Data entry, uploading and sending files, filling out and submitting time sheets: these are the kinds of admittedly boring tasks that are crucial in keeping everyone up to date and everything trucking along as it should on projects – miss one and things get held up.
A digital assistant or bot for project teams, Sydney startup Stratejos aims to help team members and project managers with their daily admin and coordination so they can focus on the bigger picture.
The idea for Stratejos was born out of founder Scott Middleton’s experience at product development consulting firm Terem Technologies, where he has been CEO since late 2011. Here, he said, he felt the pain of team admin and coordination falling down.
“I observed that this was also common with our clients and that the cause of this pain was mostly due to a lack of time rather than desire. So, Stratejos was born to solve my challenges scaling project teams as well as a desire to free people up from tedious admin,” he said.
The idea, Middleton explained, originally centered on the development of an analytics and reporting tool for teams before the focus shifted to examine some of the factors behind a team’s performance.
“As we dug deeper we realised that it would not matter how great our reports were because teams really needed automation to help get all the little administrative tasks done that feed into helping the team be more productive,” he said.
This work was in part informed by a partnership with Deakin University and powered by an Entrepreneurs Programme grant from the Federal Government.
Leveraging Deakin’s capabilities around artificial intelligence, Middleton said the work with the university was key in helping Stratejos determine “what was possible and what was fantasy” when planning its AI and machine learning capabilities.
“We established some clear boundaries and low hanging fruit. At the moment, a lot of the low hanging fruit can be tackled with algorithms, rules engines and some simple machine learning. The more advanced techniques, like deep learning, do raise some exciting possibilities but there is a lot of evolution technology-wise and culture-wise that needs to happen before project teams are ready for this,” he said.
While it works on “more advanced intelligence” based on the work conducted with Deakin, the current Stratejos system works by having users add it to a Slack or HipChat workspace, connecting it to Jira, and then simply chatting with it.
“You can chat to it almost like you would chat to a colleague, for example ‘@stratejos find login screen’ or ‘@stratejos create task Change red button to green’. Stratejos will also remind people of admin they may have forgotten like entering a missing estimate, due date or timesheet,” Middleton explained.
Stratejos’s capabilities are grouped into ‘Skills’, which users can rifle through and use depending on what’s most relevant for them.
“The feature that has had the most take-up is Stratejos’s ability to let users chat through Slack with Jira. This means you can use natural language, like typing ‘create a task’, to create a task in your favourite project tools, like Jira,” Middleton said.
“This sounds simple but people are delighted by the ability. It lets them stay within the flow of the conversation they are having in their chat tools.”
Stratejos also has a project management skill, for example alerting managers if a team member may be overloaded, a budget has been exceeded, or a particular task has been taking too long to complete.
Focused on software and IT teams in medium to large organisations, Stratejos has grown to more than 6,000 monthly active users globally, with the likes of “well known tech companies to Fortune 500 companies [and] smaller private firms you’ve never heard of” among its clients.
“Our first set of customers and users came through a mix of face to face sales and online ads. This has evolved to focus primarily on online channels, like SEO and content marketing with less face to face sales,” Middleton said.
The startup has been pushed along by the Startmate accelerator, which it took part in earlier this year, and the raising of $595,000 in funding from investors including Rimon.
“I was primarily looking for people that understood the market, had experience and could move quickly. What I found with Rimon was all of these and more,” Middleton said.
With this funding in hand, Middleton said the startup’s focus for the coming year is to “create the most delightful and productive assistant for individuals on teams and their managers”.
He said, “Delight for us is over investing to create those moments for our users of pure love. Productivity for us is about making every little daily activity for you more and more efficient as well as giving you tips on how to better master what you do.”
With that, the startup will be introducing new integrations, with Google Hangouts Chat already in private beta.