From the November 2006 Issue
Timesheets, in some form or another, have probably been around for millennia.
From cave drawings that showed how long it took to create weapons and clothes
from animal carcasses, to slate-based etchings of stone age service professionals.
By the 1970s, this process had evolved into Post-It notes stuck on every corner
of a professional’s desk, waiting to be translated and placed onto a spreadsheet
that later would find itself becoming an invoice. Of course, my hypothesis is
purely comic conjecture with absolutely no tangible paleontological or archeological
evidence on which to base it. But the point is, as long as professionals have
billed others based upon their time, they have used some form of recording device
to track it, and unfortunately, these methods have generally been inefficient.
We have continued to evolve somewhat since that bygone Post-It era of bellbottoms
and corduroys, but many professional accountants continue to poorly manage the
time and expenses they incur that should be passed along to their clients. And
there’s no excuse for it now that there are numerous programs on the market
that help automate this task, while providing other valuable features that can
actually enhance and streamline the professional office.
Although time and billing software may not seem as dramatically influential
to productivity as full-fledged practice management systems (reviewed in our
October 2006 issue and available online at www.cpata.com/pm2006), this isn’t
necessarily so. The amount of time spent manually managing billable and non-billable
time, performing write-ups and mark-downs, applying taxes where necessary, and
all of the little tasks involved can eat up even more of a professional’s
work day. But with modern programs such as the ones reviewed here, many of the
workflow tasks are automatically performed by the system, from preparing invoices
automatically or on an as-needed basis to added features like productivity analysis
of departments, clients, tasks and staff.
Time and expense management applications focus on maximizing billable time
by keeping managers on top of real-time data, thus allowing them to get the
most out of their staff. Most of the systems now on the market enable firms
to have multiple billing rates depending on the client, the staff member or
the task. They can help improve client communications with reporting and invoicing
tools that integrate with MS Word, and enhance contact management through integration
with e-mail and calendaring systems like Outlook. Some of these programs provide
analysis and forecasting capabilities, due-date tracking, enhanced client contact
management, support for multiple currencies and advanced AR features that can
supplement or even replace the one currently in place by the firm. This allows
the firm to keep clients down to a budgeted amount of time or billings without
having to write off an excessive amount. They can then integrate with third-party
packages for accounting, payroll and other functions. Also of value to the increasingly
out-of-office professional is remote data-entry functions, whether through web-based
interfaces or PDA synching.
So there it is, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer when you look back
on it. Better management of time and expenses, with the addition of productivity
enhancing tools and analytical capabilities, as well as integration between
programs, enhances the workflow of the modern accounting practice. The systems
here were evaluated based on the following criteria:
Ease-of-Use/Navigation Features. How easy is it to use the
program and become comfortable with it? What notable features enhance navigation
and workflow, thereby making the system more intuitive?
Management Features. While all of these programs enable users
to track time, some provide additional managerial functions. Such functions
include executive dashboards that show at-a-glance summaries of key business
indicators, advanced tracking and review tools, HR and payroll functions, calendaring
and scheduling features, enhanced contact management, and analytical capabilities
that allow management to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in productivity.
Billing & Reporting Features. Tracking time spent on
client engagements and actually getting paid for it means sending a bill. How
customizable are these systems? Which ones provide additional capabilities such
as fully functional AR? What reporting functions further enhance the systems
and enable senior staff to effectively manage their business centers?
Integration. The ability of a program to integrate with external
applications can significantly enhance productivity by reducing redundant data
entry. Do they share data with third-party accounting, contact management, communication
tools and even payroll systems? Additionally, this section looks at remote data-entry
capabilities such as web access and PDA functionality.
Support/Help. This section looks at how well the built-in
assistance features do what they’re supposed to do. What general Help
features are available, and what additional resources does the vendor offer
through its website? User manuals, FAQs, online support communities, tutorials
and training all play an important role when it comes to the continued usability
of a system.
If you believe there is an aspect of time and billing applications that we
should include in our future reviews, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
We will consider including your suggestion in next year’s review.
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- BQE Software — BillQuick
- Over the past few years, BillQuick has become one
of the leading time and billing applications, due in large part to the
developers’ continued pursuit of integration with the major accounting
applications on the market. With last year’s debut of Microsoft’s
Small Business Accounting program, BQE immediately worked on integration
there, as well.
- Groupe AGI — Abak Software
- The Abak Time and Billing system from Groupe AGI,
Inc., provides an integrated time and expense management program for professional
services firms. The system, which is offered in English and French, utilizes
a variety of timesheets and expense reports and allows detailed management
of productivity and pass-through billing of client-related expenses.
- ImagineTime, Inc. — ImagineTime
- Developed specifically for accountants by accountants,
ImagineTime provides an integrated time-based billing system with practice
management functions that support multiple billing methods; project-based
time tracking and management; due-date monitoring; and a variety of budgeting,
forecasting and analysis capabilities.
- LexisNexis Time Matters —
- The Billing Matters system provides a comprehensive
time and expense management, client billing and accounting program that
includes automated invoicing capabilities, recurring payables, check writing
and customizable pre-bills, along with the ability to manage vendors,
payables and other related issues.
- Office Tools Pro — Office
Tools Pro 2006
- Office Tools Pro offers a time and billing suite
that borders on practice management, providing a fairly comprehensive
collection of tools for time and expense management, billing, calendaring/scheduling,
contact management, due-date reporting, project tracking and paperless
- Sage Software — Timeslips
- After more than 20 years on the market, Timeslips
by Sage is among the most mature time and billing systems, providing a
very well-developed application that incorporates all of the most recent
- Software Technology, Inc. —
- QuickBooks Point of Sale – Version 5 is the
newest release of this specialty product from Intuit. Designed to be a
standalone POS solution, QuickBooks POS can also be paired with QuickBooks.
— Tenrox Timesheet
- Tenrox offers a browser-based time and expense
management system in its Timesheet program, which can either be hosted
as an online service that can be accessed from virtually any location
or stored on a business’ file servers for access across the network.
- TPS Software — TPS Time
- Designed specifically for small and midsize accounting
firms, the TPS Time & Billing system offers time and expense management,
contact management, invoicing with full histories…