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The integration of today's building automation systems requires a team of integrators, contractors, consultants, IT folks, graphic designers and security specialists. To control costs, instant information is required. This involves tracking the hours of contractors and their sub-contractors, as well as material costs. The ability to share all this information electronically with the team is mandatory. While one solution is to purchase and learn how to use expensive and complex time management software, increasingly people in the building automation industry are discovery the advantages of Application Service Providers (ASP) or hosted solutions.
With a simple web-based time and expense tracking system, employees and contractors can enter time from remote locations. Companies with multiple offices can use the same system, and it’s available at any time of the day or night, anywhere in the world. Consultants and small businesses purchase a subscription based on the number of people that use the system. Users log in over the Internet to post time and expense information for specific clients and projects. Once this information has been entered, it is available immediately in a variety of management reports about clients, projects and personnel.
Look for ASPs that offer pull-down lists of clients and their related projects. This reduces entry errors and makes completing timesheets a less onerous task for employees. Instant, up-to-the minute management reports help project managers and owners analyze and understand profitability and productivity.
A good time and expense tracking system will offer several distinct benefits:
· Easy implementation
Finding the time needed to research and implement a new system often keeps improvements to your business on the back burner. Your time and expense tracking ASP should offer intuitive interfaces allowing for systematic entry of your personnel, tasks, clients and open projects. You should be able to implement project tracking in about one hour. After a few weeks of accurate timesheet entries, you’ll get comprehensive, accurate data that can be sorted and analyzed easily, giving you a deeper understanding of their business.
· The ability to produce accurate estimates
Many firms look to previous jobs when they are estimating fees and expenses for similar projects. “Real time" ASP applications allow you to build estimates and compare them through the life of the project with actual time and costs. This reduces the amount of “guesstimating” and increases the accuracy of new estimates. More accurate estimates usually mean a more comfortable profit margin.
· Improved employee productivity
A secure centralized system allows companies to analyze both billable and non-billable time entries. Business owners can see who is busy on billable jobs (earning the company money), who is busy on non-billable tasks (that don’t bring in any revenue) and who is just not busy at all! Tasks can be distributed on a more rational basis, to reach a more comfortable ratio of billable to non-billable hours.
· Lower administrative costs
Many building automation firms use a system of time tracking that involves paper and pencil timesheets. Information from them is then transferred to different paper-based forms or spreadsheets. Reports often require hours of administrative time as information is gathered and formatted. Real time centralized information reduces the administrative time (usually non-billable) required for tracking time and producing management reports.
Interested in finding an ASP to help streamline your firm project management for 2005? One of the leading systems is TimeFox by FunctionFox Systems (www.functionfox.com). The system is customizable and has robust reporting features. TimeFox is a simple and affordable way to track of your time and expenses. Great for consultants and small businesses, it instantly provides accurate, up-to-date reports about jobs, clients and personnel. TimeFox is web-based, so you can access it from anywhere in the world, any time you want, using a PC or a Mac.
Get to know TimeFox by signing up for a free 14-day demo. This allows you to explore the reporting options and estimate features with pre-populated timesheet entries. If you like what you see, you can use a full version of the program for another 14 days with your actual clients and projects and get feedback from the rest of your team.
Consultants in the building automation industry are discovering that having a web-based time and expense tracking system solves their billing challenges while also increasing productivity and profitability. Why not make that one of your goals for the New Year?
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