Employees can also see feedback from managers as they complete tasks, which has proven popular with companies that have a distributed workforce, including teleworkers. "It allows teleworkers to get a feeling for how well they're doing. At the same time, the people who have responsibility for managing the teleworkers get an idea of how their projects are going," Redmond says.
In addition to analyzing what employees are doing, RWorks in a future version will be able to feed that information to project management plans. "We will be able to show a project plan on screen in our own system, and we're also going to allow people to export tasks and import tasks to and from Microsoft Project," Redmond says.
Because the RWorks system records actual task progress, rather than estimations, the data in project plans will be more realistic, Redmond says. (Also in the works are mobile applications that will allow RWorks to monitor tasks done on a smartphone.)
At thepurplepatch, a business consulting firm in Ireland, RWorks helps employees keep track of off-site client work without getting bogged down by manual recordkeeping.
"We spend a large amount of time in front of clients, which was easily measurable, but we wanted a method of recording the amount of time we spent behind the scenes working for those clients to ensure that we were getting accurately compensated for our time," says Damian Donlon, who heads up the firm.
For Donlon, the software also provides an easy view of what's going on throughout his dispersed organization.
"As I travel from meeting to meeting, I can see the exact status of projects and tasks for all clients without having to explicitly ask. I no longer have to rely on a third party telling me that something is done, when in fact it may not have been," he says. "In addition, I can see how long the tasks are taking, those that are behind schedule and the expected date they will be completed based on actual time spent to date."
Big Brother or a helpful reminder?
RescueTime uses crowdsourcing methods to categorize which activities are productive and which aren't. End users designate how productive or unproductive a certain Web site is, for instance, and when enough people consistently assign the same ranking, RescueTime begins to apply that ranking by default.
Today RescueTime offers both a free version of its software for individual use and a paid version that includes more detailed reporting. For instance, instead of simply reporting that someone spent two hours using Microsoft (MSFT) Word, the paid version will also track which documents that person used. Other features built into the paid version include alerting, goal-setting, and the ability to block distracting applications or Web sites for a period of time.
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