The history of time tracking is actually a long and storied one, stretching back over 200 years when Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “Time is money” to emphasize efficiency in how people work. The time clock was invented as the Industrial Revolution brought about the need to track employee time as accurately and efficiently as possible – a need many companies still have today.

Workforce models have also shifted dramatically over the centuries, and especially in the last twenty years – necessitating better means of tracking employee time for a variety of purposes, such as projects, payroll, and billing. I talked to Curt Finch, our CEO, who founded Journyx 21 years ago and introduced web-based project time tracking to the world. As someone who has seen the technology of time tracking grow and change incredibly over 3 decades, he has a unique perspective on its journey and future.

Kari: Before you started Journyx, the concept of tracking time to projects was very different, even a little bit foreign. How would you describe what that landscape looked like, including how time tracking data was used?

Curt: There was pre-internet software that could help you track time on projects. These were client server applications which were tough to administer – especially with remote workers. Telework was not common in the 1990s and Journyx was founded to help enable that concept – the journey in Journyx refers to travel and remoteness. Because project time tracking is difficult, the impediments created by client/server technologies made these systems go unused. Automated time tracking was in larger firms, was payroll-oriented, and aimed at hourly workers (time and attendance or punch clock systems).

Kari: When you introduced Journyx 21 years ago, what was the response? Was it difficult to get people to understand the need, because it was relatively new?

Curt: 1996 was a time when the Internet was mostly just web brochures for companies. Websites were like magazines and unresponsive to user input. Journyx provided the first business application aimed at enabling teleworkers and we sold it directly over the Internet, when most people still bought software in stores. The idea of a web-based application was new. As soon as people realized that they didn’t have to install any software to use the application, they were pretty excited. Installing software on 100 machines and keeping it all up to date is not fun.

Kari: Over the last 20 years, how have you seen the time tracking software landscape develop in terms of the technology?

Curt: Every change in technology has increased the likelihood of data being correct, easy to enter, and easy to process. Mobile phones are an example. Integration with your accounting system is as well. Technology to prevent mistakes in data entry and to automatically fill out your timesheet for you in a variety of ways are all about ease and accuracy.

Kari: What are your predictions for what time tracking will be like in 2018? What about the next 5-10 years?

Curt: Expensive people are your largest cost. You need to know how they’re spending their most valuable asset – their time. Privacy issues will be navigated in a way that allows for employees to easily provide crystal clear data to employers where appropriate in a nearly invisible, painless way. Companies who can become good at understanding their costs in this way will trounce their competitors.

I can also see increasingly relevant and powerful machine learning techniques being applied to the goal of easy data collection, as well as accuracy and improvement on a going forward basis.