Getting ready to dive in
Your thinking about diving into the automated construction timesheets pool. But rather than dive into the deep end where it's cold and uncomfortable, put your toe in the water with some starter questions.
- What kind of construction timesheets do you use now?
- How many different types?
- Do they vary by job or client or something else?
- Do you have government jobs and non-government jobs?
- Do you use paper timesheets? Why?
- Do you use Excel timesheets? Why?
- Do you use an in-house software system that your company built. Why? How's that going?
- Do you use a purchased software system? Why? How's that going?
By understanding the benefits of the way you track crew time, you can start to plan where you should go. "What's good and necessary about the way you do things now?" needs to be thoroughly understood before you start changing things. More than a requirements analysis, which is what the IT and software types say you need, you need to understand more at a fundamental level about why you use paper, Excel, or software for your crew timesheets.
Understanding Paper Timesheets
The foundation of construction time tracking is paper crew timesheets. And as you might already know, using these is nothing to be ashamed of in 2012. There are many reasons why paper timesheets are used by construction and field service firms:
- Your clients. They want your paper timesheets to have the physical signatures of your supervisors, general foremen and/or project managers. They won’t sign your timesheets without them. When you get the timesheets back with the client signature, then you can bill them. Paper does a good job of recording physical signatures you need to authenticate that the various players of a crew are saying the crew timesheets are correct and it reflects the truth of the work that was done.
- The government. All the points above apply here except there might be additional laws and regulations that no one can do much about. Any method that replaces paper timesheets will have to be proved out to government clients that none of the "benefits" of paper are lost when you automate the time tracking process. Usually governments are concerned with how “corrections and adjustments” to timesheets are made (i.e. there must be a proper audit trail of any changes) and, of course, that signatures (physical or digital) of all parties involved with a crew are obtained.
- Inertia . Inertia is still alive and well in the 21st century. Have you ever noticed that most old sayings seem to support not changing things?
“If it ain't broke don’t fix it.”
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
But there are heavy costs to a manual paper-based time tracking process. Costs that are making you think two, three and four times about automating things. But how? If you are at this stage, we recommend you
- You need a paper/audit trial. In addition to physical signatures you also have to manage your labor law liabilities. Have you heard the story about the employee who comes back two years later and claims that you did not pay him his proper overtime for one whole year! Remember, that's why you have those employees sign crew timesheets now. So if you automate your timesheets you need a method to still cover yourself, getting employees to authenticate that they saw the hours you logged for them on the crew timesheet, and that they agreed that those hours were correct.
Deep In Your Bones
Is this you? Deep in your bones you know that paper timesheets are painful. We’re not talking about paper cuts. At the end of the day you pass them around like birthday cards in the office looking for signatures. When you handle them they crinkle. They wrinkle. They fold. They fall out of folders. They get lost. They get torn in half or have coffee spilled on them. You fax them using fax machines that are busy. You rush to messenger or fedex them at the last pickup time. Later, they live in file cabinets that melt during fires and burn to ashes. They get lost during office moves. Then you store them in Iron Mountain far far away for a lot of money. You get the idea. It's the same information media that was used in 1853. How good can it be?
After reading this post, your big toe is now firmly in the shallow end of the construction timesheets pool. Are you ready to get your feet wet?