Tracking hours and making profit


Once a fee has been established we track billable hours against it. If we run under we make money and if we run over we loose money. We use excel spread sheets to track hours and compare them against the estimated hours to complete the project. Project managers spend a lot of time updating excel spread sheets estimating how much time has been spent on each drawing, spec, estimate, meeting, etc. This is never very accurate b/c we do not have the software to efficiently track ever minute on a task.

If we estimate that the project will take 320 hours, we establish that we need to spend no more than 300 hours on it reserving 20 hours for the often over run. Each week PM's look to see how many hours have been spent at each pay level and calculating the fee used thus far.

This process seems antiquated and like chasing a shadow. We have looked in architecture billing software, but it is cost prohibitive for a 12 person firm. Is there another way to do this? Is this process even efficient, it doesn't seem to be.

I would love to know what others do to track profitability or loss of on jobs.


Mar 16, 11 4:28 pm
St. George's Fields

Unless you do full scheduling type stuff, your best bet might be a time clock that has expanded features.

They make software packages for cell phones, over the internet and many other options.

However, something like this can be used where you set up different tasks and have employees manually clock in and out on top of timesheets.

Don't use them to actively monitor your employees though otherwise they'll probably end up stealing or quitting. Their best use is more auditory.

Mar 16, 11 9:52 pm

The office I work in, as well as some of the other architectural offices we collaborate with, use this online service:

Mar 16, 11 10:01 pm

Before you invest into fancier modes of time tracking, you must consider mayhem like me...

Sure, I'll fill out the dumb time-sheet at the end of the week, but if I'm jumping between 6 projects I'll get the actual hours worked on each wildly wrong. Multiply by 52 and you have a problem.

In a small company you are tracking hours for purpose of general shits and giggles. You should rely on other benchmarks to figure out if you're profitable or not. Great project managers learn this skill over the years. I'm not sure if you can easily quantify it with spreadsheets...

Mar 17, 11 1:11 am

Thanks for the responses. Rustystuds, I completely agree with you. I jump from project to project and have constant interruptions where a principal might want me to scan something while I am writing a spec for another project. It is nearly impossible to keep accurate track of my hours, especially on specific tasks. See, here in my office young registered architects do everything from scanning, rendering, project management, spec writing, cost estimates, to drafting and CA.

The reason I even asked this question is that it seems that this model of tracking hours vs. profitability is inefficient and was wondering if there is another way to perform this. What are the other benchmarks PM's learn? Micro-managing is not the course for it doesn't help anyone. I have heard some firms estimate the fee and it is what it is and you either work 100 hours or 400 hours to get it done. Thoughts?

Mar 17, 11 10:59 am

Really its quite difficult for project managers to track billable hours. I have been using many time tracking systems however I wasnot much satisfied until I started using a reasonably good product from Replicon, this one is just so simple and easy to use and can be quickly implemented.

Apr 1, 11 12:13 am

Would strongly recommend Time Doctor Software. We've been using it for a few months now with great success. And with Time Doctor you know that your team is really working effectively.


Employee software for time tracking

Apr 20, 11 11:38 pm

That Time Doctor sounds like some Big Brother shit to me.  Screen captures--really?

We still use the antiquated system of spreadsheets--which doesn't help in the present but hopefully makes us better in the future.  Seems to me that [our] fee structure and proposals are such a shot in the dark [lately] that regardless of whether we hit are projected number of hours, its hit or miss on whether we actually made any money.

Apr 21, 11 11:22 am
Chad Miller

Time doctor sounds like it would have some issues, especially how it tracks a running program that you're not using as a break.  I'll often work in conceptual and SD via hand drawings and my computer won't be used except to look up information for several hours a day.  This would be tracked a break time instead of design.  

Jul 22, 19 10:03 am

time is relative

Jul 23, 19 9:31 pm
Time doctor sounds great if you’re running a sweat shop
Jul 23, 19 10:11 pm

>> We have looked in architecture billing software, but it is cost prohibitive for a 12 person firm

I would suggest you to have a customized software for your own requirements.

Aug 23, 19 7:32 am

omg... the micromanager from hell. Tracking every minute? Get real. being petty like that is a recipe for not attracting the best employees and surely making every employee self-conscious about everything. Its not a bad thing to imbue efficiency as a value, but with architects already being underpaid, the "delta" in what they "should" get paid vs. what they "actually" get paid should be in how much they enjoy their work. If your philosophy is, "I'm just in it to make money, and I actually don't enjoy what I do," then I think you have bigger problems...

Dec 13, 19 8:34 am

seriously... parkinson's law is the most fundamental law of project management. there's really no point in detailed accounting of tasks at this level. it will provide no information that helps you act on anything and can only confuse a pm by making them look at minutes rather than completeness.

Dec 13, 19 10:24 am

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