4 pros and cons of Time Management Apps

Time Management Applications for your staff need careful consideration, and a delicate deployment strategy.
9 May 2022

Applications for Time Management are always a delicate balance. Source: Shutterstock

  • In conjunction with World Mental Health Day last year, TechHQ takes a look at apps that can help employees get a handle on how their time is spent, on and off the job
  • Specifically, Joe Green unravels time management apps — weighing their plusses and minuses, and are they the software solution to helping workers achieve a better work-life balance?

This article hopes to dispel some of the myths and reveal some of the pitfalls of deploying a time management app in your organization. It is not going to consider personal time trackers – the type of apps, often driven by fitness trackers, which record minutes spent in exercise, time spent asleep or sedentary, time spent eating, and so forth. Additionally, time management apps that let workers clock in and out of a workplace will not be considered here.

What’s of interest on these pages are some considerations that should be born in mind when considering installing and using the type of time management applications commonly used in service industry settings, which record activities undertaken during the working day.

Some management application basics

The majority of apps that record time are used by the employee him or herself. In their simplest form, a staff member will fill out a virtual timesheet throughout the day which records which project they are working on, for which client or customer, and which activity in that project they have undertaken. Additionally, there should also be a record of any events like travel to and from a client meeting, time spent in internal consultations, HR activities, staff social activities, and so forth.

Why deploy time management apps?

Here are some common motivations for deploying time management apps in business, which are numbered for your reference. Below them, numbered in the same way are some of the pitfalls that occur. Hopefully, armed with this knowledge, your company will be able to install and use time management software with some success.

1. More accurate billing or pricing

In the service sector especially, where clients and customers are effectively paying for time spent on their behalf, it’s easy for billing to become inaccurate. Over time, there’s often the notion that clients are getting potentially too much of a good deal. Time management software can help track just how long is being spent on their behalf.

The degree of accuracy in this respect is a point worth giving serious consideration to. At one extreme, phone systems on workers’ desks will not function until unlocked with a job reference number, and the client billed by the minute. At the other end of the spectrum, staff guesstimate their activities at the end of the day. Where you pitch your requirements is up to you – but do read the next section before deciding.

2. Better cost vs. revenue analysis

The equation for profitability is a relatively simple one. When your clients or customers are paying for a product or service, the costs of labor should be subtracted from the price paid by the customer for the “widget.” Labor costs, at their simplest, are the hourly rate you pay the employee. If widget cost minus the cost of labor comes out as unfavorable, you are losing money. However, to find out how long is spent on a single widget’s production, you’ll need time management apps.

Of course, companies incur a host of other costs too, which need to be factored into a much broader reckoning, but if the basic equation above produces a decent margin of difference between the two figures, you are on the right track.

3. Reduction in non-billable hours

Not every minute of every staff member’s day is spent undertaking billable work. There’s a host of other activities too, like attending internal meetings, team briefing sessions, time spent traveling to and from remote sites, and probably a little socializing with colleagues, too.

You can subdivide non-billable hours into categories like “internal meetings” or “travel” and so so, or just assign non-client focused time to a central “pot” of cost. Again, the level of accuracy is up to you.

4. Ensure staff are focused or hitting KPIs

In specific settings like customer care centers, call centers or sales environments, time spent on the phone, or at a keyboard addressing text queries is a key indicator of effort undertaken. A salesperson needs to spend a good proportion of their time speaking to potential clients. Help desk staff need to be engaging one to one with customers and their issues. A time management app can help ascertain whether that is going on.

And the pitfalls in using time management apps?

1. More accurate billing = annoyed existing clients

Time management exercises often show that staff are dedicating disproportionate amounts of time to clients’ concerns and needs. Billing an existing client a “more truthful” amount may come as a shock: after all, the same tasks, detailed on last month’s bill cost the customer a whole lot less! Why the change? Be ready with a good answer!

Additionally, any hike in prices caused by your realization that you are selling your services short may put off some new customers – although in some sectors there is a significant cachet in being pricey: just make sure you deliver.

2. Better costs vs. revenue = disgruntled staff

In many workplaces, staff already feel driven, and most would say they work hard for a living – that’s human nature. Increasing pressure on employees to produce the same or better results in the same time (or less) may be resented by staff, feeling that their employers are not being fair.

In some instances, you may find that staff begin to misrepresent their activities on the time management platform, thus negating much of its raison d’etre.

3. Reducing non-billable hours = higher bills for clients

Staff may feel uncomfortable when asked to detail daily activities, especially if made to feel that non-billable hours are in some way “a waste.” Additionally, some people tend to work better in short, concentrated bursts, while others need longer to achieve the same ends. In that situation, the former’s non-billable hours proportion will be high but may produce excellent results. As ever, it’s a case of presentation for managers deploying time management solutions, and how the results translate into HR policies.

4. Staff hitting KPIs = staff wasting time creatively

Choice of ways to measure staff performance in terms of KPIs is a delicate matter. If your sales team is expected to spend 80 percent of their time on the phone, then they will – but that’s not necessarily a measure of efficiency nor will it guarantee results. It’s a simple matter to pick up the phone and chase weak leads just to hit a phone-time KPI.

Time Management Apps: deployment conclusions

It is an error of the highest magnitude to expect any IT system to bring about changes in staff behavior. Technology is never the way to enforce a staffing policy – employees will “play the system” to tick boxes, and the cost of any time management apps will be wasted.

If your employees need to be more focused or spend more time on a particular type of activity, or you need better results, don’t invest in technology, invest in a trainer, counselor or better management.

Technology should always be a way to empower not to control or alter behavior. So when you deploy a time management solution, do so with plenty of consultation with the staff who will be filling out the data fields. If not, your expensive time management app is not worth the disk space.