Appropriate timesheet structures
All too often we hear from clients and prospective users that they want to capture as much information as possible. Whilst this is great for businesses that know exactly how the data will be used, we often find ourselves advising against a complex timesheet data structure. At least for the initial roll-out.
On the surface, it's a fantastic prospect. You will have enough data captured to know exactly what activities each staff member is carrying out, each minute of the day. This enables insights into exactly which work types are causing over-servicing of clients. However, this requires a great deal of discipline from team members and clear communication from initial launch. When there are too many options to allocate time towards, individuals can resort to just allocating recordings wherever looks most appropriate. There will be cases of time recordings being placed randomly in order to meet individual daily or weekly requirements. It can also damage the morale of a business to have a granular time recording structure. With every little detail scrutinised and a lack of clear communication, team members will feel they aren't trusted or that a team is being spied on.
There is also the question of reporting and business intelligence gained. It may be capturing months or years of granular information is the goal but it is not yet known what it will be used for. There is then too much data, potentially riddled with human error. Yes, your data can be cleaned and moved into appropriate brackets. However, this can be an erroneous task without the context behind the data.
How to tackle the problems
A previous blog post covers different concepts to consider when choosing and rolling out a timesheet. The perceived value of timesheets from your team is an additional thing to keep in mind . If it is not clear from day one the purpose of the timesheet then your team will begin with no enthusiasm. Most importantly. It is crucial that you reverse engineer the system. Start with what data you need to get and work back to the time entry structure. From experience, the discussions a business needs to have internally to ensure the right type of data capture are:
1.Understand what timesheet data will enable for your business
Which of your requirements will be enabled and fulfilled through capturing timesheet data? Whether it is a better understanding of the businesses output, profitable clients or even to make sure fee earning roles are working on billable projects, this needs to be clear from day one. A good starting point in is a two layer structure, which will contain client facing work and the activities carried beneath them. The next progression is to add a third layer and start to separate projects for each client. With Tempora, timesheet data can be recorded without cost rates or charge-out rates and you are able to add values against retroactive data. This allows clients to begin actively time recording and then add the values in behind the scenes and begin running reports on that data.
There are also auxiliary questions to ask. Does the business need to capture holiday balances, overtime and time off in lieu for example. It is worth deciding whether it is beneficial to ensure team members are broken out by role and/or department. Tempora would always advise yes, but as above, this can be added into the system at a later data when your business is ready.
2. Identify your key stakeholders
It is worthwhile identifying the following:
- Which team members require the data and what format? For example, this may be a daily, weekly or monthly breakdown. This will help you plan the architecture of your time entry model. If in doubt, reach out the Tempora support team and we can advise according from our experience working with various industries and business sizes.
- Which team members will be capturing time and which ones will not. Note that ideally, as many people as possible should be capturing time in order to get the true picture. There has also been scenarios in which leaving select members out of the process can leave those included feeling that they are not trusted.
- Which disciplines within your business will be reading the data? For example, your financial controller will likely have vastly different requirements to a pitch team. It will be extremely worthwhile to make sure you know which teams are going to be extrapolating the data and what needs to be captured.
3. Be as transparent as possible
Often, it is beneficial to have a frank discussion with staff. Explain that the usage of timesheets will ensure clients are being billed correctly and ensure the business can thrive and grow sustainably. This naturally leads to job security and growth opportunity for all involved with the business. Alternatively to this, the business will be able to identify which teams or departments are over stretched and which ones are not. This will allow the team leaders to allocate resource or even decide which teams should be expanded. This often inspires staff to add feedback during the preparation stages and request inclusions in the timesheet data structure that may not have been considered. There may even be work activities that hadn't been considered. Finally, the tool can be used to ensure staff are taking adequate breaks and paid leave.
What would Tempora advise?
Of course, there is a place for big data sets and granular interrogation of your business. From experience, companies benefit most by utilising this when teams are in the habit of recording time regularly. The best roll-outs from our experience, start small and add requirements in stages. Start with time recording, get timesheets punctual (you can even use our prompt). Then begin to split the data behind the scenes. Split staff into departments and add in cost and selling rates.This will allow you to take existing, simple data and gather stronger business insights. Where there may have been 10,000 hours allocated to one client, you can now split it down into departments, incoming revenue and out-going costs.
This change will help a business graduate from time reporting, to cost of work or profitability. Data can then be split into billable time recordings, non billable and standard time vs overtime. With this data, a business can look at which fee earners are generating steady revenue or which ones are stuck behind admin tasks. Knowing which job roles are constantly creeping on budgeted time or costs can also lead to stronger pitches and budgets. You can also automate reports on a set schedule. For example, a weekly report on your budget and progress will allow quick intervention if approaching planned resource usage.
Whilst there are over 200 reports and a custom export engine in Tempora. The service can be integrated with many great data visualisation tools, through our API. A few examples are Microsoft Power BI , QLIK and ZOHO. Ensure the data output is right for you. Begin with simple reporting. Split time into quarter-years, then down into months. This transition will help the business move from broad trend analysis to being able to reliable forecast patterns.
Want a hand?
If you would like advise on how to setup your timesheet structure,or what types of data reporting can be helpful, drop us a line today.