By Stuart Weinberg of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

TORONTO (Dow Jones)–Life just got harder for slackers.

Replicon Inc., a Calgary start-up, has a new software product, called Promax, that measures employee productivity. The product is aimed at professionals – lawyers, engineers, consultants – who bill by the hour. It allows employers to set billable hour targets for employees, project teams or an entire company, and receive real-time feedback on whether those targets are being met.

“What we’ve found is, it’s a real motivating factor,” said Replicon chief executive John Eddy.

But does ProMax extend management’s reach too far, violating an employee’s right to a certain level of privacy?

Eddy says no, and bristles when words like “monitor” or “Orwellian” are used to describe Promax. “Rather than the word monitor, I would (say) we’re providing corporate visibility that kind of energizes the individual contribution to the profit line,” the executive said.

Companies have always monitored employee productivity, Eddy added, but they use less timely and more cryptic methods. ProMax allows employees to keep real-time tabs on their performance by checking a productivity barometer. A green barometer indicates a target is being met. A red barometer means you need to get moving.

“Once (employees have) actually used our system, what they say is ‘this is a lot better (than other methods of evaluation),’ ” Eddy said.

Product Fills Administrative Void

ProMax is a natural follow-on to Replicon’s first product, Web TimeSheet, which allows companies to track payrolls, project costs and client billing.

Both products fill administrative voids, as many companies rely on different – often incompatible – software systems to bill clients and process payrolls, or they do these things manually, Eddy said.

Remington Associates Ltd., a network and security consulting firm, began using ProMax and Web TimeSheet two months ago. “It’s really become a critical component,” said Jeremy Simon, senior project director at Remington.

The Schaumberg, Ill. company considered a number of products before choosing Replicon, Simon said. Competing products were generally more expensive and not as good, he said.

ProMax and Web TimeSheet cost Remington just US$6,000 to install, Simon said. “(When) they told us (the price), we all kind of looked at each other and we just started giggling,” he said.

Remington’s 30 employees have embraced ProMax, Simon said. “They need to track this information anyway, so really, nothing has changed in that sense except we’ve made it easier for them,” he said.

Replicon, which was cash-flow positive in 2001 with revenues of about C$3.5 million, began offering ProMax in November. About 16 of its 625 customers use the product, which costs $20 per user. So far,no one has complained about privacy being invaded, Eddy said.

Replicon is in sales discussions with some of its largest customers, which include Hewlett-Packard Co. (HWP), Compaq Computer Corp. (CPQ) and Charles Schwab Corp. (SCH), regarding ProMax.

The company, which has 45 employees, hasn’t completed any case studies calculating the savings that can be derived by using ProMax, but necdotal information from customers suggests worker productivity has increased by up to 5%-10% a month, Eddy said.

Company Web Site: www.replicon.com

-Stuart Weinberg, Dow Jones Newswires; 416-306-2026; stuart.weinberg@dowjones.com

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