For about a decade, Frances B. Craig looked for a product to build her company around. She had started an information technology consulting company but missed building software to help companies operate efficiently.
She had led the design and development of the tracking system at the DHL unit of Deutsche Post AG to streamline international deliveries.
In 1998, Craig found what she was looking for -- a Web-based timesheet program that allows companies to accurately assess the time their employees spent on projects. She re-engineered her company, launching Unanet Technologies Inc.
The timesheet program is part of a software suite called Professional Services Automation. Its database allows managers to pull up reports and determine the status of any project.
For example, Unanet helps government contractors, a big slice of the company's clientele, comply with contract rules to keep a log of how many hours they spend on a project and what work they do.
The Web-based software suite automates expense reports and reports for project managers. It also helps forecast and schedule projects based on employees' skills and availability. And it allows virtual collaboration on documents and notes, which is especially valuable when teams of employees are working in different countries.
"It gives managers visibility into the work as it goes on, instead of waiting at the end of the month when accounting does its work," Craig said. Unanet also promotes its product as reducing error (expenses can only be charged from authorized accounts), cutting costs (no paperwork), and getting projects done faster. "People can be paid quicker," she said.
Craig, who started out as a programmer, has almost 40 years in the information technology industry. She worked at GTE Telenet and Carnegie Mellon University. She received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind., in the 1960s, with advanced studies at Carnegie Mellon.
Unanet's client list has grown, Craig said, to more than 280 this year from nine in 1998. Among them are seven of the top 100 government contractors. Titan Corp., a large government contractor, has 12,700 users for Unanet's product, Craig said.
Her company is preparing to release Unanet 7.0, a new version of its suite with an updated user interface for faster data entry.