As remote working becomes more common in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, Lounge looks at a tool that allows users and employers to track the time spent on different tasks
Young start-up co-founders and brothers Tarun and Varun Kodnani were in a spot of bother when they tried reviving their previous venture Cabzo, an app-based taxi service, in 2017. They intended to license the product to their acquaintances in Africa and Romania but needed a legal agreement in place to get the process moving.
Even though Cabzo didn’t survive, the legal proceedings made the two realize that there was a need to develop a product for law firms that could help them manage their timesheets. “They didn’t know how to track their (work) time in an automated way," explains Tarun, 28. For instance how much effort and time is spent behind the scenes on a particular project. This led them to create Flowace, a time-tracking and billing management platform that summarizes the duration a user has spent on different work activities.
Today the coronavirus outbreak is prompting private institutions and organizations worldwide to implement work from home measures for employees. Flowace, founded in 2018, can be useful not only in the current scenario, but in a future where remote working is expected to become a dominant trend.
“We started to build (the product) for lawyers but realized that this is universal... It could be used by chartered accountants, financial firms and even general firms since we have a habit of knowing what we have done in a day," says Varun, 26.
The platform has found takers among law, investment banking, consultancy and design firms. Their clients include legal services firm TLC Legal and home decor solutions brand Discern Living. Professional services, the duo says, find Flowace useful. “Time is a very important resource in everyone’s world," says Tarun, adding that Flowace is currently funded by an Indian high net-worth individual. “What we are trying to do is give you a take on how you spent your day. Whether you are a writer or a programmer or a freelancer designer.... The product requires a bit of tweaking and fixing based on your industry. But it does have the basic capability to tell you what you have done in your day, no matter where you are working from," he adds.
Mumbai-based Shobhit Agarwal, CEO and MD of investment banking firm Anarock Capital, says Flowace has helped his firm with data management, data mining and keeping a “check on productivity". “We are an investment banking firm, but we are very sectoral: we focus only on real estate. Flowace was one of the first software we incorporated when we set up Anarock two years ago. It has ended our dependency on physical devices to ensure the safety of information. Everything is saved on the cloud. I can have all my transactions in one folder, define a route to reach this folder and decide who can access this information," he adds.
Even though Anarock Capital doesn’t use one of Flowace’s highlight features— time management—too prominently, Agarwal says it is still a useful feature when it comes to dealing with clients. “The time management feature runs in the background…it helps me keep a check on productivity. I can go to a client and tell them that this amount of hard work has gone into a matter because the software auto stamps the time itself," he adds.
It is, of course, not the only time-tracking app. For example, there is RescueTime, an automated time-tracking software targeted at freelancers, entrepreneurs and students. Toggl is another handy tool that lets you manage your time-sheets better.
However, Flowace comes with multiple functions that users can access through a web interface, a desktop and a smartphone app, which is available on Android. An iOS version is also in the works. The first notable feature is “desktop time": a record of all the work that happens on your laptop or desktop. There is also a location feature to help you collate where you have gone for outdoor meetings. Flowace also lets you categorize phone calls based on location coordinates. “In essence, it covers where all you are spending your time," adds Tarun. As of now, Flowace can be accessed by users and organizations for a two-month free trial. At the end of this trial period, it’s available for ₹250/user per month, exclusive of taxes.
Users can choose an entry (let’s say, a phone call) and match it to the corresponding KPIs, or key performance indicators, on the Flowace platform. The entry shows up as a categorized activity or record with the KPI on a personalized dashboard, which can be accessed across your desktop, a web interface or the mobile app.
Most of the functions are automatic. For Flowace follows the concept of “active windows". “Every time you are working on something that is active...even when you are multi-tasking, there is going to be one window that’s active at any given time," Tarun explains during a virtual demo.
Let’s assume you are working on a story draft on Microsoft Word for X number of minutes. The entry shows up on the dashboard, with the duration spent on that particular Word file, once you close it. For assessment purposes, both for employers, employees and individual users, one can even download a “Timesheet Summary Report". An analytics tab also shows the time spent on different apps and data like “total tracked time". Varun says this feature is particularly useful in cases where certain firms actually make their employees and associates fill their time-sheets after seven days, 15 days or 30 days. “How can you possibly remember what you have done in 30 days? This is where you get to the real-time analysis," he adds.“We are trying to group stuff and show it to you. There is no angle of snooping every second on what you are doing," says Tarun when I ask him about a possible surveillance scare for an individual user or employee. “This is super critical and something we are very close to correcting from our early days."