In the United States alone, businesses loose an estimated eight billion US dollars annually with the time used for their employees just completing timesheets (http://www.metriq.biz/Company/CostCalc.php). This article gives a brief overview of timesheets and their disadvantages, showing how to save your business more money than you would think possible, simply by turning off this wasteful resource tap – and as a bonus, still manage and collect all of your time metrics, with an increased accuracy, using a revolutionary new software product called MetriQ.

Time Sir, as we know it:
For most cultures, time is a fundamental quantity, i.e. time is not itself defined from other fundamental qualities such as mass or space, rather it is itself defined by the units by which it is measured, which for us would typically be seconds, that quantity known by every child as (s)he counts off the rumble of distant thunder, 1 red rose, 2 red roses, 3 red roses etc. I say ‘most’ cultures because of course some view time in a vastly different, almost incomprehensible way, such as the native aborigines of Australia who believe time to be two parallel streams of activity, the daily objective reality of time, and the other dreamtime, a spiritual cycle more real than our current perceived reality. As the oldest civilization on earth, this viewpoint must surely deserve some respect.

However, for most of us, most especially for those in business, time is viewed as the non-ending passage of one moment to the next, and it is this relentless progress of time, in a continued linear fashion, that shapes our very existence, and its importance cannot be overstated. From a vast mountain, weathered by the years, with rain wind and frost to that obscure physical quantity, ‘Planck Time’, considered the smallest quantized value of time there is, with one second equivalent to 1.855×1043 Planck times, we cannot escape, if even if we wished to, this fundamental quantity of our Universe. Simply put we cannot stop time in its tracks, and we must therefore accept that time is an inherent part of our existence, how ever bold or feeble that may be.

Because time is so elementary, its use as a resource determines much of our daily schedule, be that begging in a storefront or wielding the cheque book of a billion dollar corporation, an unavoidable consequence of our ever expanding material universe.

So just how important is the quantity of time in the context of business? Well, as material resources continue to decline at an ever increasing rate, and as our own lives speed up with the gilded trappings of modern technology, the careful, mindful use of time plays an ever demanding role in our civilization, clearly indicating that the best practice management of time becomes paramount for the success or failure of any business enterprise.

First, let us consider the amount of work done in a given time, also called effort or labor productivity. For example if it takes one person 1 hour to dig a hole, then the effort can be calculated as 1 person hour. However, if another person joins in right at the start, then our efficiency will be seen to double as it should in theory take half the amount of time to dig a hole of the same dimensions. Of course this can only an approximation, as additional amounts of time may be lost as each man jostles for space as they dig, or perhaps time may be saved as they decide to operate synergistically, perhaps digging in series or in relay. Regardless, the point is that each and every business should keep abreast of the time used by its staff in the daily running of the business – to measure the productivity of their staff and their production of services or widgets. The analogy would be to imagine you have a fleet of trucks to deliver your products across the country. Do you measure the amount of fuel used in a week or do you not care? If you do care, do you take whatever steps necessary to save fuel, or do you accept this as a consequence of your business, and hang the consequences? Well, as fuel costs continue to rise, it is a given that at some point you will be made to care else your business will simply hemorrhage.

At MetriQ we know that we have achieved an excellent measure of success, helping businesses around the world save time, most especially through the replacement of the humble timesheet.

Stuck on TimeSheets:
This well known productivity tool was initially developed so that an employee can account to his/her employer the amount of time spent doing a particular task or activity. While suitable for the latter part of the industrial revolution, with the coming of age of the digital world, digitizing the ubiquitous timesheet into a software product has done very little to change the way in which this most valuable of metrics, time, has been collected. Not only is the tool outdated, but timesheets are also prone to a number of unspeakably obvious errors.

Timesheet Illusions

1. Time to fill complete a Timesheet: Perhaps the major villain of all, in the collection of this time metric would be the very fact it takes time to complete a timesheet, and this, is the biggest cost factor to a business using this outdated metric collection agent. Consider a medium sized organisation of 750 staff. If each are supposed to fill in their timesheets every 15 minutes and if it takes them just 30 seconds per entry, then if the average cost of an employee is just $100 (includes their salary, office space and overheads), then that business is loosing about $5 million dollars a year. Such a terrible waste! You can also calculate how much your business looses each year by adding your own numbers into this cost calculator (http://www.metriq.biz/Company/CostCalc.php)
2. Rounding errors: Timesheets typically have a start and end date/time column or have pre-stamped entries showing 15 minute sessions. Neither of these are a reflection of how a job is actually completed. In fact if you come right down to it, it’s not difficult to assert that not a single task ever completed took ‘exactly’ 10 minutes (see Plancks time above). So if a job starts at 10:00:00 am and is finish at 10:26:04, then the timesheet entry will most likely read 10:00:00 to 10:30:00. When consolidated, the time collected will read 30 minutes, leaving the bigger inquiry, so what happens to the other 3 minutes 56 seconds?
3. Forgetting to complete timesheets: If you have ever filled in a timesheet, you’ll know how easy it is, even after years of habit, to forget to complete those unpleasant recorders of time. When this happens, of course you then have to rely on mental recollection, and that’s as good as sticking your finger in the wind and giving an error prone estimation.
4. Coworker Interruptions: If you get interrupted by a coworker or perhaps the telephone rings while you are working. Do you add this time to your timesheet? Do you make sure the person you were talking to on the phone gets a 3 minute addition to their charge-out – or do you still carry on working for the client you were on before the phone rang?
5. Breaks Concentration: Your working away on a task that requires your full attention – and when you next look at the clock, you realize you’ve missed the last 4 timesheet entries. on the other hand, you’re working away hard, and then you have to stop what you are doing, open up the timesheet software, make an entry and then return to the work you were doing.
6. Super Mundane: The actual process of filling out a timesheet is by all means, mundane and boring. Very few people could actually put their hand in the air and say in all honesty, – “I enjoy this process”. And businesses world wide persist with this archaic methodology.

And if you really want to be unsettled – consider this. In the United States, current estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for July 2007, indicate that the current workforce is 146,000,000. If we assume that just 1 person in a hundred employees keeps a timesheet, and with a cost of six thousand dollars a year (http://www.metriq.biz/SavingYouMoney.html), this equates to 8.5 billion dollars in lost income, just completing the humble and yet grossly wasteful timesheet. Can your business afford to waste money?

Timesheet Revolution
At MetriQ we have spent a number of years developing an alternative to the timesheet that requires no human interaction at all. The user simply clicks on the software they wish to use, and the MetriQ software will begin timing the use of that software. As the user changes to a different software product, MetriQ again begins timing for that new software package – and so it continues, so that at the end of the working day each and every second has been accounted for, even those that were interrupted by phone calls or going to the restroom.

We believe that a computer should be clever enough to know exactly how long its been use, by who, on what and for whom, and without ever being told.

We also believe that the days of the timesheet are numbered and rapidly coming to a close as alternative technology emerges, and the value of each second wasted becomes more apparent to those in business who’s operating costs keep getting escalating.

If you would like to understand more about the MetriQ software and how it can help you save time and money for your business, then try the software for yourself. Its easy to install, easy to use, and with a reputation that is second to none in the business of Intelligent Business Timing. Download a free trial version from http://www.metriq.biz

Author's Bio: 

Tom Applegate is a business consultant based in Auckland, New Zealand. He has a wide range of business experience and for the past 5 years has made a commitment to spreading the word about the imminent demise of the humble timesheet, with various offerings as to how or what can be used as a replacement.