Consulting billing and time and expense sheets
For any consulting firm, billing clients — that little-understood, underappreciated life blood of cash flow needed for any company to survive — is directly enhanced or badly harmed by how employee time and expenses are tracked and processed.
The reality is: good invoicing depends on the quality of time and expense sheet data flowing into an invoice. Improving your project time and expense sheets for billing is where you need to focus.
Common problems of time and expenses
Time and expense low priority
For most consulting firm employees, who focus on customer service or bringing in new business, timely and accurate time and expense sheets rank low on their task list. Put another way: the content of every client invoice is a low priority for your employees.
Horse and buggy
In 1855, you'd have John Jones ride a horse to your client's office in Cleveland. Today, your employees should not use paper or Excel time and expense sheets.
Timing problems and overbillingWith consulting projects, timing is everything. Take the case of inactivating "project 100" at mid-week. It's true that there are highly-organized consulting project managers that will email their project team, or mention this at the end of a meeting. But employees can miss the email and forget the conversation. A week later, a consultant uses the inactive project code, "project 100." If there's change order approved by the client, this error puts you into an overbilling situation with an important customer.
- Tasks not appropriate for a project.
- Wrong billing codes.
- Missing notes.
Late submittals, rejections, corrections and approvals
- Submitting time and expenses late gives approvers less time to fix mistakes, or
- To reject items in need of correction.
- Being late is common.
- Intense work weeks.
- Constant interruptions.
- Changing schedules.
- Submitting time and expense sheets on time can sometimes be the exception.
- As you get closer to preparing a final invoice, running out of time makes it harder for managers to do a thorough job of reviewing each and every time and expense sheet.
Consulting project managers with poor data visibility
Yes, it's true. A consulting project manager can keep running totals of paper or Excel sheets in their own project tracking spreadsheets.
But what if they're not. The terms of the project contract, estimated hours to complete and project budgets won't be on their radar as they approve employee project hours.
Consulting project accounting and payroll
Consulting project accounting and payroll staff have the thankless task of checking time and expense data against client contract terms and budgets. Incorrect project codes, tasks, client codes and expense types can all have mistakes that must be caught. With no helpful tools, their tired eyes dart back and forth between pieces of paper spread and out on their desk. They keep checking for emails that never seem to come.
Client tacit approvals and the payment of invoices
In consulting, the final test is whether the client pays the invoice. Turning around client questions with paper and Excel time and expense takes time.
Here's a common scenario. A client has a question about Jim Smith's project work. Smith needs to pour through his paper or Excel sheets for notes on the task work he completed a month ago. "But," Smith warns, "I'm on travel in Chicago and my project timesheets are in New York." Unless he gets help from an assistant or colleague, Smith won't get the answers until he gets back to New York.
Paper and Excel time and expense tracking has multiple points of failure, from recording project hours and expense entries, to approvals, and validation checks. Smooth and accurate client billing, and fast speed to cash might be important for your company. But with manual processing of time and expense data, you're out of the game, not competitive and losing ground each day.
One answer is to upgrade your time and expense tracking to a best-of-breed software system before it's too late.
5 benefits of time and expense software for billing
They'll be significant returns on investment when you transform your time and expense sheets from paper or Excel to best-of-breed software.
1. Improving user experience improves compliance and more
Give employees time and expense tracking software they love.
- User adoption soars.
- Excuses disappear.
- Complaints fade away.
- Employees make fewer time and expense sheet errors.
- Data quality goes up.
- Users submit and approve on time
- Turnaround time of corrections goes down.
And turbocharging the user experience benefits downstream activities:
- You'll easily retrieve details and backup for invoices
- Report on and monitor project progress.
- Bill customers more accurately.
- As early as possible.
- And improve your cash flow.
2. Automation significantly speeds up and reduces costs of time & expense data processing
When looking for time and expense software magic happens when it's compatible with third party systems, e.g. your payroll, accounting, project management, and human resources. Integrated time and expense gives you a tight end-to-end process:
- From time and expense sheet entry and submission.
- To approvals.
- Project accounting review
- Payroll review.
- Time off requests and approvals.
- Sending finalized data to payroll and accounting electronically.
When you synchronize time and expense with your accounting and project accounting systems, great things happen:
- Users record their time and expenses against the right projects and tasks
- No mistakes.
- No corrections.
- There's more.
- Automated reminders and late notices keep tasks on track and on schedule.
- Rejection notices make user speed up corrections.
You've heard: "Do it right the first time!"
Now you can.
With time and expense software your employees with do time and expense sheets right:
First, employees will no longer entry data twice. They'll enter it directly into into the system. With fewer hands touching original entries they'll be fewer errors.
Second, time and expense software has an audit trail. System administrators, project accounting and payroll can retrace the steps of every user action start to finish. When employees create or modify entries.
Third, with 100% real-time visibility of project time and expense data managers can proactively manage their employees and their activities.
- No more waiting for employees to submit time and expense sheets.
- You can monitor progress on time and expense dashboards.
- Run reports with one click their progress.
4. More efficient time & expense approvals
Applying and validating federal, state, and local labor laws across multiple jurisdictions or country groups is a daunting task. Failure is not an option.
Avoiding compliance mistakes is money in the bank:
- You can reduce employee complaints, labor law suits, and penalties.
- Automated policy and rules processing makes the manager's job much easier and less subject to costly mistakes.
- Managers can automatically reject time and expense sheets and leave it to the employee to correct invalid entries.
- Audit trails record that your managers "rejected but not modify" time and expense sheets. You will be in the clear legally.
- All liability is on the employee to submit correct, and corrected, time and expense sheets, eliminating the chance of them coming back to complain of trimmed hours or shorted expense reimbursement checks.
5. Significantly enhanced resource planning
Time and expense software lets you know, in real-time, not just how your projects are staffed. It shows you the employees actually booking time and expense against projects. Project progress, or lack of progress, at every step of the way. With accurate project time and expense data, you can plan for future projects and to know the availability of your resources in the future.
Choosing the right time and expense software
Great project time and expense software offers simple, easy-to-use features that automate project time and expense for billing. Take our product tour .It quickly shows you features to save time, money, increase efficiency and accuracy of your customer billing. If you want to do a deeper dive, get our free e-book: "The Definitive Guide to Project Time and Expense Tracking for Billing."