TL; DR: ActivTrak’s business intelligence platform helps small, medium, and enterprise-level organizations monitor employee activity to drive performance. The solution, available via freemium and affordable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) plans, provides insight on user behavior, productivity, and potential threats. With plans to incorporate artificial intelligence into the already robust cloud platform, ActivTrak intends to provide even more insight on how employees spend their workdays.
My first professional job required me to track my daily activity through a manual timesheet system. At the end of each day, I’d attempt to quantify what I’d accomplished within the confines of the company’s checkbox-based form.
The task was onerous and imprecise, and it was the last thing I wanted to tackle at the end of a stressful workday. If the system was meant to measure my productivity, it did the opposite, interfering with my workflow on a daily basis.
Today, businesses have better options for managing employee activity and driving performance. Take ActivTrak, for example. The cloud-based business intelligence platform automatically tracks online user behavior to collect data on application title bars, website URLs, activity duration, and idle time. These data tell a story far more illuminating than do manual records begrudgingly slapped together by a busy employee.
The industry seems to agree, with the global User Activity Monitoring (UAM) market expected to reach $3.33 billion by 2023.
“In the beginning, the employee monitoring market was focused on rooting out abuses of company resources, but from there, it’s really evolved,” said Herb Axilrod, Co-Founder of ActivTrak. “We’re compiling statistics not only on one user but aggregating over multiple users, groups, the entire organization — and enabling leaders to make data-driven business decisions.”
To that end, ActivTrak’s ultimate goal is to provide the insight businesses need to drive performance, whether that’s through employee observation, behavioral analytics, or insider threat detection. The company’s freemium package makes the service accessible, while a robust Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution is available at an affordable price point. Now, with plans to integrate artificial intelligence capabilities into the platform, ActivTrak is poised to provide an even more in-depth look into employee productivity metrics.
The Insight You Need to Drive Performance
ActivTrak, headquartered in Austin, was founded in 2012 by Herb and Co-Founder Anton Seidler. When the pair began working on the technology, the market niche for employee monitoring was in its infancy. “I thought it’d be cool to get an idea of how people are using their computers by tracking the title of the active window,” Herb said. “Modern operating systems allow for multitasking, so you have a lot of applications, windows, and tabs open. The active window is the one you’re engaging with your keyboard and mouse.”
Herb centered the program around the title of the active window because it is indicative of what’s going on inside the application. That basic concept remains today, although the platform also offers analytics tools akin to the ones Google Analytics provides for sites.
“We’re monitoring how they proceed through their day from application to application, from website to website, and collecting data on how much time they spend,” Herb said. “Then we analyze those statistics, helping users observe trends and make business decisions accordingly.
Herb said ActivTrak’s move to the cloud allowed the company to increase the accessibility of its platform, as cloud platforms require less investment, reduce operational efforts, and decrease maintenance costs. “Originally our product was a peer-to-peer, LAN-based solution,” he said. “After we retooled it into a cloud-based platform, the opportunities took off.”
The new platform is more scalable, makes it easier for users to get started, and can handle more sophisticated analytics.
“It’s much easier to bring these things to bear when your data is cloud-based than if you’re trying to run it in someone else’s computer center,” Herb said. “The cloud is the future — it makes the platform so much easier to install and maintain. Plus, data are reported via https, rather than having to deal with firewalls between subnets on local computers.”
Use Cases: Monitoring, UBA, and Insider Threat Detection
ActivTrak is undeniably useful as a workforce management and productivity measurement tool, but Herb said not every use case is that straightforward. ActivTrak provides the tools and reports necessary for admins to make informed decisions on a range of matters based on real data.
Herb said one customer he spoke with used the platform to improve operational efficiency. The customer, who owns a call center, wanted to know why his call center portal was often bogged down during certain times of the day, so he installed ActivTrak to take a closer look at the bottlenecks.
“He wound up redesigning the web portal, increasing efficiency based on data from the program,” he said. “That’s something that we could never have anticipated.”
Others leverage the software to detect insider threats, which can be intentional or accidental and often come from employees, partners, and contractors with inside knowledge of the company network. Herb said a simple USB drive is of the most common tools used to exfiltrate company data or introduce malware to company computers — and that’s why the ActivTrak launched its USB Detection feature.
The tool monitors the proper use of USB devices within the organization by sending administrators an alert any time a USB drive is used. After the alarm is triggered, the system can take screenshots, notify the security team, or add points to the user’s risk score.
“We have some customers who are more keyed into preventing insider threats, several are concerned with productivity analysis, and a whole other set are looking at aggregate productivity scores for individual employees, groups, and the organization as a whole,” Herb said. “Within these broad categories, there are different focuses.”
Freemium and SaaS Plans at Affordable Price Points
The behavior analysis software is available through a freemium pricing model in which entry plans are available at no cost. The free version helps provide a sense of how customizable and easy to use the software is. Businesses that outgrow these services can upgrade at any time, but free services sometimes do the trick.
“The product is entirely free for monitoring up to three users, it’s almost full-featured, and it doesn’t expire,” Herb said. “There are a few add-ons available in the paid subscription that aren’t included in the free version, and there’s also a limited amount of storage for screenshots and videos.”
If you have a small business or even wish to monitor school-aged children at home, the free product is a satisfactory solution as long as you periodically delete data. But Herb said the paid SaaS solution is an extremely affordable option complete with valuable extras like website blocking.
“The service allows you to identify and block malicious websites for a price point that’s affordable for the midsize company, especially compared with expensive firewall-based solutions that might cost tens of thousands of dollars and an employee to maintain,” he said.
The productivity monitoring suite itself is drastically more affordable than its enterprise-level counterparts. “Products meant for the enterprise are very expensive, difficult to set up, and hard to manage, whereas ActivTrak is a simple installation,” Herb said. “You just download the agent and start using the software — you’d be surprised at the kind of data you start collecting immediately.”
Leveraging the Power of Artificial Intelligence
In March, ActivTrak announced that venture capital firm Elsewhere Partners is aiming to accelerate development through a $20 million Series A investment in the productivity monitoring company.
As part of the investment, the venture capital firm brought in a team of seasoned software leaders to fulfill the company’s desire for rapid growth. Eventually, ActivTrak intends to tap into the power of artificial intelligence, empowering users to take a more in-depth look at employee productivity metrics.
“We anticipate using AI for screenshot analysis, trends identification, and more,” Herb said. “There’s a lot of excitement brewing around AI, and we may be able to identify problems we didn’t even know we had. It’s very promising.”