Bruce Stronge doesn’t count himself among the flurry of entrepreneurs looking to create the next killer app. He built time management app Trigger to run Queensland-based web design and development agency NetEngine and “scratch our own itch”.
Creative agencies bill time to clients for designing and building websites, updating graphics and writing content. Agencies need to focus on scheduling, resourcing, knowing the status of a project and in particular time tracking, Stronge says.
“At the end of the month it’s too late to say what were you doing on the third or on that Thursday?” Stronge says.
At its heart Trigger is an app for tracking billable hours, recording activities in detail and pushing them through to an invoice. It can generate detailed invoices and send them to cloud accounting program Xero and invoicing app FreshBooks.
Given that it has a design-minded client base, NetEngine has invested heavily in an attractive user interface that follows Xero’s “beautiful software” philosophy, Stronge says.
Trigger uses a dashboard to remind staff to log their time. The admin can set KPIs such as seven billable hours every day. Each employee then sees a bar graph on their dashboard that stays red until the target number of hours is reached.
Trigger performs basic profit analysis. The app calculates the cost of billable hours based on the wages of the employees. Leave is taken into account when adding up average billable hours for each employee.
“We have a leaderboard and when you add the team you can sort it by employee based on the average billable hours or total billable hours for the month. It almost gamifies the KPIs,” Stronge says.
“Our staff like to know what’s a good outcome from them.”
Stronge has run the NetEngine agency on Trigger since its launch a year ago. With staff accurately recording seven billable hours in an eight or nine hour day, the agency has gone from break even to very profitable.
“We were doing the work anyway but the gap was falling apart not on productivity but on recording time,” Stronge says.
But Trigger has broader ambitions than dedicated time-tracking apps such as Harvest and Timely.
“We do a lot more under the same roof. When it comes to time sheeting Harvest is one of the best. But we put a lot of emphasis in collaboration, so we almost have a Yammer-type messaging as well,” Stronge says.
“If you collaborate with your clients and a team on your task there’s an audit trail on that task.”
Yammer and other collaboration tools don’t integrate with accounting programs, Stronge says, which means that timesheets aren’t connected to the tasks or conversations.
“We don’t often get a discussion on invoices anymore because clients can click on a line item and go to that task in Trigger – ‘That’s where I asked them to change that PDF’,” Stronge says.
“We have an audit trail around every single minute on an invoice and a client can look into that. It makes my life a lot easier.”
Trigger has seventy paying companies, the bulk of them in New Zealand. It also integrates with Dropbox and Highrise CRM and has a neat roadmap of upcoming features.