Time Tracking for Creative Agencies: Best Practices

Time tracking is a challenge for all businesses, but it can be a particular problem for creative agencies where time may be divided between multiple projects on any given day. To address time tracking in this sometimes unpredictable environment, you need to find one system that works for everyone from employees to executives.

The Problem of Time Tracking

Every project that your agency works on requires proper allocation of time, money and employee resources in order to meet the given deadline. You need to know that everyone is doing their share each day or if a particular teams needs extra help to stay on target. Without a way to track time spent, supervisors get bogged down making calls and sending emails to obtain progress updates. This slows productivity as teams wind up spending more time on communication than actual work.

For a time tracking system to be beneficial, everyone needs to understand why accurate reporting is important, how to use the system and how the data will be applied to improving efficiency. Most traditional reporting systems, however, are notoriously inaccurate because they rely on people remembering the amount of time they spent on each individual project. The resulting discrepancies can throw off everything from task management to payroll.

Time Tracking Methods and Tools

Modern time tracking software and cloud applications are designed to maximize accuracy by making reporting more convenient. The right tool will include elements that help meet the goals of your agency.

Aim for Simplicity

Your chosen time tracking system should be straightforward and easy for everyone to use. Otherwise, time tracking becomes another chore tacked onto daily to-do lists that are already too long, and nobody is going to want to be bothered with it. Start small with a system that allows employees to log time on individual projects, and only add on features if you find them necessary to enhance the tracking process.

Choose Clear, Accurate Reporting

Some of the most beneficial time tracking tools allow employees to report in from anywhere. This feature reduces the chance of human error since time can be logged from mobile devices or personal computers when employees are working away from the office. Improved reporting means more precise project management and less time spent trying to figure out which tasks have been completed and what still needs to be done.

Standardize Your Systems

Time tracking software is most helpful when it can be integrated with the systems you’re already using. Being able to share time data with your payroll, banking and budgeting programs simplifies the process of paying employees and ensures that everyone gets compensated for the time they put in. A free exchange of data allows for clear communication between departments and cuts down on the potential miscommunications that can hold up daily business.

Take a “Test Drive”

Don’t commit to any one system before putting it through the paces. Most time tracking applications have a trial period that you can use to make sure that the features are appropriate for your agency and these tools actually improve performance. Get feedback from employees about ease of use, and meet with the executive team to discuss how well the system performs on higher levels. If everything checks out, you can move forward with implementation.

Budget for Training

Putting a new system in place won’t help if nobody understands how it works. As soon as you decide which time tracking software you’re going to use, plan a training session for employees, supervisors and executives. Spending a few hours explaining the purpose of the system and demonstrating how to use it will pay off by minimizing confusion once implementation is complete. Continue to monitor the effectiveness of the tracking process to identify any areas that may need improvement in the future.

When your agency has a system in place to handle time tracking and offer accurate reporting, everyone is able to work more efficiently. More is accomplished in less time, freeing resources up to work on new projects and generate more profit for your agency. The small initial investment in software and training pays for itself as you reap the benefits of having a streamlined time tracking system.