Making the Switch: Time & Expense Tracking Software vs Spreadsheets

Leanna Michniuk

Updated: April 2, 2024
June 28, 2022
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Time & Expense Tracking Software vs Spreadsheets

The priorities of a professional services organization often include meeting client expectations to create new opportunities, proper handling of budgets and deadlines, and the art of optimizing resources to drive profitability. 

When you take a step back, there lies a vital thread among these three goals — efficient time and expense tracking. By diligently monitoring time and expenses, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of where financial resources are being allocated. This not only aids in ensuring projects remain on time and under budget but also directly contributes to informed decision-making regarding resource allocation.

Because proper time and expense tracking is the foundation of a thriving professional services firm, it’s critical to choose the right tools to help you track them as best as possible. Keep reading to learn more about those tools and why it’s time to put an end to spreadsheets. 

Why Proper Time and Expense Tracking is Vital for Professional Services Organizations 

Time and expense tracking becomes the foundation of how professional services organizations build their operational efficiency and financial health. Precise time and expense tracking are crucial for a multitude of reasons, shaping everything from client relationships to project profitability.

Time Tracking

Accurate time tracking provides a comprehensive understanding of where employees’ efforts are invested. This data offers insights into project progress, workload distribution, and resource allocation, aiding managers in making informed decisions. It allows them to identify bottlenecks, optimize processes, and ensure that projects stay on track, ultimately enhancing productivity and client satisfaction. Furthermore, transparent time tracking fosters accountability among team members, encouraging a culture of responsibility and diligence.

Expense Tracking

Expense tracking, on the other hand, is instrumental in maintaining the financial stability of professional services organizations. By accurately recording and categorizing expenses related to projects, such as travel and materials, these businesses gain a clear picture of their cost structure. This visibility empowers organizations to accurately assess project profitability, set competitive pricing, and identify areas for improvement. Effective expense tracking ensures that projects are not only executed successfully but also contribute to the bottom line, safeguarding the financial viability of the organization.

The Problem with Using Spreadsheets to Track Time and Expenses

If your firm is still using spreadsheets to track time and expenses, you probably are already feeling some of the pain points associated with these old-school methods. Using outdated makeshift spreadsheets or templates to track such vital information could be harming your firm’s future. Here are five (of many) reasons why entrusting this invaluable data to such tools may not be the smartest business decision:

1. Version control nightmares

It’s not uncommon to have multiple versions of a spreadsheet. The version on one person’s computer may not be the latest corporate version, and with multiple versions, you end up with more mistakes and possibly missed time charges. This disorganization introduces errors and can potentially result in missed billable hours and revenue loss.

2. Burdensome maintenance

Appointing an individual to oversee the upkeep of a makeshift time and expense tracking spreadsheet can quickly become burdensome, time-consuming, and inefficient. This task detracts from more valuable contributions and diverts attention from core business activities.

3. Generic and inflexible

Excel and other spreadsheets serve a broad purpose, yet they lack the versatility required to conform to the unique workflows of consultants and professionals. Unlike dedicated employee time and expense tracking software tailored to accommodate diverse business models – including fixed fee or time and materials— spreadsheets encounter difficulties in addressing specific demands.

4. Cluttered and unintuitive

Spreadsheets are notorious for being cumbersome and difficult to see all your important data in one view. They often lead to confusion and hinder efficient decision-making due to their disorganized layout and lack of clear insights.

5. Lack of automation and reporting

Spreadsheets and a lot of time and expense tracking templates don’t have the automated reporting tools that are much needed by professional services organizations. It would take advanced spreadsheet skills to create customizable reports, Gantt charts, and generate workload reports like manpower and resource allocation.

What is Time and Expense Tracking Software?

Time and expense tracking software is one component of a complete Professional Services Automation (PSA) software. A time tracker app can be a standalone program that does the one function of providing a centralized place for all employees to log in exactly when they start work and when they finish — on a daily basis or based on a predefined task that must be completed within a certain amount of time.

However, when time-tracking software is used as part of a complete PSA system, it becomes an extremely powerful tool for a professional services organization. It extends its capabilities to encompass project management tools, client invoicing, expense tracking, and reporting features. This all-in-one solution.allows businesses to gain insights into how their employees allocate their time, predict future costs based on ongoing work, and optimize resource utilization.

Compared to Excel, time and expense tracking that’s part of a complete PSA software like BigTime offers several advantages:

Automate manual tasks such as calculating totals, generating reports, and creating invoices. In Excel, these tasks often require manual data entry and formula setup, making the process more time-consuming and prone to errors.

Centralized data in one place makes it easy to access, update, and analyze. In Excel, data might be scattered across different sheets or files, leading to confusion and difficulty in maintaining a clear overview of time and expenses.

Create real-time recording and monitoring of hours and expenses. Excel lacks this real-time capability, requiring constant manual updates and synchronization.

Customizable templates and fields that are tailored to specific industries or needs. Excel requires users to design and set up these templates from scratch, which can be time-consuming and complex.

Advanced reporting and analytics features allow businesses to gain insights into employee productivity, project progress, and financial health. Excel’s reporting capabilities are more limited and require manual data manipulation.

Integrations with other software like CRMs, accounting systems, and more help to streamline workflows and reduce duplicate data entry. Excel may require manual data exports and imports between different tools.

User-friendly features are designed for easy use by employees at all levels. Because of how easy it is to enter time and expenses in BigTime, it’s more likely to be adopted and used daily. Excel’s interface may be less user-friendly, especially for those without advanced spreadsheet skills.

Cloud-based access enables employees to record hours and expenses from anywhere, while Excel files might be restricted to a specific device or network.

Effortlessly Track Time and Expenses with BigTime Software 

Designed to meet the unique needs of professional services organizations, BigTime provides a user-friendly interface for effortless time and expense logging while staying sneaky powerful behind the scenes for reporting. Say goodbye to complex spreadsheets and manual methods — BigTime simplifies the process, empowering you to focus on what truly matters.

BigTime makes tracking time and expenses easy:

  • Speed up the entry process with auto-fill repetitive data, auto-save and smart lookups with user-specific presets
  • Limit the information that employees see to reduce errors and control access to sensitive information 
  • Set required fields that employees must complete before saving
  • Make submission times flexible with optional lockout periods for approvals
  • Mark expenses as reimbursable, non-reimbursable, billable, non-billable, or service fees
  • Apply credit card charges to a project, then easily post to QuickBooks

Beyond its intuitive time and expense tracking capabilities, BigTime’s professional services automation (PSA) software offers comprehensive resource management, project management, real-time analytics. client invoicing, payments, helpful integrations, and more. With BigTime, professional services organizations can elevate their efficiency, gain actionable insights, and keep projects profitable.

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