1 August 2018

Five reasons for integrating time tracking and invoicing in project-oriented companies

Microsoft Excel for time recording - Microsoft Word for invoicing: this combination is still part of everyday life in many project-oriented companies. But even though it seems obvious to use standard applications that are available "everywhere" for project management and project controlling, there are some reasons not to do so.

1. time recording no longer just a "necessary evil

Time recording is not really one of the employees' "favourite tasks", especially in project-oriented companies. Time recording via (Excel) tables does not really help this task to rise in the popularity scale of the employees. Often there is a separate table for each project in which the project times have to be recorded. If the employees are often on the road, e.g. on site at the customer, the recording of the times often remains until the next "office day" or is sometimes postponed until the end of the month, until the project management or the accounting department demands the submission of the timesheets. And when the office day comes, the tiresome recording of the hours worked on the project is usually done last of all.

And the person responsible for the accounting of the recorded project times is not exactly thrilled when he/she has to "fight" through the most diverse, often incompletely filled Excel tables for the accounting and has to constantly "force" the project staff to finally "enter their times".

2. high expenditure of time is avoided

"At one point, it took almost two complete working days to settle just a handful of client projects," recalls Sandra Gröning from the company PIM-CONSULT She thinks back to the time when her company still relied on the Excel/Word combination mentioned at the beginning for time recording and invoicing. This also confirms the problem mentioned in the previous point, that standard tables are not very suitable to ensure a precise and timely recording of working hours.

3. high susceptibility to errors is eliminated

Closely linked to the time required is also a high susceptibility to errors. The "unwillingness" of many project staff has already been discussed above. Unfortunately, this often leads to a lack of the necessary diligence. Often, project times are simply forgotten, especially if there are several days or weeks between the project and the next "office day" and the employee simply does not remember what he or she did for which project and when.

Another major source of error is, of course, the transfer of project times to invoicing, if this has to be done manually - as is usual when using MS-Excel and MS-Word.

4. automation becomes possible

In many project-oriented companies there are different billing rates for different types of projects or clients - keyword hourly or daily rates. Often, different forms of billing (lump sum/fixed price) are agreed upon. If freelancers are used, their hourly rates/day rates must also be taken into account accordingly. In addition, the frequency of errors already mentioned when summarising and transferring project times from time recording to invoicing is reduced to a minimum if it is done automatically.

5. turnover losses are avoided

This reason, which speaks against manual time recording and invoicing with standard applications, results from reasons 1 to 4. Project times that are not recorded or incorrectly recorded, or project times that are not or incorrectly transferred to invoicing, ultimately lead to these times also being invoiced incorrectly or even not at all. In the 2016 trend study on project controlling, 49 per cent of the companies surveyed admitted that project times had not been recorded in the past, and 35 per cent of the companies had recorded project times but not invoiced them.

ZEP: Integration of time recording and invoicing in a closed system

Modern time recording systems such as ZEP have recognised precisely these deficits of manual time recording and invoicing and offer solutions for them.

For example, instead of having to enter project times via "boring" tables, ZEP offers an intuitive, user-friendly interface for entering working times with numerous functions that facilitate entry. Apps are available for mobile use, so the employee no longer has to wait until the next "office day", but can also complete the times on the go on their smartphone or tablet.

"Just don't take it away from us anymore!" This quote from an employee of the company Tedesio after the introduction of ZEP actually says it all. Tedesio Managing Director Holger May explains: "From a management point of view, the use of a tool stands and falls with the acceptance of the employees. For the area of time recording, this means that the employees must perceive a corresponding tool as a noticeable facilitation of work and not as a control instrument. With the use of ZEP, we have succeeded in this."

About the Invoice module of ZEP, all recorded times are then automatically transferred to the invoicing. The transmission errors mentioned above are thus excluded. The hourly and daily rates of the consultants can be stored in the module so that the complete invoicing process up to the sending of the invoice is fully automated.

A reminder function of ZEP reminds the user when invoices can be issued or expenses have been incurred for which no settlement has yet been planned. Numerous evaluation functions such as incoming payments, sales forecasts, open items or unfinished services also support project controlling.

Conclusion: The times of Microsoft Excel and Word as applications for time recording and invoicing should by now be a thing of the past, especially in project-oriented companies, and be replaced by integrated, web-based and mobile-usable complete solutions. The main reason? "Because time is money!"