If time is money, then how much money are you wasting every day? Time-tracking software can help you figure that out.
Many small businesses with hourly-wage employees have used time-tracking software for years. Ditto for consultants, attorneys and other professionals who charge by the hour. Time-tracking software helps them easily record time spent on each task, on each project, or in any way their workday needs to be tracked. They use that data to calculate payroll or invoices.
But time-tracking software can benefit you even if you dont charge hourly rates or have hourly-wage employees.
For example, tracking the time you spend on a project lets you quickly estimate how long a similar project in the future might take you to complete. If youre paid a flat fee for your services, records of your time can help you more accurately price those services.
Tracking Your Options
Small businesses can take advantage of a number of time-tracking software options such as Web-only time-tracking services, Windows (and a few Mac) software applications. You can also opt for software that runs on handhelds, such as Palm OS (operating system) devices. Those applications either run entirely on the handheld, or they have a utility that syncs your time entries on your mobile device with a desktop time-tracking application. Here are a few examples of what's available:
In addition, some small business accounting programs offer time-tracking utilities. For example, the QuickBooks Time Tracker add-on program lets you and your employees enter, track and submit time spent on the job. The information is input into a password-protected Web site and can be downloaded and imported into QuickBooks for invoicing and payroll. The Time Tracker service starts at $10 per month for one person and goes up to $200 monthly for up to 200 people.
In general, you can expect to pay anything from zero dollars (for freeware tools and some Web-based offerings) to $5,000 for software with 100-or-more user licenses.
What You Want
Keep the following features in mind when evaluating time-tracking software.
Reporting tools. Pay attention to the reporting capabilities in any time-tracking application. Youll want as many options as possible. For example, can you quickly generate a report that shows how much time you spent between October 15, 2007 and January 10, 2008, performing a specific task (such as holding meetings) for a specific project? Nearly all time-tracking programs offer at least some reporting capabilities.
Export options. Make sure you can export time-tracking data and reports to Microsoft Excel, PDF or other formats, or to accounting or other business applications such as Microsoft Project. Exporting is important because it gives you more ways to use the time-tracking data. And if your software has an exporting feature and you decide to switch to a different time-tracking program later, your data from the old program won't be locked in that applications proprietary file format.
Support for multiple users. Some time-tracking programs are designed for individual use, while others are for multiple users. Example: MAG Softwrxss Timeless Time & Expense comes in Personal ($50) and Enterprise ($65) versions. The latter supports multiple users and provides multi-user time reports and other features not found in the Personal version.