Picking the right time tracking software

Time tracking software is a rather broad category

Different products generally target very different industries, and are built to handle the core and unique aspects for the types of businesses they focus on.

Time tracking software will often end up being a major part of the front-office workflow for a small business. This is because keeping track of what staff are doing is critical in day-to-day running of the business. That said, the things people actually do, how they do it and the reason for keeping track of it all, varies wildly between industries. Although there is some overlap between industries and how their day-to-day works, there are unique aspects to each one.

The wrong product will cost you time and money in lost productivity as a result of it not being ‘quite right’, missing key features, or being complex and hard to use as a result of too many unnecessary features.

So what are the points of difference between these different industries and how do the various time tracking products best focus on them?

Time tracking software for professional services

“Time tracking” is one of those terms that most people in the professional services industry hate to hear. One reason for this is that their staff are typically on a salary - therefore tracking time is considered a chore since it doesn’t directly translate into wages. Consequently, using a product that the team actually enjoy using (as much as possible) makes a huge impact on engagement.

As professional services firms are primarily desk based, a great desktop or web browser experience is usually a top priority. That said, decent mobile support such as iPhone time tracking and Android time tracking are expected these days as well - especially if staff are off-site from time to time.

Since work is often performed for multiple clients or projects per day, a system that has fast and efficient ways to enter time entries as well as seamless switching between tasks is important - unless you want your staff to be constantly complaining!

Another important consideration is budgeting and reporting functionality. Most time tracking software will have have this in one form or another, but of particular importance to professional services is ongoing budgeting and reporting at multiple levels. You need to be able to see progress at the client and job level, as well as get an idea of how much money you’re making at the whole-company level.

Keeping track of your billable & non-billable work, and having a seamless way to bill clients is also important. The business won’t make any money if you’re wasting hours or days generating invoices, so ensuring this is a fast and seamless process is critical.

Finally, built-in project management isn’t often included with time tracking apps and the best project management software like Asana and Basecamp rarely have time & billing functionality either. Picking time tracking software that provides a way to simply integrate your project management and time tracking & billing workflows is a nice time saving feature.

MinuteDock is time tracking software made specifically for professional services, allowing us to focus our user experience around the things that matter most to these types of businesses.

Time tracking software for construction & field services

While there is a bit of overlap between Construction & Field Services and Professional Services (for Field Services in particular, multi-client support and client billing functionality is important), there are also some quite unique requirements due to the nature of the work.

One of the key differentiators is that Construction & Field Service workers are almost exclusively mobile. Because of this, the mobile interface is critical. GPS tracking can be highly desired in order to keep track of where staff are due to the mobile nature of the work. This is in contrast to Professional Services, where it’s rarely required (nor wanted).

Task and job assignment for staff in the field is often also needed. This is one of the reasons that apps targeting the Field Services industry are often full blown Job Management systems, as planning and scheduling is intricately linked with the time recording and billing.

For Construction in particular, the ability for a manager to bulk clock-in a crew of staff is often needed. Additionally, payroll integration is usually the main reason for tracking time for staff on site, so great payroll integration is usually a must (something that generally isn’t used for Professional Services).

Tradify is a great example of an app that focuses on field services in particular. They’ve built a product that focuses precisely on the workflow of tradies in the field, without cluttering the app for other types of businesses.

Time tracking software for retail & hospitality

Retail & Hospitality is different yet again. Job & task management is not usually needed here at all - as time tracking is mainly centered around rostering and payroll. Staff usually work at the same place doing the same thing each time and for the entirety of a shift.

Wall based time clocks are usually the most popular for these industries, often including photo capture too. Staff are generally at one site that doesn’t have a dedicated computer/device for each person. Additionally, many retail companies prefer to not allow employees to clock in on their personal devices to avoid the risk of time theft. So while staff are tracking time, it’s often through a completely different interface than the other industries.

Possibly the most important functionality for Retail & Hospitality is the payroll integration. Most Retail & Hospitality staff are generally on an hourly basis. This means that the payroll integration needs to work well with local wage laws and award interpretations, break rules, etc. This is often a significant part of the development effort.

The payroll functionality usually ties in deeply with shift management & rostering functionality. This is often one of the main admin areas of the business - so a product that makes this seamless and straightforward can really reduce overheads.

Tanda is a great app that focuses on these particular use cases. For example, the way for staff to clock in is with their wall mounted clock - they haven’t added the complexity of a clock in system on user’s phones. This is one way they keep the product focussed and the user experience clear and simple for what their customers need.

These three industries are just the tip of the iceberg - there are many more industries and niches that we haven’t covered here. As we’ve seen, there are some fairly unique requirements across the different use cases even though ‘time tracking’ software is usually lumped under one umbrella.

Apps like MinuteDock, Tradify and Tanda all focus their product experience for specific industries.

Beware of apps that claim to work across all industries, as it usually means they sacrifice of ease-of-use.

When you’re comparing time tracking apps, remember to step back and make sure you understand your industry and business requirements clearly. Picking a product that focuses on just the right features will mean a much better experience for your and your team overall.

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