If a project manager or a professional consultant were to closely look at the main goals their company should focus on, you would likely get the same responses, yet with a different priority or sense of urgency. Managing the client's expectations, controlling the project's budget and sticking to deadlines, and optimizing their own manpower and resources to the benefit of their own bottom line are some of the most common responses.
But, when you consider these three goals, it is the management of your employee's time and the time of the business owners and top management that will most impact your client's satisfaction, your ability to meet budget and time restraints, and how much profit the business owner can reap when the project is done.
What is time tracking software?
Employee and project time tracking software is one component of a complete professional services automation (PSA) software. A time tracker app can be a standalone program that does the one function of providing a centralized place for all employees to log in exactly when they start work and when they finish - on a daily basis or based on a predefined task that must be completed within a certain amount of time.
When an employee time tracking app is part of a total PSA solution, the program will also offer project management tools, client invoicing, a way to track expenses, and some analytical and reporting tools that show where or on what tasks your employees are spending most of their time or to project future costs and future income according to work that is in progress.
In the past, many companies with Microsoft Office would simply create a quick spreadsheet with a list of fields, such as:
- Employee name and clock number
- Employee start time
- Employee end time
- Hourly rate
- Client or project number
- Completed activity or task
- Total hours worked
- Overtime hours
- Amount earned
This is the most basic information that is needed and is included within a proprietary employee time tracking software for small business solution, free time tracking software, or spreadsheet created by one of your employees.
Using a spreadsheet template time tracker
The thing to keep in mind, as stated before, is that the tracking of all time being committed to a client is critical to most all your other business processes and to the financial success of your project. So, let's look at 5 good reasons why it is not the best business decision to commit this valuable data to free time tracking software for consultants or a put-together spreadsheet.
- It's not uncommon to have multiple versions of a spreadsheet. The version on one person's computer may not be the latest corporate version, and with multiple versions you end up with more mistakes and possibly missed time charges.
- When one person is assigned to keeping the most updated free time tracking software created on a spreadsheet, it becomes burdensome, time-consuming, and inefficient.
- Excel and other spreadsheets are meant to be generic, are not flexible, and are built to be a one-size-fits-all solution. BigTime has developed its employee time tracking app to fit the way consultants and professionals do business. That may be fee-based, time-based, activity-based, or a pre-arranged fixed fee.
- Spreadsheets are notorious for being cumbersome and difficult to get all the important data to be seen in one view. Choose a time tracker app or time tracker online solution that has an interface designed to minimize navigation and show all needed information in an organized way that fits the way our brain sees and digests information.
- Spreadsheets and especially a lot of free time tracking software for consultants don't have the automated reporting tools when compared to project time tracking software built by a software developer. It would take advanced spreadsheet skills to create customizable templates, Gantt charts, and generate workload reports like manpower and resource allocation.
The best time tracking software
The best employee time tracking software has many benefits when compared to even the best free time tracking app or spreadsheet. While going off-budget or getting behind schedule happens no matter how hard management tries, it shouldn't happen because your company chooses to use antiquated accounting methods or free time tracking software.
And, a dedicated time tracking software can take the burden off your administrative and payroll staff, making their lives much easier and their jobs more enjoyable. The best way to improve the time-tracking process of your employees is to automate the process with an employee time tracking app.
The best employee time tracking software, when updated, will be automatically accessible to all employees. Your company is not only streamlining the time clock process, but a time tracker online is uniform in the office, for remote workers, and when you're in the field or consulting in your client's office.
Consider a trial-based, free time tracking software for consultants that allows you to test drive the system before making a full commitment and converting to the full-featured, low-fee employee time tracking app.
Best of all, the right time tracking software will allow you to capture even non-billable hours that will not go on your client's invoice but should still be tracked to give valuable insight on how projects may be pushed off-budget. The next time you take on a similar type of project or client, you can certainly expand the budget to include payment for these non-billable hours that you know will come up.
The time worked data that is inputted by you and your employees is valuable data that can give you insights when making business decisions. Maybe you need to upgrade your equipment to be more efficient, hire more staff to be more effective, or change some business workflows, so your employees have fewer non-billable hours.
Run Utilization Reports
Use the time-entry data to get a big-picture view of your staff capacity, and see if project tasks can be better dispersed, to avoid hindering budgets and deadlines. PSA software can automate this reporting data, so you’ll spend less time changing your plans, and more time managing the things that really matter.
Don’t Forget Non-Billable Hours
Just because non-billable hours won’t appear on a client's invoice, doesn’t mean this is not valuable time. Ask your staff to track their non-billable time with notes, so you can evaluate if the time spent on non-billable tasks is pushing projects off course, or expand the budget for non-billable hours.
The best employee time tracking software should be one in which you can upgrade to be a part of your total project management solutions.