5 must-have features for professional services time tracking software
While many legal firms have adopted automated timekeeping technology with great success, other professional services firms lag behind their legal counterparts in terms of digital adoption — often relying on arduous manual time-tracking for their professionals’ billable hours. Firm leaders may be hesitant to make changes to their timekeeping systems, believing that their current tools and process are adequate. However, this misconception can end up costing firms much more than they realize.
Accounting firms usually charge by engagement — or, in some cases, by the hour with a fixed cap. To improve pricing strategies, determine appropriate bids, and accurately bill tax and audit services, firms must analyze how their accountants spend their time and whether that work is billable.
Likewise, consulting firms typically bill either a fixed rate for a project or by the hour. In the latter case, consulting firms face the same challenges as accounting firms in accurately tracking their time.
Unfortunately, homegrown timekeeping methods such as spreadsheets or simple web-based entry forms are subjective and error prone and fail to accurately capture the details accounting firms need to make these important pricing decisions. These challenges also make it difficult for firms to meet client demands for more transparency around billable work, which can hurt a firm’s client relationships and cost the firm business.
To remain profitable, strengthen your client relationships, and stay ahead of your competitors, your firm should consider investing in automated tools to improve time tracking for accountants and consultants. Here are the top 5 features your time tracking software should offer.
1. Automated time capture
When your professionals are working on multiple engagements, it can be difficult for them to keep track of how long they spend on each activity. Reconstructing time from memory is rarely accurate: They may forget about a quick call they had with a client and underreport their hours, hurting your firm’s profitability. Or they might overestimate time spent on a task and overcharge a client, damaging your client relationship and potentially leading to write-downs or write-offs.
To ensure that your team members accurately capture their hours, you can implement an AI-enabled timekeeping tool that automatically captures your staff’s digital activity. Your team can leverage these captured activities in two ways.
They can choose to contemporaneously assign their captured times as they progress through their working day. For example, once they close out a tax return file or a memo, a pop-up surfaces and asks if they would like to book their time spent in that file to a suggested client.
Or your professionals canleverage captured digital activities as a “digital memoirs.”A digital time memoir shows all of a professional’s captured time entries for the day. This feature not only helps your staff keep track of their hours; it also helps them assess whether they’re spending their time most wisely.
Intapp Time offers these capabilities with its automated time capture function. Intapp Time’s AI also populates captured time with client, engagement, and narrative information. For example, the AI might show that between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., a practitioner spent 0.5 hours creating a financial report in Microsoft Word for a given engagement. Upon review, they can edit that entry to add further detail. This passive approach to capturing time entries saves your team the hassle of manually documenting all of their tasks throughout the day and precisely calculating the time devoted to each.
Your timekeeping software should also offer a timer function for those who prefer to track their time by starting a timer at the beginning of a task and stopping it when they put the engagement aside.
With Intapp Time, you can create multiple timers, creating ones that are specific to particular ongoing engagements. In addition, these timers are synchronized across all your devices, including your computer and mobile devices. The stop function on the timer also allows you to stop the timer at a specific time that is different than the elapsed time. Thus, if you work on an engagement for 15 minutes but then forget to stop the timer until ten minutes later, you can select an option for stopping the timer at ten minutes ago.
When you stop a timer in Intapp Time, it also automatically creates an entry on your timesheet.
3. Narratives and comments
When reviewing bills, clients want to know exactly what they’re paying for. So when recording and submitting hours, professionals need to be as transparent as possible by providing narrative details about the type of work and activities they’ve conducted.
Most firms use spreadsheets or web forms for time tracking and don’t have a straightforward way to attach detailed descriptions to their time data. If a client requests more detail on a specific item, your professionals may have to scramble to retrace their steps. If they didn’t take any notes, they’ll need to rely on their memory — which can be extremely difficult if the task occurred weeks ago.
Your firm’s professionals can avoid this hassle by investing in a tool that automatically captures narrative information and lets you easily attach narratives or comments to time entries while the information is still fresh in their minds. With this tool, your team members can be more transparent with clients and provide more accurate information. Intapp Time has such a feature that allows you to do exactly this.
Many of your professionals’ activities will include identical or similar elements and narratives. For example, conducting individual tax returns will always include tasks like reviewing information provided by clients and entering information into tax software. Or in the case of an audit, standard process walkthroughs or inventory observations are common reoccurring activities. In the case of consulting professionals, professionals are constantly preparing deliverable decks and conducting client interviews. PTO, jury duty, and continuing education are other common entries across all fields.
Providing narrative details for these kinds of repeating activity types is unnecessarily time-consuming. To speed up the process, with Intapp Time, you can leverage templates with prepopulated information. Prepopulating rather than recreating recurring time entries will save your professionals time and ensure that they don’t leave out any crucial narrative details for specific tasks.
5. Daily digest emails
In addition to digital memoirs, Intapp Time offers daily emails that provide users with insights about their productivity. Review a summary of your team’s captured activity to see what activities they worked on that day and how long they spent on those activities. Reviewing these short summaries is one way professionals can increase their productivity.
For example, a professional might notice that they spent the majority of a day working on an engagement for a difficult, low-profitability client, and very little on a project for a high-profitability client with whom your firm has a strong relationship.
Improve your firm’s efficiency and profitability with timekeeping technology
Leading accounting and consulting firms are finally catching up to their legal counterparts in terms of the digital journey. By investing in advanced technology and intelligently capturing time data, forward-thinking firms have turned time tracking into an easy, strategic task rather than an onerous chore.
Schedule a demo to learn more about how Intapp Time can improve time tracking for professional services firms.
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