Timesheet system helps leading media agency to bill with confidence
Taking time keeping more seriously
Timesheet system Tempora saves design studio hours in manual entry and provides critical visibility over client profitability
London based Balmond Studio is a highly successful architecture and design company with global clients that include Edmonton Arts Council, Wide Open/Gretna Landmark Trust and State of Alaska.
For a fixed-fee-based business like Balmond Studio, staying on top of project costs and overtime is absolutely critical to the health of their bottom line. But until May 2013, a lack of transparency over staff hours was making this difficult.
The system Balmond Studio were using to capture time was very labour intensive, according to Studio Coordinator Sara Adams.
“Once staff had submitted their own hours, I’d have to extrapolate all that data into various spreadsheets to calculate overall job costs,” she says.
This was particularly fiddly on small projects where only one or two people were involved, sometimes just for a couple of hours.
“I’d have to spend ages going back and forth between worksheets,” comments Ms Adams, adding, “it was hugely time consuming”.
Sara Adams ,Balmond Studio
The lack of standardisation was another frustration for the studio coordinator.
“Staff would often refer to names of clients or projects differently on their own timesheets, which slowed my consolidation process down to a crawl.”
Towards the end of 2012, Balmond Studio reached breaking point with their Excel-based timesheet system.
“At first, we toyed with the idea of getting a free system,” says Ms Adams, “but it didn’t take long to realise that by paying just a little bit each month, we could get something that was much better suited to our business”.
Pretty much the moment Tempora popped up in Google, the studio coordinator was convinced it was what they were looking for.
“It was the interface that struck me,” she says, adding, “it seemed well-managed and straightforward. I also liked how there were a lot of different reports to choose from.”
An additional pull for Balmond Studio was Tempora’s optional holiday management system, which integrates with timesheets.
“That’s another thing that was very manual before,” says Ms Adams.
“Every time somebody wanted to take leave, I had to sign a holiday request form and forward it to the relevant manager. It was huge drain on my time.”
In Tempora, managers can review requests in an online calendar and respond directly.
After a brief introduction to Tempora from MD Chris Smith, Balmond Studio started a two-month trial of the system. Shortly after that, they signed up in full.
Straight away the studio noticed a difference.
“Our old spreadsheets had a home-made feel, which made them easy to ignore,” says Ms Adams.
“Now – because the whole process feels more professional – staff take time keeping more seriously. They find Tempora easy to use too,” she adds, “which helps”.
With a simple hierarchical menu structure, staff don’t have to physically type out the name of their project or job. They simply select it from a list. And because the system is online, they can do that from anywhere.
Sara Adams | Balmond Studio
From a business management point of view, the ability to be able to identify over-spend on jobs has been a huge advantage.
“Because we charge a fixed fee for our services, it’s very easy for us to spend unlimited hours on projects if we’re not careful,” says Ms Adams.
“Tempora helps us control that.”
The studio coordinator explains that for each job, staff can enter either standard time or overtime. At the end of each week, she then calculates overtime as a percentage of overall time spent.
“It’s not uncommon for there to be one or two ‘extra’ hours, and we don’t get too worked up about that. But if there’s a massive spike in overtime, then clearly something’s not quite right. With the visibility Tempora gives us, we can either tell staff to reduce their hours, or allocate more people to a job to spread the workload.”
In extreme cases, Tempora also gives Balmond Studio the data they need to renegotiate a fee.
“We’ve only had to resort to that once,” says Ms Adams, “but it’s good to know the data’s there if we need it”.
As well as better visibility over staff hours, Balmond Studio find Tempora gives them visibility as a whole over their employees. Ms Adams explains:
“Tempora’s more than just a timesheet system. For us, it’s a centralised record of all our employees – their hours, their personal details and their holidays.
“I love being able to look at the cost rate list and view a record of a person’s salary raises or title changes since being at the company,” she says.
“It’s like a history of their personal development.”
The overwhelming impression you get talking to Ms Adams is that Tempora gives her peace of mind.
“With Excel, she says, there’s always an element of doubt over the accuracy of the data. And if something is wrong – as it often can be – then there are often a number of steps you need to take to find the offending formula or missing cell.”
In Tempora, everything’s connected, so if you change one thing [like a cost rate], that change filters right through the system. You don’t need to manually update eight different worksheets.
“This doesn’t just save us time,” says Ms Adams.
“Knowing our data is accurate gives us confidence when we’re costing future jobs, talking to clients or making staffing decisions.
“That’s really useful.”