Tracking billable hours is about as exciting as scheduling a root canal.
Time tracking is a necessary evil in order to document work and justify payment, but it’s also time-consuming and, when done manually, prone to errors.
Whether you’re a freelancer, a small business owner or enterprise-level company executive, time tracking software can streamline hour tracking, improve accuracy and take the headache out of managing billable hours.
The benefits of the right time tracker app are huge.
Data from a cloud-based app can be imported into your time sheet program, increasing billing efficiency and minimizing the risk for human error associated with manual time sheeting. Time tracking apps can lower payroll processing costs, speed billing and accounts receivable, and automate travel expenses.
In short, the right time tracker app can help you determine exactly how profitable your business projects are as well as your company.
But with so many different time tracker app options, how do you decide which is right for your business? Keep the following four musts in mind:
Beware “demo deception.” The simplest interface does not always mean this app is the easiest to use or that it’s the right fit for your business’s needs. Every time-tracker app will come with an initial learning curve.
The larger your organization is and the more complex your teams and projects are, the more initial effort you’ll need to invest in a company-wide launch. Compatibility with your company’s existing billing software, like QuickBooks or Oracle, is essential.
All time tracking software will take some time to roll out across different departments. So don’t be fooled by the simplest interface. Look for apps that are intuitive and have all the functionality you require.
The right time tracker app will be flexible enough to meet your specific needs. For instance, a designer may want to see which of the tasks assigned to his co-workers are complete. Visual cues, like a bar that turns to red from green, as well as due dates for various tasks that make up a complete project can drastically speed up your workers.
Most people process visual information faster. Consider a timesheet that shows the progress of each task. This will allow you to track and control everything from a single desktop or mobile device, without the need to be hopping around.
For example, to aid flexibility, WorkflowMax includes six time-tracking options:
- Ability to enter the start and finish time manually.
- Ability to enter the exact number of hours worked.
- A simple start and stop timer that records the actual hours worked.
- A purpose built Adobe widget that allows creatives to track time within Adobe products like Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, After Effects, InCopy, Premiere Pro, and Prelude.
- Mobile friendly timer lets you enter time on the go.
- Several third party desktop widgets that integrate with WorkflowMax and provide enhance functionality and flexibility including a visual reminder of both current and upcoming tasks.
As the boss, you can also edit timesheets daily or weekly depending on the project duration. There are other time trackers tools like Due that come with similar features, including providing seamless billing and invoicing integration.
3. Full Customization
While flexibility is important, full customization capabilities are arguably even more essential. The app needs to work with the systems, processes and software you already have in place. For example, if things need to be tweaked, can these changes be made easily from the app itself?
When looking at customization options, it’s particularly important to check out third-party integrations. Be sure your time tracker supports the apps your business already uses, like Forecast, Trello, Google Apps, Basecamp, Stripe and PayPal, to name a few.
That way, your new app can easily slot into your current app ecosystem. If chosen correctly, all of your apps will function seamlessly together, pushing data from one to the next without the need for double entry.
Take the IT company, Conquest Solutions, for example. Conquest Solutions already used Xero as their accounting platform, as well as FreshDesk to render IT support for their clients. Because of this, they chose a time tracking app that integrated with their existing “app ecosystem.”
Support tickets were automatically pushed from FreshDesk requests to their time tracker, which allowed them to create invoices and bill clients. Immediately after implementation, Conquest Solutions began seeing benefits, with a 66% reduction in quoting time, 24 percent increase in daily rate, and (thanks to the transparency their app ecosystem offers) never having a dispute over an invoice.
4. Intuitive Design
The best apps have both a visually appealing interface and powerful backend functionality. We’ve talked a bit about why powerful backend functionality (including the ability to fully customize the app for your specific business needs) is so important.
But why is the visual design so critical?
Design can significantly affect our emotions. And our emotions, specifically whether or not your employees “like” the feel of your time-tracking app, will determine whether or not they actually use it.
Smashing Magazine recently explored this deep connection in “Think Your App Is Beautiful? Not Without User Experience Design.” Esthetics [don’t have to be] incompatible with usability.
Given the choice between a usable ugly product and a usable attractive one, why not the latter? In other words, beautiful design isn’t really about beauty itself.
It’s all about whether your employees find your time tracker easy to navigate and would naturally then use it for their daily needs.
Taking Your Time Tracking App for a Test Drive
Keep in mind that unless you’re a solo freelancer, selecting a time tracking app is as much about your own experience as your employee’s experience. When selecting the right app, consider having a select group of your employees test out your final one or two choices for a week.
How easy is the adoption period?
Were they able to navigate the app and integrate it into their workflow?
Or did using the app become a bigger hassle than manually tracking hours?