I recently took an investment in CreativeWorx. The company’s first product, TimeTracker, automates the time reporting process. Boring, right? Don’t feel bad; “time reporting” generally draws yawns across any organization. But something pretty amazing is going on here.
Having spent 20+ years managing professional services businesses, I found TimeTracker to be incredibly simple and absolutely game changing. Mark Hirsch and team come out of product development at Adobe, Apple, etc. Their platform links to the tools that employees use most (Microsoft Office, email, Adobe’s Creative Suite, cellphones, etc.). It automatically populates a calendar and timesheet based on how employees spend their time using actual activity and file names.
I’ve been using the product for six months. My personal experience is that the average person can go from 1-3 hours a week filling out a timesheet (depending on complexity of their schedule) to 1-3 minutes reviewing and approving the time on an automatically generated timesheet.
During my career, I had the good fortune of managing some of the largest marketing service firms in the world. While working in a creative environment was a wonderful experience, the lack of technology and tools made the administrative side of things suck on almost every level.
The usual time reporting routine is for employees to capture their time manually on a weekly basis. Fifty to eighty percent are late, usually depending on their department. They get encouraged, cajoled, threatened. Staff submit late, often making it up because it’s hard to remember several weeks of your life. They check the calendar. Look through emails. Check the budget. Then submit to budget. Finance rolls up the data, fills in the holes and reconciles for client reporting on a quarterly basis. The end result is bad data, coming too late to influence decision-making. Important decision-making that directly influences resource management, productivity and agency profitability. My back hurts just thinking about it.
I recently met with 20 colleagues who manage more than $40 billion in the industry. They all confirmed the same pain. It’s hard to believe this process is still being used to run major global businesses. Imagine rolling up 2,500+ employees in 40+ countries around the world (FTEs!) in support of one global client. Then imagine doing that for a hundred clients headquartered in different markets around the world. Manually. In Excel. On a quarterly lag.
The domino effect includes an inability to manage the bottom line, poor support in negotiating client deals and a finance org that reports the news three months after the fact. Forget about operational excellence when you spend 70% of your time managing a manual nightmare. Bad news for the CFO, COO and CEO.
Service businesses of every size are routinely being managed “directionally” with data everyone knows to be fairly crap in a process that no one likes. The market is big. And it’s desperate for something new. The CreativeWorx roadmap includes leveraging the automated timesheet data from TimeTracker to automate cost accounting in the future and then staff management. That’s a powerful combination with two more processes that are equally antiquated and inefficient as time reporting.
At the same time, we live in a world where big companies are focusing on “resiliency” solutions (stuff that enables employees to cope with work/life stress). They could have called the space “suck it up”, but resiliency sounds so much better. No matter what you call TimeTracker, I loved the idea of getting 50-150 hours of my life back every year. The tens of thousands of downloads of the free TimeTracker product seem to agree. The curse of the timesheets has been lifted.
The primary reason I took a look at CreativeWorx and TimeTracker was memories of needless pain. If you have a time reporting pain in your life, you should too.
Joe Burton is a c-level marketing & technology executive and currently serves as President of Headspace. Before that, he was an entrepreneur in the social & digital media space and global COO of two of the largest agency networks in the world. Joe has managed agencies & technology firms across all nine marketing disciplines.