When it comes to building a successful and profitable agency, time tracking probably isn’t the first thing that you think of. In fact, if you like most, doing your time can feel like a real downer. If you are having a great day, tracking your time can feel like the one thing that keeps getting in the way of your next genius strategy. If you are having a not so good day, it can feel like tracking your time is just another layer of red tape contributing to unproductive day.

The right time clock software can be crucial for identifying key ways to drive the most profit from your agency. Tracking your time with accuracy can help you identify the kinds of clients and project work that drives the most profit so that you can align your business to gain more work in these areas. You can also identify project offerings where you need to rethink your approach and restructure your pricing model. For example, you may find that offering some projects at a fixed price retainer work will lead to more profits, whereas other types of work may be best suited to T&M pricing. But there also may be some project that you stop wasting your time with, realizing that not all projects are profitable.

I’ve spent years, literally, years, working with hundreds of different tools and systems for tracking time on projects. And luckily for you I have compiled a list of important features to look for when trying to decide on which time tracking tool is right for you. Whether you work at a small boutique agency with only a handful of employees, or a mid-sized agency with hundreds, these some important things to consider.

Here are some important time tracking features for profitable advertising and marketing agencies:

Easy of use
This may seem like something fairly obvious, but you won’t glean the full value from a time tracking solution if your employees don’t use it.One thing that I know to be true at most agencies is that almost everyone dreads time entry and avoids the seemingly tedious task at all costs. That is why it is critically important for every agency to stress the importance of accurate and timely tracking of time spent working on projects. It’s also important to make sure that your processes for tracking time are as seamless and easy to use as possible. They should make the task as quick and easy to complete as possible. One specific area to pay attention to while evaluating tools is how well the tool captures data and minimizes the need to duplicate reoccurring project names or times. If an employee works on the same project regularly and for the same increments of time, they shouldn’t have to reenter the same details over and over again. It would be better to be able to select these values from a drop-down to save time.

Functions across multiple devices: laptop, desktop, tablets and smartphones
We live in a mobile world, and business happens everywhere. It is not uncommon for work to happen on the go, in coffee shops, on trains, in Uber rides…everywhere there is an internet signal. Time tracking tools should work in all of these environments, on all devices. It’s not reasonable to expect your team to boot up a laptop or desktop computer every time they need to enter their time. That is why some time tracking tools have designed their tools to work across multiple devices, making it easy to input time on projects from anywhere work takes place.

Project management integration
Another must have feature is the ability to connect tracked time to project management tools. The best time tracking tools can manage multiple project codes and workflows with ease. This enables views into work streams that would otherwise be impossible. For example, you might find that a majority of unprofitable project don’t include enough upfront discovery time, so while time is saved early on it costs the project and the business more on the backend to get the project back on track.

Integrations with existing payroll and invoicing systems
To maximize the productivity of your agency, time tracking tools should easily integrate with existing payroll and invoicing systems. This minimize the number of manual ad hoc reports and ensure billing and payroll processes are not delayed.  

GPS Tracking
On the surface, having the ability to track where someone on your team clocks in and out may not appear to have a lot of worth, but it can be useful when time is being billed across different regions and should be reported separately. Creating geofences is a related feature that some time tracking tools have added in recent years. Geofences can be used to create specific geographic locations that your teams can punch in and out of. This enables you to allows your teams the freedom to work in various locations of their choice, but also ensures that they are not taking advantage of that freedom.

Facial Recognition
Like GPS location tracking, this feature may not be at the top of your must have list for a time tracking tool, but hear me out. In this day and age, anything that you can do to add to increase the security and integrity of your tracked time and project resources is invaluable. That is exactly what facial recognition does. It ensures that the person billing hours to a project is in fact that same person. This minimizes opportunities for billing and accounting books to be manipulated, which can be communicated to clients as a measure of accountability and integrity.

Overtime Calculations
If you are like most agencies, you probably have a variety of different workers on your teams. Some may be salaried and some may be contractors or freelancers with a set number of hours. It is important that time tracking tools can accurately account for time that goes beyond the scope of contracted hours so that workers can be compensated appropriately with overtime rates and so that projects can accurately reflect these additional costs.

With this list of features, now you and your team are armed with the knowledge necessary to choose the right time tracking tool for your agency.  

Let us know your thoughts. Are there any important features or functions that you think we have missed?