Why The World Needs Time Cockpit ...

Monday, April 26, 2010 by Rainer Stropek

Naturally most services companies do not primarily provide physical goods. They supply skills, ingenuity and experience with the help of their service suppliers – people! Employees and especially their time is the most valuable asset in service companies. People working in this industry make their living from selling their work time. They have the crucial need to track what and for how long they work on specific tasks because this, at the end of the day, determines their costs to a great deal and in many cases even directly influences their sales revenue.

Today’s market for time tracking solutions is quite fragmented. Hundreds of software solutions compete for customers in all kinds of businesses. One will find products for project and personnel planning tools as well as ERP solutions. Of course all of them can be used for tracking the time of employees as well, yet in fact none of them uses today’s technology to support employees at this task as much as possible. Current software solutions do a great job for planning projects as well as resources; they also offer a lot of possibilities if the information at hand is accurate though the process of achieving this accuracy is not within their core focus.

(c) by iStockPhoto, http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup.php?id=9782474Quite frankly, users of existing solutions for the service industry fill in time sheets just as people did over the past decades. The time sheets are managed digitally, but principally the process is the same as if a user would write down his work time with a pencil on a piece of paper. The result is unnecessary amount of work time wasted due to this overhead. Additionally the manual form of data collection is very error-prone. In practice very busy people do not take detailed notes about their work in situ. They tend to perform this task at the end of the week or month, trying to recover it from memory. A great amount of this recovered data is either wrong or not collected. The automatic integration of time sheets into downstream processes like billing or project post calculation exacerbates things even further! The missing comfort and support for people recording time sheets leads to inaccurate, sometimes even useless data. As a consequence conclusions that are drawn from that gathered information are wrong as well.

Our product “time cockpit” fills this gap. According to the “Blue Ocean Strategy” the product does not want to compete with existing time tracking, ERP or project planning solutions! time cockpit creates its new market space by offering a to this day unknown degree of functionality for the very process of time tracking.

Signal Tracker ComicThe main idea for time cockpit was to let employees do their job without the burden of having to note time. The software tracks their behaviour and at the end of the day, week or month time cockpit provides a great user interface supporting the employee in the process of transforming the collected information regarding their behaviour into time bookings relevant to their companies. A software engineer and consultant at one of our customers described it like this: “time cockpit has revolutionized the way I create my time sheets. During the week it allows me to focus on my work and completely forget about taking notes about how long I did what. At the end of the week I start time cockpit and with the help of its signal trackers I can exactly recreate all necessary time bookings within minutes. Never forget a long phone call, knowing when I arrived at the customer, always see exactly on which work items I spent my time on. time cockpit feels like a little assistant sitting on my shoulder during the week. On Fridays I ask him to tell me everything I need for completing time and expense tracking”

Our mission is to use the latest technologies and findings to create an application that offers a level of productivity and accuracy which have been unknown specifically in the area of time tracking. time cockpit uses C# 4 and .NET 4 to implement a dynamic data model with a domain specific query/expression language and support for IronPython scripting; we use WPF for the user interface; Sync Framework is the basic foundation of our synchronisation infrastructure for data and application model. We are strong believers that the technologies that have been developed in the last few years have the potential to differentiate us and our product from the rest of the market.

(c) by iStockPhoto, http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup.php?id=11455462The average service company in Europe has only 5.3 employees. For such small firms time cockpit has to be a solution that just works out of the box! They should be able to download and start using it immediately. With our synchronisation framework we want to provide a feeling similar to Microsoft Outlook: Work offline if no network connection is available, synchronise silently in the background so that users do not have to care about client backups, servers, data consolidation across users of the team, etc. For this reason it was obvious to us that time cockpit has to be a software + service solution. software architects is a start-up company and although we invested a lot of time in market research we cannot predict the success of time cockpit exactly. Windows and SQL Azure give us the possibility to start without large upfront investments in data centres. Like a natural skin, it will grow with us and our customers. If time cockpit is going to be a great success we can easily consume more resources in Azure, otherwise Azure helps us to keep costs down. 

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