep my administrative overhead lean, so that I am ready for the next steps whenever new opportunities appear.”