What Is Time Tracking Software? Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

What is time tracking software? It is a software category used by managers and employees to record worked hours for billing, payroll or operations. The purpose of time tracking software is manifold. In general, they capture time spent on assigned tasks and used to automate payroll or client invoicing. They can also provide insights on your operations, such as, which tasks are taking a lot of your staff’s time and costing the most money. A good time tracking solution can also help you plan the project budget.

Likewise, equipment and cash are not the only things that you can be robbed of; time, too, can be stolen. In a survey by TSheets, 1 in 2 employees admitted to time theft, with 16% having committed buddy punching. But the manner of “stealing” can be subtle. In fact, HR.com found out in a survey that 43% of employees exaggerated their worked hours. That’s not stealing per se, but it costs your business money. Putting in place a time tracking app will help curb this issue. But which software to get?

Source: TSheets Survey.

In this guide, we’ll go beyond the definition of time tracking software or answering: what is time tracking software? In fact, we’ll discuss these key points to help you get a clearer picture of this software category to aid your purchase decision.

  1. Examples of Time Tracking software
  2. Benefits of Time Tracking software
  3. Types of Time Tracking software
  4. Features of Time Tracking software
  5. Buying factors to consider
  6. Pricing of Time Tracking software
  7. Potential issues

Examples of Time Tracking Software

Let’s discuss some examples of time tracking software first to give you an idea how this software category looks like.

  1. Wrike. It’s a top project management solution with an excellent time-tracking feature. Its 3-pane view makes it quick and easy to see the big picture and get into the details of each task. Likewise, it allows you to break down tasks into smaller subtasks and track each of their progress or prioritize one over the others. You can attach files to each task, too, and cross link tasks. This lets you see which items impact on others, helping you to adjust quickly to schedule changes or delays.
  2. FunctionFox. Designed for creative boutiques, this project management solution also features a reliable task management module. Managers and staff can track tasks with a built-in stopwatch tool. The solution also features a timeline where you can plot milestones and estimate and track completion dates and progress. The app also includes invoicing, scheduler for meetings and events and a collaboration platform.
  3. Zoho Projects. One of the most popular lightweight project management apps, it offers a free version with time tracking and task management, good enough for small teams. You can divide goals into tasks, subtasks and milestones to help you manage goals better. You can also adjust the schedule of activities in real time and automatically set new deadlines that sync your teams’ devices. The solution also features project reports, bug tracking and email collaboration.
  4. Basceamp. One of the most popular project management apps, it is widely used to keep the whole team in sync and coordinated. It is, in fact, popular for remote teams in different time zones, helping managers keep a structured order to their goals and tasks. Key features include interactive Gantt charts, project templates and forums.
  5. Timecamp. It is a true time tracking app, meaning its core functionality is to track billable hours, automate invoicing and generate reporting. The entire time capture-to-billing process can be automated for recurring services, thus, saving you precious time for other key activities. Some of its key features includes time-entry notes, graphical timesheets, timer and away time detection.

Wrike’s 3-pane view helps you see the big picture and drill down to details at once.

Benefits of Time Tracking Software

Why use time tracking software? Let these advantages of time tracking software convince you of its importance to your business.

  1. Increase productivity. Time tracking software helps you optimize the work capacity of your team and each member’s. Deadlines are clear and monitored, putting everyone accountable and on the same page. Any wasted time can be easily spotted and addressed.
  2. Effortless time capture. You have other important things to do aside from recording billable hours. The app takes care of the routine task of time capture and wage calculation or invoicing and even ensures the accuracy and transparency of data better than manual entries. Once you have set the rules, the whole time capture to billing or payroll process is automated.
  3. Promote workplace transparency. When billable hours are tracked and recorded with accuracy, disputes are avoided. You can use the data not only to calculate dues, but also to evaluate staff performance using data-driven metrics.
  4. Improve accuracy of your deadlines. With clear visibility of tasks down to the details it is easy to estimate completion dates, insert a few delay cases, and you have never had a more accurate time estimation. Any unfulfilled daily task can quickly be cost in to adjust weekly and monthly deadline targets.
  5. Empower employees. A more accountable workforce puts managers at ease and in control of targets. This results in trust between managers and staff and, eventually, can lead to employees being given more leeway on how to meet their deliverables.

Analytics as seen on Zoho Project’s dashboard.

Types of Time Tracking Software

What is time tracking software but a tool to monitor time and tasks? The solution can take various forms, but at the core is the capability to track time. Here are some of its types:

  1. Time tracker. If an app features time tracking as its main functionality, we can categorize it as a time tracker. It allows user to clock in/out using their phones or laptops or use a stopwatch to record start/end of a task. A time tracker also has analytics and reporting that consolidate data for insights.
    Example: Timecamp
  2. Timesheet. Its primary feature is an online timesheet that is accessible from desktop and mobile devices. It may integrate with a payroll system to automate wage calculation or an invoicing app for billing. The cloud timesheet allows you to capture worked hours at the office or on the field. Likewise, a common feature is a dashboard that displays real-time data to help approve employee hours or manage time-offs and absences with replacements fast.
    Example. ClickTime
  3. Project management. Many time tracking solutions are part of a bigger project management system because tracking time is integral to project completion. In such case, they are grouped as project management software, but since they have excellent time tracking feature, they can stand out also under the latter category.
    Example: Wrike

Features of Time Tracking Software

What does time tracking software do? These are the standard features of time tracking software. They may be included under one plan or sold as add-on or integrated features.

  1. Time tracking. Generally, this core functionality captures worked hours down to the minute in real time and records these on a timesheet. The timesheet is used it to bill clients or calculate payroll with accuracy. Time tracking also lets you visualize tasks in a timeline. It helps project leaders or managers to estimate deadlines and completion dates.
  2. Online timesheet. Not all time tracking software features a timesheet, which centralizes all recorded billable hours. The timesheet acts as attendance report that also tracks absences,  time-offs and holidays. It is usually exported to PDF or CSV and used for payroll or invoicing.
  3. Project management. Although many time tracking software solutions are integrated to a  larger project management system, some time tracking apps do feature lightweight project management tools. For example, they allow you to group tasks or set deadlines by project and set priorities. You can also track project’s progress by time element like daily, weekly and month  or set budgets per project. For small and simple projects a time tracking app does the job.
  4. Online invoicing. This feature is a must-have if you bill clients by the hour or minutes. The feature tracks all worked hours with accuracy and automatically generates billing based on your settings like billable time and rates. This tool helps you invoice clients with transparency, so disputes are avoided. The tool also automates wage calculations, a great time-saver for small businesses. Employees need only to clock in/out and their time is captured on a timesheet, which is fed into a payroll system.
  5. Alerts. Notifications can be applied to different ways. For example, a reminder is sent to employees when they miss to check in or out. You can also be warned ahead when the team is falling behind schedule. Likewise, your team and its members can be alerted for urgent or pending tasks. Notifications are automated and can be sent to different channels and devices like email, SMS and dashboard.
  6. User management. It allows you to create groups and manage users by team or department. This helps you to assign tasks or generate reports by group. It also helps you delegate team tasks to a team leader. This feature uses permissions for different user types like admin, manager and staff to manage system access.
  7. Reporting and analytics. It lets you create reports and summaries with a few clicks to analyze a wide range of data relating to tasks. For example, you can review total time spent on a project or drill down to specifics such as weekly and daily stats or analyze the numbers per task. You can also run analytics on budget or find out areas where to cut costs. Reports are visualized in charts and graphs for quick lookups. Most solutions also provide templates with customization options.

Basecamp’s time tracking and scheduler tool with drag-and-drop ease.

Buying factors to consider

How does time tracking software work? Aside from focusing on the time tracking function, make sure you get these aspects covered to ensure the long-term usability of your app of choice.

  1. Does it allow payroll integration? Many solutions offer a separate payroll module or integrate with payroll systems. Make sure the app allows this to help you automate the whole gamut of capturing billable hours to generating payslips or invoices. Beyond payroll, the app should also integrate with other important business solutions, such as project management, accounting and productivity apps.
  2. Is the app accessible in various ways? There will be times that you need to record billable hours of a field or remote team. An app that is accessible from mobile devices will be useful for this case. Cloud apps let you access the system via browser. Make sure the app is also compatible with different desktop and mobile OS and browser types.
  3. Can it function offline? Internet connection will be a problem at some point. Apps with offline capability gives you room to adapt to internet outages. Once you are back online, the data is synced and updated so you don’t miss anything out.
  4. How detailed are the reports? It is best if you are given daily, weekly, monthly and yearly options to slice and dice data for reporting. This makes insights scalable to different users, for example, field supervisors, managers and the executive board.
  5. Micromanagement wastes time. Ironically, time tracking can waste a manager’s time when he or she ends up trying to track everybody’s tasks in details because he or she can with the app. This is not leveraging the power of time tracking; rather, managers should delegate time tracking to supervisors and focus on the general picture or spot special cases or bottlenecks.

Pricing of Time Tracking Software

Pricing is often on a per-user rate, either billed monthly or annually (with discount). At its basic package, time tracking app may be offered to one user only and features the core function, time tracking. The typical cost of time tracking software varies, here are a few examples:

  1. Wrike. Offers a free version for up to five users and unlimited number of collaborators. The free app includes real-time activity feed, file sharing, task management and Android and iOS apps. Paid plans start at $9.80 per user/month.
  2. FunctionFox. Has three plans to scale features from small business to enterprise requirements. Subscription starts at $35 per month for the first user, thereafter succeeding users are charged at $5 per user/month.
  3. Zoho Projects. Also has a free app that features, among others, task management, project feeds and document sharing. Paid subscriptions are from $25 per month with advanced features like time tracking and Google synchronization.
  4. Basecamp. Doesn’t charge per user but per plan only. You can add as many users as you want starting at $29 per month.
  5. Timecamp. Offered in three packages with its free plan allowing only for one user and one function, time tracking. Paid plans start at $5.25 per user/month with no user limit and featuring exporting, integrations and billable time & budgeting.

Potential issues

Time tracking solutions can have a few issues with them. These are the common problems cited with this software category, most of which are resolved with the right perspective.

  1. Project management or time tracking? Do you need a time tracking app with project management features or the other way around? If time is the main metric that matters to you, perhaps a time tracking app suits you better. But if you manage complex projects you’d want other key project management tools, too, and time tracking is just one of them.
  2. Privacy issue, demoralization. Generally, we hate our activities being tracked in details, which sends an eerie feel of living in an Orwellian world. While time tracking does provide detailed employee activities, it can cause privacy incursions and decrease employee morale. Likewise, it can turn off creative minds once they are boxed in by mechanical daily targets. Use your better judgment when dealing with different employee types; there will be those who have difficulty sticking to daily deadlines but still get an excellent job done within the completion date.
  3. Productivity isn’t always about time. Many tasks are easily evaluated based on worked hours, but some job roles like in sales, marketing and creatives do not follow a fixed time structure. These jobs are often best evaluated based on results like sales quota, ROI targets and creative outputs, which a time tracker is not suited for.
  4. Low user adoption. Implementing a time tracking app may encounter employee resistance especially if the company has been lax with employee hours. This is a workplace problem, but it will result in low user adoption of the app. Likewise, if the app is difficult to use, for example, it requires a lot of clicks to perform one function, managers and employees alike may not quickly migrate to the system.
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