Organizing the task of consulting

For the harried consultant running from meeting to meeting with an armful of papers and a leaking cup of coffee, keeping track of billable hours and kilometres logged can be a Herculean task.

Enter miDesk 3.0, a new wireless-optimized software which, according to Mississauga, Ont.-based Genieworks Corp., is designed to soothe consultants and pacify comptrollers by sharing information between a professional service organization’s office and its road warriors.

For a monthly fee of $24.95 per user, miDesk 3.0 subscribers get a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) portal to a real-time data warehouse that is able to handle a high transaction throughput, and is available from both office and remote locations. Through this secure portal, accessible by either a cell phone or a traditional Web browser, the program’s features manage such important but easy-to-overlook chores as billing synchronization, client support, lead follow-up and expense management.

According to Genieworks co-president and chief architect Edward Nash, his company recognized a demand for this type of software when professional services organizations that had purchased Genieworks’ first product (an office productivity and collaboration suite simply entitled miDesk) began to inquire about billing and expense management add-ons. Recognizing that a consulting company’s project data is its most important asset, Nash and his partner Peter Metford developed the concept of an Internet-accessible operational data storehouse.

Jeremy Depow, a senior analyst with the Brockville, Ont.-based Yankee Group in Canada, predicts a bright future for applications that offer increased data capabilities for mobile users.

“Projects in business to business are one of the areas that everyone is focused on and has the potential for significant growth,” Depow said. “With lots of room for real applications and real solutions, everyone sees it as the next wave.”

However, Depow said that aside from mere mobility, there are important considerations for wireless business software. He noted that “With mobile projects, the functionality of the handset with the application is one of the keys. It’s very important for software and hardware people to work together to make this area work.”

Genieworks touts immediacy and convenience as some of miDesk’s main strengths. Rather than filling out timesheets after-the-fact, said Nash, when a company’s travelling staff members enter a meeting they merely log onto miDesk 3.0’s “Recoup” module and click on a “stopwatch” feature, which measures the length of their meeting. When the users click the stopwatch off, Recoup then automatically costs the consultants’ time.

Also included in the Genieworks subscription are additional features such as “Prospector”, which manages sales leads and contacts, “Command”, used to track time and expenses, and “Datamart”, which administers a centralized database.

A final, significant aspect of miDesk’s appeal, Nash believes, is that it allows its burdened subscribers to travel lighter and leave their wireless backaches behind.

“We are offering a very affordable way for customers to access all their data without carrying a full utility belt of devices,” he said.