Product Review: HourStack
Track and Connect Remote Teams, Increase Productivity
The world of work as we know it is dynamic and changing more than ever. Freelancers occupied just 6% of the workforce in 1989. Today, that number is over 43%. Remote working has also become more accepted, with reports showing 115% increase in the last 12 years.
While these professionals enjoy more freedom than typical office workers, they are also expected to prioritize, execute, and complete their work in a seamless manner. Yet despite an ever-growing list of workflow collaboration tools rolling out daily, these innovations can easily overwhelm or even hinder.
With our team of full-time, remote, and contract team members, we strive for the right balance between productivity, transparency, and efficiency.
That’s why we were so intrigued to test drive a new time-management and time-tracking tool called HourStack, designed to help keep individuals and teams on track.
Registering for HourStack was simple, complete with hints and tips designed to get us using the product from the start.
After registering for our trial, were immediately taken into the product with the ability to create an Entry — essentially a task or to-do in HourStack. Other options include attributes, and labels — the foundation for project management within the HourStack world.
Right off the bat, the HourStack introductory demo walks you through these basic elements, from creating entries to adding integrations.
Leaving notes are an added bonus for saving important details about your entry. We wish there was an import integration with other note-taking tools, but perhaps in time!
Team & Preferences
No matter what category of work you’re tackling, HourStack works best when you start to connect your team.
We created a team, but it wasn’t entirely noticeable how we could find it at first. One of our team members had created a separate workspace for their freelance assignments and when they were invited to the Message.io workspace, it was not abundantly clear.
We then realized there’s ability to toggle between workspaces — very helpful for juggling different clients or products.
Integrations Power Work & Teams
Integrations are the helpful keys to get you started and fill up your HourStack. We tried Slack, Zapier, and Google Calendar:
Google Calendar Integration
We liked that it was easy to drag things from the right sidebar from your Google Calendar straight into your HourStack day. This helps with our workflows and gives us the ability to adapt our schedules as much as we change our editorial projects, or to react to the changing comments and requests coming from our various writing drafts.
As huge fans of Slack and bots, we have to admit that we love this the most 🤖.
Pro Tip: start and stop your timer directly within Slack using
/hourstack start <insert project name>
In the future, we’d love to see a reminder feature within Slack, similar to the email preferences, so we can be reminded and spawn discussion with the rest of the team in Slack, if needed.
With Zapier, there are lots of other tools that could help with team workflows.
If a freelancer likes to use, Harvest, for example, but the team uses Asana, it would definitely come in handy. We set up a Zapier integration with HourStack and Slack for even more Slack capability.
To be honest — we haven’t fully leveraged all the reporting features yet, but seeing trends in our team utilization is interesting. Because our tasks are a bit more long-tail, we expect to get even more use out of this feature the longer we use it.
Key Learnings: Top Users & Use Cases
Our team at Message.io is small and lightly distributed, so the HourStack value prop is definitely compelling — especially for moderating and managing our content marketing efforts. We’ve used JIRA and Trello in the past, but evaluating estimated time versus actual time spent was not something we found easy to do with those tools.
HourStack has helped us answer questions like:
- What is the status of the blog post?
- How many hours did each of us work on the blog post?
- Did we accurately estimate the amount of time it takes?
- Who owns the next step in the publishing process?
- What can we learn from those numbers over time?
Based on our experience with HourStack, there’s three customer types we’d imagine could also benefit from trying it:
Whether managing clients or specific projects, HourStack seems great for helping freelancers who want to better track the actual time they’re spending on projects, while being transparent with clients.
Cross-functional, remote teams
Faced with much of the same challenges as freelancers because of their separation by distance and time-zones, cross-functional teams need software that can help track time, kick-off meetings, manage tasks and execute on the goals. While there are plenty of project management tools used by remote teams, HourStack would work well for teams like ours — a mix of contractors and full-time employees who need to manage budgets effectively.
Digital agencies & Dev shops
Because HourStack integrates with GitHub, Asana, and Bitbucket, it seems like a no brainer given the same points made above also apply to this group.
Have you given HourStack a try? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and share your favorite time-tracking tips with our community.