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What to Look For in a Timesheet Vendor, Pt. 1: Approval Workflow

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In this episode, Curt talks about timesheet approval workflows – what they are, why they’re important, and what to look for in a time and expense tracking system.

Today we’re going to talk about approval workflows, timesheet approval workflows and why they are important, and why they are often gotten wrong.

There are automated systems in place to automatically reject time that’s over 24 hours, too many hours on a project, other common problems like that. But no automated system can always find every problem. It’s important that humans get involved in approving time or rejecting time so that you don’t have a bad monetary transaction, a bad financial transaction – so that you don’t pay people too much money or too little money on their paycheck, so you don’t bill a client too much or too little, so that you don’t accumulate too much cost against a project that’s not appropriate. Right? How do you do that? Approval workflows is how you do that.

Suppose that you have a customer that is a top secret government organization and one of your consulting projects is to do work for that customer. Nobody else needs to see the time records associated with the work you’re doing for that customer except the manager of that project and the customer themselves and the employees who are working on that project. Other people in your organization who don’t have top secret clearance shouldn’t be seeing that data. So you need to have a project approval workflow system that just approves that time, and then the other time those employees work on non-secret projects gets approved by somebody else, and in the approval process they’re not accidentally seeing all the top secret data. Right? And then later, the payroll person needs to approve that the right payroll is happening and the billing person needs to approve that the right bills are going out, right? These are pretty complicated problems that you have to deal with in the approval workflow of a time tracking system that works in an enterprise context. And by enterprise, I mean different departments are tracking time for different things…payroll, billing, vacation, project accounting, whatever it is.

And different managers have different needs for reporting out of this – the HR person needs to see vacation time. So the approval workflow can include the client in there. The client doesn’t enter time, but the client can approve of project work being done for that client, and that allows your customer to essentially pre-approve of invoices that you will send them, speeding up your invoicing process so that you get paid faster, because nothing’s worse than sending a bill to a client and they go “That’s not right,” and then you’re in this 90 to 180-day invoice repair process. One of our clients had an invoice out to a client that got rejected, and it was for several million dollars. As a result, it took them nine months to get paid on that. That’s a significant hit to their cash flow. You want to avoid that wherever possible.

A time tracking system that has the proper approval workflow can ameliorate some of those kind of problems. That’s why time tracking approval workflow is important. Automation can’t get everything – it can get a lot – you need to have somebody’s eyeballs on there to make sure this looks right before it goes into the system and gets pushed over to an accounting system (for example, Microsoft Dynamics accounting system, such as Great Plains, or SL or AX). So that’s why time tracking approval workflow is so important to get right, and why you need to have an automation system there that handles all these different kinds of capabilities.