A manifesto against double data entry

  1. KookaburrasAutomation is for machines, not humans
    Machines excel at automating tasks like transferring data from one place to another.
  2. Big brains for big tasks
    Our brains are too big to do something as mind-numbing as copy and paste
  3. We can’t trust us
    We are not reliable enough to copy information without introducing mistakes once in a while
  4. Time is money
    People should be working on revenue-producing projects, not repetitive clerical tasks.
  5. Convenient and practical are not the same.
    The road to consultant hell is paved with abandoned spreadsheets, confused versions, and lost emails.

It’s time we grow up and away from manual systems. Our organizations deserve better than copy and paste errors, wasted time and under-billed clients.

Leverage the power of the time and billing system your deserve!

Do you like working for free?

free to use image- vintage toy cash register

In the professional services world, working for free is like giving away our product. Just like retailers try to avoid giving away products, consulting professionals want to avoid under-billing clients.

Under-billing happens when we forget to record billable time for a client. If it’s not recorded, it cannot get billed. And if time is not billed, then we’re working for free. The trouble is: we still have to pay the salary for team members who are doing non-billed work for clients.

How does that happen? The monthly time sheet is one source of the problem. Since most consulting projects are billed – or at least accounted for – on a monthly basis, employees are asked to provide their time sheets once a month. In too many organizations, time sheets are Excel spreadsheets filled out at the end of the month. Who remembers what they worked on three weeks ago?

While it may be perceived as more time-consuming, filling out our time sheets daily or weekly is profitable in the long term: the records are more accurate, less billable time is forgotten and invoicing increases.

With Abak as the time sheet and billing system, the connection between billable time and billed time is made automatically: there is no need to re-enter information and no risk of data entry error at invoicing time.

12 questions to answer before choosing a time and billing system

Tommy Dodgen, age 4, standing by the largest lamp in the world: Tampa, FloridaBefore starting your search for a time sheet, invoicing and project cost management system, several requirements must be established to help you narrow the choices down and make sure you look for what you really need.

Besides the software’s features and pricing, several other criteria should be included in evaluating solutions: usability, scalability, customer service, etc.

Twelve questions you should answer before choosing a time management solution

  1. Do I only need a simple time sheet and expense report application, or a centralized, integrated solution?
  2. How reliable is my current time sheet and expense report system? How do I control my projects’ profitability?
  3. Should the solution allow for project management and project budget control?
  4. Should the solution allow complex projet structures, with phases and sub-tasks?
  5. Should the solution allow for setting budgets at the task level within a project?
  6. Should the solution allow for both billable and non-billable items, should it support cost and sell rates?
  7. How flexible should the software be when it comes to rates? Should it allow special rate per project, per task, per employee, per time period, per role?
  8. Should the solution integrate with your accounting system and payroll?
  9. Which reports will you need to manage your projects? Can the solution provide those reports?
  10. Can your invoice formats be reproduced within the solution?
  11. How closely should your software vendor work with you? How will you add/remove licences, customize reports and invoices?
  12. Will you need a web-based interface to log time and expenses?

The Small Business Profit Kit is Now Available!

Check for O'Toole - $22,500 (LOC)The new small business profit kit includes articles about business success and a simple method for determining billable rates for professional services businesses.

In this kit, we propose a cost-based approach along with simple sensitivity analysis tools that allow small professional services businesses to determine the fair price for their billable time. It is our hope that with our approach, professional services businesses improve their profitability and cost management.

Download the profit kit here

5 reasons why spreadsheets turn timesheets into a nightmare

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California

Spreadsheets are great: they allow us to log a lot of information in an efficient format. They allow us to make computations, charts, and lots of fancy stuff (if you know the formulas). And because everyone has a spreadsheet program (Excel for most of us), it’s easy to send the information to someone else.

Spreadsheets are a nightmare waiting to happen.

Why? Because we expect spreadsheets to behave like centralized databases, self-updating and self-managed. This is not the case.

Here are 5 reasons why you should stay away from spreadsheets for your timesheets:

  1. Spreadsheets don’t report to central when something changes. Updating your timesheet? Making a correction? Unless you remember to let management know about the changed, it stays in the spreadsheet.
  2. Versions, versions, versions. With email, spreadsheets have become even more disastrous. As one version is sent, someone sends back a correction, and then we need to resend the corrected time sheet to everyone over again, we end up to so many versions of the same file, it’s maddening.
  3. Spreadsheets are an island. Unless equipped with advanced knowledge of Excel programming, what is in the spreadsheet stays in the spreadsheet. If we have a team working together, they cannot log everything in the same spreadsheet, at the same time. This creates and archipelago of information, that needs to be reconnected by administration.
  4. It’s a pain to turn this into an invoice. Unless significant investment is made in tunring spreadsheets into a billing system (and think of the pain of maintaining this!), information from the team’s time sheets has to copied and pasted over to the invoice. Can we think of a better way to introduce mistakes in our invoices?
  5. Consolidation?How does information flow from timesheets to invoices to accounts receivables and to payroll? With spreadsheets, it’s all done by hand, with risk of error of course…. And a bonus!
  6. Forgetting is just a fact of life. We forget. We forget about this one billable call we took while driving. We forget about the business lunch we had last week. It’s normal. With spreadsheets, those things get left out, and the company loses revenues.

Isn’t it time those systems talked to each other?

We live in this great modern world. We have the technology to flow information from one system to next, seamlessly, automatically. So why are we so bent on doing it all manually?

About Gut Feelings, And Why You Need Time & Billing Software

Learning how to determine latitude by using a sextant is Senta Osoling, student at Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles, Calif. Navigation classes are part of the school's program for training its students for specific contributions to the war effort (LOC

We had a client who signed on to us because he and his associate could not agree on what was most profitable in their business. While one thought one type of contract was most profitable, the other associate believed it was something else entirely.

The problem was: they were both basing their conclusions on their gut feelings, their instinct. And while instinct is indispensable in business, it may not be the best guide to assess business performance. Why? Because our gut feeling does not have a 360-dregree view of the business. It only has access to the data we pay attention to.

Sales Myopia

From the sales perspective, we’re focused on sales contracts. How much one client signs for over another. However, once the contract is being executed, it’s often out of our hands. Hence, we may not know that the client requires a lot of non-billable work, which drives profitability down faster than a mortgage crisis.

Project Manager Myopia

From a project management standpoint, we see how projects go: how fast we get approvals from the client, how well the project is scoped and how many (or how few) change requests we get. If the project budget and timeline are respected, then the project seems successful. However, if this client takes 90 days instead of 30 to pay invoices, and requires a lot of legwork to get contracts signed before the project can start, it may not be as profitable as it seems.

Administrator Myopia

From an administration standpoint, what makes a good client is accounts receivables. However, the speed at which a client pays does not necessarily mean profit. What is this client generates too much non-billable work? What is this client’s projects consistently go over-budget?

Our gut feeling doesn’t see straight

Because our personal perspective on the business is not as accurate as we would all like to believe, we need data. Cold, hard, heartless data.

What’s the real cost for your billing system?

Sign of the Past Is This Abandoned Gasoline Pump with a Price of 29.9 Cents Per Gallon. The Cost of Fuel Has Made Such a Reoccurrence Nothing But a Dream. The Gas Pump Was Photographed at 04/1974

When shopping for a time and billling system, we tend to compare licence costs only, and we forget about the total cost of ownership for a solution.

Beyond paying for a software licence, we should also look at what is required for implementation, training, and hardware needs.

More than that, we should also look beyond the dollar costs and examine the time that needs to be invested in the new solution to make it operational. This is essential to compute the total cost of ownership. And wihtout the cost of onwership, it would be impossible for us to know the return on our investment.

Let’s look at Abak, for a team of 5:

  • Yearly licence, including accounting integration: $ 660
  • Training, 15 hours, web-based: $ 1400
  • Implementation: done during and between training session by the client themselves. The time required depends on the management choices made by the clients. It usually takes about 5 days of work (40 hours) to get Abak up and running. However, most of our clients don’t stop their business for a week or two to get their time and billing system implemented, they will do it part time, which can bring implementation delays upwards of one month.
  • Hardware and software: a basic windows workstation is fine for users, and windows server with Microsoft SQL Express will run Abak’s server.

As you can see, Abak’s hardware and software needs are on the light side. However, there is no skirting the implementation and configuration work. When choosing a time and billing, we should beware of solution providers that promise implementation within a few hours.

As for Abak, we prefer to present a realistic picture of the resources needed to get the most out of our time and billing system, rather than over promise and end up with unhappy customers.

What do you think?

Announcing November’s AbaKast: Reports!

Abak Software LogoAbaKast training sessions are webcasts for small groups of Abak users, where we’ll focus on a specific part of our time and billing software.

In November, we’ll talk about reports! Abak’s reporting engine is quite powerful and flexible. We can export information to PDF, Word, or Excel.

During November’s AbaKast session, we’ll explore how to create, customize and export reports from Abak. We’ll also cover our little-known but super-powerful feature, the pivot reports (formerly known as dashboards).

AbaKast 102: Efficient reporting

Tuesday, November 16
1h30 – 3h30pm, Eastern Time

Only 99$

Register here!

Become a master of reporting:

  • Standard reports
  • Custom reports
  • Parameters
  • Dashboard reporting

Time and Billing doesn’t have to hurt

Money

No one likes to fill out their time sheets. No one likes to do their invoicing at the end of the month.

Yet, everyone likes a paycheck, no?

Then, why are time and billing processes so painful? Why are we so opposed to logging our time, or asking out clients for money? It’s all in the mindset. à

Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of reporting to someone else. Logging out time feels like an evaluation, a justification of our work. The process is a little different for invoicing our clients: we often feel uncomfortable sending a big bill to a client, as our work was not worth the amount printed at the bottom of the page. When it comes to billing, there is a component of self-confidence that is touched.

Let’s say it together: we’re worth the money!

We’re worth the money our clients pay us. If we are proud of the work we’ve done, we should be proud of the invoice that comes with it! If we feel that we’ve done a good week of work, we should feel good about filling out our timesheet!

Make time and billing easier

Timesheets and billing can be made easier with the right system for our needs. Whether it’s a mobile app or a desktop system, connecting the work we’ve done automatically to the clients we bill will not only save time, but also grief at the end of the month.