One of the biggest problems facing creative professionals is TIME. Whether you want to get paid or simply understand job profitability, it’s critical to understand how time was spent. Until now there hasn’t been an easy way to do this. True, timesheets have been around since the cavemen, but it seems the technology hasn’t improved much since then.
Well now there’s great news. I was thrilled to learn that a group of former Adobe employees decided to tackle the timesheet problem, and they’re giving away their awesome product TimeTracker to creative professionals.
TIMESHEETS ARE DIFFICULT
Completing a timesheet is an error-prone process that often surpasses the creativity of the work itself! Remembering what you did last week…in 15 minute increments, with billing codes…is virtually impossible. Yet we’re often asked to do just that.
Writing it down as you go is difficult, especially during busy times. And who’s got extra time nowadays? Seem a bit ironic. Even if you were able to write it down, entering those details into a billing system is often an exasperating time-consuming process that requires its own billing code. This is such a problem that Timesheet Parties have become the norm at some firms, where employees get together on a Friday night with a bottle of wine to enter their hours. Forget about accuracy…but at least they get done; right?
Well, now there’s an easy solution to this problem. The Adobe veterans started CreativeWorx and have developed an amazing tool called TimeTracker that automatically captures how time is spent and intelligently assigns proper billing codes to the work effort. It’s intuitive, fast and accurate and you can get the TimeTracker extension for the Adobe Creative Suite free from their website.
TimeTracker is unlike other timesheet products because it’s actually a time capture system. It works quietly in the background capturing how you work…whether you’re using an application (like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word), on the phone, in a meeting or at the client location. There are no timers, no pop-ups, and no interruptions. TimeTracker does an exceptional job letting you focus on your client work while producing the most accurate timesheet you’ve ever had.
Before you start referencing “1984” and Big Brother, it’s essential to note that TimeTracker is a tool for the Designer…for you…not for Management! Only you have access to the data that is collected.
The TimeTracker timesheet is 100% adjustable with a simple click or drag-and-drop. If you worked on a whiteboard and want to add it to your timesheet, simply double-click and, like magic, it’s added to your timesheet. Spent 15 minutes on Facebook during lunch? Simply click the delete icon, and it’s gone.
SPECTACULAR INTEGRATION WITH ADOBE CREATIVE TOOLS
TimeTracker is integrated with the most popular tools, starting with the Adobe Creative Suite. Since the founders of CreativeWorx were former Adobe employees, you’d expect a seamless integration with the Creative Suite and Creative Cloud. They delivered…and it’s spectacular!
TimeTracker automatically captures your activity and intelligently assigns the correct billing codes to that activity. Imagine never again struggling to find a billing code. Hallelujah! And TimeTracker goes one step further. If you ‘tag’ a folder with a billing code, TimeTracker will automatically assign that code to any document you save to that folder location…even if it’s a shared folder on a server. It couldn’t be easier!
Did I mention that their Adobe product is free?!! If you regularly work in Photoshop, InDesign, InCopy, Illustrator or Flash Pro, you can forget about your timesheet and focus on your client work. TimeTracker will capture your effort and will generate a timesheet for you.
ALSO SUPPORTS APPLE, MICROSOFT, GOOGLE
Though they started with the Adobe tools, the CreativeWorx team didn’t stop there. TimeTracker also captures time/activity from Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint & Excel), Apple productivity tools (Keynote, Numbers & Pages), and Google & Microsoft Exchange calendars…with so much more coming soon, including email, browsers, phones, and the most popular developer tools.
The integration with calendar programs, such as Google Calendar and Microsoft Exchange Calendar (shown below) is really special. Any calendar entry that is tagged “#TT” will be imported to your TimeTracker timesheet…regardless of whether you created the activity or were invited by someone else. So for example, a Project Manager can schedule a team meeting and everyone’s timesheet will automatically have that item. Talk about convenient! Since TimeTracker timesheets are 100% adjustable, if you didn’t attend the meeting or don’t want to include the time on your timesheet, it’s easily deleted.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
It means more time and less distractions so you can focus on client work. Less time spent on admin work means more time for billable work or improving your work-life balance.
But how much time does TimeTracker actually save you? How about more than 40 hours a year! That’s an extra week of your life…each year. It’s kind of sickening that we waste that much time…but it’s comforting to know there’s an answer.
By eliminating the need to record your activities, reducing the time to submit a timesheet, and avoiding unnecessary time-related conversations with peers & managers, TimeTracker will save about one hour per week.
Here’s some simple math: Assume TimeTracker saves you 10 minutes a day. If you work 50 weeks a year (250 days), that means you’ll save 2500 minutes. That’s more than 40 hours saved! It’s actually more than 41 hours, but let’s not quibble…the point is that you can recover a tremendous amount of time…and deliver better quality work by being focused.
BUT DOES IT WORK FOR TEAMS?
Okay, you say: TimeTracker is great for freelancers, but what about small and large teams? Does it really work for them? In a word…HELL YEAH!
TimeTracker allows a team of any size to share project data and provides analytics dashboards and reports that make companies much more efficient. Imagine having a dashboard that shows the hours accruing for any project. Since the system makes it super easy to submit accurate timesheets quickly, dashboards can be much more insightful. Imagine receiving alerts as projects start running ‘hot’ … well before they ACTUALLY go over budget!
But TimeTracker is designed to provide insights and improve operations. Two such features are the TimeTracker Scope Report and the TimeTracker Allocation Dashboard.
ACCURATE QUOTES AND PROJECT PLANS
The TimeTracker Scope Report instantly displays the hours used for any project, broken down by Roles and Departments…per week. Imagine if an Account Manager had easy access to the actual hours required when quoting a similar project. No more repurposing proposals.
For example: Let’s say Mary quoted a simple 3-week web project last year. For discussion purposes, let’s say she included a Designer, a Developer and a Copywriter for 40 hours each week. And, let’s say the actual project needed 5 weeks…but she had forgotten a Project Manager for 20 hours each week, an Interaction Designer for 40 hours total, and a QA tester for 40 hours.
With the TimeTracker Scope Report, she simply selects that old project and instantly sees the total hours for each role, broken down per week. So, if two Designers shared duties on the project, the Scope Report just shows the total hours. Nice and easy. And the data is far more accurate than the original proposal which doesn’t include the extra weeks or extra roles.
And imagine what a Project Manager could do with this information when staffing the project?!! Staffing a project properly would eliminate so much of the chaos that’s rampant in a professional services organization.
WHAT ABOUT RESOURCE PLANNING & ALLOCATION?
Speaking of project staffing, the TimeTracker Allocation Dashboard provides real-time insights regarding who is assigned to which clients/projects…and how their actual hours align with those allocations.
At some firms, these allocations are reviewed once or twice a year because it’s simply too complicated and time-consuming to consolidate everyone’s data…but TimeTracker does this in real-time for everyone, so the dashboard is viewable at any time during the year. And, TimeTracker can provide alerts if someone is putting time against the wrong client or if they are running too ‘hot’ against any allocation. That’s insanely awesome!
DOES TIMETRACKER PLAY NICELY WITH OTHER SYSTEMS?
TimeTracker was designed as an open platform and can communicate via API or, gasp!, file drops. TimeTracker prefers the real-time communication of APIs and web calls…but some older systems can only export information as files. TimeTracker has already proven itself under both scenarios.
Users and Projects are passed to TimeTracker, and then TimeTracker passes back timesheet data whenever a user submits the timesheet.
Whether your company is using SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, MediaOcean/Donovan, Maconomy, HansaWorld, Workamajig, AtTask, JobCharge or countless other ERP, Financial, Workflow, Project Management systems, TimeTracker can easily exchange information to improve the ROI of your company’s investment in those other products. These third-party system are only as good as the data that gets submitted. Research shows that data is often 4-8+ weeks late and is 20-50% inaccurate…so how can that lead to effective analytics from any of those other systems? Garbage in…garbage out.
IS TIMETRACKER WORTH IT?
In summary, TimeTracker is an amazing time capture solution that will improve your life in several ways: More time. Improved job satisfaction. Better focus. Less contentious interaction with Finance and Operations.
It’s integrated directly with the professional tools we use all the time, providing a seamless experience that almost makes timesheets fun and improves productivity and profitability of virtually any project.
Simply put, TimeTracker is a tool you can’t live without. And for individual creative professionals, the Adobe extension is completely free. Go get it right now: www.creativeworx.com.