The missing timesheet nightmare: 5 strategies to fix the problem

When we meet prospective clients, we often hear about their difficulties in getting everyone to fill out their timesheets in time. Missing timesheets create problems for administration: information is missing at billing time, project performance reports are incomplete, and payroll requires assumptions to be made, which are difficult to correct later on.

The fact is, very few people enjoy logging their time. It’s often perceived as a clerical activity that is not productive to the employee, and provides a sense of “being controlled from above.” Not every part of one’s job can be fun, and we have to live with that.

However, as managers, we can use strategies to motivate our employees to hand in their timesheets. Here are five of them:

  1. The hard line: No timesheet, no pay.
    Pros: It’s highly effective. If someone misses a paycheck once because they forgot to submit their timesheet, it will certainly be their last.
    Cons: Repressive strategies tend to breed discontent in teams.
  2. The positive reinforcement: Get a perk every week the timesheet is filled on time.
    Pros: Getting the perk is a positive motivator and people will enjoy it.
    Cons: No perk comes for free: you have to allow the additional cost in your budget.
  3. The nagger: Automatically (or manually) tell your employees when they have not filled out their timesheet.
    Pros: This method works well with the forgetful employees.
    Cons: Most employees will become accustomed to the reminder over time, and the method may lose effectiveness in the long term.
  4. The gamification: The first employee submitting a timesheet gets a prize.
    Pros: Gamification of the workplace is all the rage these days. It’s especially effective with younger employees.
    Cons: As the article suggests, making a game out of timesheets does not make up for bad management. Plus, the game needs to be kept interesting, so it requires frequent updates and changes.
  5. The social reinforcement: Teams who submit timesheets on time get recognition, team who don’t lose a perk.
    Pros: This strategy promotes working as a team and may improve team cohesion.
    Cons: A non-compliant team member might be ostracized and experience adverse effects from his or her colleagues, creating more conflict in the workplace.

Whatever the strategy, you have to choose one that fits your team and the way they work.Good+boss

Workflow management, a must

IMG_1267In order to improve your business efficiency and to standardize your processes you have purchased a time and billing system which enables you to invoice and to manage your projects through various financial reports. So now you have a solution that centralizes the different stages of your project management.

However, the system is dependent on your goodwill. It is your responsibility to manage your employees’ timesheets, to follow the evolution of your costs, project by project, to manage status changes in your projects, to manage completion dates of projects … and the list goes on.

Abak is a proactive software that manages these important elements for you and keeps you informed through alerts. Abak’s workflow module enables you to configure alerts in various situations.

How does it work?

The principle is simple; various rules relating to specific situations are set in Abak. Those rules are customizable (frequency, description, trigger parameters). The administrator creates templates for custom alerts. Alerts can be applied to one or more projects, and a number of customers or employees. The alarm activation results in sending an email to interested parties.

Some types of alerts:

  • When you reach a certain percentage of the budget,
  • When the project status is changed,
  • When you approach the planned completion date of a project,
  • When a timesheet is incomplete, etc.

Example of a customized alert:

“Hello! A phase of a project is over budget:

Project WLAFL-01F-CONSULAR – Training and Documentation

Phase 1.1 – Meeting client. Actual amount of hour in phase: 40h – Budget Phase: 30 pm.

Attention is required.

Good day! Abak, your friendly business management system.”

Do not hesitate to contact us for more information on Abak’s workflow module!

Do you underuse your time management, billing software?

You have been working with your software since a few years but do you use it to its full potential? Does it still answer your expectations and fulfill your needs?

Most software are normally updated at least once a year and include new features and improvements. The world of software evolves quickly and continuously. Update after update news functionalities are activated and quite often the user has no time to get used with those improvements, and new features and hence cannot really get the benefit of those improvements.

IMG_0804 (5)

Under which circumstances would you under-utilize your software?

  • Employees leaving the company

In each and every organization, the staff is called up, sooner or later, to be replaced. Part of their knowledge is then passed on to the successors. This transfer of knowledge is often imperfect, incomplete or erroneous. This fact applies also to the resource(s) who manage(s) the time, billing and project management software. Hence, quality and accuracy of the passed on knowledge might decrease throughout the years, affecting the proper use of software. It is recommended to write a procedures handbook where the knowledge can be consigned.

  • Software not updated

Users often tend to forget to update their software. Most programs offer one or more updates per year. Each update includes improvements and new features. Therefore, the users quite often do not use the software to its full capacity, thus depriving them of valuable and useful features.

  • Additional training required

Quite often the users who maintain their software updated, will partially use the new features, and will not ask for additional training. The risk is then high that new features and software improvements will be misused or partially utilized.

  • Evolution of the company needs

Each and every business grows throughout time, and therefore company needs and requirements evolve too. Most of the time those needs, such as time management, billing, financial management of the project require a changing features tool. However, the user continues to use the software as he did years ago without using all the benefits that software can provide.

It is therefore recommended, in parallel with regular software upgrades and updates, to validate the following:

  • Does the staff know well how to use software?
  • Are my software updated to the most recent version?
  • Do we need to refresh our knowledge of software by means of additional training?
  • Does our time, billing and project management software still answer your growing needs?
  • Do we have an updated and customized procedures handbook?

A look at your current situation conducted with your software provider is recommended.

Implementing a new software sometimes seems like a dreadfull process

struggle

Each company is sooner or later confronted with the need of new management software, for instance a time, billing and project cost management solution. Such kind of software is a tool which belongs to a constantly changing world, and its life cycle is quite often very short.

Installation is only a preliminary stage of an implementation process that can sometimes be complex and require a lot of time. In the case of ERP systems, for example, the implementation process will generally require several months. One can imagine the stress and uncertainty that such an operation generates within a company.

Beyond technical considerations such as compliance of the IT infrastructure with technical prerequisites, integration with other software, and import of existing data, there are other important elements that play a role in the successful implementation of the new program.

These are human parameters. They should be taken into account in the specification of the implementation process:

  • the risk of reluctance to change
  • the motivation of key players involved in the implementation process
  • the availability of key personnel during the implementation process.

Reluctance to change

The situation is well known, and very symptomatic. For example, employees of a company are accustomed to log their time in an Excel format. The implementation of new timesheet software can be seen as a disruption of habits and a strengthened way of controlling employee’s time.
Another example: invoices are generated manually with word processing software. The advent of software that processes timesheets, expenses and generates billing may create irritation and reluctance because its implementation will modify work methodologies which often are deeply rooted among the employees. This climate of reluctance could generate the risk of delaying the commissioning of the new time; billing and project cost management software and affect its performance.

Motivation of key players during the implementation

Before making a choice of change or acquisition of a new timesheet management tool it is crucial to ensure that key stakeholders, that is to say, the managers of the company are really motivated by this implementation and consider this new project management software as a significant improvement in their current processes. If this is not the case, the duration of the implementation will be longer than normal, and the brand new tool is likely to be under-utilized. A common example refers to professionals with highly developed ‘creative’ skills (communication professionals, architects, and others) who could be poorly motivated by the perspective to use organizational and financial software features for monitoring their projects.

Availability of key people

When you implement a new management time and expenses recording software, key people (Controller, General Manager, HR …) need to be available in order to assiduously attend training sessions. Experience shows that too large time gaps between training sessions has the perverse effect of diluting the knowledge acquired progressively, to discourage individuals and to significantly slow the process of implantation. In addition, the software vendor expects to be guided by his client to set its product plan and organize training according to the customer’s expectations.

Conclusion

Choosing a time and billing software based on technical requirements and software performance is a good strategy of evolution of the company. In contrast, the human component, as briefly mentioned above should require a detailed analysis beforehand. If all the conditions required for the implementation (technical and human) are not gathered, one should then perhaps postpone the operation to ensure its success later. In a nutshell, availability and motivation of key people constitute the key to a successful implementation. When a company decides to move forward with our time and billing and project cost management software we take those human parameters into consideration, and work closely with the customer to ensure a successful implementation.

5 traps of fixed fee contracts

Fixed fee contracts can be great assets as well as disadvantages; it’s not that they’re bad in themselves, but they must be done right in order to avoid onerous consequences. When drafting a fixed fee contract with a client, here are 5 traps to avoid:

  1. The missing information. When doing a fixed fee arrangement, make sure to be as specific as you can about what is included and what isn’t in the contract. This can apply to the number of hours of work included or the number of revisions allowed on a plan. Also, any extras should be specified along with the rate at which these will be billed. This helps settle disagreements.
  2. Is it finished yet? Be very careful how you define a work as completed. Is it after the required hours have been worked? Is it if the customer accepts the work done? Is it based on specific requirements provided by the client? Being specific about when the work is done helps curtail the “one more thing” problem with clients who always want more.
  3. Forgotten costs. When putting together the proposal for a fixed fee contract, it’s important to think about all your costs. That includes time spent by administrative personnel, travel expenses, or even luncheon meetings. You should also think about technical support costs and factor those in.
  4. What about after? The fixed fee contract should also include the cost of post-project support. Just like the cost of customer service is built-in the products we buy, so should we include it in our fixed fee contracts – unless we exclude it.
  5. How full is the glass? No one wants to think about problems we might have in a project. We all want to feel competent and able to complete our projects on time. However, when estimating a fixed fee contract, pessimism rules. Planning for the project to take longer builds leeway for us down the line.

Precision and efficiency are most important in a time management et billing software like Abak 360.