2011 Review of Time & Billing Systems
Among the many words of wisdom attributed to American statesman Benjamin Franklin is the famous quote, “Remember that time is money.” This advice was given in the context of avoiding idleness (and therefore wasting money), but if Franklin were alive today, I’d be willing to wager a bill bearing his image that his recommendation to accounting firms would be to invest in a good time and billing software. Effective use and management of these systems literally turns time into money, provided that clients pay their bills.
Benjamin Franklin also said, “Lost time is never found again.” The Excel spreadsheet, handwritten ledger, and the jog-my-memory (what did I do today?) methods of timekeeping often result in billable time disappearing into the black hole of lost hours, never to be seen or heard of again. With the constant interruptions that multitasking accountants face every working day, precious minutes can be rescued from permanent oblivion with a strong time and billing system, armed with stopwatch-like timers that accurately and automatically convert recorded time into invoices.
Many firms do not bill by the hour for all tasks, instead using fixed-fee arrangements, value pricing or a combination of methods. Regardless of a firm’s billing strategy, tracking time is widely considered to be an important practice for measuring costs and profitability for specific clients and engagements.
In recent years, invoicing has evolved in time and billing systems to give firms extensive customization options for the layout, text and colors of invoices. By taking advantage of these features with a little creativity, invoices can be used as a branding and advertising mechanism instead of just a collection tool. Many of the leading time and billing software packages provide multiple delivery methods, including PDF attachments to e-mails and a medium by which to pay by credit card or PayPal, satisfying many of the growing younger generation of clients who prefer to pay electronically. With web-based programs, accountants can even enter time and produce invoices while at clients’ offices, increasing the likelihood of being paid in world record-breaking time.
Capturing and disseminating accurate and detailed information in time and billing software is essential for effective reporting. Management can make more informed decisions with real-time data showing the profitability of services, clients and staff.
The websites for each of the time and billing systems reviewed here include sections with customer testimonials. After reading several of them and speaking to many practitioners, it is evident that successful implementation of a time and billing software improves a firm’s operations and revenue stream. A few satisfied customers reported that software significantly decreased the amount of time spent on billing activities. Firm owners and managers can reallocate this recaptured time to something billable instead, resulting in the time and billing system paying for itself. Indeed, Benjamin Franklin was right: Time is money.
Not included in this year’s review of time and billing systems is Intuit ProLine Practice Management, which is currently in pilot testing. This web-based integrated application synchronizes client data across Lacerte and QuickBooks, enabling firms to effectively manage client contacts, engagements, reporting, time tracking and billing. Additional information about Intuit ProLine Practice Management is available at http://www.prolinepracticemanagement.com.
See inside October 2011
FormMagic, Inc. — Tax-Mate 1099
888-746-0440 www.FormMagic.com 2011 Overall Rating 4.5 Best Fit Accounting firms with large client bases, with varied import/integration needs. Strengths Strong multi-client management tools. Multi-user level security. Multiple data entry options. Built-in diagnostics. Potential Limitations Limited local forms. Lacks client billing/invoicing center. Summary & Pricing Tax-Mate provides a comprehensive 1099 and W-2 solution, with strong […]
Tenrox — Timesheet.com
877-4-TENROX www.tenrox.com 2011 Overall Rating 5 Best Firm Fit Medium-sized and large firms. Strengths Interface & many aspects of the program are very customizable. Great user & project management capabilities. Best management dashboards among products reviewed. Tracks accrued vacation & sick days. Integration with many accounting & payroll products, the most comprehensive among products […]