Time Tracking at Hexa Business Services with Time Cockpit
Previously hexa used an internally-developed softare tool based on Microsoft Access for time tracking, but when growing to a company of 30 people, they needed a solution that fits their growing demands.
Rainer Stropek: Mr Soumelidis thanks for the interview. I am pleased that we can have this interview on the subjects of time tracking in general and time cockpit specifically. You are the Managing Partner of Hexa and it would be great for our viewers or readers who are interested in what Hexa is all about, to know how the Hexa Group is structured and what business areas it operates in.
Damianos Soumelidis: Hexa is one of the companies of the Tria Group. In the Tria Group you have four companies. Hexa offers consulting and implementation services in the areas of cloud computing and outsourcing. We help clients employ these concepts so that they can make efficient use of IT and achieve cost-effectiveness as well. The other sister companies in the group, ComSolution, CodeForce and to>day experts, are active in the fields of IT, software development, systems integration, consulting and interim expert services.
Rainer Stropek: This means that your companies are active in a range of service areas. What role does time tracking play in such a company?
Damianos Soumelidis: Our consultants are typically involved in various projects for different clients at various times during the day. It is not only about resource management but also about invoicing and transparency with regards to performance which is important and shows our clients who is working, what they are working on, and the time that was spent, how many billable hours result from that time spent. Thus for us time tracking is naturally very important.
Rainer Stropek: Especially in Western Europe it is always about balancing monitoring on one hand and data collection on the other. How do you deal with this in terms of employee problems that result from monitoring versus the necessary collection of data for billing purposes?
Damianos Soumelidis: It is not yet an issue at the moment. After all, our employees know that what is recorded in terms of time and attendance is the basis for billing. Basically, their billable services rendered, results in the salary they get so it is not an issue. Of course, discipline, accuracy and consistency are indeed an issue. It is not so much about what is recorded but how it is recorded. Thus, we use this tool.
Rainer Stropek: If you say that time tracking is important in relation to high-quality of work, what does your organization have in terms of incentives on this issue? Are there, for example any kind of performance-based models which are tied directly or indirectly to the revenue derived from the time spent by an employee on a project?
Damianos Soumelidis: Not anymore. We used to have variable employee compensation. We don’t now, because we believe that our employees are already doing their best and offer high-quality work when it comes to their projects. What we have now is a bonus system tied to the company’s profitability. We pay out a certain percentage of profits to our employees.
Rainer Stropek: You mentioned that you use several aids and we are happy to learn that you use our time cockpit tool for time tracking. Can you explain how you use time cockpit for project time tracking?
Damianos Soumelidis: Using time cockpit we record all customers, their projects and our employees. Employees can record their services for respective projects regardless of whether these projects are charged on an hourly or daily basis or whether they are turnkey projects – i.e. a fixed budget, to which the employees then log their time, but which is sold at a constant price. On the one hand you have an accounting tool that uses time logs as a basis of calculation. On the other hand, time cockpit is a tracking and management tool to see whether a project we have sold at a certain price is profitable. Where are we with the project? Are the actual hours, the effort spent, reflective of the hours estimated for this project?
Rainer Stropek: A company or group of companies your size has various structures, and probably several processes and procedures as well. Was it difficult to integrate time cockpit into your processes and structures? How did the introductory phase go?
Damianos Soumelidis: We already had an internally-developed software tool based on Microsoft Access – it proved to be rudimentary and unsatisfactory. It worked for 5 to 10 employees quite well but at the scale which we are – we have 30 people using the time cockpit and we are strongly considering an addition of our sister company to>day experts with 65 people – the internally-developed software tool no longer works. Quite to the contrary, the installation process was quite painless, we could easily adjust time cockpit because of the high adaptability it had to processes and circumstances. Also we could adapt it in terms of the authorization model, we use time cockpit to not only record tasks, projects and services but also vacations and time spent on other administrative matters.
Rainer Stropek: A core aspect of time cockpit is the so-called Signal Tracker, which records activities and software usage so that employees do not forget to track billable hours of work as is known to happen sometimes without the relevant support tools. Do you think the Signal Tracker offers any significant value to your employees? Is there anything that would lead to one hour or another which should have been logged being forgotten? What do you think of this feature?
Damianos Soumelidis: It differs. It depends a bit on how the employees work. Some work consistently on a singular project, where one time block is recorded during the day, sometimes two or three blocks. In such aspects it might not be relevant. Others work on a diverse range of projects. It also depends on the personal approach. We do not force people to follow signals, some do and for some it’s a good resource for others it isn’t. In some cases however, I am convinced it helps.
Rainer Stropek: time cockpit is a Software-as-a-Service solution. That is, it works based on an operating model where you do not need to own server resources, and runs in a cloud in a highly-secured data centre in the EU. What do you think of this manner of operation and the model of payment especially at a rate of 20 cents per user/per day? What are your views on Software-as-a-Service? Was this a factor in your decision?
Damianos Soumelidis: Yes, definitely. We are already advocates of Software-as-a-Service – not for every situation or purpose but in specific circumstances. Hexa has its entire infrastructure in the cloud. Therefore we were looking for it, because we were of the opinion that having a tool which was not part of our core business and required no infrastructure or hardware platform to manage was a huge advantage.
Rainer Stropek: We have come to the end of this interview. I would like to ask a question that would surely interest many managers who work in similar businesses: If Hexa or the entire Group could start again from the beginning, from the current perspective of things and in terms of time management for which aspects would you say you would do the same thing and which aspects would you change perhaps a little from the start?
Damianos Soumelidis: I would have started using time cockpit earlier, earlier in terms of operations, projects and customers. In the beginning the processes that a young company had to deal with – as Hexa did two years ago – would have been easily handled with time cockpit.
Rainer Stropek: Mr. Soumelidis thanks a lot for this interview.
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