The Ultimate Guide To Choose The Best Time Tracking And Billing Software
The best time tracking and billing software helps you streamline payroll processing and boost employee accountability. But is it the ideal choice for your business? More importantly, is now the right time to implement time billing software given the current global crisis? While many are tightening their budgets and cutting costs, time tracking software is a worthwhile expense whether you’re an SMB with limited staff or a large organization with global sales channels. The key is knowing which features to look for and how to weigh all the options.
This guide outlines the entire selection process so that you can make the best buying decision. We’ll kick things off with a brief overview of which businesses benefit from time billing apps. Then we’ll highlight some top warning signs that it’s time to invest in top tracking solutions. We’ll also give practical perks accountants should consider in order to make a successful business case, followed by must-have features, selection criteria, and vendor qualification tips to maximize your value for money. If you’re in the market for a new time billing tool, this is the all-in-one guide for you. Here’s a sneak peek of all the tips and tricks you’ll find below…
- Which Businesses Can Benefit From Time Billing Software?
- Are You Certain It Is The Right Time To Start Looking For Time Tracking Solutions?
- How To Skyrocket Your ROI With Time Billing Apps
- Which Features Do The Best Tracking Software Have In Common?
- Are There Plenty Of Time Tracking And Billing Systems For Accountants To Choose From?
- 7 Tips To Make The Right Hourly Timer And Billing System Selection
- 9 Things To Consider When Looking To Find The Best Time Billing Systems
It’s a common misconception that time tracking and billing systems are reserved for big businesses. In reality, startups, SMBS, nonprofits, and even independent contractors can benefit from tracking apps. Especially those that need to stretch their budget and improve customer relations. If your business falls into any of these categories, time tracking software should be on your radar.
SMBs With Tight Budgets
Small and medium-sized businesses often have the most to gain from time tracking software since it allows you to stretch available resources and track team attendance. You can also use it to quickly bill clients and improve employee productivity. For example, you have 100 employees on the payroll who must manage their workday and streamline client invoicing. These apps allow them to start the clock when they start daily tasks to track billable hours as well as rapidly bill clients and accept payments via integrations.
Large Organizations With Telecommuting Teams
Another business that benefits from time tracking and billing systems are larger companies with remote staffers. You’re able to monitor resources, set hour capacities, and accept vacation requests. This comes in handy when there are thousands of employees scattered around the globe with their own schedules and deadlines. For instance, you don’t have to worry about everyone from the customer service team taking their vacation at the same time. Or going over your payroll budget when employees work overtime without prior approval.
Nonprofits That Manage Global Projects
Nonprofit organizations can use time tracking tools to manage projects and track employee work hours. It also allows you to monitor volunteers and members. For example, assign shifts and determine how much capacity volunteers have dedicated every week. Another perk is managing internal resources to stretch available funding and invoicing donors directly.
Accountants who manage several clients or handle outsourcing work can also benefit from the best time tracking and billing software. Since it can be used for multiple accounts and to bill clients for services rendered. For instance, Client A’s employees use the tool to track work hours and submit digital timesheets. This makes it easier for your firm to process payroll and provide accurate records such as sending the client monthly reports and charts to point out areas for improvement or budget overages.
Independent contractors use time tracking apps to monitor spending, billable hours, and client invoicing status. Another perk is generating spot-on estimates and invoices to improve customer relations. As an example, you can calculate how many hours the project will take and add additional resources before quoting clients. That way, there are no unexpected bills later on or funding delays that come with them.
You might be considering time tracking solutions but aren’t sure if now is a good time. Should you consider vendors at this point or put the selection process on the back burner? Is it a wise investment for your business or should you allocate funds elsewhere? Here are some tell-tale signs that now is the right time to look for time billing software.
Manual Payroll Processing Is No Longer Cost-Effective
Every week your accounting team must tally the timesheets and process payroll. This takes time away from other work responsibilities, such as balancing the budget. A time billing app streamlines payroll because employees can simply input their hours or use built-in timers. At the end of the pay period, accountants generate reports and calculate totals as well as differentiate absences from paid time off and approved vacations. Many tools even feature employee profiles that cover all the basics, such as pay rate, deductions, and work capacity.
Too Much Idle Time
Employees often waste time without even realizing it. For example, they spend 5 minutes on social media when they should be wrapping up tasks. It may only be a few minutes from their workday, but those little distractions add up. Time and billing software for accountants minimizes idle time because employees have better oversight. How long did it take to complete this task? Did they really just spend 20 minutes waiting for a meeting when they could have been doing something productive? They must account for every aspect of their workday. As such, they’re less likely to let their mind wander or indulge in unnecessary tasks.
High Absenteeism Rates
Another warning sign that it’s time for a tracking app is high employee absenteeism. For instance, 25% of your employees have unexplained absences this month. Staffers can request time off using time tracking tools and provide supporting documentation, like doctor’s notes for appointments or medical leave. Apps also feature advanced reports to evaluate their attendance stats and identify areas of concern. Maybe they didn’t even realize they missed 5 days of work this month or left early 50% of the time.
Spike In Data Input Errors
Data input errors can spell disaster for your bottom line. Especially regarding payroll and client billing. To illustrate, one of your accounts payable employees accidentally uses the wrong pay rate. Or they forget to add extra expenses to the client’s invoice. These funds come directly out of your profit margin. This software automatically tracks billable hours and timesheets, which means very little manual entry. That said, staffers can still input the hours they worked outside the app or additional project expenses.
Low Project Profit Margins
Do your projects always seem to go over budget? Do you consistently misquote clients and undercharge for your services? Time billing applications can help widen your profit margin with PM dashboards and detailed analytics. As an example, you’re able to see how much time has already been spent on the project this week versus client capacity. You also have the opportunity to look back at past projects to look for budget-breakers. Then factor these into your current client estimates.
Client Invoicing Delays Hurt Your Bottom Line
Clients should get their invoices right away so that they have time to process funding and submit their payments. Time billing software helps you speed things up and send invoices right away, instead of having to manually calculate all the payroll hours, project expenses, and supplementary tasks (e.g., client meetings). Thus, you get paid faster and don’t have to cover expenditures on your own while you wait for funds to clear.
Frequent Missed Deadlines
Most employees have every intention to deliver on time and boost client satisfaction scores. However, they may lose track or other responsibilities get in the way. Tracking systems prevent missed deadlines because employees can evaluate upcoming tasks and manage their workday effectively. For instance, they might request time off after the project is complete. Or delegate tasks to a coworker based on project priorities. Many platforms include PM overviews so that staffers can evaluate all the assignments and plan ahead. For example, they can plan to complete their phase of the project by Tuesday so that their coworker can finish their tie-in tasks by Friday.
Overlapping Employee Vacations
This is a common problem for organizations with remote workers. Several employees take the same day off or accidentally overlap their vacations. This means that the department is understaffed and other coworkers have to pick up the slack. Tracking and billing software should feature vacation and time-off requests to prevent this from happening. Employees submit their requests digitally and wait for approval. Managers can verify if it’s a good time or make alternative arrangements. For example, they might suggest that the employee waits until the following week when another staffer is back from their break.
Ultimately, time tracking apps need to make financial sense for your organization. The right tool can benefit your bottom line in many ways, from simplifying payroll and invoicing to improving in-house resource allocation. Below are just a few ways that top time tracking software can help you skyrocket ROI and expand your customer base.
Streamline Client Billing
Your employees have already done the work. Billing clients should be the easy part. The best time tracking and billing software can simplify the process so that they can focus on other tasks. Like starting a new project to generate even more revenue for your business. For example, the app automatically tallies their billable hours for this milestone so that you can quickly generate invoices. Or bill clients for work performed by external partners and vendors.
Provide Accurate Estimates
Every company has taken a loss at some point or another. The project is more involved than you thought or requires additional resources. Or maybe you under-quote clients and then you have to request approval for work that wasn’t included. Both scenarios dig into your profit margin and hurt CX scores. The right time tracking and billing software helps you identify all the cost factors involved beforehand. You can even look at historical project data to pinpoint hidden expenses and add them to the estimate.
Boost Employee Accountability
Staffers want to see your business succeed. However, distractions, unnecessary tasks, and frequent breaks can hinder their workflow. Time tracking tools hold them accountable because everything is accounted for. They need to start the clock, pause for breaks, and request days off in advance. It provides more structure for remote employees and gives them a centralized platform to manage work schedules. For instance, view upcoming deadlines and task to-do lists.
Track External Partner Performance
External partners may not have to clock in and out every day. But they still need to track their work hours to accurately bill clients as well as monitor expenses they must pay out of pocket and request reimbursements. Like traveling to client sales meetings. Franchisees can also use the time tracking software to measure their team’s performance and improve resource allocation.
Improve Employee Well-Being
Some staffers may go overboard, which results in professional burnout. Time tracking apps allow them to strike a balance between their work and home life. This is particularly true for remote employees. For example, they sneak in a half hour of work here and there. This is time they should have spent recharging their mental batteries to improve on-the-job productivity. You see, accountability works both ways. Employees must meet their quotas and avoid external distractions. But they also need to make time for their personal lives to enhance their overall well-being.
Stick To Your Business Budget
One of the main reasons why businesses go over their budget is lack of organization. They don’t know what’s coming in or going out. This results in wasted resources and overspending. Time tracking tools help you evaluate every item in your budget and plan accordingly. As an example, you’re spending too much on internal payroll. So, you might consider outsourcing to third-party providers. Time and billing software provides detailed metrics so that you can identify pain points and improve ROI.
All those benefits hinge on the tool you choose for your team. It needs to deliver all the essential features employees need to track billable hours and achieve a work/life balance, as well as bill clients, provide spot-on estimates, and manage internal resources effectively. So, here are 10 top features you should look for in your new time and billing software for accountants.
Also known as hour trackers, this feature lets employees measure how long it takes to complete tasks. They can even pause for breaks or stop and restart when it’s time to move on to the next project. They should also be able to manually input tasks outside the app, such as in-person meetings or research projects. Some tools even have built-in break timers. Employees can specify the duration and frequency of their breaks. Then the tool automatically reminds them when it’s time to take a breather and stretch their legs.
Timesheets give staffers a more comprehensive overview of their weekly work hours and tasks. While some tools automatically submit timesheets at the end of the pay period, others require employees to wrap up their work week and send in their digital sheets. Many also feature templates and copy tools so that staffers can duplicate timesheets. For instance, they work the same shifts every week or just need to make a few minor changes to their previous schedule.
An essential feature for the best time tracking and billing software is client invoicing. You should be able to generate invoices for billable work hours and quickly see the payment status. Many tools also include the total balance and invoice ID numbers in the billing dashboard. For instance, the client has already funded $5,000 for the project and there’s still $10,000 in open invoices.
Team overviews cover employee roles, hours worked, capacity, and billable hours. You can also evaluate the overall team capacity to prevent overspending and unnecessary overtime. As an example, there’s a red progress bar next to the staffer’s name. It indicates that they’ve already reached their limit and you may need to reassign tasks. Then again, certain staff members may be on vacation this week. In this case, the system will indicate zero capacity so that you can delegate tasks to other team members.
These reports help you widen your profit margin, keep spending in check and stick to an accurate budget. For instance, analyze how much of your budget is still left and calculate internal costs. Most systems allow you to search by the name of your client, employee, or project. As a result, you can quickly evaluate expense reports and maximize in-house resources. There should also be charts and graphs to help you visualize associated costs versus profits.
Employee profiles are crucial for scheduling and payroll processing. They outline how many hours employees can work each week and their current pay rate, as well as deductions, projects, and time-off requests. You can also see how many absences they have for a certain time period, job titles, and contact details just in case you need to request more info after they send their virtual timesheets.
Many modern time tracking tools also double as PM platforms. You can analyze project progress, total expenditures, and assigned team members. As an example, project A is currently in progress. This is the deadline and overall budget that’s been approved by the client. The PM tools should also include top activities, non-billable hours, and actual time versus estimates.
Payment Processing Integrations
The ideal time tracking and billing app doesn’t just generate client invoices but lets you accept payments on-the-spot. Clients simply click on the « pay now » button, which redirects them to your payment gateway. This is typically an integration that you must download separately from the time tracking app. However, it makes life easier for clients and your accounts payable team since they’re able to immediately update invoicing stats and follow up on delinquent accounts.
All of these features rely on an intuitive UI so that employees can actually use the system to clock in and invoice clients. The system must be easy to navigate and, preferably, feature personalized dashboards. That said, user-friendly is a relative term. Tech-savvy employees might think the tool is intuitive, while others find it more challenging. Thus, it’s crucial to survey your team and find the best time tracking apps for their skillsets.
Alerts And Notifications
The system sends alerts when employees approach their work capacity or it’s time to take a break. Most systems allow you to set your own notifications based on business objectives and personal preferences. For example, you may need to set automatic reminders for employees to submit their timesheets every week. Or to send in their vacation or time-off requests before the end of the month.
There’s a time tracking and billing app for every industry, use case, and customer type. That includes accountants who work independently or help their employers keep accurate books. In fact, you may have to contend with choice fatigue, given the abundance of app providers. Here are 5 insider tips to help you narrow the options and find the right time billing software for accountants. You can also discover more insider tips in our time tracking app buying guide.
Identify The Perfect Price Point
You probably already have a ballpark figure in mind. However, you should clarify your price point to identify top contenders based on your budget. You also need to determine the best pricing model for your business. While some vendors charge a flat fee or have monthly subscriptions, others require you to pay per user. So, do some market research to evaluate all the options and pricing plans. Then break down the costs to see which platforms deliver max value for money.
Determine Your Use Case
Ultimately, the new time tracking and billing software needs to fill gaps in your organization. Maybe you need the tool to reduce payroll processing costs or improve employee productivity. What are your primary objectives? What’s missing from your current toolbox? How does time tracking software fit into your business strategy? As an example, your top priority may be employee hour tracking, while PM integration isn’t as essential.
Compile A Must-Have Features List
Every time tracking app has unique selling points. Create a list of the must-have features you need to get the most from your software investment. This also makes it easier to use exclusive directories since you can immediately rule out systems that lack the necessary features. For instance, calendar management and activity dashboards are at the top of your list. Thus, the directory will only display search results that meet all your evaluation criteria.
Get User Feedback
Ask employees what they expect from the time tracking software. If you work independently, you can gather feedback from clients. You might conduct surveys to identify issues with your current payroll processing or client invoicing system. Maybe they’d like to see an itemized breakdown of costs or find it difficult to submit payments. In short, user feedback helps you set standards for your new time tracking tool from an insider’s perspective.
Evaluate Your Current Software Setup
There are two key reasons to assess your current software suite. The first is to identify the functions and features you need to fill in the gaps. Secondly, it helps you find a new time tracking system that’s compatible with your go-to apps. Or, possibly, choose a tool that features all the integrations you need to downsize your toolbox. For instance, you can incorporate payment processing or calendar apps.
Now that you’ve whittled down time tracking solutions, let’s move on to vendor qualification. There are a number of free resources to help you compare top apps and boost ROI. The trick is knowing which business needs to address and how to evaluate solutions based on your use case. Below are 7 insider secrets to make the right software selection without costly trial and error.
Analyze Your Current (And Future) Business Needs
Your must-have features list may be limited now, but time tracking software should also address your future needs. This helps guide your search efforts so that you know what to look for—and avoid—throughout the selection process. As an example, one of your deal-breakers is vendor support. You need software with live tech chats or a help desk to avoid implementation delays. Thus, providers with more basic support services are out of the running.
Use A Reliable Online Directory
An exclusive online directory gives you the chance to evaluate all the top vendors in your price range. You can also narrow search results by features, customer type, and other crucial criteria. Thereby, you can speed up the process so that you can quickly identify software solutions that meet your business needs. The site should have fraud prevention measures in place to prevent sponsored reviews. Likewise, vendors must create an account and all listings are manually reviewed before going live.
Read Online Reviews
Time tracking and billing software reviews help you establish social proof for every vendor. Users have the opportunity to explain the pros and cons of ownership. For example, the tool was difficult to use or frequently crashed. Then again, they might rave about the vendor’s customer training resources and the user-friendly interface. Once again, it’s crucial to look for credible review platforms that are unbiased and require users to log in beforehand.
Ratings don’t give you as much info as reviews. However, they can help you evaluate the usability, usefulness, and customer service for each time management solution. There should also be an overall satisfaction score and performance overview. The latter includes all the ratings combined so that you can quickly spot leading vendors and get top value for money. Some exclusive directories even allow you to sort search results by rating so that high-ranking software shows up first.
Compare Leading Solutions Side-By-Side
Time tracking and billing software comparison tools let you weigh your top options. Vendors have their own column, which covers everything from rating to features. You’re able to compare up to three vendors at a time. But you can always conduct several rounds of vetting, tournament-style. Then see which vendor moves to the top of your shortlist. It’s also helpful to have a scoring system or checklist of your own. That way, you can focus on selling points that matter most to your organization.
Take A Test Drive
Many vendors offer free trials or demos that allow you to try the tool for a limited time, usually 14-30 days, depending on the provider. Get the whole team involved and create a test drive road map to focus on relevant features and functions. For example, one member of your implementation team should concentrate on reporting, while another is responsible for work timers and timesheets. Then everyone presents their findings at the end to choose the right tool for your business.
Submit RFPs To Top Providers
A request for proposal includes all your software buying requirements, objectives, and budget. This allows you to vet vendors based on your specific use case, instead of just requesting a quote from their site or perusing their pricing plans. The RFP should have a deadline and evaluation criteria so that software providers understand your selection process.
An evaluation checklist is the best way to compare software solutions and see how they stack up against the competition. But you can also determine which time billing app bridges existing gaps and meets your business’s expectations. Below are 9 factors to consider when searching for the right time billing software for your business.
Top vendors have made a name for themselves in the industry. They have a proven track record that’s backed by positive reviews and ratings. But their online presence also comes in to play. Check out their social media profile to see how they engage with followers. Do they quickly respond to questions and comments? How do they deal with negative reactions to their time tracking tool? For example, do they maintain their professionalism and encourage the user to contact them directly? Or do they lash out and belittle the naysayer in a public forum?
Regardless of their pricing model, vendors should have flexible plans that suit your budget. For instance, there are three different pricing levels to choose from based on your user count or must-have features. You should always verify hidden costs with the vendor to avoid overspending. In fact, ask for an itemized breakdown in your RFP so that they can outline software expenses in their final proposal.
Time tracking and billing software providers offer varying levels of support. While some have phone assistance during business hours, others are limited to email. Certain vendors even have a help center where you can address common questions and submit a support ticket. This is another selling point to consider during your free trial or demo. Test out their level of support and product know-how before making your final decision.
Ultimately, the tool must serve its purpose within your organization and be user-friendly. This is why many vendors offer integrations. So that you can maximize tool functionality and ROI. It’s crucial to get feedback from your team regarding their UX. Was the system easy to use? Did they encounter any tech issues? Did they think that the dashboard and timesheet submission process was intuitive?
Does the tool live up to expectations during the test drive? Does it bridge existing software or organizational gaps? Your next time tracking tool must be useful for every member of the team. It needs to deliver all the features you’re looking for to boost employee productivity and simplify client billing. For example, you’ve narrowed it down to two time tracking platforms. Tool A is more costly but it checks all the boxes and has all the essential features. Tool B comes with a lower price tag, but you’ll have to sacrifice advanced reports and support. Thus, tool A might be the best investment since it’s more useful for your remote staffers and offers more value for money.
The new time tracking and billing software has to play well with others. Specifically, software that you already use on a regular basis within your organization. Is the tool compatible with existing systems? Can you quickly migrate data? More importantly, is it compatible with your team’s skillset or can you expect a long learning curve? While many platforms offer integrations, there’s nothing that can fix a challenging User Interface.
Remote employees should be able to access the time tracking system on any device, whether they’re traveling for a client meeting or working from home. For this reason, many organizations opt for cloud-based solutions. Your staffers can log in to the app to start work timers and send their virtual timesheets, as well as manage projects, bill clients, and see their weekly work capacity. In fact, many vendors have native apps for multiplatform time tracking.
Customer Training Resources
Another level of support that every vendor must provide is customer training. This may be in the form of tutorials, video demos, or basic FAQs. Ideally, their training resources should align with your team’s experience and IT background. For instance, you may need more advanced options if your employees are unfamiliar with time tracking apps. Otherwise, you’ll have to develop their training resources in-house to bring them up to speed. Evaluate their knowledge base during the free trial to ensure it’s up to your standards. Do they have a wide range of support tools? Is there an online user community that features insider tips?
The time tracking and billing software should align with your needs in the long term. As an example, it may support an unlimited number of users. This means that you can continue using the system when you onboard new hires, even remotely. Scalability also pertains to the features. You may not require Project Management tools for your small team now. But what happens if you expand your customer base and have to juggle multiple projects at once?
The best time tracking and billing software for accountants can have a ripple effect on your entire organization. Employees achieve a work/life balance so that they’re ready to take on any challenge and boost workplace productivity. Your accounting team can simplify payroll processing so that employees can focus on other job duties. Even external partners get in on the action to keep accurate records and improve client relations. However, you need to set your expectations, vet vendors, and weigh all the top options to get maximum ROI. It also doesn’t hurt to sign up for free trials and demos to evaluate the features and UI firsthand. Are you ready to find the perfect billing and invoicing software in your price range? Our exclusive directory has the leading vendors for every industry, customer type, and use case. It also features ratings and reviews to qualify software providers and determine which solution offers the best value for money.
Looking for more insider secrets to implement time tracking systems for your remote workforce? Download Best Time Tracking And Billing Software: 7 Expert Tips To Find The Ideal Tool today for all the info you need to make the right buying decision.