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The 10,000-mile view: How a satellite provider tracks time and creates winning reports with Tempo

Custom Charts solved the issue that was identified, had the right features and support, and made sense for the team.
From Team '23

Tempo Team

Key Takeaways

Inmarsat is a global satellite communications company experiencing fast growth – and as with any company undergoing big changes, the organization has to constantly rethink legacy tools and processes that have outlived their usefulness.

With roots stretching back to 1979, the 2,000-person, UK-based Inmarsat has had plenty of time to accumulate tools and processes – something that patched a problem in the moment, but isn’t built for organization-wide efficiency or scaling. After a while, those short-term patches are everywhere.

“Those Band-Aids eventually build up to where they’re like an inch thick,” says Dan Tombs, Atlassian Architect at Inmarsat, who is one of those currently ripping off those Band-Aids and replacing them with more efficient, flexible, system-wide solutions to problems.

But how do you know what to replace and the best tool to replace it with? It’s not always just a matter of what works now, but also what will keep working in the future to not just be another Band-Aid and be something team members can be excited about.

This is how Tombs brought in Atlassian tools and apps, including Timesheets and Custom Charts by Tempo, and saw company-wide success.

Replacing the Band-Aids

In a growing company, every decision about a new tool and process needs to be made with an eye toward flexibility for the future. Every department is busy and vetting new solutions takes time – but it’s well worth the effort, especially in a global marketplace that is increasingly competitive.

Tombs’ background is in consulting, so he’s well versed in selecting tools. His basic process for selecting them:

  • Does it solve your actual problem? If there's extra functionality in the app, is it something you can see the value in?

  • Can we use an app we already pay for and get the same functionality?

  • Are you paying for features you aren’t using? Does the value you get from it exceed what you’re paying?

  • Is the marketplace vendor accessible to customers and easy to work with?

  • Is it an established brand with a good reputation?

“All of these things play into your decision – are they a household name? Are they reasonably priced? That’s the one I know I’m going to first,” he said.

So how does this work in action?

Going all-in on Jira and Timesheets

Inmarsat’s old time-logging system felt like it was homemade (“Basically someone going into a spreadsheet,” says Tombs). With a standalone system, users would have to switch into the app, estimate their time, and plug in the numbers they thought best represented their workday.

Those numbers weren’t tied to any data except the users’ own guesses and, because this tool was made in-house, internal teams had to spend time maintaining it as well.

When considering a replacement, several engineering teams specifically requested a Jira-based time-logging system.

“The engineering teams said: ‘We live in Jira anyway, and we’re going to get better and more accurate data if we just run it from there,” Tombs says.

With other departments in the company also working within Atlassian – we are long past the time where Jira and Confluence were only for the devs – a Jira-based time tracker just made sense. What Tombs needed was a tool that would fit right into their workflow and take out all the hassle of maintenance, switching, and manual entry.

Tombs said this was the obvious choice, thanks to his prior work with the tool and its reputation for customer service and features like the ability to categorize expenditures as CAPEX or OPEX to differentiate those activities for reporting purposes.

Collecting better data – faster

Another reason that led Tombs to choose Timesheets is its ability to provide suggestions as users are logging time. Rather than have to go back and research or remember how they spent their hours, Timesheets can prompt them. And as of the recent update, AI-powered intelligent suggestions help users log their time even faster.

Tombs says product managers in particular benefited from using Timesheets’ calendar integrations to log time quickly, and to analyze time spent in meetings.

Timesheets leverages intelligent suggestions from dozens of sources, such as IDEs and Calendars, to speed up the time logging process.

Timesheets is still getting rolled out among various departments at Inmarsat. At this point, it’s a matter of helping users build the habit of logging the few details they need and building up time-logging data to be useful to the company. This data empowers users to make better estimates on future projects, based on the time tracked to previous projects.

“It takes all of 15 seconds to do,” Tombs noted, and when users can do their logging quickly and understand why it’s important for the organization, Timesheets was an intuitive move.

Custom Charts for better communication

“The sign of good software is when you can immediately see the benefit it’s going to provide you,” Tombs says. “Custom Charts for Jira hit the nail on the head perfectly in some of Jira’s weaker areas: Standardized reporting, ease of use, and good functionality.”

That is why Custom Charts ended up being a hit among various teams, from production managers to operations. Not every change needs to reinvent the wheel, and there is no need to shy away from an easy win if it answers the core four questions Tombs has for new tools.

He said: “An intuitive tool where you just click a button and get a result is always going to have better adoption rates than a more complicated one.”

Users can create their own Jira data charts and share them with any audience – an obviously useful solution for any team that needs to communicate with multiple stakeholders, especially to justify decisions or argue for more budget.

Another advantage of Custom Charts is that users make reports directly on Jira dashboards, not in a separate platform or database. Therefore, teams and their managers are seeing live data in the system they’re actually working in. This helps organizations like Inmarsat achieve a single source of truth, improving collaboration between personnel and departments.

Custom Charts solved the issue that was identified, had the right features and support, and made sense for the team.

‘Cloud-first’ in a global organization

Atlassian tools are a growing presence among Inmarsat teams, and the cloud-first mentality of Atlassian and Tempo aligns with Inmarsat as well.

Cloud software is an obvious operational win, according to Tombs. With an on-prem instance, up to 40 percent of developer time is spent on maintaining that system. That goes down to five percent, as cloud automated updates and centralized upkeep from the provider remove all maintenance tasks from in-house.

Freeing up that much developer time is a massive gain for those teams, who can now focus on much more productive activities.

Tombs said: “You’re making your engineers so much more productive and therefore the business is going to benefit because they get all this extra time to do what they want to do, not the stuff no-one cares about.

Inmarsat has to maintain several Jira Cloud instances thanks to its global footprint – different jurisdictions have different data residency requirements – but has embraced cloud software.

Tombs said: “Aside from industries with very strict regulatory requirements, there’s almost no reason you wouldn’t want to be on the cloud.”

By working with Tempo, Tombs has the added peace of mind that his tools are ‘Cloud fortified’. In order to have the accreditation, Tempo must pass Atlassian's cloud app security programs and undergo additional checks for service reliability and performance.

“From intellectual property, to protecting customer data, there’s a million reasons why Inmarsat needs to be diligent with data protection. Vetting our vendors and ensuring they’re up to scratch is a vital part of my job. Thankfully, Tempo goes above and beyond” Tombs added.

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