Athena IT Limited is a small company that is based in the United Kingdom. It is the creator of the popular Facebook messenger called Chit Chat for Facebook. Meanwhile, it also provides Facebook Cover Maker that allows people to make their own cover for their Facebook timeline. The company has one employee, its Managing Director Daniel Offer. For the most part, the development, design and marketing work for the software is done through outsourcing. By efficiently utilizing a remote workforce, Athena IT is a thriving startup that has established its niche in the competitive social media space.
Dealing with the dynamics in outsourcing
Daniel Offer, Athena IT's Managing Director, is no stranger to the outsourcing world. He has been running his business with a remote workforce for years now. Outsourcing is very dynamic as one will be dealing with people that he might not even have met before. Daniel Offer has devised a methodology of effectively doing it. One key consideration is to distinguish between project-based work and pay-by-the-hour work. "The problem is that of incentives," explains Offer. "On a per project basis, there is incentive to get a job done as quickly as possible to maximise per hour earning. Whereas with hourly work, you can avoid unhelpful cutting of corners and unfavourable business practices." Following such guidelines, Offer gives out projects such as logo design or well-defined software development as project-based work, whereas he pays his workers on a hourly basis for the on-going programming, design as well as marketing work.
For the contracted workers that Offer pays by the hours, he needs a fair, accurate and reliable way to track their time. "Although outsourcing is much cheaper than employing someone domestically, there is a huge potential for time card fraud, deliverable fraud or even unauthorized subcontracting," says Offer. "Therefore it is important for me to be able to know exactly how much time they have worked, spot check their work, or conduct detailed review when I suspect something is amiss. We are happy to have found Worksnaps. It addresses my need to have oversight over my contractors yet not being intrusive."
Athena IT started to roll out Worksnaps to his team in late 2012 and now his contractors who work on hour-based projects are using it to track their time and getting paid based on the logged hours. "The perception of intrusiveness is not really an issue here," explains Offer. "Think from the workers' perspective, they want to ensure that an hour worked is an hour paid. Worksnaps helps to achieve that by allowing them to prove their work hours. Accurate time tracking is to the best interest of both sides."
Utilizing Worksnaps features based on needs
Once Athena IT has decided to use Worksnaps, the rollout was a smooth process. Offer sent an email providing instruction to his workers. They signed up in the own time, downloaded and installed the Worksnaps program. It generally took less than half an hour each to figure out the tool.
Worksnaps has a rich set of features. While using Worksnaps to manage his contractors, Offer utilizes different features based on his needs. "For the new workers, I have them turn on the webcam so that I can see their presence. For more trustworthy workers I solely rely on screenshot tracking," explains Offer. "Tracking users' hours by periodic screenshots and optionally webcam captures are invaluable. The ability to produce invoices and have workers hours sent to me by email each day also adds value."
Offer also likes the capability to put different people into different projects so that each project can be managed and accounted for separately. Also it prevents workers from seeing beyond what they are assigned to work on. "I came from using vWorker AccuTimeCard application. But I am happy to find Worksnaps because it offers a much richer feature set with a lower price for us," says Offer.
A word about managing remote workforce
With products such as Chit Chat for Facebook and Facebook Cover Maker, Athena IT is now a fledgling business having thousands of users. Having built the company with an outsourcing model, Daniel Offer has a lot of good advice on how to manage remote workforces. "Tools like Worksnaps are not a substitute for good management skills, whilst Worksnaps removes the information opacity of workers' hours and show what your workers are getting up to," says the Athena IT Director. "It's important to have realistic expectations, in terms of workers' rate and their efficiency. Good communication with your workers is always critical, and having a tool like Worksnaps will help to detect problems early hence to address them in a timely manner."
"Micro-managing is something that will get workers to 'back up', I am not advocating that," says Offer. "But preventing timecard fraud and increasing productivity fully justifies the use of a tool like Worksnaps. It is essential to apply the same good management principles whether you manage in person or you utilize tools such as Worksnaps to manage remotely."