How can architecture firms benefit from a time tracking system?
Time tracking has become an integral part of modern offices in all industries. It allows companies to make informed decisions about their workflows and collaboration with clients, as well as to monitor their progress and compare it to the expected profit margins.
Time Analytics is a time tracking software solution that estimates overall company progress by monitoring key performance indicators, or KPIs. KPIs are quantitative parameters that indicate the current state of your company. Analyzing them helps the management find resolutions to underlying problems.
Addressing these problems can bring a positive change to the entire company’s inner workings, relationship with clients, and profit and loss account. Most common changes include redistributing tasks, identifying low and top performers when it comes to architects and clients alike. Only then is the management able to initiate positive changes?
Increased transparency is one of time tracking’s biggest benefits. Identifying the architects who are overwhelmed with work or struggling leads to a more equal work distribution, which will relieve some of the pressure on your employees.
Which tracking options are the most important?
Here are the most important elements you should be tracking.
Employee time tracking
Understanding the way your employees spend their workdays is one of the biggest opportunities you will get from time tracking. It will give access to the following:
- Insight into your employees’ work rhythms and time utilization
- Measuring the effectiveness of their work
- Identifying distractions and unproductive behaviors
- Finding the top and low performing architects
- Having an insight into overtime, vacations, sick time, and other important indicators
- Time utilization breakdown
Work task time tracking
Time tracking per task gives you an insight into the state of your business in real-time. These insights can point you to organizational changes and modifications in task delegation you should make.
This practice also indicates changes you can implement to help it become more profitable in the future. Understanding how long a type of task takes to complete can help you make accurate time estimates, for example. Additionally, if some activities are taking up a lot of time and bring a disproportionately small profit, you can consider outsourcing them.
Client time tracking
Understanding the ebbs and flows of your company’s processes is crucial for growing and increasing productivity. However, it isn’t enough to become and stay successful. The way you collaborate with your clients is also integral to the improvements. Time tracking per client can help you by
- Enabling you to track the profit individual clients bring to your business (as without the data coming from time tracking you won’t be able to make profit assessments or allocate costs accurately)
- Giving you an insight into your most and least profitable clients
- Offering information on unfavorable contracts you should negotiate or terminate
- Helping you with creating offers for your future jobs
Project time tracking
Time tracking per project or service line gives you useful information about the company’s efficiency and profitability on a project level. For example, within an architecture firm, it is extremely important to know how much time is being spent on different tasks. This is true because you will need to know how much time goes into actual project development and how much on administrative tasks, phone calls, and other non-billable activities. It is also important to know what profit margin is coming from which task.
Time tracking basics
Easy time tracking
Measuring and increasing productivity requires an accurate, yet simple time tracking system. There are many time tracking platforms on the market. They range from simple timers that only offer one or two features and range to extremely sophisticated systems with multiple timers and a plethora of other components and add-ons.
To put it simply, every company has different needs, and each time tracking software solution has its own benefits and flaws. the simplest time trackers that only account for the time spent on a task can be useful when it comes to positions dealing with a couple of tasks. However, architecture isn’t one of them. on the other hand, the more complex systems can take a lot of time to set up and use daily. In other words, you should find a solution that is user-friendly and gives you enough accurate data.
Set boundaries for yourself
Time tracking platforms offer many tracking methods. They range from automatic timers to timesheets to more rigorous methods like tracking mouse and keyboard activities and taking screenshots of employee desktops.
As you can imagine, the last option isn’t very popular among employees. It sends a message of distrust and enables a high level of micromanagement. On the other hand, going through the screenshots for every employee is a tedious task as well.
Additionally, the screenshot method could go against the GDPR. Simply put, you shouldn’t create a hostile work environment or risk breaking the regulations.
Recurring task management
Recurring tasks are an integral part of efficient time tracking. If your team members have to create a new task for each activity, navigating the tracking platform can turn out to be very cumbersome. It is equally cumbersome to go through the entirety of logs just to find a single piece of information.
Creating recurring tasks that can be logged in a couple of clicks is a feature you should be looking for when choosing the best platform for your architecture firm. This is especially true when it comes to smaller repetitive tasks.
Billable rate management
Determining the realistic billing rate is the cornerstone of any business striving to grow. Determining the expected (planned) billing rate for each client is also important, as you will be able to compare it to the realistic billing rate and see whether you’re making the progress you are planning or not, and how different these two values are.
When an architect tracks their time while working on a project, they should be able to account for their default billable rate automatically through the time tracking software. Another option is to allow each employee to enter their rate manually, or use a billable hours chart to save time and focus on their work process.
After the project is complete and charged for, the managers can determine the realistic billable rate by dividing the total revenue of a project by real hours spent on the project by the employee. Then they can compare the sum with the planned profit and determine whether the company should make some adjustments to the fees on similar projects.
Cost rate management
Cost rates are comprised of the employee hourly rate (based on their salary and direct expenses) and the hourly rate based on general expenses. Time tracking software should be able to automatically draw the defined cost rate and determine cost rates per client or project. This is another important feature you should be looking for.
Timesheets are a good way to confirm the accuracy of the time employees log. This feature of time tracking tools for architects is mandatory as well.
Timesheets are a good way to confirm work hours, breaks, leaves, overtime, and general accuracy. Some countries made them a mandatory addition to payroll slips. You will be able to find many useful timesheet templates to choose from. Each full-time equivalent timesheet should contain the following categories:
- Activities performed per client
- Details of the logged tasks
- Sum of hours spent
- The ratio of billable and non-billable hours
- Billing rate per hour
Observations through time tracking
While time tracking is a great way to stay informed about the current tasks your architects are working on, the real value of the practice lies within utilizing the data you collect over time. that is why high-quality reports are crucial for getting the most out of your chosen platform. These reports should indicate the ways you can improve your business.
Time Analytics includes analytics by task, client, architect, and project through a comprehensible dashboard. You can access data about the total sum of work hours, as well as billable and non-billable hours, expenses, and other metrics. You can monitor these values in real-time or through historical reports.
Time tracking and billing
Having an accurate list of activities performed for a client makes billing simple and transparent. Time Analytics allows you to create itemized invoices that account for all costs by implementing the collected data.
Tracking your costs
Cost tracking enables you to calculate efficiency and profitability indicators by clients and projects. This is possible because you can track both the profit and costs per working hour.
How to track costs per client or project
Let’s start with an example. Let’s say the total gross salary in a company is $1500 per month. If the average number of monthly working hours is 150, we come up with a pay rate of $10 per hour. Yet, this doesn’t account for other expenses. That is why you should calculate the overhead rate as well.
Overhead expenses include office space rent, utilities and internet bills, office supplies, etc. If, for example, they add up to $7500 per month in a company that has ten employees, that makes it $750 per employee. Then, by dividing this sum by the number of monthly hours, we will end up with an hourly overhead rate of $5. In other words, the total cost rate is $15 per hour.
A time and expense tracking program should account for the price of the work hour that includes direct and indirect costs. Then, it should allocate the expenses per project or client the employees are engaging with. This is done by simply multiplying the total cost rate by the time tracked.
This is a way to determine how much each client, project, or task costs you with no need to calculate or allocate the costs manually.
The essential KPIs for an architecture firm
Company average billable rate
This KPI represents the average amount your company makes by doing work for your clients. It is important to compare the average billable rate to the expected billable rate to make sure you are staying on track and making the profit you were planning.
Employee billable rate
It is impossible to determine your top performers without calculating the employee billable rate. This metric shows the rate your clients pay per hour for a specific employee.
Employee billable rate is crucial in employee assessment, as you should track the realized employee billable rate, compare it to the expected rate and the total cost rate to see how productive your employees are.
Project and client costs
This KPI indicates the total expenses allocated to a project or client. Time tracking is necessary for calculating it, as it logs time spent per project. This data, then, enables you to calculate the profit coming from each client as well.
Understanding how much each project and client costs will make budgeting for the next budgeting cycle more accurate and easier as well.
This metric shows how much work time goes into billable and non-billable hours. It is important to have a handle on these values, as you should be able to assess how much time your architects invest into making the company profit and how much of it is spent on non-billable activities. This indicator is crucial when deciding whether you should outsource an activity or not.
Average project billable rate
This indicator shows whether your projects are making you a profit or not. Naturally, that also means you’ll be able to determine whether you should adjust your fees in future projects.
You can calculate the project billable rate by dividing the total profit from a project by the total hours spent on said project.
Client billable rate
This metric is calculated by dividing the total income coming from a client by the total hours spent on that client. Similar to the project billable rate, it gives you an insight into your profitable and non-profitable clients.
Billing rate utilization
Billing rate utilization represents the difference between the planned and realized profit. It shows you whether you are making the profit you were expecting and can indicate that there are underlying problems within your firm.
Structure of tasks
Knowing how much a certain type of task takes to complete can help you increase efficiency. You can implement a productivity tool into your workflow or adjust its structure.
There are two main reasons for an increase in overtime. Firstly, there is the possibility of increased task volume or difficulty. This problem can be solved by hiring an additional architect or transferring employees to a project that’s taking a lot of time and energy to finish. On the other hand, overtime can be caused by unproductive habits. In that case, you should talk to your staff and managers to find the reasons and a solution for these negative practices.
Either way, you can determine the reasoning behind overtime by tracking employee time.
There is a lot of resistance toward time tracking among the workforce. This is especially true when it comes to creative industries, such as architecture. Many employees may think the company will be using this practice to micromanage and punish them simply for having a different work rhythm.
Hence, you need to avoid these mistakes to reap all the benefits of time tracking. Instead, you should use this practice to distribute tasks more equally and resolve issues your employees may have. Time Analytics has a trust-based timesheet system. It offers an opportunity to grow your business and improve morale instead of bringing it down.
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