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The Many Faces of Time Management Processes and Software

When choosing a time management or time tracking tool, it is best to consider the needs of your organization and why and how you need to track time. A practical consideration and application of your business process will go some way toward choosing the appropriate tools to manage your resources and staff and the expenses associated with your projects and business initiatives.

The following definitions may help you to better understand the available options and the various types of time tracking and time accounting systems, and to choose the system most appropriate for your business.

Time and Expense Programs are typically used to track project profitability and improve the product and service pricing and planning for future projects and client contracts. Expenses charged against a project by an employee are tracked along with the project budget.

Time Clocks and Time Cards are often used at manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers and even retail stores. Each employee has a time card for a week, or each month and uses that time card to punch in and out to validate the time they spend on a shift or job. Time clocks are usually placed at entrances or in a break room or locker room and are easily accessible to all employees.

In the past, Timeslips were used to track the time of accountants and other professionals who worked a certain number of hours for a client or a project. The slips were created with a list of projects or clients and the staff member simply recorded hours in the column associated with the project or client to whom the time would be charged. Todays time slips are much more sophisticated. These software tools are used by service based industries and professionals to track time for client billing and to create the invoices and the reports for the organization.

In a project or team environment, Time and Attendance software is used to plan for and track the time of each team member. Plan versus actual hours are reported to manage the budget and schedule and the historical data for each project is tracked to help the organization better understand how to budget and schedule future projects. These systems are also used to determine the availability of resources and staffing for upcoming projects and the fully optimize the available staff hours and skills. The enterprise will also use the system to plan for staff absence and vacation and to integrate with payroll systems to pay hourly or salaried positions.

Timesheets can be as simple as a spreadsheet completed and signed by an employee each week or as complicated as an online time sheet that requires the employee to report hours and the tasks performed along with the name of the client or project and whether the time is billable or non-billable.

In order to choose the best option for your company and your department, it is important to consider the requirements and review the features of each tool or software program. Do not be persuaded by the name of the tool or utility. Look beyond the marketing and fully review the features, functionality and references from other customers within your industry.

About the Author

Palantir, author alias for Susan Obijiski, is a technology professional, consultant, business coach and writer. Her experience includes management consulting, and she has published research for Gartner Group. Susan is a frequent speaker and presenter on a variety of topics including software and technology, business strategy, process improvement and organizational culture change.

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