The Importance of Consultant Time Tracking Software
“Our employees hate entering their time. We need a better time tracking app.” We hear it every day from professional services managers and executives looking for a professional services automation (PSA) consultant time tracking tool to get consultants to record their billable hours. Time entry and time tracking are a real problem. Untracked or poorly tracked time leads to billing errors, over and under estimation of utilization, and revenue leakage, not to mention throwing project timelines off course and creating hassles for managers.
These same services professionals we talk to will often go on to talk about other problems they face: employee attrition, lack of clarity around project deliverables, utilization over/under target, and wildly varying project profitability. And no wonder, when hours worked aren’t entered consistently and on-time, every aspect of project tracking is thrown off, revenue gets under-billed and staffing and capacity planning is impossible.
Consultant time tracking is essential because it keeps track of a professional services organization’s most valuable asset… time. With the right software, you can make sure that everyone on your team is working efficiently and effectively— and you can keep track of their progress on projects. You’ll be able to see where they’re spending their time, which will help you understand how best to handle new business while knowing exactly where finances stand at any given time.
The Challenge: A Consultant Time Tracking Tool That Works for Everyone in the Organization
Finding the best time tracking software for consultants, engineering teams and others looking for better timekeeping is challenging. There’s a proliferation of time tracking tools and apps that aim to solve for time entry and time recording. Consultant time tracking tools include time sheets, time tracking apps and software, project management (PM) software, and time tracking integrated with PSA software.
Some try to foster engagement with games, some integrate with PM tools or have a meeting time tracker, some integrate with project collaboration tools, and some integrate with PSA software as mentioned. All may work well for employees, or work great for accounting or project managers, but very few get to the level of full adoption by the entire organization.
3 Ways to Encourage Effective Consultant Time Tracking
1. Make Consultant Time Tracking Mean More Than Dollar Signs
In and out of work, time is now the most precious resource we have as people and work increasingly demands that time. In one study, nearly 70% of those employees doing remote work due to the pandemic reported working on weekends, giving even less time to out of work activity. Making the time people do work for your company meaningful, and the great ideas and skills they bring to work, is key.
Give them visibility into hours tracked on projects, projected expected billable hours, and expectations for billable utilization. Create a culture where team members understand that managers care about their hours worked, and don’t want them to over work or burn out. Use hour tracking and utilization measurement to ensure employees make time for training and PTO.
2. Give Consultants the Respect They Deserve
A lot of time tracking for consultants will use automated time entry that keys off of artificial measures like emails created or meeting duration. Some apps use automatic time tracking, or GPS tracking. There’s even some time tracking tools that gamify time entry to foster engagement. But using work hours spent on a website to automate time entry can ring hollow for consultants who are very aware of how they work and what that work is worth to customers.
To my earlier point, if you’re using this data to make real business decisions like when to hire and how to staff projects, your employees deserve to be treated like the adults they are. Let your employees track consulting hours themselves. Save the games for the company picnic.
3. Utilize Time Tracking and Billing Software for Consultants
Your billable resources are on the job to do the job–how consultants keep track of their time should never slow them down. Make time entry easy, frictionless, and how and where your employees are already working. Allow time entries via a mobile app.
If teams are using project management tools, they should be able to enter time through those same tools. The best PSA time tracking will do this, integrating with time entry with Slack, for instance, where many customers are working every day. Move time tracking from a hurdle or a stop in the day to an easy and lightweight task.
How Integrated Time Tracking Software for Consultants Works
An integrated time tracking tool such as a PSA solution with time entry helps to balance all the competing priorities in an organization. In BigTime Software, for instance, billable resources have views into upcoming projects, time submitted, how utilized they’ve been and are planned to be, and access to seamless time and expense submission. Project managers see the importance of time tracking on projects as their teams’ time entries turn into profitability reports, budget tracking and project and task completion.
Revenue recognition and consultant invoicing is made easier, and details like time write downs or missing time are easily tracked and reported. That’s just part of what a PSA tool is and what it does well. A top PSA tool will help professional services organizations of all types by providing visibility, accountability and ease of use to everyone in the organization. Some of the many benefits of this integrated consultant time tracking option is lower voluntary turnover of staff, high satisfaction rates with their PSA, and higher billable revenue by consultant according to the most recent SPI data.
But this integrated approach to more effective time entry doesn’t require a PSA system, PSA just makes it much easier. At the end of the day, the right and scalable approach to consultant time tracking is one where employees know their value, enter time to reflect that, and are rewarded and reinforced by management for their hours.
Time tracking for consultants can be a real problem for professional services organizations. When not done properly, the results can include billing errors, poor utilization estimates, revenue leakage, and derailed project timelines. There are three ways to encourage effective consultant time tracking:
- Make consultant time tracking mean more than dollar signs
- Respect your consultants and trust their abilities to track their own time
- Utilize time tracking and billing software for consultants to optimize the process and advance your business
The best time tracking software for consultants at your organization will be one that meets your business needs and goals, integrates with your existing technology, enables the closing of more deals, and streamlines your time tracking, billing, and consulting processes. While a simple spreadsheet can work to track time, it’s not scalable. And in the long run, a consultant time tracking tool can enable more visibility into project execution and billable utilization, business intelligence, and productivity improvements— benefiting both consultants and management.
Want to read more about how the right consultant time tracking tool can change your organization from top to bottom? Check out this article on measuring and managing billable utilization.
Frequently Asked Questions About Consultant Time Tracking
How do consultants track their time?
There are a wide variety of methods for consultants to track their time, including: manual entry in Excel spreadsheets, automated time entry triggered by artificial measures like emails created or meeting duration, time tracking apps or software, project management software, and integrated time tracking with professional services automation (PSA) software.
How do billable hours work for consultants?
Billable hours for consultants represent the number of hours that a consultant spent on revenue-generating work, or project work that can be billed to the customer.
What is the best time tracking software?
The best time tracking software for your professional services organization will depend on the type of services you offer and how you want to track them. Factors to consider include:
- Can it help you achieve your business needs and goals?
- Is it within budget?
- Can it integrate with your current technology stack?
- Is it purpose-built for your services business?
- Does it function in a way that will streamline operations and make consultants more efficient?
- What level of visibility, business intelligence, and feature sets do you desire?
- What size is your company and is the tool is scalable?
- Is it easy and intuitive so consultants won’t dread using it?
What are the benefits of time tracking software for consultants?
Time tracking software for consultants is an important tool for any professional services organization. It can help consultants and management:
- Manage time more efficiently and effectively
- Track time spent on projects, tasks, and customers
- Create accurate invoices based on work completed
- Prevent over- or under-utilized resources
- Minimize revenue leakage
- Monitor progress to understand how and when new projects can be initiated