Pärtel Vurma

“Toggl Plan creates shared awareness.”

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Piers Ticknell

How the need for a long-term overview made Velvet to ditch their beloved whiteboard. “Toggl Plan creates shared awareness,” says Pärtel Vurma, the CEO of Estonia’s leading design studio Velvet.

About Velvet

Velvet are an independent strategic design agency based in Tallinn, Estonia.
They believe that clarity and simplicity are among the most powerful business tools as well as a vehicle to happiness. There is no argument, no magic, no trickery that can defeat “this makes sense”. They are not big on hierarchy, but are big on collaboration and straight talk. They are friendly, playful and sometimes  break the rules.

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Pärtel’s story

We’re sitting in Velvet’s small conference room on the ground floor of their loft-style office in Telliskivi, the heart of Tallinn’s cultural life. The shared awareness is why the team at Velvet has been using Toggl Plan for more than 3 years, after trying a myriad of team planning methods. First, there were personal manuals on paper, then spreadsheets, and finally a whiteboard. “It looked like a daily schedule you see in middle school,” Pärtel says.

Although Pärtel liked how the whiteboard made schedule changes very apparent. Where the whiteboard did not deliver was communication: no one had a clear overview of the long-term needs of all project managers. That sparked conflict between the managers over resources. And that, in turn, made everyone’s life more stressful and complicated. The lack of a clear overview of project status also made it hard to efficiently sell and plan design services, a skill that is necessary for an already successful design studio to truly thrive.

Scheduled face-offs and standups

Don’t get me wrong, Velvet’s project managers still argue. But instead of doing it all day every day, they have allocated the time for it on Monday afternoons. “We have a weekly planning meeting where we re-evaluate the timelines, reschedule if needed and decide whether or not there are things that need to be outsourced,” explains Pärtel, who acts as a referee.  This is accompanied by daily standups where the whole team confirms their job list for the day and gets a chance to ask for any extra input.

Toggl Plan serves as the fundamental tool for those meetings. All project managers use it religiously to allocate time for their projects and to keep track of their own tasks. They sometimes add up to 10 tasks to each day, just to have one secure place where all tasks are written down. Whatever doesn’t get finished will be pushed on to the next day.

However, it is important to note that although they spend about 8 hours at the office, only 6 hours are allocated for work for every person, to make sure no one will burn out in the fast pace of agency life.

Sometimes no automation works best

Toggl Plan is not the only tool Velvet uses. They make sure to measure time with Toggl Track and keep an eye on the upcoming tasks with Scoro. They haven’t integrated any of those applications though. “Sometimes the lack of automation is a good thing. It makes sure we double check everything and that there’s a human in control of the whole process.”

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