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Make full use of timesheet data with a custom report builder

Timesheet Feature Review #5:  Custom Report Builder

Timesheet software is used by companies all over the world to track their employee work efficiency, status of their projects and a whole bunch of other statistics. After all, as the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. However, in order to use the information collected by the timesheet effectively, you need to be able to analyze the wealth of information collected in a clear and suitable report. Different corporations in various industries will need different kinds of reports

For example, web developers will be concerned with billable time vs. non-billable time while non-profit organizations may worry more about expense reporting and administrative managing. When looking at maximizing your timesheet’s potential, being able to create a custom report to suit your company’s needs is a very useful feature.

Why are timesheet reports important for businesses?

Time management is an age-old problem that has plagued companies for decades. Timesheets allow a degree of management as companies are able to track how much time is being spent on a task/project. They are then able to make informed decisions regarding the project – whether to increase its funding/scrap it/assign additional resources, etc. In order for project managers to fully understand what is going on within a project, they must first be able to analyze the information keyed into the timesheet system.

One way of doing this would be to manually sift through the timesheet system – a time consuming and cumbersome process; especially for large corporations. The smarter and better alternative is to generate reports based on the data collected by the timesheet so the information is presented to you and you don’t have to spend time looking for it. Although most timesheet solutions come with a range of standard reports, these may not be exactly what you are looking for.

Why do I need to be able to customize my reports?

Reports can be on just about anything under the sun – it could be a list of invoices sent to clients, a summary of how much projects are actually spending as compared to their respective budgets or a time-use report charting the billability of each employee. If you want to be able to view reports that suit your unique and individual needs, creating custom reports becomes a very handy feature.

For some companies such as legal firms or web developers, the general “everyday” reports bundled together with standard timesheet products just don’t cut it. These companies need to create unique reports that reflect their industry. For example, web developers need to create reports on time spent debugging code and testing scripts. It is important for them to manage this time properly to avoid bleeding cash. This same fixation would not apply for a legal firm who would be more concerned with, say; time spent sourcing for case precedents. In both cases, a general time report would not adequately meet either company’s needs. Custom report building provides a workaround solution for these companies to help them maximize the potential of their timesheet systems.

What does a custom report builder look like?

As you can see from the screenshots below, a myriad of reports can be generated from timesheet data. With custom report building, you can decide what the reports focus on, how the information is presented and also how much detail to display. Custom report building is the only sure-fire way to ensure that the information collected by your timesheet product is useful to your company.

Creating a custom time report (e.g. with Harvest

Creating a custom time report (e.g. with Harvest

Creating a custom time report (e.g. with Harvest

Timesheet custom report builder (e.g. Replicon

Timesheet custom report builder (e.g. Replicon

What are the limitations of custom report building?

Custom report building only has a few real limitations. Firstly, all reports generated by the timesheet product are based off “templates”. These “templates” are based on the most common reporting needs of companies. The reports are customized by tweaking several aspects of the templates but all in all, the basic output remains about the same. If you’re looking to generate a more “exotic” industry-specific report, you might have to play around with the settings of the report generator a little more or export your data for analysis.

Secondly, custom reports are for those who know what they are doing. If you know exactly what you want to monitor and what you want to look out for, custom report building becomes an invaluable tool. However, if you just want general hassle-free reports that instantly provide you with easily digestible information, then you might get lost in the overabundance of options that custom report building provides. For companies that prefer one-click reports, custom report building is overly complicated and unnecessary.

In conclusion

Overall, custom report building is another of those “handy to have” features that might not appeal to everyone but are important for advanced users or those with very specific reporting needs. It is no wonder then that custom report building places at #5 of Software Shortlist’s top “must have” features for timesheet software. Fans of custom report building are in luck – of the 21 timesheet products reviewed by Software Shortlist, 16 offered custom report building as a feature.

Have your say…

Whether you appreciate the utility that custom reports provide or enjoy the unparalleled convenience of general reports, I think that we can all agree that reports are an essential component of timesheet systems that cannot be done without. Now that you know more about custom report building, we’d love to hear your perspective. Feel free to leave us a comment telling us about the custom reports you prefer and why.

Also, don’t forget to stay tuned for more reviews of “must have” timesheet features! Coming up next: Report Permissions!