How to Make Remote Communication Much More Easier
Ment: a convenient tool for remote companies
Serokell is a remote company with employees all around the world. On one hand, it’s great — we can hire the best software engineers regardless of their location. On the other hand, remote workers are harder to monitor. Also, the employees often feel confused about their role in the company.
We wanted to use a tool inspired by our internal processes that would help us fight these difficulties. A tool that would adjust to our needs instead of us adjusting to it. This is what motivated us to create Ment.
What is Ment?
Ment is a web application that can aggregate different software based on the company’s needs and tasks.
At first, we set as our priority the implementation of the following features: team monitoring and team management. We were also attracted to the idea of an assessment system for measuring and reporting the employees’ productivity. However, deciding on the parameters was hard if not impossible. Also, the data pool would be too small anyway to collect accurate information.
So, we started working on the product focusing on our vital needs at that moment — team management and visibility. In the interface of Ment, it is possible to find all the information you need about the projects — people who work on them, links to GitHub, YouTrack, Slack group chats. The same goes for people — you immediately see what they are doing now, what projects they are working on, whether they are on vacation or not. It brings so much more order in the remote company where you can’t just chit chat with your colleagues over a cup of coffee.
Right now, Ment is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, we’re already actively using it inside the company, and it shows great results. We are planning to release the first version to the public and continue working on Ment in the future.
Who is Ment for
We believe that Ment can be useful to any company that is now obliged to go remote because of COVID-19. We decided to distribute Ment in order to support other fellow companies and organizations. A free trial period lasts for 3 months.
However, Ment was built by software engineers for software engineers and primarily serves to three categories of users:
- Teams. One of the main functions of Ment is to display the company’s hierarchy. Ment also provides the workers with a user-friendly dashboard where they can track workdays and holidays, hours they have worked the previous day/week/month and their tasks. Everyone can see what other people are working on, which projects are in progress and for what time period. In order to send a bill to the employer, people can also use Ment.
- HR. Human resources get a convenient tool where they can monitor actual working hours of the employees. It allows for better care of the employees: those who overwork might be under too much pressure, while those who underwork maybe face lack of motivation. It is possible to manage vacations and days off in the same interface. An employees’ need for a vacation can be processed in just two clicks.
- CEOs and management. The founders of the company and the heads of the departments can use Ment to be aware of what is going on. They see the work progress and current workload of a particular team or even a particular person.
Features of Ment
This is what you will be able to access in the first public release of Ment.
- Dashboard. Dashboard in Ment is a place where you can see yours and your team’s work progress. You can inspect how many hours they have spent on tasks and what tasks they are solving right now.
- Time Reports. This tab displays every employee in the company and the projects they are working on. In IT companies, there are usually a number of projects and you can see how the employees are distributed to different activities.
- Time Tracking. Here you can see time tracking and tasks of every member of the company, not just your team. This guarantees transparency and openness that are so important for a remote team where the employees cannot chat during a coffee break. This tab displays all your time tracks in chronological order. They are automatically collected from Youtrack. It is also possible to link Toggle there if you use this time tracking website.
- Teams. Teams is a tab that shows the hierarchy of the teams and reserve of personnel. The admin can arrange people in teams and assign roles to them. It also contains customizable onboarding checklists that facilitate the process of adding new members to the team. These help not to miss important steps like creating a Slack account or signing an NDA.
- Projects. This tab informs you about all the projects that the company is working on. You can also see the people who are working on these projects and access relevant links such as Youtrack issues, GitHub repositories, and Slack channels. The link to a project can be shared with a client if they want to see who works on their projects or study the documentation.
- Users. This tab is only available to admins. It contains a table that matches all the user accounts in one space. Here your HRs can add and delete accounts for each user. Also, the tab allows you to manage the requested vacations clicking on a tick or cross icons.
- Settings. Here users can manage their accounts and profile information.
Ment is integrated with the following services right now:
- Google — for sign up/sign in;
- Slack — onboarding, task allocation;
- YouTrack — time tracking, issue management;
- Toggle — time tracking;
- GitHub — project management.
We are planning to add more features:
- JIRA integration — work in progress;
- Telegram integration — work in progress;
- Trello integration;
- Mobile phone support;
- ML-based team performance analysis.
How Ment was born
We’ve used a couple of different tools in our work:
- GitHub and GitLab for working on projects, reviewing and allocating tasks;
- YouTrack to report tasks and track progress;
- Slack and Gmail for communication;
- Toggle, Clockify, TimeCamp etc. to track the number of working hours. The employees choose whatever service they like, then they have to manually report their tracks in YouTrack.
Don’t get us wrong, we’ve been satisfied with each of these tools in particular. However, together they create an unwieldy system, which is inconvenient for managing people and projects. We wanted to merge the information from different tracking sources in one place without giving up on good old tools completely.
The idea of Ment belongs to Arseniy Seroka, the co-founder of Serokell. He wanted to develop a service for in-company use to monitor resources and activities.
Ment’s purpose is to increase visibility. We wanted our employees to understand the company’s structure and be able to see what others were doing. This would eliminate the sense of disconnectedness that remote workers often have.
In addition, Ment allocates tasks from different resources to save up time and boost productivity. At this moment, this is one of the key features of Ment.
It would be wrong to say that there were no other acceptable solutions on the market when we started to think about Ment.
- There are full-featured software systems for remote companies like Jira or Microsoft Teams. However, we were just feeling that they weren’t right for us. If we had to transition to one of these platforms, we would have to give up on Slack or Youtrack (which we were, honestly, pretty happy with). Neither did we want to become dependent on off-the-shelf solutions where you’re not free to choose the components.
- It is also possible to apply smaller HR tools for resource management and onboarding. However, they wouldn’t be able to cover all the tasks that we wanted to cover.
As they say, “If you want a thing well done, do it yourself”.
The backend of Ment is mostly written in Elixir (we love this programming language and here we explain why). It is perfect for web application development and allows us to easily integrate data from different sources. However, in the future, we will probably use Haskell more. In our team, we have more proficient Haskellers than Elixir developers. Therefore, it will be easier for us to scale and develop the project.
Ment as the go-to for remote companies
Considering the situation in the world, almost everybody now has to figure out how to work remotely. For 3 months, businesses that are now suffering from pandemic can use it for their own benefit completely free of charge. You can sign up for a free trial at ment.hr.
In exchange — let us know your feedback! We are going to proceed with the development of Ment by adding more integrations and valuable features. Leave us comments below if you want to recommend or ask something.