You’re fed up with paper time cards. You have to replace them with something, though, and you wouldn’t be the first person to get hung up on what that’s going to be.

    A big decision

    Do you really have time to be one of those businesses that travels down the wrong road, wasting both money and time you can never recover? Do you really want to invest in a product that’s either hard to use or has holes in its functioning and risk ticking off your employees?

    If you’re like most contractors, you have tight margins and enough daily challenges without taking that kind of wasteful detour.

    Shop smart

    The key to avoiding a mistake with something new like time tracking software is to look in the right places beforehand and to ask the right questions—of both the vendor and your team.

    Sure, there’s lots to consider. However, you should feel confident of these three answers before making your final choice.

    1) The software will supply better, more accurate time tracking data than my old method did.

    If you’re not in a position to know, find out from those in your company who collect your workers’ time cards—or fill in the spreadsheet you’re using now—exactly what parts of the process slow them down and which parts are open to error.

    Note those down as the major pain points of your current system. Then, as you begin shopping around for a new system, you can assess whether the processes involved in the new system would save time in the field and reduce errors in the data collection.

    2) The software lets me convert time tracking into payroll more efficiently.

    If you’re not the one who does it, consult your payroll person(s) on how they get the data from the field into your accounting software for payroll. Is it manual entry? Does it involve downloading a file and then uploading it? What are the snags?

    Some time tracking apps and systems sync with lots of accounting programs. Others say they do when they really don’t. That’s why you’ll need to ask them about your specific accounting program and how the syncing works.

    Another part of payroll syncing: occasional user errors or confusion, and even software glitches. A small amount of this is normal, and it’s where good customer support comes in.

    You need to be able to reach someone quickly and easily should you have a problem, preferably on the phone (unless you think chatbots are good enough). “Do you have U.S.-based support available during all business hours, and will I (or my accounting person) be able to speak to them on the phone?” is a question you’ll definitely want to ask when shopping for time tracking providers.

    3) The software will allow me to access the time tracking data to easily see progress, trends, or any concerns that I may not have noticed otherwise.

    A time tracking system that provides you with accurate hours that can be shipped straight to your payroll system is a great value in and of itself. Still, it’s a bit tragic if the data collected in the system—which might encompass cost codes or activities, locations, field notes attached to job sites, etc.—isn’t easily digestible or doesn’t provide you with a better view on how your business is doing.

    What would you like to know more about, in real time, when it comes to your labor force in the field? Ask yourself and your team this first; then find out if the software will show it to you.

    You can see how shopping for time tracking solutions isn’t just about Googling and price—you need to approach your team with a list of key questions, and then interview the time tracking experts at each vendor you choose to call.

    Want to be thorough and smart and avoid wasting time or money? Read this excellent guide on how to ask the right questions of your team or departments and the software vendors as you prepare to buy the best time tracking solution for you.