If you’ve ever had to shop for software to track employee time, then you’ve undoubtedly been faced with a few different phrases to describe such software and systems:

  • Time tracking software
  • Time entry software
  • Time and attendance software
  • Timesheet software

They all sound the same, and they generally are – except when it comes to time and attendance.

There are some fundamental differences between web-based time tracking software and time attendance systems, and we regularly field questions from people who are understandably confused about this. So, I thought it would be helpful to explain the differences here.

Time and Attendance

We’ve all had jobs where we were required to punch in and out for shifts.  Some of us may even remember having paper punch cards that we’d put into a slot on the timeclock, and it would stamp our in/out times on the cards.

Ah, those were the days…


No matter how it was done, it was to make sure we were getting to work and leaving as scheduled, and (most importantly) getting paid for the work we do. That’s the basic concept behind time and attendance systems.

The technology behind these types of systems has evolved considerably, but the need to track this time still exists.  Many companies need time & attendance solutions in order to accurately pay hourly workers for their work.  These systems are good at tracking adherence to schedules (tardiness, absences, etc.).  They’re also great for employees who do the same work every day. They work well in certain types of industries, such as:

  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Retail
  • Food service

Companies in these industries tend to have hourly employees who work on a certain schedule, and are therefore paid based on those hours worked.

Time Tracking/Timesheet Software

Sometimes, companies need to track time for other reasons, such as projects.  This is when a time tracking /timesheet solution can really help.  For example, companies don’t usually need to track salaried employees’ hours for payroll purposes, but that time still has a cost associated with it. Even though these employees aren’t paid hourly, their hours are not free.  Timesheets can help organizations understand how much time projects and tasks take and then translate that time to cost.  It can help them answer questions like:

  • Which projects are more profitable?
  • Which ones aren’t?
  • Which clients should we try and grow?
  • Are my projects behind schedule or going over budget?

Also, many salaried employees perform work for clients that is billable per hour.  The only way to bill for this work accurately is to track time accurately.

Nonprofits are another example of an organization using time tracking software rather than a time and attendance solution. Nonprofits need to track time back to grants and other funding sources, track progress on project work vs the original estimates, and use historical data to sharpen estimates for future projects.

Many organizations have a blend of both time tracking and time and attendance for their hourly and salaried employees.  Which solution is best for your company?

I also recommend checking out this Venn diagram, which gives a more visual representation of the key feature differences between time tracking software and time and attendance systems:

Please include attribution to Journyx.com with this graphic.

Time & Attendance Software vs. Time & Expense Tracking Software: What