An application developed by Bogota, Colombia-based startup Usetime, which was one of the finalists at the Seedstars World 2015 final in Geneva in February, provides companies with a platform for the remote management of projects and activities and a tool for assessing the productivity of remote-attendance employees.

[Seedstars World] Usetime remote management tool facilitates teleworking

The surge towards globalisation means that remote management is now an everyday reality and tools allowing remote project management are therefore becoming essential. Usetime, a digital platform developed by a startup of that same name from Colombia, is a strong contender. The basic idea is to provide an online platform that will enable companies to check on the progress of a project by following step by step on a remote basis the various tasks which have to be performed in order to complete the entire project. ″Each project has its own page where all the different pieces of information linked to the project can be found: emails, calendar, lists of tasks to be carried out, notes, etc,″  explains Usetime founder and CEO Alexandra Gamarra, adding: ″All the parties involved can access this page. So you can see at a glance that the project kicked off on such and such a date, who has downloaded a file, who has met whom… everything that has to do with driving the project forward. There’s no need to hold meetings any more.″ In addition, Usetime provides statistics on employee productivity, detailing the time each person spends on productive work. The settings can be adjusted to suit different types of jobs. For example, while it might be regarded as productive for a community manager to be active on the social networks, this would probably not be the case for an accountant. This functionality is optional, as it will not necessarily suit every company’s management culture.

Encouraging teleworking

The Usetime venture materialised when Alexandra Gammara was running an e-commerce business from the UK and had staff based in Colombia. ″The business was not competitive enough and I lost a lot of money because projects were never finished on time. So I went looking for a tool to make it easier to manage remote projects and when I didn’t find one I decided to create one myself. That’s how Usetime got started.” Originally she designed the tool for use in her own company and had no intentions of selling it. However, she explains: ″In 2011, on our return to Colombia, we saw that teleworking was becoming increasingly widespread. In Latin America, where cities are huge and public transport very inefficient, the roads are permanently jammed and it can take hours to get to work. So the Colombian government encourages companies to let their employees work from home, which means that firms need tools to manage the teleworkers.”  Spotting an opportunity here, Gamarra decided to focus exclusively on developing Usetime and selling it to other companies. Launched in March 2014, the platform already has a thousand users and a partnership has just been signed with Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider Telefonica to distribute the product across Latin America. A second agreement has been signed with Barcelona-based nubelo, an online marketplace for freelance services, which enables independent specialists to find work and employers to hire the skills they need. The 200,000 people registered on the site can work freelance, often without having to leave home. Usetime is also working with the Colombian government with a view to promoting teleworking.

Helping people with motor skills disabilities into the jobs market

The potential benefits are huge. Enabling the spread of teleworking could help to improve the quality of life of so many people who currently have to spend several hours every day sitting in their cars. This could also lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, thus adding environmental benefits to labour efficiency. Moreover, the teleworking approach may help people who are currently excluded from the job market – such as those suffering from motor skills disabilities, whose difficulties in getting to a company workplace seriously restrict their employment opportunities – to find work. Many women with young children would be able to look after them at home without giving up their careers if they could telework. Meanwhile Alexandra Gammara has set her sights beyond the borders of Colombia; the company is planning to market its product throughout Latin America. And why not further afield still? The potential for teleworking, which is becoming a real necessity in many emerging countries, is also likely to become a welcome convenience in some developed countries as well.

By Guillaume Renouard