Which Is Right For YOU?
Lots of companies these days are using or considering computer-based time tracking. There are good reasons for this:
- Integration with other business systems such as payroll, accounting and billing for seamless administration;
- Reduction of clerical errors that can arise from manually computing time cards or time sheets and entering time by hand to payroll;
- Availability of advanced features, such as job costing, time off accruals and employee self-service.
When it comes to using a computer to track employee time, you have two choices. Either you can install software on your own computer, or you can sign up for a cloud-based subscription service. There are things to be said in favor of each approach. How can a manager decide which is best for her organization?
The good part is there’s no one “best” solution. What matters is what’s best for your company.
When Installed Software Is Your Best Bet
You’ll want to consider installed software if:
You’re very comfortable with technology yourself, or you have on-site IT support who can help you configure, maintain and troubleshoot the system. Remember, you’ll need to install the software and any software updates, and make sure that everything stays up and running. Of course, most vendors offer a variety of support resources, but you may have to pay a per-incident charge or sign up for a paid service-contract to access live assistance.
You will also want to have high quality firewall and antivirus programs in place to protect your network and your employees’ personal information. You certainly don’t want to find yourself in the headlines as the victim of a data breach.
Installed software may also be appropriate if you only have a few employees, fairly simple time-tracking needs and a small budget. These days, you can get professional quality software for less than $150. This is an attractive and cost effective alternative for you if you only have a handful of employees and you don’t need a lot of advanced features. Keep in mind, though, at the low end of the price spectrum you may face limitations such as a maximum number of employees that can be accommodated.
On the other hand, you may also want to consider installed software if you are a very large company with extremely specialized needs. If you have the budget, you can hire consultants or have your own in-house IT group customize installed software to match exactly your requirements.
When You Might Want to Consider the Cloud
In other situations, a cloud-based solution might be a better idea. Here are times when you might want to think about tracking employee time in the cloud:
You don’t want to be hassled with software maintenance, or you don’t have an on-site IT department to handle that chore for you. Cloud-based products require only Internet access and a browser (or, in some cases, a smartphone app). Updates are installed automatically by your vendor, without you having to do anything, and the vendor is responsible for maintaining system uptime and security.
Consider a cloud-based solution if you want or need economical access to advanced features. Because many companies can use the same installation of cloud-based software, the vendor can spread the cost of the software across all their clients. This means you can gain access to advanced enterprise-quality features that your company might not otherwise be able to afford. However, your ability to customize these features may be limited. If you’re especially interested in a particular feature, it can pay to ask for a demo so you can see that feature in action and make sure it will work for you.
Think of the cloud if you expect your company to grow. With cloud-based software it’s easy to add as many additional employees as you need, and you can generally enable new features or add on additional modules by simply clicking a button. There is no installation and often little to no additional set up required.
The cloud may also be for you if you have big seasonal fluctuations in your workforce. Examples might be a holiday-themed store, a summer resort, or a farm with seasonal workers during planting and harvest. With cloud-based software, typically you only pay for the capacity you’re actually using at the time, so during those seasons when your staff is smaller you’ll pay less. With installed software, you will most likely have to purchase enough licenses or seats to accommodate your highest staffing level. It can be expensive to purchase capacity that will go unused for the majority of the year.
The cloud is ideal if you have a mobile or remote workforce. With web or mobile app access, employees can do things like file time-off requests, check accrual balances and record their time, no matter where they’re located. High-end installed software may offer the ability to run your own web-based interface, but you’ll need a strong IT department to get it set up and keep it secure. For most small and mid-sized companies, a cloud solution is a lower hassle and more cost-effective way of giving their employees that web-based access.
Another thing you might want to consider would be your hardware needs. Many installed software products and cloud-based solutions offer support for various types of clocks or terminals – badge swipe, proximity and biometric – but not every solution supports every type of terminal. Whether it’s installed software or a cloud-based solution, if you want your employees to use specific badge swipe terminals or biometric devices for clocking in or out, you’ll want to make sure the solution you’re considering supports the hardware you prefer to use.
You also want to take some time to think about what other systems you might want to set up to “talk” to each other. This integration is one of the real time- and cost-saving aspects of automation. For instance, many companies integrate time and attendance with payroll. That’s a real natural pairing and often leads to enormous savings for companies right off the bat, just from making fewer errors and cutting the time to process payroll.
Take some time to consider what other systems you might want to include in your integration. Human resources management? Asset tracking? Benefits administration? It can really pay to ask your provider what integrations they support, and consider automating as many of your processes as make sense for you. If there’s an integration that’s a real “must have” for you, find out from your vendor whether your chosen software can even support it, and if so, what it will take.
For instance, some less expensive software doesn’t integrate directly with payroll, but it does produce export files that can be imported into payroll services. Since this still eliminates the need for manual computations or keying of data, some companies might find this sufficient. For companies that don’t want to have to manage separate employee records in multiple databases, though, it might be preferable to have true integration where both time and attendance and payroll share a single employee database.
For Best Results, Do Your Homework
When you’re evaluating workforce management solutions, if you can get a free trial or a demo of the software, take the opportunity to check it out. Ask a lot of questions. You want to make sure that the software will support your processes. Especially if there’s anything unusual about your business model, you’ll want to make sure your chosen solution can handle it.
For instance, I once worked for a company where hourly employees were paid weekly and salaried workers were paid bi-monthly. If I were looking for software for that company, I’d want to make sure my software or service provider could accommodate a single company with two different pay periods.
It’s important to find a solution that works with your business processes instead of forcing you to accommodate the system.
We Can Help
Acroprint offers a several computer-based options:
timeQplus® installed software. Don’t let the affordability of timeQplus fool you! This solution offers advanced features, such as job costing and support for a wide variety of terminals (including proximity, badge swipe and several different biometric options) in addition to basic PC-punch. It’s a good balance of economy and power for small to mid-sized businesses.
Pendulum® installed software. This advanced solution can support up to an unlimited number of employees. It’s available in three editions (Standard, Premium and Enterprise), and offers optional modules to extend the software functionality with features such as signal control, access control and job costing.
AcroTime® cloud-based suite. AcroTime offers a time-and-attendance module, payroll and Human Resources management. You can choose one, any, or all, depending on your needs. All AcroTime modules can accommodate an unlimited number of employees. Features include employee self-service, an optional telephony module (allowing employees to clock in and out using a telephone), a smartphone app, job costing, support for a variety of terminals, and much more.
Contact us today to discuss your requirements and find out how we can help you run your business more effectively, take control of your labor costs and boost your bottom line.