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2010 Review of Time & Billing Systems

Time & Billing Isn’t Just Time & Billing Anymore

From the August 2010 Issue

It is gratifying to see the natural evolution of software over time, as the
more successful software vendors respond to user feedback and incorporate features
and functionality that reflect the demands of actual users. Great software is
becoming more powerful all the time, and new development tools and database
capabilities allow this evolution to occur more quickly than in the past. The
migration to relational databases also helps get the software developer past
the legacy syndrome, where each new feature would become more difficult to design
because of the inherent limitations of flat files and the need to maintain backwards

Time & Billing:
2010 Review Sections

  • Basic System Functions
    • General Navigation/Ease-of-Use
    • Designed for accounting professionals
    • Concurrent users
  • Time Tracking Capabilities
    • Timesheets, timers, views
    • Multi-staff entry
    • Time tracking by project/job
    • Approvals/sign-off process
    • HR tracking (PTO, sick, benefits)
    • Support for various hourly rates
  • Invoicing Functions
    • Expense tracking options
    • WIPs, budget-from-estimate
    • AR management
    • e-Functions: Invoicing, payment, remote access
    • Customization
  • Management Features
    • Dashboard overviews
    • Managerial reporting analysis
    • Security/user roles
  • Integration & Data Mgmt
    • Data output options
    • Integration w/payroll and professional acct systems
  • Help/Support
    • Built-in Support Features
    • Support Online
    • Live Support
  • Summary & Pricing

A fork in the road comes with the decision to deliver the product in a web-based
or SaaS (software as a service) model or as an on-premise installed product.
Neither paradigm is universally the “best” because each has its
own pros and cons. Web interfaces provide the user with location flexibility
for data entry, management and reporting. However, remote access software that
allows a user to connect with the home server or desktop provides an alternative
that mitigates this advantage somewhat. SaaS products are managed by the software
vendor, which greatly eases issues of updates and bug fixing. On the other hand,
client/server-based software may give some users a feeling of control and security.

The basics of time entry have changed very little; recent development focus
has been on in-depth reporting and analysis, and customization of reports and
invoices. These practice management tools are the frontier of profitability
and realization improvements. A firm should be able to quickly recoup their
investment in new software by finding areas for improvement in staff, client
and types of work done. Perhaps even tighter control over billing will close
up some holes where time and client expenses are falling through the cracks.
Simply becoming aware of what is actually happening in a practice will inevitably
lead to upgrades in policies, rates, utilization and workflows. Finally, a dramatic
reduction in the time spent on review and billing will translate into more billable
hours for the most profitable people — the partners and managers.

The vendors of these time & billing products are continually adding more
and more features, with a focus not only on the billing side of the equation
but also with the availability of add-ons that are intrical to tracking and
managing time. Time & billing isn’t just time & billing anymore,
but it’s not end-to-end practice management either. (see page 6 of this
issue for a review of Practice Management systems).

The document storage solutions that we are reviewing in this issue typically
have a more focused set of features and functions, which are often targeted
to a specific niche such as direct integration with a particular tax prep package,
integration with QuickBooks, or providing a secure file sharing solution. So
you should read each of the individual product reviews carefully to help you
gain a better understanding of the core strengths that each has to offer.

The specific attributes that we have evaluated for each product are organized
into three fundamental categories: core functionality, integration and advanced
functionality. The core functionality focuses on the overall user experience,
based upon the interface and the ease of navigation, as well as the ability
to publish documents directly to the system via a PDF print driver, and the
nature of how the files are organized. In the integration category, our focus
is on what options are available for an integrated scanning solution, integration
with Outlook or other e-mail platforms, and the ability to support multiple
file formats such as MS Word, Excel, etc. In the advanced functionality category,
we look at what type of reporting is available, security features, document
indexing and retrieval capabilities, and file archival features. We will also
use this category to identify any unique features the vendor offers that distinguishes
its solution from the rest of the crowd.

I hope you find these reviews helpful and encourage your feedback. I have
been writing these reviews for The CPA Technology Advisor for the
past four years, and I am always interested in learning what information you
find helpful. We have revised our review process this year in a way that we
believe helps us to compare the products more consistently, with the realization
that every product is unique.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Abak Software – Abak
Abak is a multi-user, client/server-based system
for tracking and invoicing time and expenses for accounting, engineering,
architecture, and other firms whose primary product is professional time.
AccountantsWorld – Practice Relief
Practice Relief is a web-based SaaS (software as
a service) product, a delivery method at the forefront of a growing trend
for many software products.
BQE Software Inc. – BillQuick
BillQuick is an impressive program for capturing
time, creating invoices, and analyzing the firm position and productivity.
It is well suited for medium-sized firms that can exploit the extensive
analysis features, and for those who have a need to customize invoicing
and reporting.
ImagineTime, Inc. – ImagineTime
Practice Management
ImagineTime offers several industry-specific practice
management suites, including versions for tax and accounting professionals,
attorneys, and engineers.

Sage North America – Timeslips
by Sage 2010
Timeslips by Sage 2010 has been around for more
than 20 years, providing effective time and billing functionality to a
variety of service-based professions. Industry-specific templates are
available for tax and accounting professionals, attorneys, engineers,
consultants, etc.
Tenrox Project Workforce Management
Spring Bloom 2010
Tenrox offers a very powerful, web-based system
for advanced management of time and expenses, and is suitable for firms
of any kind that can make use of the powerful management and reporting
features. The system is designed to support multiple currencies, types
of clients and project billing scenarios.
TPS Software, Inc. – TPS Time
& Billing
TPS Time & Billing is specifically designed
for small to mid-sized accountants firms with up to 60 employees. It offers
a clean interface and regularly surveys its users for suggestions of new
features and functionality.
Virtual Software – Virtual Time
+ Expense
Virtual Software was founded by two former CFOs
who have spent decades in the finance and accounting markets. Virtual
Time + Expense is a fully-hosted solution that eliminates setup and maintenance

— Related Articles —
Chrometa Time Tracker
While we are on the subject of capturing time for
billing, have you ever wondered how you spend your time on the computer?
Enter Chrometa, a utility that does just one thing: It tracks the time you
spend on an active window and captures the window title for every window
and/or application you open on your computer.
Virtual TimeClock Pro
Time tracking and management systems run the gamut,
from very basic systems to extremely comprehensive, high-end programs. For
many small and mid-sized businesses in the middle, however, the low-end
systems are too limited and the upper side of the spectrum can be cost-prohibitive
and difficult to maintain and use.

2010 Review of Time & Billing Systems — Comparison Chart

See inside August 2010

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