Time tracking/billing software

  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    My team right now uses a homebrew time tracking/billing tool. It's basically tailored exactly to the way we operate and the way we do internal billing. We maintain it ourselves. It's not terribly expensive to maintain because it's largely stable - it has a few quirks that we could iron out, but that's really it.

    We've recently been absorbed by another group internally who, at the headline level, does similar stuff. They're much larger, much more inefficient, and do things in a totally different way. In particular, they do not bill for their time. At all. Period. And a single developer has a single thing that they own and work on - they are hired for that thing and do nothing but that thing. Their projects are slow paced, uniform in scope, and follow the waterfall SDLC. Ours are hair-on-fire, of vastly varying scope, and agile-bordering-on-unmanagable. We also have a VERY profitable sideline in doing super-short-turn one-off work. Code that will run exactly once on exactly one dataset and produce exactly one output. Contracted turn times on those range to as short as 1 hour. They can come in literally at the drop of a hat. Naturally we have a dedicated, specialized staff for that, and they will turn up to a dozen tickets per day.

    Naturally, our new overlord has decided that he likes the idea of internal billing, but has decreed that we will use their internal time tracking system to do it. Which doesn't have billing support (the proposed solution here is apparently some absurdly complex 'export to SAP, run abap reports' bullshit). Creating a project takes upwards of 50 minutes and requires a helpdesk ticket - they are not user-definable. We turn about 400 of those per month. Required fields (not definable) include things we don't ever (and are typically not even allowed) to know, so we'll have to fill them with junk data. Each project has a subcollection of tasks (which are the billable unit - as opposed to the entire project in our world), which are a mapping from a project to an individual resource for a particular billable category ("Development", "QA", "Support", etc.). Each of these takes a minute plus to define. We currently turn 18000 of these per month. That's 18000 plus minutes - or 37.5 man-days per month - two full-time employees (which we are not allowed to hire because we aren't allowed to have administrative staff - we actually had to retitle our current project/ticket-wrangler as a developer or she was getting fired). It's actually worse than that, because our tasks can be logged to by any team member - we'd need new ones created for everyone involved. Our policy is "don't touch anything until a ticket exists", because otherwise people forget to log time and therefore we don't get paid. So much for those 1 hour turns.

    So, we're going to go ahead and do the transition, get nothing done, miss SLA's by miles, fail to bill for anything, etc. until someone on their side of the political fence suggests "Hey, this isn't working, we should do a fact-finding mission to get a better solution!". Trust me, that's exactly what'll happen. That's what's happened with EVERY absurd, arbitrary tooling change that has been decreed thus far. They never own up to responsibility for creating the situation in the first place, but they LOVE to crow about having solved the problem.

    My personal preference, as manager of the team that would have to maintain the piece of shit, is that the "better solution" not be the homebrew thing. I don't want it back on my plate, even though it's low-maintenance. At best, I want to hack together a billing report backend for something off-the-shelf and be done with it. We use JIRA for project management, and ideally I'd want something I could either tie in to JIRA directly, or write some integration code to push/pull projects to/from JIRA so they don't have to be dual-entered.


    Does anyone have any suggestions? We're a medium-size team (less than 100) managing upwards of 300 ongoing projects and hundreds of quick-turn one offs per month.


    (Incidentally, another one of the decrees was "Don't use JIRA". No alternative was mandated or even suggested, so we're just ignoring that one.)


  • There are certain time tracking apps that business owners would usually prefer more to increase their productivity. I Use Replicon for time recording, it is a great alternative for other manual apps. As this clock works manually, but the software which I'm using is a cloud-based program.

    This application provides multiple ways to track our time, supports billing rates and handles expense tracking too. I believe that in all time tracking tools that I tried, it is the one that works best for me. With this tool it tracks all my activities which allows me to limit wasted time and improve our team's productivity.

  •  The place I just started at uses Replicon. It isn't the worst time tracker I've used, but then again there's no such thing as a good one.

     It is pretty easy to get tasks in there. It's got the usual UI-- click a button to popup a window with all the possible tasks (filtered by dropdown list for clients / sub projects). It creates a week-long grid of Day over Task, with a box for hours. Clicking a  timebox lets you put in time, and pops up an overlay for easily entering notes.  It seems to generate reports well enough, since none of the PMs here have complained too much about it.

    It actually works in Firefox (as opposed to being shitcoded for IE6 only), which makes it miles better than any other web-based time tracker.

    If you want to step the UI up by an order of magnitude, ditch any web-based interface. They are all universally shit. Plus they will never get the one killer feature of desktop apps:  pasting screenshots.  No, saving the screenshot to a file then attaching the file doesn't count. Even if the file gets inserted into the webpage as an image. NOTHING beats just straight-up pasting images into a ticket.

  •  Also, You might also want to look at Asana. It's the task-manager Mark uses to assign articles to editors. The UI is actually very slick and smooth for a web-based app. There's a small learning curve, but it basically does what you'd expect it to do when you click things, and it does a good job supporting dragging, keyboard shortcuts, quick data entry, etc.  And for me to say a webapp has a good UI... yeah.

    I don't know how well it does time tracking, since we don't really get that in depth with it. Check to see if there's a demo somewhere and try it out.

  •  If you can afford it, you should seriously take a look at fogbugz.

  • @Weng said:

    We're a medium-size team (less than 100) managing upwards of 300 ongoing projects and hundreds of quick-turn one offs per month.

    This sounds almost exactly like where I work, albeit slightly smaller. We use Zendesk for support and have just started with JIRA in the last few weeks to separate "support" from "development" - there is an easy way to convert a Zendesk ticket into a JIRA issue, though updates to either remains slightly clunky.

    We use Harvest which does integrate with JIRA, but I still haven't used the integration properly yet. Apparently we can bill a client directly from the JIRA issue: that is a problem for the accounts people. Harvest by itself is fairly easy to work with, once everything is set up.

    Internal billing is coming. Can't wait to "bill" some of the designers who think Javascript is hard!

  •  one more software I can think of is called basecamp.

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