When considering a time tracking system, companies are typically focused on the end result: ensuring that accurate hours are sent to their payroll and job costing systems, as well as being able to report on and monitor employee time and compliance. Those are, doubtless, the two most important aspects of any time tracking system.

There is another critical aspect of a time tracking system: data input.

You might think of populating your system with your company’s information as a singular action that is handled during setup and rarely touched again. Smaller companies with relatively simple needs may very well be able to do the bulk of employee, location, and cost code addition during their initial setup. For companies that have dynamic work environments in which entities are constantly being added, removed, and changed, however, it’s a constant process. Data input is the first potential bottleneck in the overall system if not managed correctly; a field employee cannot clock into a location that doesn’t yet exist in your time tracking system.

Data input is the first potential bottleneck in your time tracking system if not managed correctly; a field employee can’t clock into a location that doesn’t yet exist in the system.

At ExakTime, we’ve found that carefully defining the who, what, when and where of your data input process can save you headaches down the road. Asking yourself the following questions about your business processes is a simple yet powerful way to ensure that these requirements are unearthed and addressed:

1) Where am I getting employees, locations, and cost code information from?

o Individually employees, locations, and cost codes are added easily to ExakTime’s cloud software. But when the frequency or amount of data entry necessitates a more scalable approach, it’s important to know where you can access or pull that data from. For example, entities such as employees, locations, and cost codes typically already exist in payroll or job costing systems, so utilizing one of those as the system of record can prevent having to enter that information twice.

2) How often do I need to add/change/deactivate employees, locations, and cost codes?

o The answer to this question can heavily influence your data input method. Overestimating the urgency with which you require status changes for new, changed, or deactivated entities in your time tracking solution may result in insufficient oversight, while underestimating it may not get the information your employees need to them quickly enough to prevent work stoppages. Importing data into your time tracking system is also not monolithic: some of your entities may require a different frequency of input than others, and that can be handled in a number of ways. Knowing how often information is “output”, e.g. exported or consumed, might also help you define your input frequency needs. Reports that are run daily, for example, might require information to be updated on a daily basis.

3) Should this be an automated or a manual process?

o Automation is often equated with efficiency, and in many cases that is true. Less time spent managing processes that can be logically defined and implemented leaves more time to pursue other business goals. An automated data input process shouldn’t, however, be viewed as the best option by default. Automated processes may have difficulty handling exceptions, thereby reducing flexibility—and they may add unnecessary complexity to a system that doesn’t require it.

4) Who will manage data input within my organization?

o Knowing what type of employee will manage your data input (i.e. admin, manager, foreman), their geographical location, and their work environment may influence the final data input method. Multiple employees across multiple offices may necessitate a different approach from a single employee at a single location. Identifying the employees’ capabilities, knowledge, and availability may also influence the final solution.

5) Which features of ExakTime do I plan on using, and how can I ensure the right data is input for these features?

o Employees, locations, and cost codes are the main entities we use to track time. However, there are a variety of features within our system that you may want to use, and therefore may want to consider in deciding your data input process. Many of the attributes our customers typically assign manually within our system (groups, categories, security roles, pin numbers, etc.) can in some cases also be imported, and knowing which of those you plan on using might influence how you input your data.

6) For what purpose do I need this information?

o Once your employees’ time has been recorded, knowing where that information is going and how it’s being consumed can also influence how you input your data, as well as what data you choose to input. If certain information is being housed in your payroll system, and that information is not necessary for time tracking, choosing not to bring it into your time tracking system could reduce complexity.

As you can see, deciding how you’re going to get the necessary information into your time tracking system goes hand in hand with deciding what you’re going to do with the information once you’ve tracked it. ExakTime understands this, and we also know that even the most carefully-planned processes may need to change as a business evolves, which is why we offer a variety of tools that meet a range of needs for businesses small or enterprise-level. Whether it’s a simple file import or an automated solution that works behind the scenes, we provide effective, scalable tools that help our users input the data they need to track and pay their employees.