In the previous blog we discussed some key indicators that current system or lack of a system is costing your organization. Let’s now understand how automating timesheet management system is beneficial for your organisation.
In order to realize some of these benefits you should look for a system that will allow the following:
- Ensure that everyone completes a timesheet when they are supposed to.
One of the most difficult aspects of a timesheet management software is making sure that all timesheets are completed and handed in. In a paper-based system, this means using a checklist of some kind to make sure all timesheets were completed.
An automated timesheet management software should have features that let the timekeeping administrator determine almost instantly if all timesheets have been completed, where, if anywhere, a timesheet has been stalled in the approval process and, if necessary, allow a supervisor to enter the timesheet of missing employee.
- Determine who, if anyone, has not completed a timesheet for the current period.
An automated timesheet should allow some kind of missing timesheet report showing timesheets that are not entered or entered but not released for approval or have been entered and are stalled in the approval process and where they are stalled.
- Enable timesheets to be entered quickly and easily by the people doing the work.
The timesheet process is generally considered an unwelcome task by employees. If there is any way to reduce the effort in completing this task, it should be implemented. In an automated system, one who makes regular entry in timesheets should be insulated from the complexity of the system. For the person who will use the timesheet system for only a few minutes a week, all they should be presented with is a familiar, “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” environment. Charge lists and rate codes should be available as simple pop- up lists.
- Support a simple look-up of valid charge codes and trap excessive use of a miscellaneous code.
A pre-prepared charge code list that is easy to search and requires no training to use is essential in an automated timesheet system. The user should be able to immediately move from the project or client level down to a sub-project or phase level then down to the task level to grab a charge code without having to remember it. By eliminating miscellaneous codes, this will force users to allocate their hours to approved charges. If miscellaneous codes are supported, the system should allow the administrator to automatically check timesheets for excessive use of this type of charge and either restrict it to a particular level or, at least, warn the user he or she is using the miscellaneous code excessively.
- Integration with other corporate systems. The chosen system should be database-based.
With so many corporate systems now residing in commercial databases, there is no excuse for an automated timesheet system to keep its data in a proprietary format. Any automated system should store its data in a commercially manipulatable database. This will allow for full integration between the timesheet system and other corporate data systems. Also, the timesheet system should provide some kind of export routine to move timesheet data into a foreign format for manipulation by a desktop data tool. This will provide for the best of both worlds. Managers who wish to do their own personal manipulations will be able to do so. Corporate systems which either require timesheet information or have information that supports various tables can be linked directly allowing for a single point of entry for any piece of data.
- Rapid timesheet validation both automatic and manual that moves timesheets through the process as fast as possible.
Timesheet validation in a paper-based system is the most time-consuming function of the entire process. It is also the area which is the most vulnerable to allowing invalid data. An automated timesheet system should allow for validation rules to be determined by the administrator. These rules should either provide warnings or errors in timesheets at the entry level where corrections are easiest to implement. Any timesheet system, automated or paper-based, must also allow for manual validation of timesheets. Automated systems should support a timesheet “routing” that determines the path of authorization of a timesheet from the source to the final posting. These functions will allow validation effort to be kept to a minimum and allow timesheet data to be moved through the process as fast as possible.
- Charges to be entered and tracked at the task level not just the project or client level.
A key advantage to be sought from automating timesheet is the ability to move to Activity-Based-Costing. Project Management systems deal in tasks, any timesheet system should be able to do so also. Systems designed for professional use such as for accountants, consultants or lawyers may not have the ability to manage data below the project level.
- Allow reporting across timesheets to show data by project, by code, by date or by department.
In a paper-based system, cross-referencing data of any kind is difficult. In a timesheet system it is almost always required. Requests that sound simple such as, “How many hours were spent last year in Research and Development activities?” become a nightmare of manually re-touching virtually every timesheet on file. An automated system should allow for such Ad-Hoc reports and queries without difficulty. Administrators should be able to select data based on criteria of any field in the system and further, should be able to sort that data based on multiple levels. This will provide a level of reporting to management that is otherwise impractical or even impossible. The effort to produce reports to meet for requirements for billing, for clients or for government, should be drastically reduced.
- Allow for multiple rates to track events such as overtime, time-in-for-time-out, sick leave etc.
Rates are used for many purposes in a timesheet management software. The payroll department will use rates to determine overtime payments or track time-in for time-out (unpaid overtime). The Human Resources Department may wish to determine that no one has taken too much (or too little) vacation or sick leave. The Billing/Accounts Receivable Department may be using special rates for a particular task or for a particular condition on an invoice. The Project Management Department may use extra rates to determine internal project costs per activity. An automated timesheet management software should be able to maintain many rates. Rates should be able to be set globally, by department or even by employee. The system should allow the ability to track internal and external costs simultaneously. This will make possible a system that can serve multiple functions and departments at the same time. Finally, the costs should be insulated from the regular users while being available at any time to management
- Allow users to review historical timesheet records at any time.
Just as with a paper-based system, from time to time there arises a requirement to review a particular timesheet. An automated system should store this information automatically and allow the employee or the administration to review a particular timesheet at any time. This type of system ensures that timesheets are not “mis-filed” or lost. An automated system indicates that this data is available to both the source of the data and management simultaneously.
- Provide pre-prepared integration with project management systems.
An automated system designed to work in a project environment should come pre-prepared to integrate with the project management system you are already using. This will immediately make available charge code lists based on project activities and actual vs. budget variance reports as actual data is moved automatically back to the project management system.
- Provide security to ensure that only the areas of the system that are required are made available to different users.
A timesheet system is a financial system. Timesheet data must be controlled in a secure fashion. Timesheets must be made unchangeable except by the person who is in control of it at any time. Entries or changes to the timesheet must be auditable to the person who entered them. Security in a timesheet system provides an increased confidence in its data.
With innovation progressing faster and time turning into the most significant asset for any business, timesheet automation is playing a very fundamental role to the progress of the organisation. Automating your timesheet management system not only gives you a chance to serve your clients better but also improves your revenue leakage and streamlines your invoicing and billing process. With quality timesheet automation software comes improved time management that helps your organisation towards global success.