10 min read
Dec 15, 2020
Project Management

A Complete Guide to Expense and Time Tracking Features

Learn about the must-have and optional features of an expense and time tracking software tool before investing in one.

Ankita SinghContent Writer

Tracking project-related expenses and employee hours using spreadsheets is no cakewalk. Project managers like you end up putting in a lot of manual work and still can’t ensure zero errors in calculation, which means higher chances of inaccurate records.

Expense and time tracking software can help you remove manual tasks and ensure accuracy in project billing and time tracking. It can provide a clear picture of project efficiency and resource allocation, even for remote teams. But choosing an expense and time tracking tool isn’t easy, especially if you don’t understand the kind of features it offers. 

In this article, we’ve provided a breakdown of expense and time tracking software features. We discuss must-have and optional features, along with the benefits they offer, to help you make the right choice.

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Top and notable features of expense and time tracking software

Top and notable features of expense and time tracking software
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Top features: Expense and time tracking features you must have

1. Project management

Expense and time tracking software offers basic project management capabilities to help you monitor employee productivity, track billable project hours, and manage resource allocation. 

Key aspects of the project management feature:

  • Resource allocation and planning: Get a complete overview of where and how your employees are occupied. Know your team’s available bandwidth and current engagement with different projects to plan project resources optimally. 

  • Resource productivity tracking: Compare actual employee work hours against planned project hours. If your team’s input is falling short of project requirements, you can suggest ways to boost their productivity. You can also identify employee burnout and find ways to mitigate it. 

  • Project mapping and tracking: Set time and budget limits for each project and the tasks within the project. You can view the total project budget and hours on the software dashboard. Accordingly, you realign resources, timelines, and expenses, if required. 

Key benefits of the project management feature:

  • Improves decision-making: Monitoring resources offers accurate, real-time project insights. Based on these insights, you can take informed decisions about resource utilization and allocation. You can also identify processes or employees that need improvement.

  • Boosts accountability and productivity: Project time tracking increases employee productivity by letting them plan their hours and record the progress of their work. It induces a sense of accountability in them, as they know they have to complete tasks within the given timeframe.

  • Ensures project success: Regular tracking of and reporting on project costs, hours, and resources let you optimize and adjust project plans to achieve your business goals. They help avoid time or budget overruns, so you can deliver successful projects.  

2. Time tracking

The time tracking feature automatically records the hours your employees spend on project-related tasks. Some tools allow employees to clock in and clock out manually. You can see how much time was spent on which task and accordingly calculate billable hours. 

Key aspects of the time tracking feature:

  • Timesheet management: Your employees can log in their daily hours in the timesheet. These entries act as records of billable and non-billable hours and are, therefore, essential for project invoicing. When a timesheet is submitted, all stakeholders get notified by email. You can also export and share the timesheet with clients.

  • Timesheet review: Review and approve the timesheets submitted by your employees. If something is inaccurate, you can send the timesheet back for corrections. You can even edit entries as well as add notes for your reference.

  • Automated reminders: Set automated reminders (email or text messages), so your employees don’t forget to submit their timesheets. Your accounting team can also send these reminders to ensure billable hours are recorded and processed on time. 

Key benefits of the time tracking feature:

  • Tracks employee productivity: Tracking the hours of your staff via a timesheet app gives you a complete overview of their bandwidth and productivity. You can find which employees are lagging and suggest ways to improve their productivity.

  • Records project hours accurately: When tracking time via paper or Excel-based spreadsheets, the chances of manual errors are high. But with an automated time tracking app, manual work is eliminated, and the process of managing time records becomes more simplified, organized, and accurate. 

  • Supports billing and payroll processing: You can capture the exact billable hours for your hourly or salaried employees and raise accurate invoices for payment from clients. Timesheet software also makes billing and payroll management easier for your accounts department. 

3. Expense tracking

With the expense tracking feature, you can track all project-related costs, such as resource, labor, and equipment expenses. 

Key aspects of the expense tracking feature:

  • Expense management: Set expense limits at the start of each project or make mid-project iterations to prevent cost overruns. Your employees can also record expenses (one at a time or in bulk) and submit them for approval. 

  • Expense approval management: Create and edit the expense approval workflow, set deadlines for submissions and approvals, approve or reject expense claims, and add the reasons for rejection. You can review project expenses regularly to ensure you’re within budget. 

  • Compliance management: Validate each expense item against your project’s expense policy. Detect fraudulent expenses and flag expense overruns, duplicate expenses, and missing documentation or expense receipts. 

Key benefits of the expense tracking feature:

  • Consolidates expense records: Expense tracking helps you keep expense receipts and documentation in one place. You can check who made an expense, who submitted it, and who approved it. 

  • Speeds up the reimbursement process: You can set up streamlined expense tracking and approval workflows as well as set automated reminders for expense submissions and approvals. This speeds up the reimbursement process and helps you keep accurate records.

  • Automates workflows: Automate repetitive expense management processes such as expense approvals, validation, and fraud detection to save you time and effort. 

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Notable feature: Optional expense and time tracking feature you can consider

1. Reporting and analytics

The reporting and analytics feature provides an overview of project progress. You can extract and analyze data related to project hours and expenses. You can use these insights to forecast and manage risks related to time and budget overruns.

Key aspects of the reporting and analytics feature:

  • Reimbursement and expense reports: Generate reports on expenses incurred, approved, and denied. Get information on who made the most expenses and where. You can also view historical expense trends to forecast and plan expenses for future projects. 

  • Project performance reports: Create reports to check the performance of your project—project progress, project health, budget variance, attendance tracking, and more. Based on this data, you can forecast and estimate project time and resource allocation needs. 

  • Policy violation reports: You can generate reports to identify employees who frequently violate company policies when submitting expenses. Train these employees on the expense policies of your project to help them file reimbursements correctly. 

Key benefits of the reporting and analytics feature:

  • Enhances project and performance management: Detailed time reports offer insights into top-performing projects and employees. They also help identify resources that need coaching, so you can make timely and data-backed decisions to support them.

  • Fosters data transparency and centralization: Expense and time reports can be shared across departments. Stakeholders can access up-to-date project records from a centralized location to make quick, data-driven business decisions.

  • Increases accuracy of project forecasts: With these reports, you can accurately predict the time and cost requirements of different projects. You can forecast upcoming challenges and make arrangements to mitigate them. You can also use these insights to identify projects most likely to be profitable. 

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Next steps

You can buy a stand-alone expense and time tracking tool or project management software with expense and time tracking functionality. Either way, here are a few Gartner-recommended steps to keep in mind (full report available to Gartner clients only):

  • Based on the features discussed, identify a product that fulfills your business needs. 

  • Take feedback from all stakeholders, including your employees, before finalizing any tool. 

  • Compare vendors based on not only the features they offer but also their compliance with industry and country-specific expense reporting regulations.

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