By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine
More accurate time tracking saves Consulting Services Inc. 50 hours a month in managing payroll mistakes.
Accurate payroll tracking is extremely important for consulting and integration companies. If you over- or underbill a client you can wind up eating the costs and damaging your reputation with your customers. Consulting Services Inc. (CSI), an Oklahoma-based IT consulting firm that manages contracts for a number of government and military agencies, as well as commercial clients, recently deployed a flexible time-reporting solution that has helped it improve accuracy while reducing labor and saving money.
The Oklahoma City firm is juggling multiple contracts in multiple regions at any given time, and keeping track of employee timesheets was a challenge. CSI employs a staff of 300, most of them working remotely in different states across the country. Each employee has different duties for each contract, and may work on multiple contracts at once. And every contract, whether government or private, has different time-reporting requirements, some of which also vary by employee. “Some of our contracts allow for different types of leave,” says Mark Karazim, CIO at CSI. “In some cases, they can have comp time or bereavement leave, in others they don’t. That can vary by contract and employee.”
CSI had a time and attendance solution, but it did not provide the flexibility they needed to modify rules for each contract and employee. “That was an ongoing issue,” Karazim says. “That type of functionality typically isn’t available in the solutions designed for small companies.”
It was up to payroll staff to sort out when erroneous claims were made. The company’s accounting and payroll departments spent approximately 50 hours per month dealing with time-reporting issues. “There was no way to control or limit employees from claiming compensatory time or bereavement,” Karazim says. “That’s why we started looking into a rulesbased system that was contract specific.”
Seeking A Flexible Timesheet Management Solution
CSI spent several months looking for a solution. They were eventually approached at a conference by Customer Service Delivery Platform (CSDP) Corp., which offered project-by-project, rulesbased timesheet functionality in its Time Tracking Software. CSI ran a three-month pilot on one large, complicated contract. “It was the contract that had the most varied requirements for each employee,” Karazim says. “We ran it side by side with the existing system. Other than needing a few tweaks, it did exactly what we wanted, and we launched it the first of the year in 2010.”
Training was straightforward, since most of the employees had used other timesheet solutions. CSDP is Web-based, so no software installation was required; employees simply log into the system on their laptops and record their times.
The only minor obstacle the company encountered during deployment was decidedly low-tech. “We actually had a few people that don’t use computers at all on one of our contracts,” Karazim says. “We had to figure out a way to create paper time cards. They send those in and our staff just enters the time for them.”
Eliminate Manual Processes To Eliminate Payroll Errors
The time-tracking system can be configured to set up specific rules for each employee and project. CSI established top-level rules in the system that trickle down into every project. For contract-specific requirements, the company can set specific rules that override those “parent” rules; for instance, if a project does not allow for overtime.
Handled manually, that process was difficult to manage. Each employee may work on multiple projects, and each project has different requirements. “On some projects they may be able to bill overtime, and some may have a fixed price,” Karazim says. “Others may have a limited bucket of hours available. There are a lot of things that come into play once you start drilling down into the individual project level. We allow employees to bill time against unlimited projects, but each one may have specific, unique rules.”
The solution also helps manage complex overtime scenarios in multiple states. Once all of the timesheet data is entered, the raw data from the CSDP solution is exported to the company’s payroll system for processing.
Eliminating Errors Means Saving Money
In addition to saving 50 hours of labor per month, the company has also saved money through more accurate time tracking. “A lot of things would slip through under the old system,” Karazim says. “The employees would be incorrectly paid, and by the time we caught the mistake it would be too late. Since we can’t invoice the government for that erroneous time, we were losing money.”
The solution has also enabled a multitiered approval system, which allows employees to change some items on timesheets and resubmit them before they reach the final approval stage. “They can pull them back and resend them if there is a change, and the employee can just sign off on it,” Karazim says.