There are many valid reasons why an agency might be using Excel Spreadsheets to track people’s time. The data is securely stowed away on the local network. The software isn’t going to disappear if the vendor goes out of business. And, spreadsheets are flexible enough to build any number of custom reports to analyze the data.
Tracking time with Excel spreadsheets undoubtedly gives an agency the most control and highest level of ownership of their data. However, there are several benefits that may make moving to online project management time tracking software worthwhile.
Transitioning your agency’s project management and time tracking efforts from excel to a web-based time tracking software is one of the best things you can do to increase efficiency. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Less time spent entering data translates directly into more time spent billing clients.
- Going online let’s you track time anywhere at any time. You are not bound to your desktop.
- Empower your team to enter their own time and run reports. Collective participation and accountability.
- Offload some IT responsibilities to the online software company. Less upgrades, fewer viruses, and automated backups.
- Use the provided reports instead of creating your own in Excel.
Here are some of the concerns an agency may have about transitioning to online time tracking tools, and how to overcome them.
What about my current tracking methods?
This may be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome when moving to new software. Your current methodologies are going to change, but, it will be for the better. Using a tool designed specifically for tracking time is going to be easier to use, more efficient, and more reliable, once past the learning curve.
What about all my historical data?
Any decent time tracking tool will have import utilities. And because your data is already in a spreadsheet format it should be relatively painless to import. You may have to modify some of the data to import it. But, the benefit will be new reports that provide fresh insights into your historical data.
How do I get my data back?
It’s your data, you should be able to pull it back out of the software any time you want. Again, any decent time tracking tool will provide you with this option. It shouldn’t take more than a few clicks to download your data in a spreadsheet friendly format.
What if the vendor goes out of business?
As with any business expense, choose a vendor that has a good, longstanding reputation. Read the case studies and email their support team. Testimonials and personality can tell you a lot about a company. If you are still hesitant, make sure the software has good export utilities in case the vendor does go under.
Can I customize the reports?
Most time tracking tools rely on canned reports. Some of these tools provide flexible reporting for segmenting the data and drilling down into it. Few tools are going to be completely customizable. Choose software with reports that are most practical and beneficial for your agency. Bonus points goes to the software that allows you to export the raw report data for further number crunching in Excel.
Won’t I lose control of my data?
Yes. And that is a good thing. The time consuming process of one person entering everyone’s data into Excel is a cumbersome one. A distributed approach, where everyone enters their own time, is far more efficient. Let the software aggregate the data for you, then audit it periodically. This one benefit alone can free up several hours of your week to focus on more profitable work.
Photo credit: Jenny Brown