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Argon Design Case Study

“In a previous company, I started with an in-house developed Excel spreadsheet system but improvements and embellishments made it increasingly unwieldy .” 

“Office Timesheets simply ticked all the boxes” … “It has been very intelligently designed so it works nicely and is really configurable.”

“With Office Timesheets you can produce any report you like and the reports can be used to integrate with other products.”

“Creating Office Timeheets Task Templates directly from our project quotations and proposals is a great way to ensure that everything hangs together.”

“I’m very happy to endorse Office Timesheets because it’s so intelligently designed and it does exactly what it claims.”

 – Alan Scott, Managing Director

ArgonDesignLogo – Case Study

Why some of Britain’s finest minds love working with Timesheets.

Argon Design is a fifteen-person company working at the leading edge of electronic and software design. It consults and designs for a wide range of companies in many different industries and its work often ends up embedded in innovative new products and services.

World beating brains

Argon also develops its own range of intellectual property, focussing on world-class technology that solves complex problems for its customers. For example, when the relevant ‘industry experts groups’ published a new High Efficiency Video Coding standard, H.265, Argon developed highly mathematical verification software to the detailed specification and identified 105 bugs. Now it sells its verification software, Argon Streams, to video hardware companies around the world to ensure that their designs are robust before committing to massively expensive chip manufacture. In one fortunate instance, a major manufacturer chose to verify its ultra high definition display product using Argon Streams, which discovered fifteen bugs in the manufacturer’s design. Ouch. Argon also has a version of Streams that will test the ability of devices to run Google/YouTube’s upcoming high definition video standard VP9.

Alan Scott is one of the founders behind this gently growing company (about 20 percent per annum) of exclusively Oxford and Cambridge firsts with a sprinkling of PhDs. In an earlier company, while working on blending a personal digital assistant with a mobile phone, he realised that people would want to work and play on their PDAs, while travelling on aeroplanes. He conceived the now ubiquitous flight mode that turns off all radio elements.

Choosing Office Timesheets

As you might expect, his technology standards are very high, so when it came to choosing a system for recording project activities he had a long list of requirements and took his time to evaluate the market. In a previous company, he had started with an in house developed Excel spreadsheet system but waves of improvements and embellishments made it increasingly unwieldy over time. It was very convenient for his users, but a nightmare to maintain. In the end, two of his fifty employees were dedicated to looking after the system. As a business whose primary raw material is time (and expertise), this must have been a painful experience. At least it gave him a very clear idea of what he wanted from a time and expense recording/reporting system for Argon Design. He spent six months looking around the market and chose three to evaluate. As you might guess from reading this, he chose Office Timesheets.

“It simply ticked all the boxes,” he said. It was certainly a better time and expense system than the one he’d helped create previously. He said, “Office Timesheets has been very intelligently designed so it works nicely.” He reported a few bugs in the early days, which were quickly dealt with. But he’s not reported a bug for three years now. Although Office Timesheets is regularly upgraded, it closely matched the way Argon worked from day one.

The key advantages for Alan are that it is “really configurable”, “you can produce any report you like” and “reports can be used to integrate with other products.” Taking these in turn:

Configurable database and user interface

The setup of the database and the user interface are wonderfully configurable, so you match the interface to how you want to work, you are not constrained to work in a particular way.

Time can be allocated in various ways – within projects: to phases, tasks and activities; and to overhead categories. Templates are created for each project directly from the quotations and proposals sent out to the customers – usually twenty to thirty tasks and their respective budgeted days. Tasks are copied from the template and items removed in order to leave each user with just the timesheet items that relate to their own work. As Alan points out, “This is a great way to ensure that everything hangs together.”

Configurable reports

Alan wasn’t afraid to get stuck in to SQL reporting, even though he’d not used it before. Although Office Timesheets comes with a suite of configurable default reports, customers (or, indeed, DSA) can create bespoke reports with raw SQL or with other tools. In Argon’s case, Alan created a number of bespoke reports including performance against budget and customer weekly timesheets. He tailors reports with an Argon Design logo and other useful bits and pieces that help to reinforce the brand both internally and externally.

Integration with Sage 50 Accounts

Reports can be passed to the company’s Sage 50 accounts system. Matching fields (quite often hidden from the Timesheets users) are used to harmonise the systems. Sage 50’s nominal ledger codes are a good example of this, where each type of expense in Office Timesheets has its own nominal code, hidden from the timesheet user.

In conclusion

Argon Design has deliberately kept its system light touch, so that engineers are comfortable with the information they have to provide (weekly, at least) and that both the engineers and their managers are getting enough information out of the system to run the business effectively. Alan’s final words were, “I’m very happy to endorse Office Timesheets because it’s so intelligently designed and it does exactly what it claims.”

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