This short paper will expand on two key reasons to move to a computerized timesheet system at your company. There are more than two reasons of course, but these will be expanded on at a later date. The two key reasons to be discussed here are Timesheet Efficiency, and Timesheet Automation.
Timesheet Efficiency is the concept of a single data entry exercise done accurately and quickly. Timesheet Automation is the simple concept of managing timesheet information electronically rather than on paper. When taken individually both these concepts make a compelling argument to move to electronic timesheets, taken together you should be asking yourself why you aren't kicking off the process today.
When I started out my working career in consulting we had paper timesheets. These were (supposedly) to be filled in daily, submitted weekly, and data from them entered into the accounting system monthly. However, people being people, the accountant only checked them once a month, so they were generally only submitted once a month, and thus usually only filled in once a month when prompted by project managers. This resulted in inaccurate and late timesheet information.
This affected billing, time and materials projects would take up to four weeks to be invoiced, and thus it could be up to 60 days before payment was received. Why then are some companies constantly challenged with getting employees to accurately complete their timesheets while other firms have no problems? The difference is usually leadership and data ease of data entry. Most consulting companies employ skilled intelligent people, and a manager who fills in his timesheet information promptly and accurately can legitimately expect his staff to do so. However if the system is cumbersome and difficult to use then there will be constant conflict.
Easy to use computerized timesheet systems mean more employees are successfully filling out timesheets as they work rather than writing the time into a diary or calendar and then transferring the information at the end of the week (or month). It has been well proven that debtors are easier to manager and projects more easily monitored the closer that timesheet information is processed and invoiced to the time the work is carried out. It is just much more simple to collect all your billable hours (more chargeable time!) if employees record their work as they do it.
Of course data entry is just one side of things. Processing the information is just as important. Internal discipline and company policies must be set to ensure that all information is collected by the time you have decided is the deadline. Whether this is Friday 5:00pm, or Monday 9:00am, deadlines must be followed and enforced. Timesheet software with built in workgroup functionality like messaging, timesheet approval, live monitoring, and so on can greatly enhance this process.
There is no point pretending that timesheet information and collection is glamorous. It isn't. It should just be part of the normal mundane fabric of business. It should be routine and boring. But most importantly it should be quick, easy, and provide no disincentive to doing it. Good computerized systems should offer all of this.
The most basic benefit that a computerized timesheet system gives is one of automation, timesheet information is entered into a computer rather than onto paper. This eliminated the need for people to transcribe their timesheet information from a diary onto a paper form, and then for administration staff to re-enter this information into a job costing system. The computerization allows you to completely eliminate the middle steps. Staff enter information directly into the job costing system.
The next logical step of computerization is to leverage off of the computer to provide a host of other benefits. This includes interlocks like preventing people from booking time to projects that dont exist, or projects that are closed, or projects they should not be booking time to. It allows project managers to access live data showing actual time spent on their projects, this data can be manipulated and visualized in different ways using other computer software. It can even interface directly with dedicated project management software.
Other benefits can include automatic timing of work, popup information showing specific project information helping timesheet accuracy, daily timesheets, reminders telling people to fill in their timesheets, integration with messaging, email, and the web, and live integration with accounting packages.
By themselves each of these points makes a good argument for moving to a computerized timesheet system. Taken together they are truly compelling. Increased accuracy and reduction of the billing cycle means that a computerized system can usually measure its payoff in just a few months. For any company that does bill its time, it is should not be an option any longer, it is a simple next step. Interested in looking at some low cost alternatives? Why not take a look at Timesheets Lite or Timesheets MTS. These are low cost systems ideally suited to the small company.
About The Author
Mark Nemtsas, Moving Target Software
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