Remote working was sprung on many companies as the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect, but it is probably here to stay as organisations around the world realise its benefits.
The obvious one of workers being able to discharge their duties without battling traffic to come into expensive offices is just one benefit. Remote working can also help companies to save money and it can lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency too.
This is the word from Graham Fry, MD of Saucecode, who points out that, with proper management, remote workers are happier and more effective – and more productive. But the key is proper management, he stresses.
“Plenty has been written about what workers should be doing as they adapt to the new remote working paradigm. But it’s what their managers do that is going to make the difference between success or failure,” Fry says.
“What they do, and how they manage their remote workers, is what will unlock the value of the workforce to the business.”
There are many tools on the market that help with remote workforce management. Some of them are quite authoritarian, Fry believes, and he thinks they would be of limited value.
“Taking pictures of your workers through the day or monitoring their keystrokes doesn’t really offer an accurate picture of how productive they are,” he says. “The real value is in not monitoring your workers, but rather in managing them.”
Saucecode’s locally-developed Tistro product is an agent-based tool that helps managers to measure productivity and help workers to stay efficient.
Of course, just because staff members are at work in an office doesn’t mean they are productive: all it really means is that they are being monitored, Fry points out.
The difference between people working efficiently and simply being present is where management comes in, and a tool like Tistro can help to achieve this whether workers are in the office or working remotely.
“The Covid-19 lockdown means companies have been forced to let people work from home and they still need to maintain a level of productivity. Because the move happened quickly, many companies haven’t been able to supply workers with business PCs so users are often working on their home devices. So there is an issue of privacy as well.”
But the bottom line, Fry adds, is that any management tool has to offer true value to the business. “Tistro does that: it was built in an enterprise to create value for the organisation.”
Tistro works by monitoring how productive a user is working and this helps both managers and workers to understand how well the job is being performed.
“By giving managers an insight into how well workers are performing they can guide workers more effectively and help them to achieve their potential.”
Brian Little, co-founder of Saucecode, adds that managing productivity is not something that should only happen when workers are at home, but the lockdown has helped to throw this issue into focus.
“What the lockdown has done is expose problems with worker management overall and shown us that we need a different way of doing things so users can be equally well-managed if they are in the office or at home.
“The problems have always been there, but now they’ve been exposed, so we have an opportunity to face them and think about managing them in a different way.”
Tistro helps managers to quickly identify which workers are performing well, which need help, and which are super-performers. They can also identify what methods or applications increase productivity and which are counter-productive.
“It’s data, so it’s accurate and unbiased,” Little adds. “With a tool like Tistro you can see what is actually happening.”
For many managers, this period of remote working has been a litmus test that they have failed simply because they haven’t had the visibility into what’s going on. Because they don’t have visibility, they could be holding unnecessary and time-consuming conference calls, while work is not completed or is done incorrectly.
“There is often no way for managers to tell what is actually happening.” Fry hastens to add that Tistro is not all about managing workers; it can also help workers to manage themselves.
“It is not a one-way street by any means,” he says. “It is a comprehensive product that lets users see their own statistics, so it can be a valuable tool for people wanting to ensure they are working productively.”
The tool can also be configured to reflect the business as a whole, which makes it fairly unique in the workplace management environment. Setup and monitoring can be done on a granular level, customised for company, department or individual user requirements.
Free workforce management software: how it works
Implementing and deploying a remote workforce management system could be a complex and time-consuming effort. Or it could be a matter of a few minutes for companies taking up the offer of a free cloud-based subscription to Tistro.
Local software developer Saucecode is making its Tistro management tool available as a free subscription until 30 June.
MD Graham Fry points out that many organisations were caught off-guard when the Covid-19 lockdown was announced and they had to quickly set up staff members to work at home.
The downsides of this have been quickly exposed, he says, as managers find themselves effectively blind to what their workers are doing.
“As a South African company, we felt it was our duty to do something to help the country in this time of crisis, so we have made our workforce management tool available as a free subscription,” he says.
Tistro is a PC agent-based enterprise-scaled efficiency and productivity measurement tool that gathers user usage data and, through analysis of this data, helps businesses to evaluate process and enhance decision-making across many areas of the organisation.
Tistro tracks PC usage, duration and activity across all PC applications – both visible and invisible. This includes Internet usage, Microsoft, Apple and Linux System functions, and any other user activity via applications and tools including connectivity applications from remote devices.
The tool enables monitoring and management of employees’ efficiency, setting and management of associated KPIs, identifying training requirements, application use and suitability, and a host of other business critical data points.
“Tistro gives managers visibility into what workers are doing, while helping to improve productivity and efficiency,” Fry explains.
Companies with as little as 20 users, to the largest enterprises with thousands of users, can quickly deploy Tistro and start reaping the benefits literally within the hour.
Saucecode co-founder Brian Little explains the process: “Once a company requests the free offer, we set up their profile on our cloud server – which takes literally 30 minutes; we then send them their user name and login and the links for the client-side agents; the manager sends these links to the workers in their team; the workers click on the link; and the agent installation takes place.
“As soon as its installed, the device will start reporting into the system and there is visibility into the user’s work. It really is that fast,” Little says.
Fry explains that a lot of effort went into developing a smooth and fast user experience. “You can’t make it difficult for people otherwise they won’t use it,” he explains. “It needs to be easy to set up and to manage. Network administrators are busy people, especially in the current circumstances, and they don’t need additional headaches, so we have made Tistro really simple to set up.”
Once the initial set-up is done, line of business managers can align the data space with their business, deciding which applications can be accessed and ranking their relative importance to the task at hand. Again, this is a simple process and Little estimates that managers should take no more than an hour to do this.
“It is easy to set up the system so it accurately reflects the business and, after that, the administration is minutes per day,” he says.
Saucecode will generate reports based on the criteria set out by managers, giving them realtime visibility into their workforce almost immediately.
Confidentiality is important, and Tistro allows the right hierarchies to be set up so data is viewed only by the correct managers and the user themselves.
It is important to note that Tistro does not record screen shots nor key strokes, Little adds. “As such we do not therefore record content. The product essentially records the folder and filename in use. Beyond that only the activity within any file limited to number of keystrokes and duration of the activity – for example that 200 keystrokes were done in 25 seconds. The keystroke count does not record whether any keystroke was a ‘k’ an ‘e’ or a ‘5’.
“The personal or private nature of the content remains unrecorded and therefore remains secure,” Little stresses. “The only recognised keys are delete, enter, backspace and mouse clicks and scroll, as these give an indication of efficiency within application use but still not exposing any content.”
The company also has comprehensive tutorials and self-help videos on its website (www.saucecode.tech) which can help IT administrators and line of business managers to quickly set up and become productive. Webinars are also conducted regularly to help administrators get the best value from various aspects of the system.
The tool also offers an accurate look into what applications are being used which can help administrators correctly manage their software licenses and potentially save money.
“All of this ties into a product that is less about monitoring people and more about management, enabling user and business to work together in a trust relationship,” Little says.