Estonian Startup Weekdone Takes The Pain Out Of Team Management And Those Pesky PPP Reports

The corporate world is almost entirely alien to me. I’ve never worked inside of a major company. It wasn’t, therefore, until I fleetingly tried my hand at startup life that I was introduced to the PPP system — Plans, Progress, Problems — for managing teams. In this instance, as CEO, I was the one being managed, tasked with filing PPP reports with my VC backers. I hated it, “why can’t I just pick up the phone?,” I’d say. But actually, those weekly emails worked pretty well.

In a much larger organisation, however, relying on a feed-back loop for teams that consists of emails, spreadsheets or more lengthy reports doesn’t scale very well from a manager’s point of view. Meanwhile, important and timely signals from team members can easily fall through the cracks.

Enter Weekdone, an Estonian startup backed by Ahti Heinla, founding engineer of Skype, and former investors and executives of leading Russian social network Odnoklassniki. The web and newly released iOS app taps into the PPP principle to enable managers to keep a pulse on their teams by streamlining the feedback loop and presenting the results in a highly visual and aggregated view.

iPhone-2Specifically, the problem Weekdone has set out to solve is that compared to the plethora of simple, visual apps that are available to help consumers get things done, the business world often still relies on lengthy documents, spreadsheets and emails to manage tasks and teams, or software that produces far too much unwieldily data that no one executive or manager can possibly hope to keep tabs on.

The Tallinn, Eastonia-based startup, and same team behind Talentag and Utopic, saw an opportunity to bring what it calls “actionable visual tools” to the area of team management. Thus, Weekdone was born with the aim of becoming the default tool for monitoring and managing teams by turning “big data into a thing of beauty”, says the company.

It’s certainly true the app looks the part — it recently won best Internet application at the Estonian Design Awards, for whatever that is worth — but it’s the simple (and, perhaps, realistic) work-flow that makes Weekdone appealing. Striking the balance between data input and the usefulness of what comes out at the other end is key to any type of productivity app, not least an app that is in part monitoring employee “happiness”.

At the start of each week, team members are asked to list their key plans and what they want to accomplish. “Usually these are the 5-7 big goals that have to be achieved whatever it takes,” says Weekdone co-founder Jüri Kaljundi. Then, as the week progresses, employees mark stuff done, automatically moving items from Plans to Progress.

In addition, Kaljundi says employees are required to rate their work happiness and answer any other questions posed by their manager, such as suggestions on how they can improve or what needs to get done.

“The progress can also be automatically imported from [task managers] Asana or Atlassian JIRA, and many other systems like Salesforce or Basecamp in the future, so there is no need for duplicate data entry,” he adds.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 18.49.05At the end of each week the app compiles an automatic visual dashboard and textual report of what’s been achieved since the last update, and what’s planned for the following week, which is sent to managers and team members via email, PDF or accessible on the web, mobile and tablet versions of Weekdone.

“The managers quickly see calculated indicators like team happiness, task completion ratio, overdue items count or problems, and can drill down into each section and person,” explains Kaljundi.

“They also quickly see which promises are not kept or are lagging behind for weeks, something that often gets lost in manual e-mails or task managers,” he says.

It’s from this overview of the app’s data that a manager can be prompted to give quick feedback to each team member or on specific items.

The ultimate goal, however, is to have Weekdone not only make the feed-back loop for teams and managers more efficient, thus improving productivity and employee happiness, but also to act as an early warning system when things go wrong.

To that end, Kaljundi says that Weekdone is putting a lot of its future development efforts into “automatic surfacing of potential problems and suggestions to save managers time and bring out what needs focus”.

At which point, of course, it may still be better to pick up the phone.