Timesheets have been a part of work management for a long period of time. It is a means of tracking billable time, assessing the results of input, calculating pay and clearing other expenses. In the first instance these timesheets would have been managed as paper files, either as rotas or timecards submitted by staff. These would then have been entered and tracked in spreadsheets. All these manual processes would have taken time in data entry and offered potential for errors.
Logging in time worked is now easier with the use of countless apps and online tools. There are two main categories of timesheet software tools. The first tool is a simple time tracking app, which allows you to enter in time worked or stop and start a stopwatch. The second is a work management solution with extensive functionality for organising your work from end-to-end.
Imagine if you could reverse engineer a project and work out how well time had been used. For instance, you could assume that this blog is cheap to produce. It takes no resources to write up a couple of thousand words in a word processor. Yet, tracking time would reveal that this blog was an agenda item on a meeting. It was then decided that a marketer would action content from a writer – probably having to seek out a new writer. The writer then spends time researching and crafting content, which is then proofread by the marketing and maybe even edits were sought.
By tracking time, a “cheap” blog suddenly becomes an investment in company time. You can then sit down and assess if the benefit is equal to this new understanding of cost and consider if you would enter into a similar activity in the future.
Now scale this to a whole project. You could assess use of time throughout the project and use this to reflect. Most good project management strategies are iterative and part of the improvement made could be a more efficient use of your team’s time. By evaluating how smart they have been working, you can suggest improvements in performance.
Metrics of any kind are crucial to outstanding business practice. Analysis of time use and applying this to future practice is likely to be the single most effective way of improving productivity of your team.
What if there was a major mistake made with a project that led to failure or to a reduction in profitability. It is likely that the mistake can easily be tracked through timesheets and either put right or considered for future practice. The timesheets become a record of work done and decisions made.
The software can therefore also be used to evaluate the performance of staff and help managers to challenge general under-performance. If it is taking a team member much longer than others to complete tasks, then timesheets provide tangible evidence of the need for improvement. This would help increase efficiency of a team by encouraging more thoughtful use of time. In short, timesheet software would increase productivity because employees are aware there is a record of all they do through the day.
It might not be that you reward the employee who does the most. It might be that some of your team are staying until late not because they want to but because they must for work to be complete. This is a clear sign for the need for further training. It could also raise issues of training where activities you feel should be quick are taking much longer. This might not be due to under-performance but poorly skilled workers.
Yet, these apps can also indicate those team members that need to leave. Chronic under-performance can seriously impact on the morale of the whole team. So, time tracking can help HR find the staff they need to manage out of the company for the sake of all. Ultimately, timesheet software effectively identifies bottleneck in projects and can suggest solutions.
It would surprise no one to hear that a lot of time is wasted in meetings. This time is wasted either because the meeting didn’t really need to happen in the first place or because the meeting dragged on beyond reasonable. If you start the day with a twenty minutes briefing for a team of 10 – this is over 3 man-hours a day –pretty much 600 man-hours a year – catching up with each other.
You notice that 10 minutes of this is gossip, five minutes is the passing on of information that could have been done by email and 5 minutes valuable communication that might have been missed. Is it possible that 450 man-hours are being wasted each year? Could you reduce these briefings to once or twice a week with a fixed agenda and a time-limit of 10 minutes?
Timesheet software can help raise these questions because they present you with detailed reports on the way time is spent in your company. You have the agendas, the outcomes and then the time allocated to the meetings and you can easily challenge if the benefits of the meetings present value for money.
Time tracking is ultimately a means of earning money. You need to be able to work out who to bill and how much. Rather than manually totting up the hours and writing an invoice, you use timesheet software to track the time and then create the bill for the client – automatically. This means that time is afforded a value and the software makes sure that this time is paid for. It also means that the staff who would be working out the bill can be busy earning you money in other ways.
It can also aid with estimates for clients. You have an accurate record of how long certain activities take and how many hours it will take to fulfil the task. Therefore, you can make sure you accurately assess how much a job will cost your business in terms of time. There is nothing worse than under-estimating in a quotation and therefore losing money on a client. By tracking time accurately and analysing reports from timesheet software, you can offer a competitive quotation whilst still ensuring you profit.
It also offers transparency to your client. Your team may feel that time tracking software is a means of stopping overlong breaks and increasing pressure to work harder. However, to turn this around, your clients can see a breakdown of what work has been done on their account by your team, justifying the investment they are making. This might mean that the team work harder, increasing productivity, but because the client deserves value for money rather than the team being spied on. Ultimately, the success the team feel because the client is satisfied and returns to the business time and time again will serve to raise morale.
Timesheet software and productivity do go hand in hand. Obviously, on a simple level, HR time is saved and therefore they can be more productive in other ways. However, this is far from the limit of the benefits of timesheet software to productivity. The act of recording how time is spent by the hour can encourage employees to work harder and do more with time. Furthermore, the metrics provided can help to inform practice and improve performance. It can help you uncover errors and guide training for the team – and it can get rid of those pointless meetings that frustrate almost all who attend.
Ultimately, the most benefit is enjoyed by the client. The timesheet software offers a transparency in how hours are billed and helps the company to offer quotations that are well costed and realistic to the task requested. Happy customers mean returning customers which will ultimately help your team feel the success of the company and want to work harder.