Staff-tracking Deputy has the time clock in its sights

Where are your employees and what are they doing?

The venerable “clock on, clock off” time clock may soon be a relic of the industrial age due to the efforts of an Australian work scheduling cloud app that connects directly to payroll systems.

Nathan Brumby, CEO of Deputy, describes the app’s mission as solving the “stupidly simple” problems that bug every business. “If you ask any business owner what keeps them up at night it is, what are my people doing?” Brumby says.

Deputy’s founding chairman, Steve Shelly, initially built the app to run his airline ground services company Aero-Care. He spoke to several friends who were also business owners and found that, as soon as they started hiring employees, the fun of running a business disappeared as they were swamped with performance management, communications and task allocation.

Deputy also took into mind the trend away from full-time employees to part-time and the growing expectation that information is immediately available. It has developed into a front-end interface for employees that sends information about their working hours and activities directly to payroll.

“In the old days you spent $2,000 on a dumb time clock and you had to wire it up. Now you can spend $400 on a wireless iPad and do all this other stuff with it,” Brumby says.

“Deputy announces that you have started work to your team and manager, it lets you see who you are working with, it electronically generates your timesheets and it declares where you are.”

Deputy uses the GPS locator in smartphones and tablets to record the position of an employee when they log into work. Employees don’t need to physically log into a time clock in the warehouse if they have to spend a day working off-site, for example.

Deputy’s success has come from focusing on engaging with employees rather than tackling the usual issues of task allocation, performance management or communications. The smartphone boom among consumers has also prepared the workforce to use their phones at work.

Deputy uses employees’ smartphones to tell them where they need to be, what they need to be doing and can share photos, videos and observations like on FaceBook.

Deputy recently rolled out a solution for Gloria Jeans coffee shops across Australia which integrated with KeyPay, a cloud payroll app, and cloud accounting platform Saasu. “We’re a one-stop solution for the business. Each Gloria Jeans gets a set bill for the month,” Brumby says.

Several IGA supermarkets had also replaced their time clocks to track store staff with Deputy. Employees can clock on and off with the store’s iPad, see their tasks, read announcements and find out who they’re working with.

Yesterday Brumby was pitching Deputy’s business model to Silicon Valley venture capitalists before formally launching the app at the Amazon Web Services conference in Las Vegas.

Deputy plans to make the application more interactive, add location to tasks and make using the app more like playing a computer game, Brumby says. The experience of one customer, a 450-staff hotel group, revealed the need for a dashboard and business analytics, which are on the drawing board.

Deputy costs $1 per week per active user and has amassed 7,000 users in seven countries without advertising.

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