When a small business is starting out, there are only a few employees and a few projects. Time tracking is easy. You can use a spreadsheet or even pencil and paper. If you have to reenter the numbers in a payroll system or on a client billing report, it’s no big deal because there just aren’t that many numbers to enter.

As your business grows, that changes. There’s more entry and more complexity. Your staff finds themselves spending too much time entering numbers on one system, reentering them on another and trying to make outputs and inputs match up.

At some point, you realize that you need to use a time tracking app to do employee time tracking online. You require a system that not only keeps project hours easily and accurately. It should also feed into your payroll and billing systems.

A lot of companies have deployed software piece by piece to solve one problem at a time. In general they were “good enough,” and they did a reasonable job at the specific function they were brought in for. Maybe it’s time to move to a more robust package that will not only calculate hours and minutes worked but also handle project planning, budgeting, reporting and integration with accounting.

With a mishmash of systems and manual processes, employees get frustrated. There’s redundant data entry. It’s easy to make errors. It can be difficult to understand how much human resource is being spent on each project and what tasks they’re assigned to. Perhaps worst of all, employees are spending hours on administrative processes, and those hours could be devoted to the activities that generate revenue for the organization.

If this describes you, it’s time to look at more capable and flexible time tracking software. If you choose a system that manages time, expenses, budgets and reporting all with one centralized interface, you won’t just ensure accurate payment and billing. You’ll also have a tool to oversee projects and help you keep them on track and within budget.

Employee Time Tracking App

What makes a good employee time tracking app? Is it employee time clock software that keeps track of when people punch in and punch out every day? If you’re a professional services organization, how long people are at work isn’t as important as knowing what they’re working on while they’re there. When it’s time to present your client with a bill, you don’t want any guesswork. It should be clear and obvious what hours and what tasks they’re paying you for.

For starters, time entry should be quick, easy and accurate. The entry screen must have all the fields you want, with the capability to organize and arrange them any way you please. The workweek must be customizable so you can start and end it on any day. You may need to look at timesheets on both a daily and weekly basis. Certainly you’ll need to custom define your submission period so you can cut off entry and run payroll and accounting in a way that fits your business schedule.

Even more so than simple time clock software, a time tracking system has to be secure. Among other factors, that means locking the timesheet after a time reporting period is over. Any changes to completed timesheets must be restricted to a few authorized managers and need to be documented. There will be different kinds of permission for supervisors and for the employees and contractors who actually enter hours.

However, the best data entry features in the world aren’t enough if the system doesn’t fit with your other software and processes. That’s why the best time tracking systems do more than just track time. They also manage projects and provide a flexible centralized reporting system. They seamlessly feed into payroll and billing systems and integrate with other accounting systems.

Time Tracking Software for Consultants

If you’re in any kind of consulting business where you provide billable hours for clients, it’s critical to have a centralized system where time tracking is a part of overall project management. That way, you can set up every task in every project with budgeted hours and completion dates. You can assign billing amounts to the tasks. You can specifically assign personnel to them.

If there’s a complete and flexible reporting system, you can use Gantt charts and other graphic and tabular reports to keep your finger on the pulse of a project. If a task on the critical path is in trouble, you’ll know about it in time to move resources to that task and keep the overall project on time. If there’s a danger of employees having “bench time,” you’ll be able to see what tasks they can be reassigned to.

The bills you present to your clients have to look good and be accurate. Your professional image is on the line. A best time tracking app extends into billing and allows you to create a customized invoice that looks the way you want and that the client can understand. It increases the client’s trust in your ability to deliver.

If you look at a list of time tracking software, you’ll see dozens of options. There are offerings that call themselves the best low-cost software and the best free time tracking software. However, you won’t find others as complete as BigTime when it comes to supporting the professional services firm. For starters, we have all the entry screen features that make capturing time a breeze. Beyond that, BigTime offers project tracking and management, integration with other software and relevant reporting that other time tracking systems can’t match.

Time Clock App for Small Business

There are some software packages that offer an employee time clock online but don’t go far enough beyond that to be truly effective for a small business. BigTime specializes in employee time tracking software for small business, and we understand what you need to support your consulting practice, whether you’re in engineering, architecture, law, IT services or some other form of consulting.

Our team will show you how to customize BigTime in the way that best supports your unique small business. And the system will scale as your business grows. You can install BigTime and get started with little time and effort, and you can continue to adjust the system to keep taking more and more advantage of what it can do.

BigTime not only makes time entry fast and easy but also supports a streamlined workflow. The process is as automated as you need to make it, with the timesheets moving from party to party as necessary for review and approval.

As a small business it’s important to establish your identity. Our billing statements can be customized to favorably present your business, complete with your company’s logo and your contact information. Once you have your invoicing template set up, it can automatically be sent to the client each billing cycle.

Part of what makes BigTime the best time tracking app for small business are the reporting dashboards, with timely insight into project status. KPIs are prominently displayed. These reports keep you up to date with the current status of all your projects. The same system that shows you the reports gives you the entry screens where you can modify task assignments in response to any issues with a project.

In today’s small business consulting environment, you and your people aren’t always in the office. That’s why, in addition to Mac and PC browsers, BigTime provides mobile access. You can do time tracking and approvals and check project status no matter where you are.

Best Employee Time Tracking Software

If you’ve decided it’s time to invest in a time tracking system, you may have already looked at some of the options. Choices range from an employee time clock app to a rich integrated package that takes care of your time tracking and several related functions. There are low-cost options, and you can even get an employee time tracking app free. At the “do it yourself” level, there are Excel macros and templates configured for time tracking.

In making a decision, think about the issues you’re looking to solve. You may have a combination of manual and somewhat automated processes that are tedious, time-consuming and never let you feel like you’ve got things under control. You’re probably doing some redundant data entry. You may have manual steps to generate invoices for each of your clients. And you almost certainly can’t use your present tools to oversee project progress and make adjustments to ensure the success of your projects.

When you look at free or low-cost tools, remember that licensing fees are only part of the cost of a system. That “free” software might be free to license and use, but there’s an expense involved in fitting the app to your practice (or, worse, modifying your processes so that they will work with the app). There’s a cost to learning the app and integrating it with your existing systems.

With a “bargain” time tracker, you’re also forgoing some benefits. A solution such as BigTime not only manages time entry and approval but also covers payroll, invoicing, project setup, project management and reporting. BigTime isn’t free, but we do offer a free trial. Maybe it’s time to find out how a comprehensive solution can make every aspect of project management more fruitful for your organization.