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It’s 4 o’clock on a Friday and about a dozen of your employees still haven’t submitted their timesheet. You know that once you get them, you need to get them approved and then you’ll probably need to recheck them just to be sure. You don’t want another invoice to get kicked back or need to unwind a transaction after you’ve closed the books. Margins are tighter now, so time entry is more heavily scrutinized, and your team is still leaving billable work off of their timesheets.
These are age old problems in the Professional Services industry. It’s unrealistic to expect your team to reconstruct their work week (or month) with any degree of accuracy. Your never-ending role of playing timesheet cop is the weekly office joke, but we accept it because ‘it’s the nature of the beast’. It’s estimated that service-based businesses experience about 3% revenue leakage due to things like poor time entry, reissuing invoices, and project scope creep. We’ve accepted these challenges because it’s always been that way. People can’t be expected to be perfect.
It’s not often that an advance in technology provides an immediate impact to an old challenge. These things usually take time. The Sage Artificial Intelligence Labs (SAIL) team is ignoring that trend and delivering a leap in time entry technology that is as big as the move from paper time slips to digital.
With Sage Intelligent Time users are provided with a virtual Time Assistant that suggests time entries based on a person’s activity. The Time Assistant gathers calendar items, emails, desktop applications, collaboration tools like Slack, and makes those activities available for drag and drop on to the timesheet for unprecedented speed and accuracy in time entry. Sage Intelligent Time’s machine learning helps simplify the process even further as it learns what project, task and client the activity typically belongs to and refines the time entry suggestion. That means your time entry gets faster and more accurate every time you use it.
Imagine a meeting with a project team. The first person from that meeting fills out their timesheet and classifies the project, task and client for that event. For the rest of the team, their timesheet will automatically update the time entry suggestion with that information so they can simply approve and submit. Imagine a project manager gets an email from a customer to evaluate a project change on a Monday. After an hour of looking into it, the issue is dropped. At the end of the week, that project manager would have long forgotten that unplanned time drain. The power of Sage Intelligent Time puts that event on the timesheet to remind the project manager of how they spent their time on Monday. That time may not get billed, but by accounting for it, you have a much more accurate understanding of the true cost of your projects.
Patricia Wakim, SVP of finance for M/A/R/C Research, a marketing research firm, commented: “Our project managers are typically very busy and required to juggle multiple projects, which can make time entry delayed and often less accurate. We depend on that time entry to get an understanding of the financial performance of our projects and catch any revenue leakage before it gets out of control. To streamline the process, Sage Intelligent Time helps suggest what should be entered instead of forcing our project managers to dig through their calendar and email to reconstruct the workweek. The automated alerts are also helpful for me, so I don’t have to play ‘timesheet cop’ as much – but I will miss the opportunity to wear the badge every Friday.”
Whether your work is billed by time and expense or fixed fee, there are a number of impacts better time entry will provide. If you bill for your time, missing billable time hits you straight on the margin. Harvard Business Review recently conducted a study that shows troubling timesheet accuracy based on the time entry frequency. If you talk with any finance team, it’s an easy approximation to say that each team member is missing a half hour to an hour of potentially billable time per week. It’s usually the higher billable employees that are the most likely to miss capturing the time. If you are able to recover one hour of billable time per week, at an average to $200 per hour and 50 weeks per year, that’s $10,000 per employee annually. This is an eye-opening example of how Artificial Intelligence can provide significant impact on your business.
On fixed fee work, the value is seen in the accurate project costing. Not only are your project managers making more financially sound decisions with better data, but your business development team is also setting projects up for success with better up-front estimates. Having a better understanding of the time commitment your customers demand, and the various project types that leak revenue in forgotten activities, will plug the holes of revenue leakage, and give you a better handle on your business.
With an industry average of 3% revenue leakage it can be easy to see where the improvement will show up. But that’s just a part of the story. With employees accounting for every minute of billable time, your utilization rates will increase. With more accuracy on your project costing, your future project estimates will be better. With consistent time entry, your project managers will be better equipped to control scope creep. With automation, alerts, and mobile access, you can stop playing timesheet cop, and start focusing on your business.
It can be easy to dismiss a new innovation as just another feature. Sage Intacct takes a different approach. AI and innovation are key components of the Sage Intacct DNA. A true cloud product, Sage Intacct is focused on delivering tangible value to customers through industry leading financial management solutions. As a testament to that philosophy, Sage Intelligent Time isn’t some expensive add on feature for enterprise businesses, it’s the standard timesheet available for companies of all sizes. This unique approach is a clear example of how Sage Intacct stands apart from legacy vendors trying to sell legacy products.
To hear more about the Sage Intacct AI strategy, check out the recent Forbes interview with Aaron Harris, Sage’s CTO and leader of the Sage Artificial Intelligence Labs team. To learn more about Sage Intelligent Time, please click below.
Brian Siefkes is the Director of Professional Services Industry Marketing at Sage Intacct.