Anyone who’s ever been tasked with finding time tracking software for their agency knows the process can be overwhelming. A simple Google search reveals more options than any one person, or agency, could possibly evaluate in the limited amount of time given to the task. Slightly overwhelmed, we pick two or three that appear to be a good fit and trial each one, hoping at least one of them will work out in the end.
If we know what to look for, choosing online time tracking software can be less stressful. The following is a loose guideline for agencies diving into the selection process.
Does it complement your workflow?
Chances are, your agency already has an established workflow. You want task manager software that is going to work within the confines of how you already operate. You may have to make some adaptations to your workflow, but you should not have to redefine it. Look for time tracking software that is flexible enough to merge with your existing processes.
Don’t get hung up on semantics. What one person refers to as a “job” can also called a “project” or a “task” by others. Labels are interchangeable, while structure is more rigid. For example, if you are accustomed to recording detailed time entries at the task level, make sure the software can do it.
Is it easy to use?
One of the biggest challenges to introducing anything new to your agency is getting others to buy in. All of your best efforts can easily be derailed by a few people if they find it too difficult. The easier it is to track their time, the more likely your team will embrace it. Look for software that makes time tracking as effortless as possible.
It’s difficult for anyone to recollect their efforts onto a time sheet at the end of the day. Timers increase billable hours and encourage team buy in because they reduce human error and effort. As long as you remember to start and stop them, you’ll have an up-to-date inventory of every minute.
Is it available online?
Choosing software that is online might seem obvious, but it’s not as mainstream as you would think. There are plenty of applications designed to run only on the desktop. These types of apps might work out great for freelancers, but they will not work for teams, especially distributed teams. Your team needs to be able to track their time in the present, regardless of their location.
Remote workers are a reality that most teams must accommodate. Being online not only facilitates communication and collaboration, but also the record-keeping process. Encourage your team to enter time at their earliest convenience, then audit and amend the records as needed.
Does it provide meaningful reports?
Tracking time for the purpose of billing clients more accurately is a good start. Beyond basic accounting, what can the data tell you about your agency? Is your hourly rate being diluted by unbillable hours? Is one of your team members not doing enough work? Good time tracking software will provide the reports you need to focus more on the data, and less on emotion, when making important business decisions.
Once you know the right questions to ask, reports are a powerful tool for digging down into your data and pulling out answers. For example, high level reports can quickly reveal which clients comprise a majority of your revenue. While low level reports can detail last week’s progress on an important project.
What else does it do?
Time tracking is an essential tool for any agency, but it shouldn’t be the only one in your toolbox. Look for software that integrates other features, like task management. If the software can meet more than one of your agency’s needs, your overall workflow will benefit.
Identify the top three features that would most benefit your workflow and then seek out software that meets your criteria. In my experience, agencies benefit the most from time tracking, task management, and reporting. Incorporating these three features not only makes it easier to keep projects under budget and on time, it gives you more control over your data, resulting in a more organized and informed agency.
Photo credit: Paul Joseph