It's something everyone understands in concept. If your firm bills clients as a function of time worked, missing timesheets mean missing revenue. The equation seems simple enough. But missing and late timesheets are common business management issues for professional service companies.
It's an issue the business media, management consultants, and even academics have weighed in on. Recommendations fall into two camps. Either motivate timely timesheet submission with the carrot, or motivate it with the stick. There's problems with each approach, though.
On the one hand, hourly billing employees tend to be highly-skilled and experienced employees. It's a group with a low-tolerance for heavy-handed management. Thinking about withholding paychecks from attorneys or consultants with late timesheets? Get ready for some blowback!
On the rewards side of the coin, it's a bit gracious to reward completion of such a basic task. Frankly, there's better metrics to which to tie compensation.
But there is a suggestion everyone can agree on. Make submitting timesheets as easy as possible. And, no other approach or tool can make timesheet submission as easy as a capable software program.
If you're addressing a timesheet submission issue, look for solutions with the following functionality:
"I was out of the office." For a lot of employees it's the number one excuse why timesheets aren't submitted on time. And, in a lot of cases, it's legitimate.
Consultants, lawyers, accountants, and many other hourly billing workers do tend to work out of the office. As a result, getting to network resources may not be possible.
A big reason for the rise of SaaS time and billing programs is because web-enabled software solves this problem. Software as a service programs are available anywhere there's an internet connection, anytime.
But if you're not into paying a monthly fee for a subscription based program, you still have options. You can consider hosting your own web-based solution on your own web-server. Or, remote access utilities can expand the reach of traditional programs outside of the office.
Lawyers, consultants, and other professional service workers have more in common than tracking time. They're also all likely to spend a considerable amount of the time out of the office.
As a result, software developers have scrambled to provide mobile time tracking applications.
It's part of a larger effort to meet whatever device preference an end-user might have. Smartphone, tablet, desktop… There are time and billing software options for each format. In fact, many providers offer their software with software clients for each device type.
A team of consultants with strings tied around their fingers might not be the exact impression your firm is trying to make. There is, of course, a better way to avoid forgetting to submit time.
Automated system reminders are the contemporary approach to jogging the memory of timesheet employees. Billing administrators can also automate system alerts. (Extra bonus: Your billing administrators will love not having to personally send naggy emails to due-date scofflaws.)
Software developers continue to improve on the conditional logic for generating reminders. Generally, alerts can use specific time intervals, task completions, and other project benchmarks.
Time to ditch the kitchen egg-timer. Okay, let's be honest, your hourly employees probably aren't using that either. More likely, the main tool for tracking time is just the good ol' memory. But, if your late timesheet issues are any indicator, the memory isn't always totally reliable.
Integrated software timers are a good solution. Rather than reporting time after-the-fact, it provides an easy option to trigger tracking in real-time. Integrated software timers work especially well for knowledge workers who do much of their work on the computer.
Minor as it may seem, access to an integrated timer is just one more thing that makes recording time easier. Some programs distinguish themselves by offering multiple timers. Multiple timers make it simpler to track time split between projects.
Time tracking without software gets messy. Simply figuring out which hours are logged already can be a chore. To complete it, employees will spend find themselves digging through sent mail, rummaging through notes, or checking in with billing administrators.
It's the type of task that leads to frustration. And, frustration isn't the target emotion when trying to get employees to adopt a process.
Easy-to-use, self-service reporting tools eliminate this issue.
Another downfall of manual time tracking is the lack of automation. Reducing the amount of repetitive data employees record when tracking time is a huge part of making the task as easy as possible.
Presenting preset activity codes in user-friendly dropdown boxes allow for much faster time entry. When employees need to add more detail, they can do so with notes fields.
Another great feature is the ability to clone records. If an employee is working on the same project for the same client, why make him re-enter those details. Duplicating a previous and updating it for the appropriate time and date lightens the data entry.
Trying to get away from having to type out summaries without losing the level of detail your clients expect? Voice-to-text capability offers an alternative.
Leading time and billing providers are adding voice-to-text features to their software.
It's a functionality well-suited to on-the-go hourly billers eager for any way to make time entry a little quicker and easier.
How many programs does your team use to coordinate client work? Between email programs, CRM tools, calendar apps, and project tracking suites, it might be quite a few.
Many time and billing programs integrate basic task management capabilities. It's one step closer to doing away with application clutter.
Integrating task management and time and billing programs also can help reduce the need for duplicate data entry.
For more information on time and billing software, check out our software guide, which includes a list of some of the most commonly used programs.