Almost everyday at Allocate.ai, we discover a new way in which timesheets are useful to businesses, both large and small. Some of the ways they’re used are obvious, e.g. billing clients and understanding project budgets. However, what’s fascinating are the many ways in which they add value that isn’t so obvious on the surface.

The timesheet. A construct of professional service firms so unsexy and unbearable that the very utterance of said two syllables will make someone who’s dealt with them in the present or past either A) cringe or, B) jump for joy because they no longer use them in their current role. (Consider the firm lawyer who moves in-house and no longer has to track time.)

Let’s take a step back and ask, what really is a timesheet? Is it an evil construct from a boss who wants to know what a person is doing at all times of the day; a useful, necessary evil in order to bill clients for one’s services; a joyous display of one’s productivity and ability to execute; all of the above; or something else? After considering all options, we at Allocate have come to the simple conclusion that a timesheet in its abstract form is simply an understanding of how someone spends their time. For the techies/quantified selfers amongst us, we can envision a timesheet as a “fitbit for our work lives”. However you want to describe it, an understanding of how one spends their time can be useful for individuals and organizations seeking better insight into how they navigate their way through their professional lives.

Right, but how is this actually useful?

Timesheets inform resource allocation

If employees don’t do timesheets, or don’t do them in a timely manner, then management is forced to allocate resources to different projects without an understanding of how busy, or free, a certain person is to take on work. Flip the story, and imagine a world in which everyone did their timesheets every day. Management would know in real-time who is overutilized, underutilized, and how to staff employees according to their ability to take on new work, without risking employee burnout due to an unforeseen case of overworking someone.

Timesheets can help organizations understand hot spots that need attention

Let’s focus on a single employee at company X. This person is a new hire, and on the surface everything appears to be going well. Come to find out, after 3 months on the job, he is struggling with Adobe photoshop, and is consistently spending 3x the normal amount of time to do a logo redesign. With a real-time understanding of how he is spending his time, an informed organization can provide to him the resources and additional training required to get him up to speed, so the company can continue to fire on all cylinders.

A different hotspot might involve an employee who has worked 16 hours a day for the past 2 weeks. Understanding this will help an enterprise reduce employee churn, increase productivity, and boost employee morale and happiness. That would make anyone happy to hear.

Timesheets can inform hiring decisions

Imagine you have new business in the pipeline, and from your data you are able to notice that employees are highly utilized across the company. If your new business pipeline is rich enough, this could inform management to bring on new talent to help grow the business, ultimately driving revenue and profitability.

Timesheets construct the knowledge graph

Ever curious who in your organization is best at Photoshop, or has spent the most time pitching for a fintech client? Maybe you would want to know who likes drafting press releases, or who wants to learn how to write a better scope? With connected timesheet data, you now have this information at your fingertips to easily search in order to find the best person or team for a certain task or project at your company. Pretty cool, right?

Timesheets are the backbone of accurate forecasting / estimating

Without an accurate understanding of how long it takes to deliver a project or a task, services professionals are basing future forecasts and estimates off of gut feel or inaccurately reported time entries. In a world where margin is increasingly important and over servicing clients means squashed or potentially negative margin, accurate forecasting and estimating is only becoming more important. Even if organizations move towards fixed fee arrangements, having an understanding of time spent on those arrangements is pivotal to understanding profitability.

Imagine the connectivity of this information in the enterprise, and you begin to understand how real-time data of this sort can be hugely valuable to enterprises who want to improve operational efficiencies, increase revenue, and boost overall employee happiness. Not necessarily what you expect timesheet data to provide at face value…

There is one caveat, which is that in order for this information to be most valuable, it must be automated, real-time, and accurate. And that, precisely, is what’s missing from the current ecosystem. Forced to recollect what someone did and for how long is a painful task, and why most people truly despise filling in their timesheets. However, if this process can be meaningfully improved, then we are able to unlock its value not only to those who bill for their time and therefore must do their timesheet, but to those knowledge workers broadly who will be able to gain unique insights and change course based on their ability to diagnose core competencies, time sinks, areas for development, and a whole lot more.