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Oasis, How Devoteam used Appsheet to eliminate costs in Project Accounting, Time Capture & Expense Management

Introduction: Oasis

In the ever-evolving world of technology, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. Recognising this, Devoteam took a proactive approach to streamlining their internal processes. This led to the creation of Oasis, an innovative solution designed to eliminate the costs in Project Accounting, Time Capture & Expense Management through the use of Google’s Appsheet. 

The Problem

Devoteam, like many large organisations, faced several challenges with their existing project management tools:

  • Outdated and Costly System: Their current project accounting, time capture, and expense management software was expensive and no longer met their evolving needs.
  • Licence Renewal Dilemma: A licence renewal for the outdated system was approaching, forcing Devoteam to decide whether to continue investing in an inadequate solution.
  • ERP Implementation Delay: While a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was planned, its implementation wouldn’t be completed within the timeframe required to replace the existing project management tool.
  • Complex Project Landscape: Devoteam dealt with a diverse and complex project landscape, with various time tracking methods and contract arrangements adding further complexity to their existing system.

These challenges combined created a critical need for a new solution that could effectively manage projects, track time accurately, and streamline expense management while remaining adaptable to their specific needs and existing infrastructure.

The Goal: Streamlining and Efficiency

Recognising the limitations of their existing system and the need for an immediate solution, Devoteam set out to achieve the following goals:

  • Implement an interim solution: This solution needed to seamlessly integrate with their existing system, mirroring data formats to minimise disruption and ensure continuity.
  • Minimise impact on financial processes: A smooth transition was crucial to avoid disruptions in critical financial processes, such as invoicing and expense reimbursement.
  • Improve data quality: The new solution should be efficient and ensure accurate and reliable data capture, improving overall project management visibility.

By achieving these goals, Devoteam aimed to bridge the gap between their outdated system and the future implementation of their new ERP, Oasis, while simultaneously enhancing the quality and efficiency of their project management processes.

The Solution: A Multi-faceted Approach

What is AppSheet? AppSheet is a specific no-code development platform used to create mobile and web applications without writing code.

Devoteam’s innovative solution involved a combination of readily available technologies and custom development:

  • AppSheet Platform: At the solution’s core lay an AppSheet database, which served as a central hub for storing and managing project data.
  • Four Complementary AppSheet Applications: Built on top of this database, Devoteam developed four customised AppSheet applications tailored to specific needs:
    • Time Capture: This application streamlined time tracking for employees, ensuring accurate and efficient data capture.
    • Project Management: The project management application provided a centralised platform for managing projects, tasks, and resources. Project cost tracking and budgeting is part of Project Management and Administration, as well as Finance Reporting.
    • Administration: This application facilitated project creation and administration, user management, access control, project cost tracking and budgeting, and other administrative tasks.
    • Finance Reporting: This application enabled Devoteam to generate comprehensive financial reports, improving project cost tracking and budgeting.
  • SaaS Expense Management Tool: To complement the AppSheet applications, Devoteam integrated a cloud-based expense management platform, further streamlining expense tracking and reimbursement processes.
  • Data Migration and Integration: Extensive data migration efforts ensured a smooth transition, with two years of historical data integrated seamlessly into the new system. Additionally, Devoteam connected the solution to their HR application. Enabling automatic population of employee information and reducing manual data entry and potential errors.

This multifaceted approach provided Devoteam with a robust and adaptable solution that addressed their key challenges and positioned them for future success.

The Methodology: Agile Development and Collaboration

To ensure efficiency and adaptability, Devoteam adopted an agile development methodology for this project:

  • Prototyping: A crucial first step involved developing a prototype to validate the concept before full-scale implementation. This allowed for early identification and mitigation of potential issues, reducing the risk of development roadblocks.
  • Kanban-style Work Management: The development application utilised a Kanban-style approach, featuring three developers working concurrently on different aspects of the solution:
    • Time Capture and Workflow: This application focused on building the application for efficient time tracking and automating workflows.
    • Administration, Reporting and Data Structure: Another application worked on developing administrative functionalities, comprehensive reporting tools, and a robust data structure to ensure data integrity.
    • Integration and Data Migration: The third application handled integrating the solution with existing systems and migrating historical data seamlessly.
  • Continuous Feedback: Throughout the development process, Devoteam prioritised ongoing communication and collaboration. They conducted regular demonstrations and facilitated feedback sessions with key user communities. This ensured the solution addressed the specific needs of its end-users and fostered a sense of ownership within the organisation.

By adopting this agile approach, Devoteam established a collaborative environment, enabled flexibility in adapting to changing requirements, and delivered a solution that met the needs of its diverse user base. This highlights the expertise and efficiency of the Devoteam workforce across projects. 

The Result: Transforming Efficiency and Visibility

The implementation of the new solution yielded immediate and significant benefits for Devoteam:

Functional from Day One: The solution was fully operational from the outset, ensuring a smooth transition from the old system.

Historical Data Integration: All historical data (two years’ worth) was successfully migrated and accessible in the new format, preserving historical project information.

Enhanced Visibility and Reporting: Project administrators and managers gained instant feedback on key performance indicators (KPIs) and project delivery metrics. Enabling informed decision-making. Organisation-wide project performance became immediately visible, providing valuable insights into overall project health.

User Experience and Productivity:

  • Project Managers: The solution delivered a 50% reduction in time spent approving booked time. Freeing up valuable time for other critical tasks.
  • Employees: Timesheet submissions increased by 30%, indicating improved adherence to reporting procedures. Additionally, 90% of the manual effort associated with employee onboarding and offboarding was eliminated, streamlining administrative processes.
  • Development Team: The feature delivery pace surpassed initial expectations, as once the core capability was built. Feature delivery massively accelerated, with the team producing over 20 new features daily at peak development.

Additional Benefits:

  • Improved Data Quality: Improved data visibility facilitated ongoing iteration and refinement, further enhancing data quality and timeliness.
  • Real-time Feedback: Consultants received instant notifications of potential project overruns, enabling proactive course correction.
  • Enhanced Business Rules: The solution codified business rules regarding minimum working hours, ensuring adherence to established practices.
  • Automated Reminders and Alerts: Users (and their managers) received specific and timely notifications regarding pending activities, such as time entries and approvals.
  • Time Phasing: The solution introduced time phasing for employee cost data, providing a clearer understanding of resource allocation over time.

Measuring Success:

  • User acceptance exceeded expectations, with a 90% positive response rate and minimal training required.
  • The new solution eliminated the need for annual licensing costs associated with the old system, resulting in significant cost savings.
  • Project administration and management efforts for reporting on project status decreased by 40%, allowing personnel to focus on more strategic and value-adding activities.

In conclusion, Devoteam’s innovative solution demonstrably improved efficiency, data accuracy, and user experience. The project not only achieved its initial goals but also delivered significant cost savings, improved resource allocation, and enhanced project visibility across the organisation.

Lessons Learned: The Power of User Engagement and Strategic Design

Devoteam’s project yielded valuable insights for future endeavors:

1. The Power of User Engagement:

  • Active participation in design and development phases by key user communities led to significantly higher levels of value and acceptance upon deployment.
  • Conversely, communities with limited or delayed engagement required more post-launch bug fixes and additional features, resulting in lower user satisfaction.
  • This experience underscores the importance of early and ongoing user involvement throughout the development lifecycle.

2. Understanding Performance Implications:

  • Anticipating data volume and its impact on storage decisions could have improved overall system performance. Encountering unforeseen data-related challenges highlights the need for thorough data analysis early in the development phase.

3. Making Informed Implementation Choices:

  • Recognising that automation approaches (bots vs. script-based) impact performance and user experience differently allows for strategic implementation decisions.
  • Understanding that automation on the server side affects user experience emphasises the need for careful planning and testing.

4. Scalability through Modular Design:

  • Separating concerns by user roles, functions, and requirements enables the creation of multiple applications across various business lines. Enhancing developer scalability.

5. Limitations of Single-Developer Platform:

  • Devoteam discovered the limitations of a single developer working on an application platform like AppSheet, with no options for feature branching or merging. This emphasises the need to choose the appropriate development tools based on project complexity and collaboration requirements.

6. Security and Functionality through User Roles:

  • Breaking down the problem into specific user roles facilitated the implementation of granular security and functionality tailored to each user community. This approach allows for restricting access and actions at the application level without requiring additional coding.

By capturing these valuable lessons learned, Devoteam is well-positioned to optimise future projects. Ensuring successful implementation, user adoption, and long-term value.