Using software to measure work

An Auckland cloud software firm founded by a competitive boxer that helps companies harness "peer pressure" to motivate their workforces is about to seek $5 million from investors. helps employers find a metric by which they might want to measure workers' performance, which might be the number of demonstrations a salesperson performs or the number of metres of trenching a construction worker digs.

It then lets them share the performances of individual workers or teams through an "electronic dashboard" that can be viewed on smartphones or computers, so all staff can see the results. is the brainchild of Ben Ridler, who set up the firm after selling his 60 per cent shareholding in The Results Group, a traditional "bricks and mortar" business coaching company which reached annual revenues of $10m.

Ridler believed his new venture, which employs 13 staff and has notched up US$1m in revenues, had the potential to get bigger, faster. Nearly 5000 customers are using its software, roughly equally split between Australasia and North America with a small number of customers elsewhere.

The firm's software was not for everyone and some people might find it "scary", Ridler said. But he said it provided an alternative to micro-managing staff and the "radical transparency" it offered tended to be welcomed by Generation Y employees, in particular.

"They have been taught at school to set goals and break them down. The concept of this is you are giving autonomy to the person on the frontline to take ownership of their own performance so it takes a lot of 'subjectivity' out of management.

"High performers get acknowledged. It creates peer pressure, so instead of a manager having to point out someone is not performing, they can be there saying 'how can I help you'."

Auckland sales development consultancy SalesStar said it had used to measure how many sales presentations its eight-person sales team conducted, the number of proposals they put to customers and their sales.

Director Paul O'Donohue said it made that information available to the whole company and the tool had helped the business more than double in size in the space of two years. "It is about holding the team accountable on the activity that they should be focused on."

He said staff "loved" the transparency it provided and no-one had resisted or left the company as a result of its adoption. SalesStar had persuaded two of its clients, an animal feed business and a medical device company to also begin using it, he said.

Employment lawyer Peter Cullen said he wasn't aware of such tools becoming more widely used in New Zealand and warned employers should be cautious about using them to manage employees' performance.

Business owners could get into strife if such tools had any impact on people's security of employment, he said.

"You have got an obligation to be responsive and communicative under the law", and that meant talking with staff and giving them personal feedback if there was a problem, he said.  

Ridler said he had yet to find a business that couldn't settle on a meaningful staff performance measure. Its customers even included church groups in the United States, he said.

"We have worked with their leadership teams to develop a 'key performance indicator' template that looks at their number of members, average tithings and 'upsells', which include baptisms.

"They are doing the Lord's work, but they also adopt best practice in the way they do things, and a lot of them are not afraid of technology." would be seeking about $5m from eligible investors over the next three months, he said. That would help it develop a version of its software more suitable for bigger businesses and to establish an indirect sales channel.

"We have got competitors that are doing $30m and $50m rounds, but it seems like we have been thinking about how to solve these problems for a lot longer and seem to be ahead," Ridler said.

Fairfax Media