What Is Time Tracking Software?
Professionals like lawyers and consultants bill by the hour, but they are not alone. The gig economy, as well as various service-focused businesses, have made billing per hour common practice. Smaller operation may be able to manage with a pencil and a notepad but any operator with multiple employees will require a more organized approach and a centralized tool. Being able to track time and also associate time with projects, contracts, and invoices ensures that companies can keep their billing accurate and up to date. Most time tracking applications connect to assorted types of accounting software, but especially to billing and invoicing solutions. They are also sometimes paired with shift schedulers and other employee-tracking apps. Basically, using interoperable cloud services, most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are able to build a highly customized and connected time tracking solution fairly easily.
At their core, however, time tracking software tools are designed to give individuals and businesses the ability to keep track of the hours (or even more generally, the intervals) at which their workers perform specific tasks. These services are primarily used by freelancers, professional services companies, and contractors. Time tracking tools use digital clock-punching features to quantify how long workers take to complete assignments. Some time tracking tools focus just on time; these include solutions such as Hubstaff and our Editors’ Choice tool TSheets. However, you can also choose tools that offer a more comprehensive project management (PM) suite. Leading PM apps include Mavenlink, Wrike, and Zoho Projects.
How Time Tracking Software Works
In most time tracking systems, users log in to the software, select a project (for example, “Freelance work for PCMag”), select a task (“Article on time tracking”), and click Start. A timer will begin recording how long individuals work on the task until they manually stop the timer or switch to a new task. The time spent on the original task will then be logged on the user’s time sheet, where it can be used to determine future payment. Some time tracking tools also let users log future hours, retroactively log hours, and make changes to previously logged hours. You can adjust hours in the past to show that a project started earlier than anticipated and note this for billing purposes. In most apps, you click the Calendar view to edit time for a project worked on that day.
In PM-focused time tracking software, hours are added to dashboards and graphs designed to give project managers better oversight into how time is being spent and where to better allocate resources. On pure play time tracking solutions, the data is primarily used to determine payment, but also to closely monitor how employees spent the time they logged (more on this later).
Although time tracking tools base their recordings almost entirely on time (24 hours in a day, multiplied by seven days, multiplied by approximately four weeks, multiplied by 12 months), there are time tracking tools that can factor in additional data sets for companies and individuals that might be more focused on production rather than duration. This is especially helpful for construction, transportation, and manufacturing services that are as inclined to measure by structures created, distances traveled, and items produced as they are hours worked. Unfortunately, not every time tracking tool in the field offers this level of tracking, so be sure to ask your prospective vendor if they offer this level of oversight.
Once all of this information is recorded and approved by system administrators and shift managers, data is pushed into invoices, reports, payments services, shift scheduling widgets, and other areas within the tools. These areas will make human resources (HR) management, billing, shift scheduling, and production monitoring easier and more automated.
Paying for Time Tracking Software
Pure play time tracking solutions are less expensive than time tracking solutions tied to PM suites. For instance, TSheets starts with a free plan geared toward one user. This plan is ideal for freelancers who need to track time while working on projects. TSheets also has a plan for up to 99 users that costs $5 per user per month with a $20 base fee per month. Companies with more than 100 users will pay an $100 base fee as well as $5 per user per month.
In this review roundup, Hubstaff is TSheets’ closest comparison; it starts with a Basic $5-per-month plan that gives you access to simple time tracking tools, an employee payment schedule manager, 24/7 support, and user settings that can be managed on an employee-by-employee basis. Hubstaff’s $10-per-month-per-user Premium plan includes everything you’ll find in the Basic plan, but you’ll also get access to Hubstaff’s application programming interface (API) and a basic scheduling tool.
Conversely, Mavenlink’s cheapest plan that includes time tracking costs $39 per user per month. Zoho’s cheapest time tracking plan costs $25 per month for 10 projects and 10 users. Wrike’s cheapest time tracking plan costs $24.80 per user per month. However, it’s important to identify how much more robust these tools are than your standard time tracking pure play solution.
For example, Mavenlink’s $39 plan comes with a collaboration dashboard, file sharing, task management delegation, project analysis, project templates, expense reporting, budget forecasting, invoicing, and payments. You’ll find these features on Wrike and Zoho Projects, but you’re not going to get that level of functionality with time tracking-specific tools such as Hubstaff and TSheets.
As for storage costs, some products, such as TimeSolv Pro and TSheets, offer an unlimited amount of storage to keep images and documents, such as invoices or actual work, in your account. A company such as VeriClock charges $20 for a 10-gigabyte (GB) block of storage. Meanwhile, Zoho Projects comes with 10 MB of free storage, and you can get 5 GB in the standard package for $20 per month.
Time Tracking Software’s Unique Features
There are various differentiating features within each time tracking solution that appeal to different types and sizes of businesses. Spending time to determine which features are essential to a SMB’s operation. A solution like Hubstaff lets users keep track of whether employees are working by letting managers record up to three screenshots per hour while they are on the clock. Screenshots can be partially blurred to hide sensitive infomation but there should be enough information to determine if a worker is engaging on work-related or personal content.
You can also record a log of keyboard and mouse activity volumes during shifts. Of the time tracking tools we tested, Hubstaff is the only tool that offered this level of insight into how workers are progressing. Hubstaff also lets you monitor employee movements via GPS tracking when they’re using the tool’s mobile app, and you can require users to snap a selfie when they arrive or leave locations (these features can also be found in TSheets).
Along with general GPS tracking, which tracks an employees’ individual location for the purposes of tracking their time, services such as Hubstaff, TSheets, and VeriClock offer geofencing in their mobile apps. This feature sends reminders when you enter or leave a specified job location radius. Also, if an employee forgets when they arrived at work, they can check the geofencing data to look up and confirm the time. Geofencing can also automatically clock in an employee when they enter the vicinity of the work location.
Most of the apps in our time tracking review roundup offer native mobile apps rather than having employees rely on a mobile web browser. An exception would be a service such as Mavenlink. The mobile tools make features such as geofencing possible on platforms like VeriClock.
For example, if you run a construction company, then you can have the prompt ask, “Was there an incident? Yes or No.” If workers don’t respond, then they won’t be able to clock out. Or you can ask truckers how many miles they just drove. These fields will then be pulled into reports to provide you with a more dimensional view of how work is being done, how productive teams are, and any other relevant workplace data you might need to create a complete picture of a workday or shift. TSheets also lets users call a phone number to clock into work. So, workers who don’t have a smartphone can use home phones or payphones to dial a number, respond to a few automated prompts, and sign in or out.
Although Wrike doesn’t give you the same advanced tracking as TSheets, you’ll still be able to collect important data from employees at the start and end of shifts. Wrike lets you add custom fields to the task pane, so that when you go over your reports, you’ll be able to see things like mileage, incidents on the job, and whether the task was billable. Unfortunately, these elements will show up in your overarching task view from within the PM console, but the data won’t appear within your time entry reports. So, if you want the additional information but you don’t require it for reporting or for punch-out, then Wrike makes it easy to start collecting.Concur Expense and Expensify make this an excellent tool for companies that use software to automate time tracking, billing, and payments.
Zoho Projects makes it possible for users to clock in and work on multiple tasks at once, which is a nice feature you won’t find on any of the other time tracking tools in this review roundup. Although this is an extremely limited use case, there are certain scenarios in which multiple tasks are being conducted at once, at least tangentially, and with the other tools mentioned in this roundup. Without Zoho Projects, there would be no way to keep track of and bill for both tasks. Perhaps the biggest benefit of working with Zoho Projects is the easy access to and integration with Zoho’s entire software ecosystem, including email marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), and HR software and management tools.
How to Choose Time Tracking Software
Which of these solutions you choose will depend primarily on what, why, and when your company is looking to track time. Once you’ve determined those elements, you’ll be able to zero in on the tools that are built specifically for your needs. For example, do you need PM expertise or are you more concerned with monitoring your employees?
Next, you’ll want to determine how much you’re willing and able to pay for this kind of tool. The price range among the tools we tested isn’t dramatic enough to box out even the smallest business or individual user, regardless of which tool is preferred. For SMBs and large enterprises, you’ll want to examine your existing software suite to determine which tools integrate with your prospective time tracking solution. All of the tools we reviewed feature open APIs so, if you’ve got a development team on your staff, then you’ll be able to build integrations internally. However, if you’d love a time tracking tool but your CRM and HR tools don’t have open APIs and don’t organically integrate with it, then you might be better served to pick another tool.
Standout tools such as BQE Core and VeriClock were just a notch below TSheets in the running for Editors’ Choice. In the following months, we’ll be updating our reviews as new features become available for each individual product. As a living and breathing document, some of the tools listed today may not be listed in a year, as scores may change and new products may be added to the review roundup. As you try solutions, be sure to check in with us to see if any new software has been added to this roundup.
Featured Time Tracking Software Reviews:
Pros: Rich communication features. Generally easy to set up and use. Responsive. Great value. Deep configuration options. Time-management tools let you clock multiple tasks at once.
Cons: Resource data displayed in an unusual way. Not ideal for large teams.
Bottom Line: Zoho Projects may set the standard for cloud project management services. An intuitive but feature-rich interface and a competitive price make it both easy to use and easy to get, which is why it’s a leader both in project management and time tracking.
Pros: Intuitive pop-out window navigation. Customizable fields allow for advanced tracking. Convenient geofencing features. Ability to call to clock-in. Handy “Who’s Working” window.
Cons: Lacks screengrabbing or keystroke recording features. Base fees increase the overall cost. Unable to schedule future time.
Bottom Line: TSheets is one of the most well-rounded of the purpose-built time tracking apps we tested. An intuitive interface, robust feature set, and an overall competitive price make this a solid Editors’ Choice winner.
Pros: Affordable, modular pricing for stand-alone time tracking. Vast reporting. Excellent customization.
Cons: Pricing can become expensive as modules are added. No GPS tracking in Android. No IP restrictions. No dial-in clock-in.
Bottom Line: BQE is looking to grow its customer base by growing its capabilities. While it began in the accounting realm, the software now has hooks to project management, time tracking, and even human resources.
Pros: Robust employee monitoring functionality. Ability to create invoices from within the app. Ample integrations with services like Asana.
Cons: Outdated user interface (UI). Stopwatch feature needs desktop application or Chrome extension to work.
Bottom Line: You might call Time Doctor a jack of many trades as it covers several categories of features, including time tracking, project management, and employee monitoring. A decent price and a nicely designed interface mean it’s a good idea to put on your evaluation list.
Pros: Easy to understand and use. Affordable compared with the competition. Robust monitoring functionality. Tons of settings for administrators.
Cons: Cannot schedule future time. Bare-bones user interface. Supports just 1 GB of storage space. Stopwatch doesn’t show seconds.
Bottom Line: VeriClock does well as a time tracking solution for small to midsized businesses. You might miss a feature here or there, but overall this is a solid solution with an easy to use interface and a competitive price. Well worth checking out.
Pros: Easy and quick setup. Intuitive to use. Tidy interface. Great feature set. Can be used to manage projects or ongoing work.
Cons: Most valuable features limited to Business-grade accounts. Timer difficult to find.
Bottom Line: Wrike really sets itself apart when it comes to ease of use and setup. If you need a solid solution that your team can pick up quickly, this one is well worth checking out.
Pros: Offers screenshot and keystroke monitoring. Easy to add time to time sheets prior to shifts. Easy to schedule shifts for employees.
Cons: No advanced tracking. Stopwatch requires a second app on the desktop. No IP address restrictions. Very basic reporting.
Bottom Line: Unlike much of the competition, Hubstaff focuses mainly on time tracking and employee monitoring rather than project management or task tracking. If that’s what you’re looking for this is a well-designed tool offered at a good price.
Pros: Full-featured project management platform. Rich with features. Stable. Open API. Robust permissions levels. Excellent Smart Snips markup feature.
Cons: Can get expensive for small businesses. No mobile apps; mobile-optimized website only. No chat app or other bonus communication tools. Website could be easier to navigate.
Bottom Line: Mavenlink has some maturity as a project management platform, which adds benefits like feature depth and the ability to integrate with a large number of other apps. However, it’s not the cheapest solution out there and lacks internal communication tools.
Pros: Well-organized user interface. Ability to clock in on multiple tasks at the same time. Solid selection of reports.
Cons: No view of elapsed time. No clock-in, clock-out reporting. Lacks project management in mobile app. No GPS monitoring or geofencing. Relatively expensive.
Bottom Line: You’ll like FunctionFox’s well-organized interface as well as its solid feature set across both time tracking and project management. However, you might not like its price when compared to the competition, though it’s not cripplingly high.
Pros: Excellent combination of project management (PM), invoicing, and time tracking elements. Affordable for companies that need basic PM functionality. Easy coding allows for simple invoice creation and distribution.
Cons: One of the worst UIs in the category. Timer lacks specificity on hours worked. Lacks GPS monitoring. Bare-bones mobile app with a blank screen at times.
Bottom Line: If you bill on a detailed per-hour bases, like law professionals might, then TimeSolv Pro does a good job. But if you’re looking for a broader feature set and an easy to use interface, you may need to keep looking.
Pros: Comprehensive work management and project management (PM) platform. Includes chat app. Easy to navigate. Quick setup. Open APIs.
Cons: Not particularly fast, slick, or responsive. Expensive.
Bottom Line: Clarizen is an online work management and PM service that’s best suited for enterprise organizations. Though it’s easy to start using, it’s a bit expensive and less slick than other options.
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