Accurately tracking billable time – and ultimately billing for that time – is the foundation of any successful professional service firm. Without it, your cash flow can slow to a trickle, profit margins can shrink, and your firm can face some serious financial problems.
As vital as tracking time is, it can be tricky and time-consuming, especially for growing firms. Processes can get modified, some employees may do it one way (such as using spreadsheets) while others do it another (such as using a paper system), and the whole thing can get messy, clunky, and waste a lot of energy. The more disorganized it gets, the more prone to error it becomes.
Luckily, if you no longer want to waste time chasing down time cards or doing manual calculations for billing, there are time and billing software solutions to help you out. The best of these make time and billing much easier and more streamlined so your firm can save time, energy, and resources that can be spent on more meaningful work.
To help you out, make sure you look for these 6 features when researching time and billing software.
Ease of use
The only way it makes sense for you and your team to invest the time, energy, and money into a new time tracking and time billing software is if that software is significantly easier to use than your current processes.
In order to maximize your ROI, adoption should be quick and smooth. After all, the software should be saving you time and money, not draining more of it.
Look for time and billing software that’s powerful, intuitive, simple, AND provides excellent support and training options to help your team be more efficient and productive.
Automation when and where you need it
When you think about your current processes, what comes to mind in terms of pain points and bottlenecks? There may be areas that consume too much time or are heavily prone to error, such as manual data entry.
If your staff spends more than a few minutes per day dealing with time cards, you’re doing something wrong.
Look for software that solves these problems and streamlines your workflows through automation.
For example, if your software can automatically populate an employee’s time card with the tasks they’re assigned, it makes the process easier for them and saves them. Eliminating that extra step can save thousands of hours a year.
Other tasks that can be automated are your reviewal process, billing your clients, and generating reports (more on this below), to name a few.
With the right time and billing software, you can literally set it and forget it.
The other side of the time tracking coin is time billing. You want to make sure you not only log all your billable hours but actually get paid for them.
At first glance, the ability to customize your invoices may not seem like a big deal, but it can make all the difference in how your clients view your firm. Custom invoices can allow you to cater to the needs of a particular project or client.
For example, some clients may require an invoice that is summarized while others may demand to see every detail. Some may want to see an invoice for the project as a whole with all phases rolled into one, while others may want invoices for each individual phase.
Choose software that gives you the flexibility to customize your invoices so you can provide a better experience to your clients (and save your billing department from massive headaches).
Custom invoices also have an added “branding benefit” because they help you stand out from all the other firms who use the same generic invoice template (such as those generated by Quickbooks).
The ability to produce insightful reports makes a great time and billing software stand out from a mediocre one.
Reports may seem to fall more in the category of “business intelligence” software, but if your software tracks where your staff’s time goes and how you’re billing and getting paid for that time, it makes sense that your software should be able to turn that data into detailed and actionable insights.
The right KPIs will help you chart a course toward sustained profitability and growth, as well as give you insight on what actions you should take to realize those goals.
You should know if your projects are within budgets, what your staff utilization and realization rates are, how efficient your team is working from a financial standpoint, what your profit margins look like, and much more.
More importantly, you should be able to identify problem areas in real time so you can correct them immediately instead of learning about them when it’s too late (such when a project falls behind schedule, or if an invoice has been unpaid for too long).
Look for a time and billing software that integrates with other software tools your firm already uses.
Seamless integrations reduce the steps it takes to accomplish things and eliminate the need for duplicating data entry. This not only increases your team’s efficiency, it also reduces the risk of making errors or losing data between systems.
Some of the most common integrations include those with accounting software (such QuickBooks, Xero, etc.) and cloud-storage (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc).
The last (and arguably the most important) element to look for in a time & billing software is the ability to easily scale up its functionality with additional tools. As your firm grows, you’ll need better processes not just for time & billing, but for managing the other operational elements of your business, such as project management and accounting.
Using separate systems and processes to manage the different parts of your business exposes your firm to higher risks of inefficiency and low productivity, which can stress your staff and erode your profit margins.
On the flip side, being able to use one unified system to manage every element of your business empowers you with greater visibility into and control over all of your firm’s activities.
Your company’s data will be centralized so it can flow easily between different departments, keeping everyone on the same page and helping you allocate resources more effectively.
Project managers will know the status of every project, accountants will be able to see the financial performance of those projects and how they impact the firm as a whole, and the billing department will be able to create and send invoices more quickly for faster cash flow.
The Core of Your Business
Whether you need a more efficient time and billing solution to boost your margins, or an entire business management platform to supercharge your entire firm’s performance, BQE Core can help.
To learn more about how Core’s powerful cloud-based tools can help your business operate more profitably, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with a product specialist.