Why is it so important to have your tasks and time in the one system?
Do you remember how difficult it used to be to take a digital photograph, download it to your PC, resize it and format for email, then upload it to your email program to send to a friend? But today, fully integrated camera-phones make this process effortless.
The benefit of having time tracking and task management fully integrated into the one app is similarly profound.
Many time-tracking systems promote the fact that they can be integrated into your project management tool via an API. This is handy, but far from ideal. Don’t lose sight of the fact that relying on an API to integrate a feature is an admission that the feature is missing from the product.
Until you’ve run a team business for a few years and used a few different time-tracking systems, you may well not appreciate the difference that having all-in-one tasks and time management makes.
Products like Harvest, Toggl, Timely all focus on pure time tracking only. Asana, Basecamp and Trello similarly focus only on project and task management. They all rely on API integrations, so let me explain why this is a significant problem.
Entering time after the fact leads to double entry and mistakes
If you are using a pure time-tracking system, then you typically enter your time when it is completed. What’s worse, is that you have to choose the client/project and task description and labels with each individual entry. This is not only cumbersome but also leads to mistakes – your staff may not know what client/project/label to use, particularly if there are multiple similar clients or projects that change hands. You may have a specific way you want to label your work for future reporting and your staff are unlikely to know or appreciate this.
In todo.vu, when you create a task and assign it to your staff, you choose the client/project and labels as you wish. Your staff no longer have to think about this – all they need to do is record how long it took and move on to the next task.
Linking multiple time entries to the one task is vital
Because most time-tracking systems simply allow you to enter a time and categorise it by project/client, you find that the grouping of all tasks is at the project level. This is adequate but not ideal and often just annoying.
It means that you need to create a project for even a tiny task if you are expecting to add more than one entry of time. These multiple entries may be required because you execute the task over a few days, or may be the result of multiple staff working on the one task. This is just impractical in many cases where you have many small tasks but still, require to be able to track multiple time entries on the one task.
If you are using a separate task management system then you will find it terribly difficult to find the total time spent on a single task because there will be no way to view all the entries relating to that task. If you have specific time estimates or budgets then this can lead to overworking tasks.
In todo.vu, all staff can see the total time spent on each task at all times. This allows the team to collectively work towards a known budget and be aware of constraints.
Tracing the provenance of a billable hour
If your tasks are stored in one system and your time in another, then you will have great difficulty tracing the entire history of each hour. Specific information about the task such as who requested it, when it was created, how it was labelled etc, will not be available in your time reporting system. If you ever need to trace bills back to an origin then you will be faced with the unpleasant task of hunting between multiple systems.
Specific information about the task such as who requested it, when it was created, how it was labelled etc, will not be available in your time reporting system. If you ever need to trace bills back to an origin then you will be faced with the unpleasant task of hunting between multiple systems.
Reporting capabilities depend on being able to label tasks and report on time.
Furthermore, you will not be able to report time, based on task labels.
For instance, here in Australia, there is a tax rebate for Research and Development expenses for some types of work. It is a mandatory part of the reporting process that you accurately record expenses for R&D and non-R&D work. Typically, you would know if work is R&D related at the time that you create the tasks and typically your staff are not so aware of this or likely to get it right. As the manager, you need to be able to label tasks appropriately and then interrogate your time system later on to generate reports.
However, if your time-tracking system has no task management or is only linked via an API then you will be forced to label each individual time entry after the fact – not fun, I know because I’ve had to do this.
Today, many companies are building minimal ‘simple’ products and focusing on only one thing and we are being told that we can build our entire back-office by picking off-the-shelf products and linking them via APIs or Zapier, IFTTT etc.
This is a nice idea and certainly, it’s a great way to get a business off and running quickly with minimal cost.
But in the long run, there are some things that just need to be fully integrated and if it’s cost effective and easy to do so, then why settle for separate systems?