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Wednesday, 16 May 2012 | By Oliver Milman

start-up-profile-deputy-ahmedAfter realising that many businesses still use paper-based and time consuming processes for work schedules, Ashik Ahmed came up with an idea to shake things up.


Ahmed created Deputy.com, a cloud-based system that handles staff rosters, tasks and management.


The Deputy team explain their plans to take the start-up from an idea to an international business.


Can you explain who is behind the business and a bit about their backgrounds?


The Deputy platform was created, conceived and built by Ashik Ahmed, and a team of software engineers and user experience designers.


A computer science graduate, Ahmed built a work scheduling software system for an airline services, maintenance and ground-handling company five years ago.


The program was aimed at tasking staff to efficiently turn around planes. The project was a wild success and enabled that company to grow rapidly and win new contracts.


When Ahmed decided to take a break, Steve Shelley, the owner of Aero-Care asked him if he would partner with him to build a company where together they could comprehensively expand on the concept of what was learned at Aero-Care and take it to the world; with that, Deputy was born.


Deputy has recently hired a CEO, Nathan Brumby, to drive growth. Brumby has extensive international experience in the corporate IT world.


He has worked in the US and Australia for data storage giant EMC, where he was global head of product strategy and management for its management software business.


Brumby managed an international team of more than 200 staff at EMC and has tremendous experience in bringing new technologies to market.


What first gave you the idea for Deputy.com?


The genesis of Deputy was its success in the airline services business. The team behind Deputy saw an opportunity to create a platform that any business with a decentralised workforce could utilise to be more productive.


Many businesses still use onerous manual and paper-based systems to run their time sheets, work rosters, and task allocation and management.


Managers spend far too much time setting team work schedules, calling staff to see if they are available to work a shift or do a job, and dealing with a pile of paper at the end of a work day.


The idea behind Deputy is to systemise the work scheduling and task allocation process to ensure the right person is doing the right job at the right time.


We believed that by creating a web-based system and deploying the cost advantages of cloud computing, the Deputy platform would deliver outstanding productivity to businesses, and can transform the way they run their daily operations.


What convinced you that the marketplace wants and needs this?


We scanned the market and saw there were many software providers only offering one piece of the puzzle, such as workflow, payroll management, and time and attendance.


We also knew that many systems are clunky and not intuitive.


Also, no one was addressing the core problem of running a streamlined operation and eliminating the time-consuming part of ensuring managers and staff are aligned to a common goal.


Our first wave of customers were in the hotel and pubs sector, and as soon as they saw it, they knew Deputy was a powerful system that could streamline the way they manage time and attendance, rostering, task allocation, and ensuring the right people are doing the right task.


There are several other platforms that provide a similar service. What’s your point of difference?


Our point of difference is around the breadth of the functions that we can manage for a business, and the user experience we have built into the web interface. For example, we can manage all of the productivity data that a business wants.


Also, Deputy is the only workforce management application that everyone in a business uses. The staff use Deputy to log their attendance and time on a job, and the manager can track tasks and use it as a performance management tool.


That ubiquity gives us a powerful competitive advantage as soon as it’s embedded with the customer.


There is a significant benefit also in designing an attractive visual dashboard. Employees find it easy to use and interact with and use it as a two-way communications platform with their managers.


How long has it taken you to build the business?


Deputy launched in 2008 and has quickly built a strong customer base in the hotels, pubs, and clubs sector, in fast food chains, in childcare services, engineering, and in other contracting services businesses.


We have around 70 customers and 5,000 users and we are looking to scale quickly. We have achieved this growth without a dedicated sales team.


Our growth has come initially through business networks, and word of mouth.


We recently launched version 1.5 of our platform, which has enhanced features.


We are now in trials with some major brand names in retail and hospitality, and we are evaluating partnerships with other cloud-based providers and vendors.


What have been the major hurdles you’ve had to overcome so far? How have you reacted to these challenges?


The major challenge was to code and create the cloud-computing platform that Deputy sits on.


We didn’t build a webpage or website, we developed a cloud application that runs anywhere on any device.


We didn’t want to be hostage to any application software vendor’s environment, or be held back by their technology. Our motto is, “If it’s not cloud, it’s not allowed.”


We knew our target customers needed a powerful processing engine that could do fast calculations and process their weekly rostering schedules in a matter of seconds.


The Deputy system can process an enormous amount of data. It may sound easy to build such a cloud-based system, but it was very challenging.


The other challenge has been to ensure that the usability on the web management dashboard is highly intuitive and meets the needs of our customers.


We are extremely picky about having an excellent user interface.


We have been largely successful with designing a powerful customer experience, though we are mindful of delivering the best system with each platform upgrade.


What are your plans for the business, in both the short and long term?


Ultimately, we plan to take the business beyond Australia.


We believe any business with a decentralised workforce can cut costs radically with Deputy, and become extremely productive.


In the short term, we are looking to expand into more sectors, such as mining, franchising, and retail.


We also have another key short-term goal, and that is the launch of our mobile app.


Once we launch our app in July, we have a complete solution that fixes a whole lot of problems for managers of distributed workforces.


Every manager and every employee will be able to manage their work lives from their hip pocket. The key is to get the usability aspects perfected.


We have looked around the global workforce management market and no one else is creating quite what we offer.


We truly believe Deputy can improve the work life of everyone employed with an organisation.