Time Tracking at g.tec with Time Cockpit
Controlling a computer with your mind. For the time cockpit customer g.tec medical engineering this is more than just a vision. With their Brain-Computer-Interface (BCI) they turned it into reality. In 1999 g.tec built the first commercially available BCI. Today the company is one of the global players in the BCI market. Right before leaving to a workshop tour through Belgium, we talked to Mr. Armin Schnürer about the challenges g.tec has been facing in terms of time tracking. At g.tec, Mr. Schnürer is responsible for sales, marketing and also project-based time tracking.
g.tec was founded in 1999 as a spin-off of the Graz University of Technology. The company develops software and appliances for bio signal processing (e.g. EEG, EKG). Their products are used in over 60 countries, especially in research facilities like university hospitals. They are especially useful to severely handicapped people who can only communicate through controlling computers with their mind. Today, g.tec employs about 30 people in Graz (Styria) and Sierning (Upper Austria). Their products are sold through a partner network that spans the whole world.
Time Tracking in the Context of Research Projects
g.tec focuses heavily on research and development. Therefore the company has to handle many simultaneous research projects. Mr. Schnürer explains the role of time tracking in research projects: “Time tracking in research projects is extremely important for us, it is an essential task for our employees. The requirements for reporting of working times are very demanding for a lot of our projects. This is especially true for projects in which we cooperate with external research partners. To solve this, we have extended time cockpit so that it supports structuring of research projects in work packages and tasks. Every employee must track her time with a granularity of 30 minutes and assign the time to the corresponding task. Based on the time tracking data, project managers can plan upcoming work and compare project progress with invested effort.”
According to Mr. Schnürer, g.tec often works on more than 10 complex research projects at a time: "Anyone who has conducted a large research project knows that a single project alone can be quite demanding in terms of documentation and billing. Before switching to time cockpit, g.tec did time using Microsoft Excel. Today’s project volumes would not be possible without appropriate software support for time tracking and -reporting."
A Tailored System yet Commercial-Off-The-Shelf
Mr. Schnürer describes that time cockpit’s extensibility was one of the key selection criterions. Mr. Schnürer: “Time tracking is important for billing a project. However, employees must be able to focus on their actual work in a project. Administrative tasks like time tracking must not get out of hand. It was clear from the beginning that we need a system that can be tailored to our business structure and –model without compromises. Otherwise, administrative work would be too much effort.”
Automated Billing of Research Projects
To minimize administrative overhead, g.tec has defined tailored reports that deliver time tracking data the way it is needed for a given project. Mr. Schnürer describes the process: “Based on existing Microsoft Excel templates, we export the time tracking data via time cockpit’s scripting functionality. The export is available for our back office team with a click of a button.
But it does not end with the export. In case of an audit, billing data needs to be kept unchanged for a longer period of time and has to be available on request. Therefore we extended time cockpit to support all the business processes around billing of research projects. A processes, for instance, exactly determines the point in time until a time sheet entry may be edited.” All the customizations were implemented by g.tec. No costly consulting project was necessary.
International Collaboration Supported by the Cloud
Playing ping pong with EEG
Employees of g.tec visit their customers around the world. For many employees travelling is the rule, rather than an exception. Mr. Schnürer: “No matter how well you organize your day, sometimes mistakes are inevitable. From time to time, an employee forgets to book some hours. Unfortunately, this delays billing- and planning processes. In such cases the time cockpit web client comes into play. People can log in from everywhere and do their time tracking. Errors in the time tracking data can be effortlessly fixed. You only need a browser and internet access. You do not need to hassle with error-prone VPN connections anymore.”
Activity Log for Retrospective Time Tracking
Time cockpit’s activity log makes it easy for employees to keep track of what they have been doing. According to Mr. Schnürer, nearly all g.tec employees make use of the activity log: „We have a company policy that employees need to create their time sheet records daily. All hours have to be tracked in the evening. However, in a busy week, keeping your time sheet up-to-date is sometimes hard. In such cases time cockpit’s activity log is really useful. Especially window titles are very helpful when it comes to remembering what you have been doing and assigning the hours to the according projects“.
Acceptance through Customization
We asked Mr. Schnürer for the primary reason why g.tec has selected time cockpit and used the software successfully for years now. He says: “It is time cockpit’s extensibility. We were able to tailor time cockpit exactly to our needs. Thus, employees of g.tec are able to use time cockpit quickly and easily”.
We would like to thank Armin Schnürer for the interview.