What Makes a Perfect Time Tracker for Consultants

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Efficient time tracking is crucial for the success of a consultancy business.

With a smart time tracker, it is possible to keep a detailed record of billable time, evaluate team productivity, streamline invoicing and much more. But since a massive amount of content on the importance of time tracking tools is already created for consultants, we’ve decided to go a slightly different way – instead of suggesting consulting professionals which products they should adopt, we asked them to share their honest opinions about the time trackers they already use. As a result, we’ve managed to identify the five main qualities that make any piece of time tracking software perfect for a consultancy firm.

The results are summarized below.

Time tracking software for consultants

1.   Simplicity of Use

For consultants, an intuitive and user-friendly interface is one of the most appreciated qualities of timer trackers. A perfect tool is always easy and convenient to utilize. It doesn’t create unnecessary distractions or cause trouble and can be integrated into the daily routine seamlessly and harmonically.

Such was the experience of the team at DSS Consulting, a Hungarian business with decades of experience in IT consultancy. In the past, the company implemented an in-house timesheet app that had to be continuously improved to serve the purpose well. But the process of time tracking became much more effortless after shifting to actiTIME.

As stated by Richard Milanovits, a Project Manager at DSS Consulting:

“… actiTIME made employees’ time tracking experience considerably easier. People particularly enjoy using the mobile timer as they switch from one task to another. It only takes to click the ‘Start’ and the ‘Stop’ button to get accurate time logs, and there is no need to make time notes at the end of the day.”

The simplicity of implementation is also highly praised by Clockify users. According to Spencer Smith, a CEO at IRC Sales Solutions, a sales and marketing consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois:

“Clockify is very simple. This is great since many other time trackers we looked at were needlessly complicated. We don’t need the whole kitchen sink – we need to track time, and we want to do it seamlessly without creating extra time spent on operating the time tracker!”

Spencer also added that Clockify has a convenient design, which proves that the product was developed with the end-user in mind:

“The tool has a desktop app that always shows a timer on the top of your computer screen. This feature has greatly minimized the number of cases my team and I have accidentally left a timer on after switching from one project or client to another.”

Overall, when there are so many things and variables to take into account in order to lead a consulting business to success, the last thing that a manager and their team want is to lose precious time figuring out how a piece of software works or adjusting it to already established workflows. That is to say, simplicity adds value, and Clockify and actiTIME are an undeniable proof to that.

2.   Productivity Boosting Features

A strive for improved productivity is among the primary points for consultants to implement time trackers. Thus, the best tools always make it easy to review time tracking statistics, preferably in visual graphs. In addition, they allow users to generate advanced reports for comprehensive data analysis. With features like these, it is possible to:

  • Comprehend where the working time goes,
  • Identify major barriers to efficient performance,
  • And better the quality of workload distribution decisions.

According to Sam Cohen, the CEO at Gold Tree Consulting and a reliable source of support for those bogged down in the product development struggles, Toggl is a paragon of efficiency boosting software. Insightful reports for progress tracking were one of the core reasons why their team stuck to this tool. And, eventually, it helped Gold Tree Consulting attain impressive results:

“Toggl increased our productivity as we gained control over the team workload. We can spot the team members who have extra time capacity and those who have too much on their plate to reshuffle the tasks. It helps to plan who to assign on future projects.”

A great thing about Toggl is that it allows for tracking work hours automatically, which significantly increases the accuracy of data you see in the performance reports. However, some progress tracking products go even further than that! Let’s take Hubstaff and its productivity monitoring feature as an example.

As noted by Daniel J. Mogensen, a Co-Founder of a small PropTech business named Kodyl, Hubstaff is indispensable for remote staff management:

“It is a simple, intuitive piece of software that runs in the background and automatically captures the time people spend working. While the timer is on, the program takes screenshots every 2-3 minutes and provides a visual overview of the main activities online. It also measures the keyboard and mouse activity and calculates productivity based on these inputs.”

After collecting all these data, Hubstaff generates highly detailed reports and supports them with hard evidence on users’ screen time behaviors. Along with that, it detects all the changes in personal productivity to notify you about any improvements or declines. These features are essential if you’re a time tracking perfectionist or like to stay fully aware of the things your employees engage in when working on their computers throughout the day.

Nonetheless, as per Daniel’s valid remark, such constant surveillance can create additional pressure. While accurate time tracking and software-supported analysis of employee performance indeed promote productivity, they may have an opposite effect when applied to criticize workers. Thus, be sure to make use of time trackers’ handy automation to educate yourself for better decision making but avoid misemploying it for micromanaging and excessive control.

Productivity boost with a time tracker

3.   Functionality for Project Management

Consultants regard the features for project management and workload planning – even the most basic of them – as yet another important attribute of timesheet software.

When combined with project management functionality, time tracking fosters:

  • A greater sense of control over current progress,
  • Smarter workload planning,
  • More accurate project estimation,
  • And infallible compliance with budgets and timelines.

In other words, the best of time tracking tools can assist in attaining superior project outcomes by preventing the risk of cost and schedule overruns, reducing work inefficiencies and maximizing profitability.

Let’s take a look at what our consulting professionals have to say about that.

Marco Monselesan, a COO at Torino-based IT consulting company, Nash S.r.l., told us that before switching to actiTIME, their team had some difficulties with keeping track of project progress, and it took them much effort to stay within the budget. Also, they were not always happy with their task allocation decisions – employee downtime wasn’t easy to prevent. But Marco claimed that all these problems disappeared as soon as they commenced using actiTIME:

“Now, we have complete transparency over the status of work, and we improved the resource allocation results across the projects. And all this – with hours of work saved.”

How did actiTIME help Nash S.r.l. achieve such an impressive improvement? Very simple! This time tracker incorporates the scope management functionality that enables users to create multiple projects and tasks and assign them to responsible team members. Besides, it includes the Kanban board for real-time work progress monitoring and can be configured to send automatic notifications whenever the risk of budget and schedule overruns arises. In this way, you can keep up with original estimates much more efficiently.

Speaking of project estimation, many of our respondents think that their time trackers are of tremendous support during this process. Here’s what a loyal Teamwork user and an experienced Digital Marketing Consultant, Alberto Carniel had to say about that:

“The price of my services is based on the estimated amount of hours needed to work on a project. So how can I know exactly how much it takes to do things, especially if it is the first time I do them? With a chronometer, I’m able to set a benchmark for future estimates and compare my performance with similar tasks. Teamwork allows me to chronometer multiple projects simultaneously with a fool-proof interface.”

Sam Cohen, the CEO of Gold Tree Consulting, also mentioned that data-based project estimation with Toggl gave their team a chance to increase profitability by as much as 5%:

“The workforce is our most valuable resource, so the cost of the project has a direct correlation with team members’ hourly rates. For example, making $20,000 on a consulting project could be a decent revenue. But if we spent 200 hours on the project and gained $20,000 in income, how much did we profit from it?”

Answers to essential questions like these are on display in your software-generated time reports. And it usually doesn’t take much effort to calculate correct project estimates if the product of your choice allows you to track billable time and set up hourly rates for employees.

4.   Client Billing and Invoicing

Accurate and prompt invoicing is the key to sustainable income in the consulting industry. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that our consultants utilize time trackers to speed up this procedure and make it error-free while also saving time on pre-accounting data collection.

According to Sarah Franklin, a Co-Founder of Blue Tree AI, she prefers BigTime because it helps her cope with billing and invoicing masterfully:

“It’s easy to view time tracking and add billable expenses with this tool, and I can use it to bill my clients and pay those working on my team.”

Similarly to BigTime, many high-quality time trackers incorporate at least some elementary features for billing and invoicing that manage this job just perfectly. However, for those consultants who want to bring their accounting practice to another level and attain impeccable results without a second of toilsome learning and any exertion on their part, more specialized accounting software products with time tracking functionality can be the best option.

Let’s look at FreshBooks as an example.

As noted by Tory Gray, the Founder of The Gray Dot Company, effortless invoicing is the core reason why she implements this app:

“I’m a fan of time tracking via FreshBooks, primarily because it automatically takes that data (across all team members) and puts it into my invoices to send to clients each month – with no additional work to process this data on my end. In other words, it’s a BIG time saver, and takes one more thing off my plate.”

Clearly, the majority of consultants are not extremely passionate about accounting (except for those who render services in this sphere, of course). Hence, they may see such tasks as client billing as quite painful, especially if they work independently or in small teams. For those consultants, a tool that simplifies the billing and invoicing processes is no less than pure gold.

5.   Useful App Integrations

As we have already learned, time tracking software is of great service to consultancy businesses as it handles many critical work-related issues well. However, for a more advanced management experience, app integrations are crucial.

App integrations

Our study respondents particularly like to use their time trackers in combination with various project management platforms and accounting instruments. Citing the CEO of IRC Sales Solutions and a Clockify user, Spencer Smith, once more, a nice thing about his favorite time tracker is that it can be synced with Asana:

“Each time we create a task in Asana, it’s automatically created in Clockify as well.”

Though it may seem insignificant at first, such a high level of data synchronization between the two instruments is very valuable indeed. It eliminates double work and saves time that would otherwise be spent on re-creating tasks in Clockify.

The integration with QuickBooks is also a popular choice. According to Joyce Kristiansson, the Founder of Kristiansson LLC, an environmental consulting firm based in Houston, Texas, she and her team track time with TSheets and sync it with QuickBooks and Intuit Payroll:

“Using these three apps together makes everything flow fairly seamlessly. Though interfacing them all simultaneously can be challenging, once you work out the kinks, learn the idiosyncrasies of each app and understand how they work together, the result is really powerful.”

Of course, time trackers reviewed in this article offer much more opportunities for integration with other apps. And as per our consultants’ reviews, the more options the tool provides, the better it is for their business and practice! Software integrations increase interoperability between different company units, enhance collaboration and eliminate unnecessary trouble from data sharing – all things important for a trouble-free consulting practice.

Conclusion

As there is no single recipe for business success, so there is no universal time tracking software that would match each and every consultant’s needs and interests ideally. Nevertheless, the perfect time tracker for consulting professionals is surely simple to implement and helps promote productivity. It includes functionality for project management, streamlines invoicing and billing, and can be integrated with many other useful instruments and apps.

Are you ready to reap the benefits of a highly efficient time tracking process? Sign up for a free actiTIME trial here and enjoy the five qualities of a perfect time tracker in practice.

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