Is A Project Time Tracking System The Best Choice For Your Business?
The global pandemic has forced many organizations to rethink their strategy. Many are moving online and their telecommuting teams need the best project time tracking system to stay on-task—not to mention, project time app benefits for SMBs extend to virtually every aspect of your organization. Managers have better oversight and HR streamlines payroll processing. The best project tracking tools even simplify payments for clients to keep them loyal and improve customer relations. This epic guide can help you determine if this software is worth the investment for your small to medium-sized business or startup. We also explore the many benefits it can bring to your SMB, such as simplifying client billing and maximizing internal talent.
What You’ll Find In This Ultimate Guide…
- How Does Project Time Tracking Software Work?
- How To Use Project Time Tracking Tools For Client Billing
- 7 Innovative Ways To Use Project Time Tracking Software For Your Business
- Project Time Tracking Pitfalls To Avoid
1. How Does Project Time Tracking Software Work?
There are a number of reasons to implement a project time tracking system these days. More teams are moving online due to the COVID crisis, and the right tracking tool allows them to bill clients and monitor expenses. Organizations can also use the tool to hold remote staffers accountable and streamline payroll, not to mention, reduce operational costs. The question is: Should you launch a project tracking system for your team? This section can help you make a successful business case and boost workplace productivity for telecommuting employees.
Track Billable Hours
Time tracking apps let employees start the clock when they start tasks and pause for breaks. They can also switch between tasks in the system to ensure accurate accounting. For example, a staffer spends the first hour meeting with a client, then they move on to content creation or revisions for the project, even if it’s for a separate client or simply an in-house task that doesn’t pertain to any client contracts. This is typically done through work timers. The employee can see how long they’ve been working and what’s been accomplished thus far.
Assess Total Project Hours
Another key function of time tracking apps is to determine how much time is left in the budget, in terms of client estimates. For instance, the client has approved 20 work hours this week for their project. That’s all that their budget can allow. Therefore, your employees can’t go over that cap without pre-approval. If they do, those hours dig into your profit margin because they’re unbillable. Many tools also feature a project overview that allows you to monitor resources, team members, and client payment status.
Monitor Task Expenses
One of the common misconceptions about project time tracker solutions is that they’re limited to work timers. In reality, you can use the tool to monitor expenses and update client accounts, particularly if you look for platforms with accounting and payment gateway integrations. For example, you automatically generate an invoice that includes all billable hours, then add extra expenses that you incurred during this stage of the project. The next step is to send an invoice via email to the client, at which point they can pay directly through PayPal. The system records the payment and updates your QuickBooks so that everything is in order. That way, you don’t follow up with a client who’s already paid and make your company look unprofessional or disorganized.
Evaluate Team Capacity
How many hours can your team work this week? Are there any personal days you need to account for when planning project tasks? A project time tracking system can help you evaluate team capacity and keep payroll spending in-check. You can also distribute the workload evenly based on project milestones. As an example, one of your team members is already at max capacity for the week. So, you may have to assign more tasks to another employee who still has room left on their schedule. Another option is to allow staffers to request overtime if more work needs to be done, especially if they’re the only ones with the experience or know-how to do so.
Prevent Vacation Overlap
Your team leader clocks in for work on Monday, only to realize that three of their employees are on vacation…at the same time. This can spell disaster for your organization because you’re understaffed. Project time trackers prevent vacation overlap since employees can send requests in advance, then view the status of that request on their personal dashboard. Managers also have the option to explain why they declined the vacation request and/or suggest another time frame. They might recommend that one of the staffers take a vacation the following week. In addition, you can use this feature to keep projects on track. For instance, nobody can take any time off this week because there’s an upcoming deadline.
View Performance Graphs And Charts
Most project time tracking systems include reports to measure employee performance and identify gaps. Namely, graphs and charts that disclose patterns that require your immediate attention. As an example, the graph indicates that your profit margin is shrinking because you’ve approved too much overtime or that one of your staffers takes frequent breaks and has a high number of unexplained absences. Make sure to test out the reporting functionality during your free trial or demo. Verify that there are visual aids and detailed analytics that align with your business objectives.
Handle Accounts Payable
In most cases, organizations must manually calculate all the work hours and additional expenses, then use another tool to generate the bill and send it to the client. This creates even more payroll expenses because your accounts payable and HR team need to process invoices and monitor payments. Many project time tracker tools can handle virtually every aspect of client billing. You can also simplify payroll processing thanks to employee profiling. This stores all the staffer info, from pay rates and paid time-off requests, as well as their roles, current projects, and upcoming tasks.
2. How To Use Project Time Tracking Tools For Client Billing
Client billing is usually one of the most time-consuming tasks for your accounts payable team. Thankfully, a project time tracking system can help streamline the process and improve customer relations. The catch is that many organizations know the basic app functions inside out, but not the client invoicing features. So, this guide is aimed at SMBs that want to make the most of their new project tracking app, as it highlights the many ways that you can use it to bill clients, accept payments, and update your accounts. The project time tracking software guide also features unexpected benefits for small businesses.
Keep An Eye On Project Tasks
Project time trackers are a hybrid of PM platforms and hourly timers. As such, you can monitor individual and group tasks to ensure everyone’s on track and bill clients accurately. For instance, your team worked on five separate tasks for the client during this billing period, including meetings, revisions, and design. You can even include descriptions so that clients know what was involved and which team members took part, as well as additional expenses they incurred and where you stand in terms of the overall budget.
Automatically Generate Invoices
Many project time tracking systems feature client invoicing so that you can automatically generate bills and send them via email, not to mention, add more details for the client to maintain full transparency. As an example, highlight credits or discounts and why there were given, or incorporate extra expenses that are covered in the contract but might need further clarification. The system should also store the client’s contact information so that you know where to send the invoice and who’s responsible for payment.
Integrate Payment Gateways
Most project time tracker systems can handle billing, but you may need an integration to directly accept payments. For example, a PayPal integration that allows clients to submit payments through their account securely. They simply click on the “pay now” button or link in the invoice, which automatically redirects them to the PP sign-in page. Some tools also feature accounting integrations so that you can monitor payments and update your books.
Provide Accurate Estimates
Clients usually reach out to your organizations for estimates to create an accurate budget and verify your credentials. Thus, you need to provide them with spot-on quotes to improve your working relationship and increase repeat business. They probably won’t come back if the project goes way over budget. Time tracking tools have information from past projects that you can use for current contracts. For instance, you worked on five similar projects this year so you already have a baseline estimate you can build on. There are also cost breakdowns for common tasks that you can incorporate into their price quote. As a result, they know what to expect and you don’t have payment problems down the line. In addition, if they choose to add more services after you send the quote, you’re able to easily update the estimate since it’s already saved in your system.
Monitor Employee Capacity
How many employees are working on the project? What is their maximum hour count for this week? Has the client already approved this round of funding or is the project pending at this point? Time tracking solutions help you monitor employee capacity to streamline scheduling. Everyone knows how many hours they need to devote to the project and what they must accomplish. As an example, they can only work on this client’s contract for 10 hours this week, which means that they have 30 to work on other tasks and/or secure new projects. They’re also able to gauge how their individual tasks fit into the overall workflow.
Stick To Your Budget
Every business needs to make a profit to remain viable. There are no exceptions. The catch is that project spending can spiral out of control if multiple employees work on the same contract. Staffers can’t see how many billable hours are available or how much funding they’ve already been granted. Project time tracking systems allow you to track expenses as you go and improve your profit margin. It’s not just hours you need to consider, there are other costs you may incur throughout the project that impact your bottom line. For instance, the client requests additional content that you need to outsource or curate online. This should all be included in the invoice, especially if it has already been approved.
3. 7 Innovative Ways To Use Project Time Tracking Software For Your Business
While many organizations use project time tracking software for employee clock-ins and to bill clients, that’s just the tip of the tool iceberg. In fact, that new project time tracking app can help you improve customer relations and monitor external partner performance, as well as identify performance gaps so that your team can achieve their true potential. If you’re ready to think outside the box and get the most from your software investment, this section is for you.
Re-Evaluate Your Rates
Time tracking software has detailed records for every project you complete. Therefore, you can look back at past contracts and evaluate your profit margin, then adjust your rates to benefit your bottom line. For example, your last project ran over budget because tasks took longer to complete or you incurred unexpected costs. If these are recurring issues, you may want to re-evaluate your fees to make your business viable in the long term.
Let Employees Set Their Own Capacity
Most time tracking tools have an employee capacity feature. You can see how many hours employees can work each week or for the project, as a whole. You might consider letting team members set their own capacity to improve productivity. Maybe one of your staffers can only work 30 hours this week because they have other commitments. The key is to give them a range up front. For instance, you pre-approve 30 to 40 weekly work hours and they can set their own capacity within those limits. That way, you don’t have high overtime costs or employees taking multiple days off when you’re approaching a project deadline.
Track Idle Time To Prevent Procrastination
Another time tracking tool feature is work timers that allow you to track idle activities. For example, an employee spends half an hour on a low-value activity that doesn’t really contribute to the project or even ties into their work duties. As a result, employees can maximize productivity and avoid procrastination since they have better oversight of their workday and individual tasks. Bear in mind that most tools have a separate break function to differentiate quick mental refreshers from idle time.
Host Weekly Task Rundowns
This tip involves project time tracking systems and a virtual meeting platform. Employees evaluate their weekly tasks using the app to look for areas of improvement, then they attend the live event to discuss their performance and gather feedback. As an example, an employee finds out that two of their colleagues worked on the same task this week even though it’s a one-person job. How can they prevent this overlap moving forward? Should they schedule a side meeting to assign responsibilities and re-evaluate their job roles? An alternative approach is to send employees a weekly questionnaire that prompts them to reflect on personal performance, especially if you pair it with a social media group or forum where they can get peer-based support.
Identify VIP Clients
Time tracking apps help you calculate billable hours and process client invoices. As such, you can determine which clients give you the most work and bring in repeat business, then offer them additional incentives to boost loyalty. For instance, invite them to exclusive VIP events or reach out to see if they require additional support. Another option is to follow up with clients you haven’t heard from in a while to stay fresh in their minds. You can delve into the invoice archives to look for customers that may need your services in the near future.
Monitor External Partners
More organizations implement time tracking software for remote staffers due to the COVID crisis, as they’ve been forced to move their operations online and/or offer flexible telecommuting schedules. However, you can also use them to monitor external partners who’ve always worked remotely. You may not need the work timers, but there are other features that benefit sales channels and geographically dispersed teams. For example, they can use the client billing function to track their billable hours and generate invoices or let your team know that they’ll be out of the virtual office through vacation questions and/or group calendars. It’s a great way to make them part of the team, even if they aren’t full-time employees.
Use Time Tracking Stats In Performance Reviews
Team leaders need all the information they can get when it’s time for performance evaluations. They need to know about employees’ strengths, work habits, and areas for improvement. Fortunately, project time tracking systems give them access to detailed performance reports, from billable hours and capacity to idle time and absences. Managers can even assess the group, as a whole, to identify trends. As an example, half of their department takes breaks too frequently. This may be a tell-tale sign of impending burnout. Thus, they can follow up with their team to see if additional support is needed or to stress the importance of sticking to their work schedule and avoiding external distractions.
4. Project Time Tracking Pitfalls To Avoid
Of course, all these benefits hinge on choosing the right tool and successful software implementation. Thus, it’s crucial for SMBs to be aware of common pitfalls to mitigate risks and improve ROI. For example, selecting a platform with limited support or customer training may minimize functionality for your team. So, let’s wrap things up with some of the top project time tracking mistakes that every organization should avoid.
Choosing The Wrong Platform
Not every time tracking app will meet your team’s expectations. Choosing an ineffective platform can put your entire implementation plan in peril, not to mention, push you over budget. So, do a needs analysis to find the best solution for your remote employees and business objectives. Identify their accessibility preferences and tech experience to get staffer buy-in. Finally, sign up for free trials and demos to verify that the tool is an ideal fit for your staffers.
Not Providing Support
A project time tracking system should be easy for everyone to use. However, support is still a top priority. Vendors should deliver support services that align with your team’s needs, as well as customer training tools that allow you to handle common challenges on your own. Aside from that, it’s also a good idea to develop support resources in-house. For instance, quick demos to show employees how to track work hours or host live events so they can ask questions and learn from the pros.
Overlooking Time Tracking App Uses
Many organizations implement a time tracker to hold employees accountable and de-stress client billing. However, there are several innovative ways to use these tools in your organization. For example, track external partner tasks, monitor project expenses, and accept vacation requests. You can also see how much of the project has already been funded and the status of client payments. While some tools may offer these features, many offer integrations to improve software functionality.
Not Submitting RFPs
A request for proposal (RFP) allows you to get accurate estimates from vendors. It includes the buying requirements, budget, and support expectations. Then, software companies respond with proposals that outline their pricing plans and tech specifications. An RFP is one of the most effective ways to qualify vendors and develop a realistic budget. Some organizations underestimate the importance of formal requests and opt for free quotes. But, filling out a quick form on the vendor’s site doesn’t provide them with enough info. As a result, you may end up spending more than expected or invest in the wrong software.
Skipping User Ratings And Reviews
Another step in the selection process that organizations commonly skip is establishing social proof. Software providers should have a proven track record. Ratings and reviews help you determine which platform aligns with your needs and budget. For example, the system has a 50% overall satisfaction rating and most users give it a 1-star usability score. Even if they’re on the low end of your price range, the vendor probably won’t live up to your standards. Another reason to read online reviews is to adjust your RFP. If multiple users mention a lack of vendor support, clarify your expectations in the request. That way, the company has an opportunity to address your concerns and outline relevant support services.
While many organizations implement a project time tracking system to monitor job performance and de-stress client invoicing, there are other innovative uses. For example, employees are able to request vacation time to avoid burnout while managers can track team performance to provide support and intervene when necessary. The key is to find the right project tracking system for your remote workforce, and our exclusive online directory can help. It features the leading vendors for every industry, customer type, and price range.
Looking for more tips to choose the best project time tracking app for your telecommuting team? Download our new eBook today for all the insider info. Project Time Tracking System Perks: Stress-Free Client Billing And Resource Management For Your SMB covers everything from profitable perks to innovative uses. There’s even a bonus section that highlights overlooked benefits that every SMB should consider.