3 Rules of Less for Time and Billing Feature Design

  • Apr 19,2017

Our talented Q&A development specialist Monica shared an article from the Harvard Business Review, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It got her attention because the principles outlined in the article sounded a lot like the way our development team plans features for our time and billing app. Of the article’s three main points, it was the second that resonated most with our dev team. Ask “What is essential?”

Our dev team repeatedly asks themselves this question. Then, they plan the feature that will tackle a root issue in our time and billing software. That’s how they arrived at their own 3 rules of less for successful time and billing feature design.

Rule #1. Know the primary function and keep it simple

Time billing software with mobile time and expense tracking appHere’s an example. Our online timesheets, including the mobile app, look super simple. The absence of distracting features make it functional—and yes, beautiful. Sometimes it’s what you don’t see in our time billing software that makes it so functional.

The primary function of the timesheet is to make it easy for employees to use. Since time is money at a service firm, employees can get in and out of the timesheet quickly with minimal disruption to their billable work.

Timesheet detail field notes

By the way, timesheet notes the length of a tweet (yes, 140 characters) can increase your firm’s billing realization rate by almost 5 percent. We’re talking about the percentage of recorded billable time that gets billed to clients. To learn more, read the BigTime research study based on the analysis of 12 million timesheets.

Rule #2. Offer more when more is necessary

Time billing software with customizable timesheets

Continuing with our online timesheet as an example, we offer more choices to the site administrators who are responsible for customizing the timesheet. The purpose of “more” in this instance is to provide options so the admin can set up the timesheet to capture information relevant to running the business.

We give our customers the choice to deliberately limit access to projects within the timesheet. Why? Because employees only need to track time against the projects they’re working on. This optional feature eliminates the need for employees to scroll through an exhaustive list of all projects. Anything other than the projects they’re logging time against is non-essential information and a potential distraction. But we leave that decision up to the firm owner.

As BigTime’s CEO Brian Saunders often says to customers, “The whole point of tracking time is to collect data and then use that data to make better business decisions.” With that in mind, admins can customize our online timesheets, adding or removing columns (with the exception of Projects), renaming or reordering columns and fields, even making certain fields or columns required.

We design our software on the “need to know” principle. In other words, what exactly do our users need to know in order to perform a specific action or associated actions? Our design thinking is informed by what the customer needs to do and what they need to know in order to do it.

Rule #3. Strip away the extraneous

Albert Einstein is credited with the memorable paraphrase of the aphorism, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” And that’s what our dev team does. Let’s use project management as an example.

Time billing with project management Firm owners can get the big picture on any given project from a single dashboard, seeing at a glance who’s working on what and for how long. Project managers can drill down to get detailed information on tasks, due dates, budgets, staff availability, and more.

There’s a lot of intelligence under the BigTime hood. But we practice the disciplined pursuit of less until our customers need more. In a previous post,  3 Must-Have Time Management Skills for Professional Service Firm Owners, experts reminded us that there will never be enough time for everything. There is only enough time for what truly matters, for the essential. And that’s what we focus on when designing software to help our customers succeed.

If you’re looking for the right software to manage your firm, we can save you a lot of search time. Reach out today!

BigTime Software delivers real-time time billing, project management and reporting for more than 2,000 professional firms, tracking over $2 billion (USD) worth of billable time each year. To keep up with product updates, industry-relevant trends, and our time billing research studies, subscribe to our blog.