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Lessons Learned: Google and iCloud Calendars favorites for tracking business trips

24 Apr

It’s been an intense six months for our team. MileLogr is tied to the U.S. tax season (the three months ending in April 15) when 140 million taxpayers settle accounts with the tax man. This was our first season in the market after a three-month Beta period. If you’re not familiar with our product you might be asking what do mileage logs have to do with calendaring? Rather than fiddling around with odometer readings or GPS we offer users a novel, much easier approach to building a mileage log.

If you use a digital calendar to record business meetings and errands (even occasionally) MileLogr will read your calendar for the entire past year and reconstruct a daily route of where you traveled. Of course there are lots of route variations and we have options to account for that. The best thing is that you don’t have to remember to turn on a GPS or record the fact that we just took a trip in a log or on your smartphone(most people simply forget or find the overhead overwhelming). The route is there for you to review without having done anything explicit to make that happen.

A consequence of our approach is that we have a unique perspective into what calendaring apps our customers use in aggregate. Our product now supports all major online/server-based calendars: Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Hotmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo! Calendar, iCloud Calendar, or any other CalDAV service. To survive up to the point where we could build all these integrations over the last 18 months we were forced to do some heavy prioritization and since we are a Lean Startup, we started with several hypotheses. It wasn’t just about which calendar providers we should support but also how deep should we integrate with each feature set (recurring appointments? multiple calendars per account? appointments categories?).

Our MVP was the first stake in the ground. The hypothesis was that Outlook/Exchange was used by Gen X folks who mean “business” and Gmail was popular with Gen Y. So we released the MVP, just in time for 2012 tax season, with basic support for calendars on Microsoft Exchange (self-hosted and Office 365) and Google Calendar, in this order. Boy, were we wrong! Here’s what our stats show, a year later, during the 2013 tax season quarter:

mileage-log-calendar-stats

Exchange slice includes self-hosted and Office 365. Live slice represents Outlook.com and Hotmail. Even when you combine the two categories, Google Calendar usage surpasses calendar usage based on Microsoft products 3:1.

Fun fact: the little sliver of iCloud users are actually our best paying customers! Percentage-wise, the highest percentage of users who buy the buy the product after trying it out are iCloud Calendar users followed by Google Calendar users. I speculate that users of iCloud are folks who are fully bought into the Apple mobile ecosystem and the products integrate so well that the resulting data that’s generated is more suitable to the scenario we’re optimized to solve.

The things that you learn as you get older… 😉

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Use a Calendar for Mileage Logs and Tracking

7 Feb

Keeping track of how many miles you use a car is a total pain. There are many methods people use including:

  • Keeping a paper-based diary or log book where you write down your odometer readings after each trip.
  • Keeping a digital-based log book app on a mobile phone.
  • Using a dedicated GPS logging device installed in your car.
  • Using your calendar to determine where you drove, after the fact.

It turns out that the “use your calendar” solution works well for many people.  The steps for using that solution look something like this:

  1. When it’s time to create a mileage log get out your calendar (if it’s online, connect or open the calendar program you use, like Outlook).
  2. For every meeting you put on your calendar, decide whether the meeting was business related or not.
  3. If a meeting was business related, use the notes you kept to figure out where the meeting took place.
  4. Use Google Maps or Bing Maps to figure out the distance you drove to get to that meeting from the previous meeting (or home).
  5. Put all of this into spreadsheet or other document you can print.

This works well for many people. However it, too is a lot of work.

MileLogr does all that work for you!

When you create appointments on your calendar, you likely enter location information. For example, when you use Outlook to schedule an appointment with a client, you include the time of the appointment, the location, and the invited attendees, as in this example:

image

If you’re using an online calendar system such as Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s Office 365 / Exchange, or Google Calendar the information in your calendar is stored online.

MileLogr works by reading that location information (whether a business name, the name of a client, or an actual address) from your online calendar provider, and using sophisticated mapping technology to determine the driving distance between calendar entries.

MileLogr integrates with your digital calendar to create mileage logs for taxes, expense reports, and timesheets.

In other words, MileLogr synchronizes with your calendar information just like many calendar applications do – such as Microsoft Outlook, the Android Calendar app, the iPhone Calendar app, and others.  Just as multiple devices can connect to your email account and display emails or appointments, MileLogr connects to your calendar provider (which is typically the same as your email provider) to display and present your appointment information… in this case, to easily create appointment-related mileage reports.

The beauty of MileLogr’s approach is how it leverages the work you’ve already done: if you’ve created appointment in your digital calendar, including location information, MileLogr doesn’t require any additional information to create a mileage log. And for any calendar entries that are missing location information, or the location is ambiguous, MileLogr makes it easy to clarify or complete. You can type in the location, or use familiar maps to drop a pin where the appointment was located – MileLogr figures out the rest. With MileLogr, claiming your deductions is fast, easy, and intuitive.

People sometimes put business and personal appointments on their calendars. MileLogr makes it easy to identify which appointments are business related (and therefor, should be part of your mileage log). MileLogr also supports recurring appointments, so marking one appointment as deductible (or not) also marks all other appointments in the recurring set.

In order to determine the distance of trips at the start and end of each day, MileLogr uses a “home address”, which you specify, from which to calculate mileage to and from appointments. With the home address, and locations in each of your appointments, MileLogr has all the information it needs to create a comprehensive list for each deductible appointment, including mileage, for you to report your deductions. It even calculates your anticipated deduction amount based on current rates – so you’ll know how much you’ll get to deduct as soon as the report is generated.

You can try MileLogr for free now at www.milelogr.com.

How MileLogr Works

6 Feb

1.CONNECT TO CALENDAR

  • MileLogr connects to your calendar service.
  • Supports Google, Exchange, Office 365, Hotmail/Outlook.com, Apple, and Yahoo.
  • For example, if you use Google Calendar you would enter your GMail address.

2.SET DATE RANGE & ADDRESS

  • Specify the date range you want a mileage report for.
  • Enter the addresss where you start and end your day (typically a home address).

3.REVIEW CALENDAR

  • MileLogr analyizes your calendar to geo-locate meetings.
  • Adjust the location of calendar entries using the map.
  • Identify which meetings are deductible for tax purposes.

4.GET REPORT

  • MileLogr determines distance driven between deducitble meetings.
  • See summary for free.
  • Purchase the full report. See pricing.
  • Save the report to Excel, copy to clipboard, or print it.
  • Download a Sample MileLogr Report.

Try It For Free!