The transition from paper or Excel-based timesheets to an automated system can seem overwhelming and confusing at times. But the benefits of an automated time tracking system are undeniable. It can simplify procedures, eliminate errors, make your invoicing and payroll much more accurate and provide savings, overall.
But like with anything new, you need to plan and prepare your transition carefully. Here are some best practices to help make the transition smooth.
Decide why you want to track time
Start by asking yourself why you want to set up time tracking. Perhaps, you spend too much time on payroll and the process is error-prone. Maybe, your customers need more accurate and transparent hours with your billing. Perhaps your estimates on projects is going out of whack and you are losing money. Maybe you want to balance employee workloads better. Whatever your reasons, make sure that you can articulate them clearly.
Get your team on-board
It’s critical that you get all stake-holders on board with time tracking. New processes only work when there is buy-in at all levels. Make sure that you get your team leads and influencers on board and explain why you are moving to a time tracking system. Get them to see the benefits to them and their teams. Choose a couple of champions from the teams that need to track time. This way, people will have someone to turn to when they have questions.
Start with a pilot program
It makes sense to start with a small group of people to make sure that the time tracking software fits all your requirements and that it can be used easily. This will help you work out any kinks in the system before rolling it out to a large group. Select the pilot group carefully; get motivated people as well as someone who’s not a fan of time tracking. Get feedback from them and make sure that their issues are properly dealt with.
Decide what you want to track time to
Make sure that the time tracking software gives you the flexibility to track time to whatever makes sense for your company. Get the time tracking system setup to track time to those objects. If you have multiple teams of users, decide what each team is going to track time to. E.g. your sales team works with Accounts all the time and should track their time to Accounts. Whereas, your Support team that works with customer Cases should track their time to Cases. Identify each of your groups and make sure that select the right elements
Automatic Vs Manual Vs Live Tracking
There are multiple ways in which you can track your team’s time. You should decide what method makes sense for your team. Manual and Live tracking mean that your users would need to put in their time physically or use Start/Pause/Stop buttons. With an automatic time tracker, the system automatically starts tracking time as soon as the user clicks on a specific page and continues to track time without the user having to click on anything. Depending on the type of work that you users do, you should select the appropriate method of time tracking. E.g we suggest that agents is a call center would normally use the automatic time tracker on Cases. That would get the time tracked without the agents having to put in any extra effort. But if you were tracking time for a group of consultants that worked on multiple different projects for longer lengths of time, then they may prefer a single page, where they could enter times for multiple projects that they worked on during the day.
Avoid too much monitoring
If you can’t trust your team to do the right thing, you may have bigger issues than can be solved with time tracking. Software that tracks screenshots and keystrokes are generally too intrusive. This level of monitoring does not make sense for stable and productive teams. You may end up creating more distractions and stress within the teams.
Limit access to timesheet data
Make sure that your system is set up to show only the projects / jobs that each user is working on. Your time tracking system should allow you to filter the right data like this. Unnecessary data can clutter up the screens, making it difficult for users to find the right projects / jobs. It could also cause performance issues within your system. We normally recommend showing only Active projects. Whenever a project completes, make it a point to change the status of the project, so it no longer appears on the active lists.
Enable automatic reminders about incomplete timesheets
Make sure that your time tracking software can send out reminder emails to users to remind them to complete their timesheets. It’s a given that some users will forget to enter their timesheets and a responsible manager would need to remind them about this. Especially in the early stages of implementation. If the system can do this automatically, that’s time and effort saved.
Create a document that explains the requirements
Create a document that defines why you are implementing the system. Make sure that it includes benefits for the users and for the company. Include an FAQ section that answers common questions. Include examples where possible. You should be able to get general fAQs from your time tracking vendor’s knowledge base. But things that are specific to you company, you will need to write up.
Consider binding time entries to a project plan
Well-structured data is better for reporting and analysis. Consider building a project plan in advance and breaking it down to tasks and task assignments to your team. Ensure that your team is tracking time to their task assignments. This way you’ll have a real-time view of how well your team is working against the plan. This is a great way to monitor how accurate your project estimates are.
Have someone check timesheets and reports regularly
Regardless of the automatic reports that you may receive from the time tracking system, make sure that someone responsible is checking the reports regularly. She should review the reports for completeness and compliance with company policies. This will automatically throw up any trouble spots and also highlight employee workloads, adherence to project schedules. Analysing timesheet data can become so fascinating that managers enjoy it, rather than looking at it as a boring duty.
Lead by example
All managers should track their own time, even if it is un-billable. Employees are much more likely to be accurate in their own time tracking, if they see their managers following the same policies.
Don’t insist on logging 8 hours per day
Reporting less than eight hours a day is OK. It’s more important that users give an accurate accounting of their time and for you to make sure that the time was spent productively. If you try to force eight hours per day, you may find users taking more time to complete tasks or logging in more hours than they actually worked.
Don’t use timesheet data for criticism
It’s hard to assess productivity just from the time worked on the timesheets. A longer duration on a task may not mean lower productivity. It may mean that the user is more detail-oriented and has better results. Combine your knowledge of the employee with the data from the time tracking system to get a better overall view of productivity and efficiency.
We hope this gives you a good starting board for your time tracking implementation. If you have other points that you can add to this list, please let us know in the comments.
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