How to make sure that software house tracks your billable hours accurately?

Website development cost. How do software firms track billable hours?

The way software companies track time their developers spend working on projects is important not just for the companies themselves. Increasingly, the question is asked by customers as well. Hardly surprising. After all, these are them that ultimately pay for website development cost. So how do they do it? Are they doing it at all? Let’s find out.

 

The question asked in the title is one I come across often both online and while talking to clients. From the perspective of the client, the question is one of many that arise as they validate the decision to entrust their project to a specific software company. Unaware of the workflow the company follows or unable to assess the quality of its developers, they may wonder whether the latter spend their time effectively and what the ultimate website development cost will be. For a software house, on the other hand, time tracking may be a way to learn how to estimate the time needed to complete tasks better and improve resource allocation. However, the entire time tracking issue is more complicated. Why?

  • Software development isn’t always easy to time-track
  • In some cases, time spent on work isn’t relevant for the client

 

When it’s not easy to track website development cost per hour

Some tasks are really easy to measure using time – the time it takes to make a dinner, walk a dog – you name it. Software development isn’t one of those tasks. There is a lot more to it than just compulsive typing on the keyboard. As with any other creative job, it often takes quite a while to know what to type. I personally know developers who managed to come up with great ideas to solve many problems while taking a walk or driving a car. I don’t believe there is software that can account for that sort of workflow. The more complicated a project is, the more creativity that cannot be easily translated into hours is required. And it just so happens that Sensinum tends to tackle particularly complex projects. We’re looking to expand our expertise, which includes advanced algorithm-driven app development, even further in the future. You can learn more about what kind of projects we’re working on a daily basis here.

 

When it’s not relevant

There are various pricing methods in software development, which often makes it irrelevant to track hours from the perspective of the customer. In one of our previous articles, our COO Sebastian Pracuch wrote more about the fixed price vs time and material dilemma as well as about the lesser known fixed budget pricing method. In a project priced according to the fixed price model, cost is a static variable, meaning that no matter how much time it will take to complete the project, the price is the same. In the time and material method on the other hand, customers pay specifically for the number of hours developers spent working on the project – not for how many days or developers it took to do that. In practice, what it means it that you don’t pay for the time developers spend on anything else than your project. One can still wonder though just how software companies make sure the the number of hours counted is accurate.

 

Website development cost tracking and estimating time with JIRA

Time and material is our preferred pricing method and we tend to recommend it to our customers. Why? That’s because it’s a method that prioritizes quality – particularly essential in development of complex apps. In the long term, most customers learn that this is also ultimately a cheaper method as putting quality first from the start means less money spent on correcting errors and maintenance of the app.

To make sure that we track the number of billable hours correctly, we use our project management tool Atlassian JIRA. The workflow is actually really simple. First, a developer estimates how many hours it will take them to complete a task – say, five hours. Every time the developer gets to work on the task, they log the time they spent on it afterwards. When three hours are logged, two hours remain. But when the three hours sufficed to complete the task, the remaining two hours are not necessary and only three hours are reported as billable hours. For us, on the other hand, the difference between the estimation and the actual time spent working is an important lesson that can help us estimate our efforts and allocate resources better in the future. This and a lot more, including powerful reporting and the ability to visualize workflow, can be achieved with the JIRA plugin Tempo Timesheets that we really like to use.

It’s worth it to mention that there are a lot of other time tracking software offerings on the market that we played with. Some freelancers use apps such Timecamp that can also be easily integrated with popular project management apps such as Trello or Asana and sometimes even include the ability to issue invoices based on time one spent working on projects and tasks. However, at Sensinum it is the powerful JIRA app that helps us oversee our entire Agile workflow and includes all the features we need to track and estimate time.

At first glance, tracking hours may not seem like such a big deal and a bit of a detail. But in the long term we found out that doing it precisely and accurately does wonders for the trust between us and our clients. To ensure that precision and accuracy of estimating website development cost, we’re using professional software, organize frequent online and onsite meetings with our clients and polish the culture of our organization. The result is a customer that simply knows that  they are not being taken advantage of.

Sensinum is a Polish software house supplying companies, marketing agencies and teams with top software development solutions. In need of a subcontractor? Or perhaps you’d like some help of a software house on your own project? Sensinum gives you both, guaranteeing smooth communication and highly skilled developers with experience in many advanced projects. See for yourself if we are what you need, contact us and consult your software idea for free.

Tom
Tom Data Engineer / CEO