5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating Time Tracking Software

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41,100,000

That’s the number of search results you’ll see if you type “Time Tracking Software” into Google’s search box!

So how do you make sense of it all? What’s the right fit for you, and/or your company? With a perplexing number of options available, where do you even start?5 questions evaluating time tracking

Here are 5 questions to kick start your evaluation process:

1. Why are you tracking time in the first place?

It’s a simple, yet commonly overlooked, question. The most popular reasons to track time are for:

  • Billable hour capture – When you’re billing for your time, it’s essential to capture each minute you work.¬†
  • Project management – Though you may be billing per project rather than per minute worked, you still need to measure the time input.

Billable hour tracking often requires a high level of precision. The classic example here is the attorney who bills down to the 6-minute increment. And attorneys are often in company here with CPAs, consultants, freelancers, and other professionals who bill directly for their time, and need to track it closely.

Project tracking is typically used to measure the number of hours that went into a given project or effort. Often, individuals and firms who bill on a fixed price basis will still track their time on each project, to gauge the level of profitability for a given engagement.

2. How complex is your timekeeping?

The more clients and/or projects you are keeping time for, the more complex it will be for you to keep time. Similarly, the more you multi-task throughout your workday, the more challenging it is to accurately keep track of and assign your time. Some systems are designed for professionals who work on one or two things during the workday. And some are built to accommodate the busier, multi-tasking professional. We’ll look into the specifics of this on our next question.

3. Is time entry sufficient, or should you consider automated time capture?

The classic ways to keep time are to:

  • Enter your time manually into a timesheet¬†
  • Start/stop a timer as you switch tasks throughout the day

Remember our single threaded professional above, who works on one or two projects per day? In these cases, manual time entry and/or a stopwatch would probably be sufficient.

But what if you’re too busy to accurately reconcile your time after the fact? In these cases, you should consider a product that includes automatic time capture. This is a relatively new capability, and many people don’t realize it exists.

With automated time capture, the software will capture and make sense of your time for you, as you work, without you having to do anything. In other words, as you crank through email, draft documents, edit spreadsheets, and visit websites, time capture software will keep this time for you as you work. This capability is often extremely handy for folks who multi-task on a bunch of different items.

4. What are you doing with the time once you capture it?

Once you have your time entered and/or captured, where does it need to go? Is it enough simply to have it captured? Or do you need to sync it up with a billing or project management system?

Think through your workflow, specifically the “end game” of your timekeeping. If possible, take potential time tracking products for a test drive, so that you can experience what an end-to-end experience would look like.

5. What level of collaboration is required amongst our team with this time data?

Finally, if you work on a team, or manage one, you may need software that allows for collaboration between team members. You may or may not want managers to be able to see the time data captured by individual team members. And you may or may not want team members to be able to collaborate and view each others’ data.

These preferences are likely specific to your company, your team, or even yourself. For example, some timekeeping systems will allow the manager to see what everyone is doing. This may be exactly what you want, or it may be the exact opposite if you fear pushback to a “Big Brother” like system. Only you know your team and business situation.

Again, I’d highly recommend a test drive here, preferably one that includes other team members as well. Nothing beats a live spin to determine if a product will work for you.

Next Steps

Once you have answers to these starter questions established, you can embark upon your search for the time tracking software of your dreams. Your own industry is always a great place to start. Find out what solutions are widely used by similar professionals, firms, and companies in your industry.

Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.

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About the Author

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Brett Owens

Brett Owens is the CEO and Co-Founder of Chrometa, a software company that helps you learn exactly how you spend your time. Chrometa acts like a personal timekeeper for you by passively recording your PC activity, which you can quickly make sense of by categorizing your time entries to specific clients and/or projects.

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