Online Time Tracking Software is not a Silver Bullet

John Reeve | November 2nd, 2012 | ,

Online Time Tracking Software is not a Silver Bullet

I have had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with several customers who use Intervals for their online time tracking. And each one has shared a similar story. Online time tracking software is great. It’s awesome. But it’s not a silver bullet.

Many of our customers have a similar experience when they first start using Intervals. They see their billable hours increase anywhere from  130% to 200%. The usage of web-based timers and online timesheets makes them track their time more thoroughly, and more accurately, hence the increase.

The ability to query time tracking records using fast and detailed reports gives them an extra layer of accountability to their clients, not to mention, a wealth of historical data to help estimate future projects. This combination of better time tracking and reporting improves their workflow.

Seems perfect, right? It’s not. The following are a few short stories some customers have shared with me about their transition to using Intervals for their online time tracking.

Client Freakout Factor

It’s quite possible your clients have grown accustomed to your leaky time tracking. What’s going to happen when your billable hours increase because you are tracking your time more accurately? Your clients may balk at the increased billings.

If you are going to start using online time tracking software you need to have a plan for rolling it out to your clients. Some of our customers have elected to only track time for new clients using Intervals. Some customers will designate the overages in their tracked time as unbillable so their client invoices don’t jump through the ceiling. And some customers will continue using fixed bids with existing clients, but still track their time to see how they are performing against their flat estimates.

When you transition away from poor time tracking practices, client reaction needs to be taken under consideration. It’s not their fault you weren’t tracking your time properly before now. But it is your responsibility to maintain their trust.

Getting Others to Buy In

You might love this new online time tracking software, but that does not mean your co-workers will. In fact, they may hate it. I’ve spoken with several prospective customers who were not able to move forward with Intervals because they could not convince the rest of their team to use the software.

People don’t like change. Some will expend more energy fighting change then it takes to accept it. Before going “all in” with a time tracking app, make sure your co-workers are as committed, or at least willing, to use it. Transitioning to online time tracking software takes time and energy to get past the initial learning curve.


No online time tracking app is going to match your existing workflow perfectly. There is a good chance you will  have to revisit your established workflow and consider making changes to adapt it to the new software. I have spoken with customers who spent long hours reviewing their processes to find areas to be improved, and at the same time align with Intervals.

Workflow should always be subject to change. If we are not constantly iterating over our processes, we will stagnate. Before adapting your workflow to fit an online time tracking app, make sure the changes are positive ones that will benefit your small business in the long run.

Photo credit: eschipul

2 Responses to “Online Time Tracking Software is not a Silver Bullet”

  1. Steven says:

    We really need a desktop timer that has the features of your application timer. I think this would help the compliance with a number of our employees. There are a few PM products that have a very good desktop timer solution (write me if you want our opinion on them) and I crave that with Intervals (along with drag and drop sorting of tasks).

    Has nobody written a cross-platform desktop timer via your API? Has nobody done a good integration with a third part product such as Harves or Toggl? Anyone? Anything?

    I would LOVE to know as the MAC only one that was done by (I think) EON did not work well and most of my folks are PC users anyway.

    Thank you all!

  2. John Reeve says:


    We’d love to hear your opinion on the desktop timer solutions that are available. We have not heard of any customers creating a cross-platform desktop timer via our API. We did have a desktop widget on our roadmap at one time but there wasn’t enough interest from our customers to spend the time developing it.

    The guys over at Toggl mentioned creating the ability to use it with Intervals, but I don’t think it ever materialized. Definitely ask them about it, as they may still be interested in developing it.

    Meanwhile, if anyone does release a third party cross platform desktop timer application using the Intervals API, we’ll be sure to blog about it.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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