“It’s too cumbersome.”
“I don’t want to micromanage the team.”
“It slows us down.”
“That’s not the way we do things around here.”
These are only some of the reasons service businesses choose not to track time. It can be seen as an added administrative headache, and a way to choke the creativity and focus out of your team.
But the truth is that time tracking offers a myriad of benefits for your business. And if done correctly it doesn’t result in micromanaging or a stifling of creative thinking.
The truth is that time tracking offers a myriad of benefits for your business.
Any time tracking at all is better than none, but the system of time tracking you choose is important, as a cumbersome system will result in employees neglecting to use it – which is about as worthwhile as having no system at all.
A cloud-based time-tracking system enables your team to quickly enter time wherever they are, on any device.
We recommend a cloud-based time-tracking system, such as the one that’s part of WorkflowMax, as it enables your team to quickly enter time wherever they are, on any device. You can then use timesheet entries to calculate quotes, run reports, and create invoices without having any double entry.
But why should you be tracking time at all? Well, we can give you 25 good reasons:
1. Keep employees on track
Do you find your team often aren’t sure what they should be doing next? Or are taking things casually when there is a pressing deadline to meet?
It might not be that your employees are slacking off. They just could be lacking any sense of urgency around deadlines. Or perhaps they don’t see any of the other work past what’s on their desk at one particular moment.
Enable your team to take ownership for their workload with time tracking. Employees can enter the time taken on each task and see for themselves how they perform. They can turn their time tracking into a personal challenge – seeing if they can beat their previous time. Engaging your team with their own productivity helps them to take ownership for their work and schedules.
If they’re using time tracking software they’ll also be able to see all the jobs in the queue, so they’ll always have something to get on with.
2. Improve your quotes and estimates
Producing accurate quotes gets you off on the right foot with your clients. By keeping accurate records on exactly how long each type of job takes, you’ll be able to adjust and improve your quotes.
If you use time tracking software, you can run reports in an instant on different types of tasks and the times taken to complete them. Improvements to your quotes can then be implemented immediately.
3. Bill clients for EXACTLY what work has been done
If asked, I bet every member of your team can probably provide a rough estimate of how long it would take them to complete certain tasks. But a rough estimate isn’t the same as an accurate log - if you don’t record the time you actually spend on a job, you can’t bill the client for it.
If every job takes just 20 minutes longer than estimated, and you complete on average 10 jobs per week, you’re losing out on more than 170 billable hours every year. By accurately tracking each employees time, you’ll be able to earn what you deserve for the time you put in.
4. Keep track of contractors
When you’re employing freelancers or other contractors, you need to keep a careful eye on their workload and hours to ensure you’re not blowing up the budget.
Get your contractors to fill out the same timesheets as your staff. Keeping an accurate record of hours worked ensures you’re only paying for what’s actually done, and also enables you to track the performance of different contractors so you can allocate work to the right people.
5. Prioritize projects
With a time tracking system like WorkflowMax, you can use the calendar, milestones, and staff allocation features to make adjustments to schedules. This enables you to easily re-allocate hours and shift deadlines for high-priority projects.
Your team can easily see the estimated number of hours for each stage of a project and exactly where that project is in the pipeline. Visibility and accountability in one neat system.
6. See the status of a job at a glance
As soon as a job leaves your desk, it seems to disappear into a black hole. With so many different people working on different parts of a project (and several projects on the go at once), it can be difficult to know the status of each task as you require it.
Not so if you’re using time tracking software! Simply login and at a glance you can see the status of every single job. You can narrow down your view to a certain department or type of job, and if your software is in the cloud, you can even access this data from anywhere in the world.
7. Improve project schedules
Do you find projects and milestones regularly running over? This is a big problem is it can impact client relations.
Before you go railing on your team to work faster, perhaps it’s time to have a look at your project timeframes and schedules. Are you being too ambitious with your schedule?
Your time tracking software will tell you how many hours each task on a job take. If you see consistent patterns in certain project types / stages, perhaps you need to adjust your schedule to a more realistic timeframe.
8. Track time across different devices
What if you have remote workers, team members out on site, or staff working all across the world? Can you still maintain a consistent time-tracking solution?
With a cloud-based time tracking system your whole team will be able to quickly and accurately enter time, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Everyone can have access to an instantly-updating cloud-system from their chosen device.
9. Focus on strategic projects
One of the biggest benefits of tracking time across your company is your ability to then report on that data. You have access to a huge data resource about your staff, jobs, suppliers and profits, and you can use this data to focus your strategic direction and measure the progress of your goals.
10. Compare projects over time
Want to compare features of different projects past and present? Need to see if you’ve improved the speed of a certain type of task? Want to see how the ratio of different project types changes over time?
If you’re recording the data, then you can find the answers.
11. Raise your rates
How do you know when it’s time to raise your rates? You might like to consult the tarot cards, or perhaps you’ll find the answers by reading your tea leaves, or maybe … you could use the data you’ve collected from your time tracking.
That’s right. A look at the time spent on each task, as well as the charge-out rates for your staff, and your overall profit on a job, should quickly give you an indication if you’re pricing accurately. If not, it’s time to crunch the numbers and make some changes!
12. Provides additional value when selling
If you ever wanted to sell your business, being able to provide potential buyers with your timesheet records could prove extremely valuable – for them, and for you. It shows you’re run a professional operation with a reputation for accuracy, and they can see at a glance exactly what kind of output they can expect from the team.
13. Review team performance
When your annual performance reviews approach, it can be great to hang discussion off a specific set of data. You can pull numbers on individual employees and how they compare to the rest of the team and discuss during their review.
It’s useful too, for the members of your team to see how their performance stacks up, and can help you both identify strengths to emphasize and weaknesses to work on.
Just don’t fall into the trap of becoming reliant on time as the sole factor of judging performance. It is one factor of many – quality of work and delivering value to clients are also of vital importance.
14. Manage the dreaded scope-creep
Scope-creep impacts all service businesses in one form or another. Clients think they want one thing, and end up adding a whole bunch of different tasks to the job. Before you know it, you’re tackling a whole different beast to the project that was originally agreed, with a blown-out timeline and hours to match.
When time and budget are being monitored through your time tracking system, you’ll be able to identify and manage scope creep almost before it happens.
15. Identify areas for improvement
When conducting a productivity audit as part of your continuous improvement strategy, one thing you can look for are areas and tasks that seem to take a longer amount of time relative to each project. If every member of your team is struggling with the timeframe for certain tasks, it might be pointing to a process that needs so adjusting.
16. It presents a professional face
Clients love to ask questions. What’s the status of my job? Who’s working on this stage? Where in the process are we? What is the meaning of life? Can you give me a great recipe for peanut brittle?
While you might not be able to answer the last two, your time tracking software enables you to answer even the most obscure client queries.
17. Are you making money?
Image via The Marketoonist
By getting visibility over exactly what hours are being worked on different types of jobs, you’ll be able to see whether you’re actually turning a profit or not. Do you need to adjust your pricing? Are you putting too much effort into job types that don’t pay off? The only way you can gain these insights is to track the time spent on these jobs and use time tracking and reporting software to analyse it.
18. Find out if a team member is over-extending themselves
Sometimes, people put their hand up to take on a variety of projects, but when those tasks are lined up, they realise with horror that they’ve taken on too much. For some people, this is a habitual problem, because they love to help out or people lean on their particular skills, and for others, if can happen occasionally during busy periods as projects mount up.
By keeping an eye on the allocated work in your time tracking software, you can easily see who has been assigned to what, and how many tasks each team member is working on. So you should be able to head off overloading problems before they become a serious burden.
19. Accurately report hours for compliance
In some industries, hours worked by your team are required for reporting and compliance reasons. This can be a huge task at the end of each month or quarter to compile and send off.
But, not if your team is accurately tracking your time. If you use a cloud-based time tracking software like WorkflowMax, you will be able to quickly run a report to pull out the information you need. Compliance can be done in a matter of minutes.
20. Reward excellence
Many staff – especially those not used to time tracking – worry that clocking their hours will make them look as though they’re slacking off. In fact, the opposite is usually true – an accurate log of hours worked enables you, as the business owner, to see at a glance when good work is being done and to reward accordingly.
If someone is consistently performing above their targets, it may be time to consider a promotion. Likewise, you can incentivise staff to challenge themselves with friendly time-based competitions or challenges.
Successful time tracking is all about recording data in your business. What you do with that data is up to you, but we hope we've given you a few ideas to think about. How can you get time on your side?