Obelisk Support wins £50k from Innovate UK to deliver productivity tool

Obelisk Support has won almost £50,000 of funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to develop a productivity tool that will help SMEs manage the shift to remote working caused by Covid-19.

Obelisk’s plan is to develop the capabilities of the system it has built to manage a distributed workforce of over 2,000 lawyers with variable levels of flexibility in terms of location and hours.

The tool will allow businesses to have an overview of the skills, availability and workload of staff so that they can match incoming work to the right people, and then track the progress and time spent on completing the task.

It will be built on the two apps Obelisk has already created:’Buzz‘, which allows administrators to manage and match workers and tasks according to availability and patterns of flexible work, alongside time logging and invoicing; and

‘Profile‘, a worker-facing web/mobile app, through which they manage their contact information, preferences, availability, background, work offers and time logging.

The award comes from a government competition which encourages innovation in response to the global disruption caused by Covid-19. The maximum award is £50,000. The agency received 20,000 applications, the largest number ever.

The competition’s aim is to support businesses to focus on emerging or increasing needs of society and industries during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Obelisk CEO Dana Denis-Smith says: “While there has been a lot of talk about Zoom, Microsoft Teams and the like because of Covid-19, the challenge of scaling up remote working presents a fundamental challenge to businesses: the need to define, organise, schedule, negotiate and track work being done by a team. Trust and transparency are key ingredients to ensuring that a blended workforce that works on and off site is productive and engaged. Understanding this balance has been at the heart of how Obelisk has worked and scaled for the past decade.

“In an office setting, this is often done by informal discussions or in small face-to-face meetings. Attempting to replicate this model remotely is difficult and many businesses will often revert to ad hoc solutions, such as shared spreadsheets and endless email threads, which lack the control and insight to be truly effective.

“But effectively and efficiently managing a remote workforce has been fundamental to Obelisk’s business from day one and the dedicated platforms we have developed are now ready to be scaled up and applied across SMEs – and not just the legal or professional sector.”

Obelisk has been developing its own software since 2015 – a move which Denis-Smith has told us in the past is driven by the need for simpler, more agile solutions. Its task management platform is built on open source web application framework Ruby on Rails. You can read about it launch of a mobile time recording app here: https://legaltechnology.com/obelisk-launches-mobile-time-recording-app/

Denis-Smith said: “Research shows that employees are keen to maintain some, if not all elements of home working, so business will need to be ready to manage this new way of working.”