Which Time Tracking Tool Is Right for Your Business?

By Kelly Drill

Accurately tracking your team’s time by project and task is important whether you bill your clients by the hour or not. A close analysis of time tracking data can reveal opportunities to eliminate redundancy, streamline time-consuming tasks and re-allocate resources, all of which could help you to reduce your overhead and better serve your customers. If you do bill by the hour, reliable time tracking data ensures that you’re able to generate accurate invoices for your clients.

If you’re making the switch from a paper or spreadsheet-based time tracking system, you’ll find that the Internet boasts a wide range of desktop and cloud-based time tracking apps to choose from. Here are just a few things to consider as you review your options.

How Does It Work?

In terms of its operation, a time tracking app will generally fall into one of two categories: timer-based systems and electronic timesheets. While a timesheet is certainly better than nothing, there are a couple of compelling reasons to consider a system that captures hours worked in real time.

First, timer-based systems are more efficient to use. Rather than spending 15 minutes at the end of the day reconstructing their activities by memory, team members track their time as they work. Second, timer-based apps provide you with real-time data. This means that you can more closely monitor project budgets and status, and make on-the-fly adjustments when needed. You’ll also find that you’re better equipped to answer clients’ questions as they arise, which helps to build trust and loyalty.

Will Your Team Use It?

Even the most powerful time tracking tool can’t do its job if your team members don’t use it consistently. For that reason, it’s critical to find an application that is simple to use and complements — rather than conflicts with — your employees’ workflow. A cloud-based app that runs in a browser is a good choice so long as timers continue to run if the browser window is inadvertently closed. And because time is money, be sure it only takes a couple of clicks to start, stop and switch between projects.

In order to be effective, a time tracking app must be easier to use than the system it’s replacing, so take the time up front to find the fastest, most intuitive solution for your team.

Can You Afford It?

If you’ve researched time tracking apps, you’ve probably found that some of the most popular tools are cost-prohibitive for small businesses. But don’t be dissuaded from making the switch. As demand for cloud-based time tracking solutions has increased, a number of smaller app developers have entered the market, offering simple tools designed specifically for small to mid-sized teams. While still offered as a monthly service, these apps are generally quite affordable – in some cases, even free. If you look beyond the big-name apps, you’ll undoubtedly find something that will work with your business model as well as your budget.

You can also save money by passing on apps that offer functionality you won’t use – like invoicing or project management. If you’ve been in business for a while, there’s a good chance you already have these systems in place. Rather than investing in an expensive all-in-one service, opt instead for a streamlined tool that will integrate seamlessly with your current business systems. Specifically, look for a tool that will allow you to export the data you need for invoicing and payroll.

The Bottom Line

Not every time tracking app is the right fit for every small business, so do your homework before taking the plunge. Since most web-based apps offer a free trial period, spend some time getting to know each of your options, and consider recruiting an employee (or several) to take each for a test drive. You’ll be rewarded for your diligence with a tool that will streamline your accounting processes, improve your customer service, and help you make smarter, more informed business decisions.

My time tracking tool of choice is Hours Tracking. What’s yours?

Image credit: pdsimao

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Kelly Drill
Kelly Drill is the marketing director for Dolphin Micro, Inc. Based in Denver and NYC, Dolphin Micro offers startup development and consulting services, ecommerce solutions and custom web and mobile software for business.


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  1. Mike

    I like how you explain the benefits of a time tracking tool, and I agree that it must be simple in order to be used. I also track time and my “weapon” of choice is Paymo (http://www.paymo.biz ) and it being easy to use was a factor.

  2. I agree that simple tools and tools that do one thing are generally good. But time tracking is always somehow related to tasks, thats why for me the simple tools have never worked. They let you track time there and then but I need to organize, plan my tasks and then track time under each.
    There are a lot of time tracking and project management tools (Trello, Basecamp, Pivotal tracker), but I reccomend Breeze (http://letsbreeze.com) , it combines task management with time tracking but is still simple and minimalistic.
    Also you shouldn’t only look the price, more important is the value you get out out the product. Price is what you pay and value is what you get.

  3. Vincent Churchil

    I would say, this is a costly question and when one can figure out the perfect time tracking tool that fits his or his employees requirements, the business would move in prospective path. We use Replicon’s Online timesheet software for time tracking.

  4. A very good article, indeed!

    Though based on the heading I was expecting a comparaison of different time-tracking tools, laying out the pros and cons to make an educated decision. Otherwise, I think you hit the nail on the head with the “will your team actually use it” point. There’s no use to a time-tracking/productivity app if no one will use it!

  5. Disclaimer: I am a developer working on time cockpit.

    I think our software solution, time cockpit, works quite well for small businesses:
    -> Its is very flexible, meaning you can change the data structure used (do you record timesheets per project? per task in a project? etc.), define validation rules, etc.
    -> A graphical calendar to create your time sheets
    -> A SaaS business model, no infrastructure required, no upfront investment, pay what you use, hosted in windows azure, free updates
    -> Online and offline capable using synchronization
    -> Browser version (Silverlight)
    -> Activity logger, gives you hints on what you have been doing.

    So try it for free for 30 days and tell me what you think about it :)!

  6. shilpi

    There might be different time tracking tools but to decide which one perfectly matches your business needs, one has to do some analysis & research before jumping onto any decision for the software selection. In this regards, we did tried many applications and loved only Replicon’s timesheet software as it has been pretty hassle free & quick to implement.

  7. I agree. Choosing the right time tracking application can save you a lot of money, especially if you can directly bill your time.
    There are numerous web application that can help you do the job. The one I use is to track time and the invoice is Keepek. My suggestion would be to try 3-4 platform and pick the one that suits you the most based on three criteria in this post.

  8. Pingback: What Should Good Time Tracking Tools Offer?

  9. Kate

    I found Yaware (http://yaware.com/) useful. It tracks not just working hours but their productivity. It also tracks idly activities. Thus, it is easy to analyze your efficiency at the computer and off it.

  10. Kevin Peter

    I go with the reviews online. Sites like g2crowd, and few other technology software valuators, give the comparision and detailed feature highlights which did ease my efforts to zero down on one! I did try a few others as well.

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