As one of the most hated forms of essential admin going, automating time tracking certainly makes a great deal of sense. While the technology is still relatively new, there’s a lot to be excited about: just by downloading an app on your computer, you can completely outsource time tracking – making software remember what you work on and accurately draft time sheets for you.
But while it sounds promising, what benefits does such technology deliver in practice? Are automated trackers that much different from well-established timer based trackers used across the professional services industry? Crucially, do they justify the hassle of jumping ship?
What are automated time trackers?
Automated trackers like Timely use a combination of intelligent tracking software and AI technology to figure out what you do in a day. You download them once to your desktop and let them run in the background while you work.
They record all the time you spend in different work tools, emails, meetings and websites to a private timeline – effectively creating a flawless digital memory of your work day.
Using AI, they can then make connections between your activities to understand what you were working on, and draft time entries for your work. You just need to review and approve these drafts to log them to you public time sheet.
Automated time tracker benefits
1. Improve timesheet accuracy
By removing the margin of error that comes with manual time reporting, automated time trackers set a new standard for time sheet accuracy. By capturing everything you work on, no details are left behind or misrepresented – you have a complete, dependable account of all project work. This comes with the added benefit of capturing overlooked internal work and missed billable hours around project communication, coordination and travel.
2. Reduce time tracking overhead
Time trackers based around starting and stopping timers between tasks, or manually inputting hours, require a ton of user input. While that may seem incidental, over the course of a week it quickly adds up – with some employees spending two hours a week on time tracking. The gravity of that statistic only really sinks in when you multiply it by the amount of people working across your company… Automated time trackers drastically reduce this, by recording work activity and drafting time sheet entries for employees. It means everyone has more time to focus on the productive work that makes best use of their skills.
3. Increase productivity
Linked to the above, automating low-value “shallow work” like time tracking is essential to boosting employee productivity. Aside from simply freeing up more time for productive work, automatic trackers solve the anxieties and interruptions of manual tracking. By doing away with manual timers, employees don’t have to consciously remember to track their time. There’s no grappling with start and stop buttons as they switch between tasks, or experiencing stress for forgetting to trigger one – you can just focus fully on your work.
4. Support employee happiness
Purpose, autonomy and mastery – these are the intrinsic motivations that drive us to achieve our best work and feel fulfilled in our work. But as a repetitive, low-value and cognitively non-taxing task, time tracking doesn’t really tick any of these boxes. It is a classic shallow task – a type of workflow admin that keeps us busy without helping to advance our personal goals. Since employee happiness is key to good performance, we should aim to automate as many of these unrewarding tasks as possible.
5. Simplify billing and reporting
By simplifying the whole time tracking process, automated time trackers can also expedite billing and reporting. By sending automatic reminders to employees with missing hours, they increase time tracking compliance – up to 100% in some cases – meaning invoices don’t get delayed at the end of the month. All time data can also be quickly translated into granular reports, breaking down exactly where retainers and project rates are spent.