It's About Time!

Posted by Brian Siefkes on August 7, 2014

Clocks Time

For any architecture or engineering firm, time is everything.  You’re selling your efforts and expertise to deliver projects to your customers.  So if your entire business revolves around how you spend your time, shouldn’t your time management process be central to how you run your business?  It should, but for most firms, it isn’t.

Every week it’s the same thing.  Administrators send email reminders to all the timesheet offenders about getting their time entered or reviewed.  They’re not doing it because they enjoy the authority; they need that time entered so they can send invoices to clients.  Meanwhile, employees are constantly forgetting to submit their timesheets or coding their time incorrectly. These small delays can cause time entry errors, billing disputes and drag out the collections process.  It can quickly add up and create a financial strain on the business.  Poor time entry practices are a recurring problem that needs to stop.

If you’re using a modern accounting and project management system, there are tools that can help.

Project setup:  It all starts with how you build your projects in your software.  Keep your phase structure simple and related to the work that is done.  Don’t cause your employees to think too hard about where to put their time.

Active phases:  Keep inactive phases closed to time entry.  This may need to be handled by project managers but it is a great way to simplify where time should be entered on the project.

Manage your schedule: Assign your team to the phases of work that you want them to be involved in.  Giving them visibility into the phases they are assigned to not only helps them stay on task and utilized, but also makes time entry a breeze.

Restrict time entry:  Limit the list of projects and phases available for time entry to the ones your team is assigned to.  This helps reduce time entry errors and promotes better project scheduling. 

Create automated alerts:  Alert your team to submit their time as soon as possible.  An email alert with a link to their timesheet should be sent the day the timesheet is due, or as soon as a correction is required.  Any modern accounting and project management system should be able to achieve this.

Lead from the top:  More often than not, firm leaders are the worst timesheet offenders.  Owners and principals should seek to set the standard, rather than be the exception.  After all, they typically have the highest billing rates. 

A strong time entry process will provide benefits in all areas of firm and project management.  It keeps project managers in control of project performance and helps manage the financial health of the business.  If you adopt these strategies, you will strengthen your cash flow and drastically improve your firm’s financial position.