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New Web Utility Combines Time Reporting With Social Networking

TimeXchange, a just-launched, free Web-based platform, aims to be an alternative to timesheet reporting and approval. "We're trying to take a process no one likes to do and make it easy," said Joe Piekarz, president of Actus Technology.
TimeXchange, a just-launched, free Web-based platform, aims to be an alternative to timesheet reporting and approval. "We're trying to take a process no one likes to do and make it easy," said Joe Piekarz, president of Actus Technology.There's never been a good solution for getting solutions out the door, Piekarz told me. One of the problems, he said, is that applications are designed from an enterprise point of view, where everyone works for the same company. "But relationships tend to be more complicated than that," Piekarz said. "Clients want to approve timesheets ahead of time."

In viewing time reporting as a communication issue, Chicago-based Actus Technology developed the free, ad-supported TimeXchange with a social network approach because, Piekarz said, "we look at ourselves as an Internet service -- it's accessible to everybody."

TimeXchange is a single application that can serve multiple organizational affiliations and back-office applications simultaneously. It fits in with other back-end billing, project management, and ERP systems. And it leverages collaboration methods often found on social networks to manage routing and approval among all parties.

Some of the examples Piekarz offered as prime TimeXchange users were nonprofits ("for board reporting"), college students ("a lot of them tutor"), the staffing industry, and service-oriented professions, such as lawyers, who bill in increments, and construction companies.

"The big challenge will be getting into corporate America," Piekarz said. "Therefore, our sweet spot is small and midsize."

TimeXchange accounts are designed to become a central repository for a user's work life, with a history of past projects, along with every client, project manager, and colleague.

"Part of our goal was to create a relationship feeling with our customer," Piekarz said. "People, especially freelancers, that have relationships all over the world -- they can look back at their [TimeXchange] account, and they have a record of everything they've done over their career."

TimeXchange has added a budgeting feature that provides at-a-glance visibility so team members can keep projects on track and on budget.

It's also rolling out an iPhone companion for mobile workers. "If you think of TimeXchange as a cloud, our view is there are all sorts of devices that can interact with your account," Piekarz said.

And soon-to-be-released enhancements will support integration with 37signals' Basecamp project management application, allowing users to import projects, contacts, and to-do lists, as well as an iGoogle widget that displays the TimeXchange projects dashboard.