2012 was an exciting year for us at Happy Marketers because we started working with many new clients and also expanded our team. More work and more people, calls for better ways to organize tasks and manage employees. Hence, we decided to start using a time sheet application for our growing team and manage the projects efficiently. When I started researching about the available options, I was surprised to find so many time sheet applications. It was quite a task to decide and select one application which was best suited for our team. So, in this blog post, I am going to share my thoughts on how to go about selecting the right time sheet app based on my experience.
1. Know your requirements: This is the top priority, as each time sheet app is different in its operations. Ask yourself ,”Why do I need this application?”, “What kind of capabilities do I want?” before you set out to do your research. Listing down the requirements for each employee or each vertical will give you an exhaustive list. Then narrow down the list by choosing the most relevant ones and categorize them into groups.
2. Size of your team: If your team is small and you are looking for a time sheet app to cater to the current team, consider the future team size. Some of the apps are free upto to a certain number of users and after that you will charged per user per month. Many app comparison tools have a parameter called the “Scalability Factor”. Thus, the long-term estimation of team size will help you choose a scalable app based on its scalability factor.
3. Projects handled by your team: The time sheet apps available these days are capable of catering to simple small scale as well as large scale complex projects. Gaining thorough knowledge about the size and complexity of your current and future projects will help you to get the app that suits you best. Look out for the freedom to manage different projects, flexibility and accuracy in each app. Test the app and see if you can define the hierarchy of projects, sub-division of projects and also if detailed breakdown of projects is possible.
4. Kind of resources you have: Check if you have people of the same skill set in the company or each person has specialized skills. This makes a lot of difference while choosing your app. It is tougher to manage a multi-skilled team as the requirements, KPIs, productivity and time required to complete a task is unique. Look out for the capabilities of the app and see if it allows multiple task management. Find out about the maximum number of users that can use the app and also the kind of grouping of tasks the app allows. Above all, check out the price that you would have to pay for these features.
5. Reporting requirements: Think about how important are reports for your company and the kind of reports your clients demand. There are apps which give you detailed reports, listing out every minute detail, while some apps might not have such a feature. Some apps might also charge you a fee for report generation. Graphics enabled reports with key inputs and analysis are also available through some apps. Getting customized reports is also possible with email integration features. Test out a couple of apps mentioned at the end of this post and explore their reporting features.
6. Extensions: Most of the apps have desktop extensions, so you don’t need to login to the site every time. Check for the offline version of the app that you are evaluating. This ensures that you can keep track of your projects even if you are not connected to the internet. Most of the time sheet applications have user-friendly iPad /iPhone extensions as well.
7. Integration with other apps: Many of us tend to overlook this feature because we assume that most of the apps will be integrated with other apps in the future through their updates. Yes, there is a probability that apps will be integrated in the future, but we have no idea when a particular app will update itself. What if the app you choose is not integrated with some other app you are using, say Quickbooks or Basecamp? You will end up using too many stand-alone applications. Hence, I would suggest you to do a thorough research on the integration aspect, especially if your company has been using some other app for a long time. There are some apps which will require you to pay a premium amount for the integration. Make a list of other apps which you are going to use in the future and choose a suitable time sheet app that can work well with them.
8. Subscription and Billing: Here comes the important question, how much are you willing to shell out for your team in a month? Look at the price of the app and make an estimate of the cost per person per month for next 12 to 14 months. Ask yourself if you can incorporate this cost in your budget? Check for the offers , premium features, renewal plans and upgradation costs.
9. Help & Support: It is important to ensure that the app you select has a good support system. Most of the times we have to explore the app on our own to understand it well. However, we cannot always figure out everything by ourselves. Hence, without a robust support system you cannot make use of the app to its full potential. Many apps have their own blog, groups in social media and online chats. Look through their channels and see how active are they in sorting out questions and issues.
Most of the apps give you a trial period for a month without the premium features. After your research, try out the shortlisted ones for a month and then make an informed decision (you should have a minimum of 3 apps to compare, otherwise you haven’t done enough research). I always suggest getting more expert reviews from your peers through channels like Linkedin, Quora, Facebook and Twitter.
I deliberately avoided mentioning too many apps in this post since the rational behind writing about this was to explain the process of choosing the app and letting you explore for yourself. But here are some time sheet apps worth checking out: Toggl, Harvest , Klok, Paymo , Timecamp , Freshbooks, Invoicera. Check out reviews of some of these apps at LifeHacker.com and some at this link. Happy searching! 🙂