The 34-minute time and expense app – Thingamy

by admin on February 28, 2006

in Innovation,Marketing


Last week I set Sigurd Rinde the challenge of creating a time and expense application. I didn’t give Sig a lot of detail but enough to see if something usable would come out the other end – it did. We were supposed to review progress yesterday but I had to put Sig back until today. There’s one word to describe this – awesome. The first shot is of the opening screen. As you can see (double click to go full size), it’s a bit bare but the main process starting points for calculating WIP and billing are in place.


In the second shot, we’re setting up a fresh bank account – note the use of ‘tags.’

In this third shot, we’re showing a selection screen from which you can run different types of account.

Before the Windows XP interface people start criticising there’s a number of things you need to know.

  • This app was built from scratch in 34 minutes. There was about an hour’s additional tweaking and messing about but that was it. As Sig and I discussed the app, I said it would be nice to tie it into document management as there’s often a tie between work and documents – no problem – it will do that out the box, if you so wish. (I didn’t get a screenshot of that – drat.)
  • It can be skinned any way you choose – I’ve suggested Sig consider providing some easy to use configuration options rather than the current time consuming hand coded CSS templating (don’t worry if this doesn’t make any sense – it’s a pain that’s all – not hard)
  • Out the gate it can be deployed in any network using any machine capable of running a browser.
  • You can take the idea of time and expense and extend it to provide almost unlimited types of calculated report – a bit like using spreadsheets that you can develop and template
  • There’s an inbuilt clock so the need for timestamping is eradicated.
  • You can construct the processes anyway you wish so you can for instance use it for billing on any time period you choose and for any type of work or client type.
  • You can over-ride for under and over-recovery
  • You can set access levels to suit your organisation – hint – how about giving clients access so they can see how you’re spending their money on an ongoing basis?
  • Tags can be applied to any or all parts of the system so you can for example report and search the way you work – e.g. – a query could be raised that says: “Provide a list of all clients beginning with A where we have accumulated greater than £1K WIP and where the work relates to CGT planning.” Why would you do that? It’s meaningful in the context of how we think. We simply don’t think in hierarchies (account number 1003>1056 for instance) but in conceptual wholes. Tagging allows us to find things to which we relate in a contextual manner. Hence the power of tagged search. It is this power that lead a San Francisco reporter to discover my coverage of wikiCalc and get in touch for a press interview.
  • Who can use this? Anyone who is a business analyst with a decent understanding of macro programming. Advanced Excel users will have little difficulty picking this up.
  • How long to learn the basic concepts? 15-30 minutes and then you’ve got to do stuff on your own to figure out what it can do for you. Beware, you might have too much fun and forget the time.
  • When is it available? 2 months will see Thingamy with 80% functionality and it will be at that point that a release will go out into the big wide world. We’re holding you to that one Sig – it’s been 5 years in the making.
  • How much? I’m not allowed to say. But…here’s a clue…If you know the annualised cost of running Microsoft Office then you’re not far off the mark.

The only thing it really needs to know are the process flows. Everything else is up to you. You’ve got some learning to do but that’s true for any new application. In this case though,. you’ve got a tool that can go one heck of a distance. there is one proviso – everyone should use it because that’s how you get the best value. It won’t take you long to see that but it will challenge your preconceptions about how applications are meant to work.

And if you want a flag waving reason to do this – the current programming team are largely Cambridge based.

If anyone wants to get into this in more detail and would like to schedule some time on this then I’m sure Sig will be happy to explain it to you. I’d suggest initial contact via email. Alternatively, I’m happy to discuss this in more detail.

Disclosure: I’m not paid a penny by Sig I just love Thingamy. Why? Because it solves a very important problem for professionals. It provides a breakthrough way of adapting to the way you want to work but without the pain of building customisations while leaving you in control. It can replace a lot of expensive alternatives.

PS – the chap behind Sig’s original marketing and blog work is none other than Hugh MacLeod. One of my favourite recovering ad agency guys. And for those thinking about serious corporate eventing involving a set of golf sticks, he’s about to do a gig with these folk. Nice one Hugh.

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Ric February 28, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Like I said – way better than a bunch of glossy brochures! Now – how do you see it scaling? Could you see it running a reasonable-sized (or even large) company?

Dennis Howlett February 28, 2006 at 10:53 pm

looking at 10 partner, 100-120 person business scenarios – not hugely complex but a lot of reporting. Can be used as hosted but not proven. So really a lot depends on your circumstances – you could maybe see a 500 employee simple BTO type organisation getting into this – with 100'ish on SG&A.

David Terrar March 1, 2006 at 12:12 am

It's difficult to get the full sense of this from a few screen shots, but it looks like a very powerful and useful tool. I'll certainly be contacting Sigurd tomorrow to find out more and to take a closer look. Good fertilisation!

Dennis Howlett March 1, 2006 at 12:36 am

As much feedback as possible please – I'd like to know whether the thinking can be carried forward into real product – maybe for the channel?

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