Buyers Guide

Time Tracking Software Buyer's Guide

What is time tracking software?

Time tracking software allows companies to track, record and monitor the time spent by their employees on certain tasks. This then enables businesses to stay on track with current projects, as well as plan better for future projects. Time tracking software is typically used by a wide range of businesses that work on a project basis and bill their clients in terms of time spent – for example, accountants, solicitors, PR and marketing firms and construction firms.

Time tracking software is often purchased with task management tools. The latter is useful to help staff organise workload effectively, while the former is used to provide additional insight into hours spent on particular projects and day-to-day tasks.

Key features of time tracking software

Time tracking spreadsheets have undoubtedly been the bane of many employees’ lives for decades. Manually entering hours – and even minutes – spent on each particular task becomes a task in itself, and is time consuming and prone to errors. These days, time tracking technologies are mainly cloud based, and the industry has evolved to provide online time sheets that are easy, effective and fast to use. Thanks to innovation in the industry, time tracking software now comes with a host of new features designed to make the lives of businesses and their staff easier.

Features of time tracking software differ from company to company. However, there are usually a set of core features that are common to most providers. Most online cloud providers are subscription-based, so companies are charged a monthly or annual fee. Alternatively, on-premise solutions are purchased upfront and are built into the user’s systems. The features of both types, however, usually consist of the following:

- Timesheets – a complete time log for each employee, often needing approval from a line manager, and enabling a company to pay an employee for a set period of work

- Time categories – enables tracking on a per-user or per-project basis, helping companies to keep track of billable versus non-billable hours

- Time clock – enables staff to record beginning and end times of specific tasks. Managers can then compare estimated time with actual time for projects

- Reporting/dashboards – this feature enables the merging of individual time logs to create a team schedule. Data can be filtered by various items, such as by week, person or project

- Invoicing – enables freelancers and contractors to invoice for hours spent on a particular project

Benefits of use

There are many benefits to using time tracking software over manual spreadsheets. The main benefits include:

Costing projects accurately - Time tracking software can be extremely useful for companies that sell their time, such as law firms and consultancies. Data from previous projects can help management to gauge the time needed for completion of a new project, and therefore providing an accurate price to the prospective customer.

Putting a stop to over-servicing - Time tracking software also helps to ensure that suppliers are not under-selling their services. A common problem in many industries, like PR for example, is over-servicing. Over-servicing usually occurs when the consultancy has underestimated the time needed to achieve certain goals for the client. When those goals are not met within the predicted timescale, extra hours are then spent achieving promised goals for the client. This can result in over-worked and disenchanted staff, and can also compromise other accounts.

Increased productivity - Time tracking software also helps to instil discipline into working environments, helping employees to manage and benchmark time spent on certain tasks. It also encourages employees to work at productive levels throughout the day, and to decrease periods of un-productivity – as all time needs to be accounted for and recorded.

Monitoring employee performance - Time tracking technology allows companies to keep track on their employees’ effectiveness. It then helps them to identify areas that require attention and any employees that may require additional support. Any problem areas in an employee’s performance can therefore be identified and addressed earlier.

Staff motivation - By avoiding over-servicing clients, encouraging productivity and appropriately monitoring performance, companies are creating a supportive and rewarding environment for their employees. This leads to higher motivation and retention, which is positive for both businesses and their staff.

Current trends

The time tracking software industry has undergone dramatic change in recent years, thanks to an explosion of new technologies and disruption. New, accessible technologies have enabled various start-up companies to innovate in this field, meaning that there is now more choice than ever for employers looking for an effective way to manage time.

New software companies are constantly looking for new ways to improve the user experience for work-related admin tasks like time tracking, expense reporting and goal setting. The proliferation of mobile devices and the BYOD culture has meant that companies have had to adapt to the demands of their tech savvy workforces, providing technology with a consumer-grade experience.

Changes to the ways in which we work have also contributed to the types of tools that are on the market. Flexi and home-working has become the norm for many companies, so initiating software that can be accessed from remote locations is imperative, and helps companies to monitor the progress of staff based in out-of-office locations – anywhere in the world.

Market leaders

Due to high levels of innovation in both the technology and employment industries, there are now many suppliers of time tracking software. For those with little to no IT budget, there are a range of free online tools on the market. These tools offer basic time tracking capabilities, but are often limited in more advanced features.

For companies with a budget, there are two main options. Teams can opt for standalone or built-in platforms. Examples of some of the most popular stand-alone tools include BillQuick, Hubstaff and Clarizen. Some newer companies are also cropping up, such as Allocable and Beebole, which have developed user-friendly platforms for managing time. There are also the more specialist companies, designed to work within one particular industry, such as the popular ClockShark for the construction industry.

These platforms enable staff to record time spent on specific tasks online. Companies that wish to purchase a standalone system should make sure that the desired system is compatible with their accounting systems, as time sheets are often linked to invoicing and billing