Accelo has announced in a blog by Hugh Cowling, product manager a new enhancement to its software that enables customers to automatically round time entries. This enables professional services organisations to automatically adjust time captured to the minimum charging period. The example Accelo call out is the legal profession where time is often charged in 6 minute increments. The system then adjusts time entered to the minimum period for each task and enables the client to be charged effectively.
Administrators can set the minimum time period. Accelo suggest setting it to 1, 3, 5 or 6 minutes though some firms may wish to use 15 minute increments. The maximum time period is 30 minutes. The risk of the latter means that is where tasks take only a small amount of time there is the risk of overcharging. However, for some professional services firm this may be a better time period. Users can adjust a setting to round up, round down or round to nearest. Regardless, the minimum time allocated will always be above zero.
The time period and rounding decision is important. Once made any time captured is automatically rounded to the increment. Accelo does not retain the original time. Cowling defends this decision because of the additional: “complexity to the interpretation of many reporting and invoicing interfaces across Accelo – including the Earned Value and Hours Used metrics, Timesheets, Profitability and Utilization.”
The new feature also includes hints. These warn the administrator of risks when setting larger intervals. When users add time it provides information on the entry they are making. It is possible to turn the hint off.
This new enhancement is currently available in Beta for any user that contacts firstname.lastname@example.org The feature will be available to all users in 3-4 weeks according to the blog.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
For firms that actively capture chargeable time information this is a significant time saving. However, in not capturing the original time spent Accelo may have missed something. Organisations will be unable to see over time whether the system is actually accurately capturing time in the best way. This loss of accuracy could be concerning for some. It also means that only in changing the system wide parameters and then capturing time with the new setting, firms see how that impacts their revenue.
A better solution in our opinion would be to retain the original in a new field which would not affect the existing reports. This would enable Accelo to create “what if” reports for users. Ideally, firms should be able to capture the accurate time. They could then produce a report that indicates their billing based on the actual time figures. They could then compare these to different rounding and interval settings. This would enable them to maximise their revenue without the risk of delivering bill shock to clients.