Does your architecture or engineering firm have the right time tracking software? If you are using spread sheets the answer is no, not even close. Spread sheets are great for doing math but are the wrong tool for project time tracking. What you need is a database solution. Not just any solution but one designed for tracking time against projects. One built for your type of practice. One geared specifically for architects and engineers. When looking, make sure you find a solution that is easy to use and understand. You will need buy in from your staff so it has got to be easy to use.
Why is this so important?
Because it is only with the right tools that you will get the right answers. Answers such as how much time have we spent on this project and how does that compare to our budget. What is the cost of the time spent? You need to see in real time how your projects are progressing. With time records lock away in spread sheets waiting for the pay period to close before data is gathers leaves you in the dark. Your time tracking system should also be capturing data about the time. Not just the employee and the project but also the phase of the job, the primary activity, the billing rate, the employee pay rate, your overhead factor, and your total labor cost. An even better system will also apply profit to the costs to show with direct labor, overhead, and profit accounted for, how much of your fee have you burned through.
You need to see how time has been spent on your projects. With activities such as drafting, designing, administering, meetings, field work, etc. you can see exactly how time is sent on your projects and what the different activities are costing you. Reporting would not be complete without measuring your utilization. What percentage of your time is earning money? Is you staff working efficiently? Are you spending enough time marketing? Utilization reports help you answer these questions.
Billings and Invoicing
Of course your time tracking needs to integrate into your billings. If your employees are logging their time into spread sheets how are you getting that info into your invoices? With a click of a button you should see a report of all the time spend in the last period so you know which projects are in need of billing.
Ties to Project Data
Your time slips should link directly to your projects and their phases. And you should be able to report on your time and project to see which projects are more time intensive. Being able to compare projects types and the time they take can help you decide which projects you should be chasing and which ones you should run away from.
Finally you need to look at your billing rates. Does your solution calculate your blended rates for Labor, Billing and Overhead? If not you need a new system. How does your total cost with labor, overhead and profit compare to the billing rate values?
In a Nut Shell
The biggest cost in an architecture or engineering firms is labor. Having a simple time tracking system that reports in real time will help you keep a handle on project time so you can bring your project in on budget.