The T&B Reality Show

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These products turn hours into dollars.

The seemingly never-ending quantity of televised reality shows depict how “everyday” people react when confronted by bizarre, non-everyday situations. Some of these shows even capture (for our viewing pleasure) the daily antics of the participants as events unfold in a real-time format. This premise prompts the question: What will they think of next?

Imagine a reality show based on a day in the life of a CPA/consultant-the constant shifting from one task to another, handling unexpected crises and phone calls, planning future strategies, attending meetings, evaluating new software products. The winner is the contestant who has recorded the most billable hours at the end of the day.

Partner Insights

Sound outrageous? The above scenario is not as outlandish as it may seem, as we all function in a business environment where the timely capture and invoicing of billable hours is often a determinant of success and a precursor of profitability.

The benefits of immediate time capture are virtually endless. Task actual-to-budget comparisons are always current. Billable hours increase as “forgotten tasks” become fewer. Invoices are produced faster, improving cash flow. The days of once-a-month, lackadaisical timekeeping are numbered.

Indeed, existing technology allows us to capture the tasks of our day via a multitude of devices independent of our physical location. Handheld devices, tablet PCs, and Internet connections all provide the means to enter time into a central billing system for later review and invoicing.

Beyond the need for immediate time capture, time and billing software must also provide comprehensive management and operational reporting for determining staff productivity and client profitability. Billing systems also include client, fee, cost and payment entry; statement generation; client funds accounting; and accounts receivable tracking. Many time and billing products integrate with other accounting and practice management systems.

It is unlikely that any firm would argue against implementing some kind of time and billing application. However, over the years, the software solutions available have grown significantly in complexity and functionality, so the time may be right to take another look at what’s available. Your current solution may not compare favorably to some of the more popular products.

Attributes to consider include remote time capture, on-the-fly entry of billing adjustments, ease of correcting entries made to the wrong client or task, ability to reprint bills, and drilldown access to all client billing and receivable information.

The time and billing packages reviewed have scores of satisfied users and provide the basic features and reports. There are plenty of differences, however. Some are easier to set up and use than others. Remote data entry and customized screen report writers are not standard features on all products. Client and due-date management features extend some of the solutions beyond basic time-and-billing functionality. One of the solutions reviewed here is Web-based only.

As always, try before you buy. Online and CD demos are available for most applications. Spend some time evaluating how each one meets your specific requirements. Regardless of whether you are a sole practitioner with simple needs or a member of a firm with complex issues, choosing the right time and billing solution will make you a winner every time.

BalaBoss

BalaBoss time and billing is an integral part of the BalaBoss Client Navigator software system. Feature-rich and easy to use, it provides a complete time and billing solution for firms of small-to-medium size.

The welcome screen consists of five basic components: administration, time and expense entry, receipts, adjustments, and reports. Administrative functions include setting up users, security, tax codes, job and rate titles, and terminology preferences. Service and expense codes (activities) are assigned to custom-created categories such as audit and accounting services or tax compliance services. Each activity is assigned a default billing rate and tax code for invoicing. Staff (timekeepers) are assigned up to four different billing rates. Client-specific invoice formats are available.

The time and expense entry form consists of several tabs. The time and expense entry tab provides individual time entry by staff member, allocating hours to specific clients, projects, and services. User-specified notes are attached to each entry. This screen also provides a composite view by staff member or client of services performed within a specific date range.

The post to work in process (WIP) tab releases time and expense entries for billing, and summarizes billable and non-billable time and expenses for the period selected. An exception report identifies staff members who have not entered time. The client exposure feature provides drill-down access into WIP, pending invoice, and AR information.

Invoicing occurs by selecting WIP items by client and date range. You can choose to progress bill or bill selected items only. The result is a pending invoice, which can be edited with text comments prior to final release.

Several report categories are available, including WIP, time and expense, accounts receivable, and period end. Each report can be filtered by various criteria including client, staff person, and date range. BalaBoss also includes a project tracking and due-date monitoring system.

BalaBoss handles the basic chores of time and billing with relative ease. It lacks remote time-entry capability and custom reporting, but by sticking to the basics, it performs as expected.

Timeslips

Timeslips continues to “razzle dazzle ‘em” by providing an extremely robust and capable time and billing solution. This product does a remarkable job handling all aspects of time capture and reporting, challenging competing products to offer similar functionality.

The central focus of Timeslips is the navigator window which provides access to the many time and billing functions. These include adding clients, consultants, and tasks, recording time and expenses, preparing and printing bills, and creating canned or custom reports. The interface is customizable to reflect either the simplicity or complexity of your company’s specific requirements. Stored procedures automate recurring tasks and reports.

The set-up hierarchy is clients, consultants, tasks, and expenses. Multiple-billing rates can be assigned at any of these levels. You can easily view receivables balances, billing arrangements, and client notes. Custom fields store additional client, consultant, and task information.

The multitude of methods available to enter consultants’ time is a true strength of this product. You can enter time directly onto slips, capturing information specific to a client, consultant, and task. Remote timekeeping options include Web-based processing, desktop synchronization, or PDA entry. Regardless of which of these options initially capture time and expenses, efficient billing and reporting procedures complete the time and billing cycle.

BalaBoss Client Navigator
BalaBoss Software
Toronto, Ontario
(888) 635-1111
www.balaboss.com Price:
$499 (single user); $799 (5 users); $1,499 (10 users); $3,699 (25 users)

Timeslips
Best Software Small Business Division
Norcross, Ga.
(800) 285-0999
www.timeslips.com
Price: Timeslips for Sole Practitioners, $199.95 (two timekeepers); Standard Edition, $399.95.

Tabs III
Software Technology
Lincoln, Neb.
(402) 423-1440
www.softwaretechnology.biz
Price: $795 (up to nine timekeepers); $210 (optional maintenance).

ImagineTime
BothWorlds Software
Boca Raton, Fla.
(877) 520-1525
www.imaginetime.com
Price: Starts at $295; $795 (multi-user with due-date tracking).

Time2Money
AccountantsWorld.com
Hauppauge, N.Y.
(888) 999-1366
www.accountantsworld.com
Price: $4.95 per user, per month.

Based on security settings, you can override billing rates, perform markups, allocate time between billable and non-billable, and exclude tasks from the next bill cycle. A pre-bill worksheet displays all entries for a specified date range. Generating bills consists of printing or viewing for review all or selected clients and tasks. The approval function then accepts or rejects the final invoice. The billing assistant allows you to individually bill clients and activities.

Another powerful feature of this product is its report designer, which provides for more than 100 standard reports-addressing just about any reporting situation imaginable. Several exception-based criteria filter and sort the reports, many of which are displayable as both text and graphs. Custom reports are easily created for accessing additional time and billing information.

Timeslips excels in so many areas, from data capture to reporting. Different versions and interfaces address the needs of both sole practitioners as well as complex corporate entities. Even if you move from an office-based system to one where time is primarily captured in the field, Timeslips will continue to provide the necessary functionality to support all your time and billing activities.

Tabs III

Virtually endless in functionality, Tabs III provides an excellent time and billing package for the mid- to large-size organization. Programs within Tabs III can be accessed using either the menu bar or the task folders. Set-up time is quite extensive, aided by numerous customization options. Several data files must be in place prior to entering client and transaction information, including timekeepers, categories, transaction codes, cost type descriptions, locations, task code sets, and billing codes.

Tabs III allows up to 999 timekeepers. Each timekeeper is assigned a level which groups similar types of timekeepers-e.g., partners and managers-for reporting purposes. Up to six hourly rates can be assigned for each timekeeper. Monthly overhead costs can be entered to track timekeeper profitability.

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