5 Time-Tracking Tools For Managing Your Remote Engineering Team

October 20, 2016 By Amanda Walgrove Remote Teams, Managing Remote 0 Comments

“Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day … has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.”

That’s the origin of the famous quote, “Time is money,” having first appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One.” And it’s an adage that still holds true today—especially for remote team managers.

When you’re in charge of a team that’s spread across locations—and often across the world—it’s crucial to have tools and technologies in place that can keep everyone connected and working towards a common goal.

Still, time-tracking isn’t as much about keeping tabs on employees as it is about driving productivity and delivering key metrics. After all, if you’ve taken the measures to hire and train all-star developers, you won’t have to worry about slapping anyone on the wrist. You just need to make sure they have the resources they need to do their job effectively and efficiently. That’s where time-tracking tools come in.

While there are plenty of options out there to help you manage your remote engineering team, only a handful stand above the rest. Let’s take a look.


1. Toggl

Toggl is a great resource for tracking and organizing projects. Once you start the clock, you can simply categorize your time by tags and mark your hours as “billable.” The manager’s dashboard breaks down the results by activity and scoreboard rankings, based on many hours each person worked. From there, team managers can export timesheets to Excel, email reports to higher-ups, and compare date ranges.

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The “Weekly Reports” feature also pulls all of your data together into handy charts that can be filtered by team, client, project, task, and tag.

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Toggl doesn’t even need WiFi or mobile coverage to function. Just track your time offline and it’ll sync with your account once you get back on the Internet. Toggl is also compatible with iPhone, Android, and other productivity tools like Trello and Asana.

This service is free to use for teams of five or less. Pro packages start at $10/month, and include additional features such as project dashboards, time audits, and scheduled email reports.

2. Harvest

Harvest is a robust software that helps project managers track time by project, activity, budget, billable hours, and unbillable hours.

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Harvest also comes with an impressive suite of features. For instance, the platform automatically pulls tracked time into invoices, which are customized by billing rate and ready to download or distribute. It’s even compatible with desktop, iPhone, Android, and Apple Watch.

For those thinking ahead, Harvest also provides its own time-planning app called Forecast. This allows you to compare estimates with your actual numbers, and see just when your project depletes its budget.

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It should be noted, however, that Harvest itself is not a project management program. It’s solely used for budgeting, time tracking, and billing. That’s why it’s built to be compatible with a range of popular apps for account project management and analytics.

Harvest is free to use for one person who can manage up to four clients and two projects. Advanced packages start at $12/month and include features such as discounted additional users, unlimited projects and clients, and data import capabilities.

3. WorkSmart

Built specifically for managing remote engineering teams, WorkSmart is Crossover’s own data-driven productivity app. With the click of a button, the software tracks your team’s metrics, activities, goals, progress, and timesheets—all in one place. In fact, by using WorkSmart, our clients have seen productivity and engagement increase by 40-50 percent.

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Here’s a quick breakdown of what WorkSmart allows you to track in real-time:

  • Who is working for you: Webcam shots, timecards generated every 10 minutes
  • What they are working on: Screenshots and list of apps used
  • When they are most productive: Mouse and keyboard activity
  • How close they are to reaching their goal: Integrates key metrics and tracking platforms such as Zendesk, Salesforce, and Google Sheets

All team members have to do is sign in, click the arrow, and start working. If they need to take a break from their work, they simply pause WorkSmart, and it stops documenting their activity. Since WorkSmart tracks mouse and keyboard activity as well as apps used, the time that team members do log is broken down by intensity score, focus score, and alignment score.

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With this data, managers can ensure that their team’s time is spent only on essential tasks. All low-value tasks can be identified and automated away, so your company only pays for peak productive time. By being open and transparent about all metrics and activities, managers and team members can build trust and work together to consistently optimize performance.



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4. RescueTime

Need to stop being distracted at work? RescueTime runs in the background of your computer or mobile device, tracking all of your activities to give you a comprehensive view of your day. This isn’t as much about stopping and starting only for productive work as it is about seeing how you portion your time altogether, and what you might be able to do differently.

For example, maybe you want to spend less time checking and answering emails, and make more time for actual coding. RescueTime aims to help you do that with tools to set goals and deliver detailed reports about your activities.

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To identify your most important tasks, you can also rank and categorize activities based on how productive or distracting they are. And you can add a list of apps and websites to each category. For instance, Facebook and Twitter might be added to a category of distractions. You can even set an alarm to let you know when you’ve spent too much time on a certain activity.

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Most of RescueTime’s capabilities are available for free. However, a premium version starting at $9/month lets you track time offline, block distracting websites, and receive alerts when you achieve daily goals.

5. TrackingTime

TrackingTime provides an overview of your team’s activities by the day, week, and month. From there, project managers can see who worked more hours and how each employees’ time was allocated.

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While TrackingTime is free for teams of up to three people, the platform’s most advanced features are only available in its PRO version, which starts at $4.99/month. For instance, the PRO version include the new iCalendar integration, which syncs up projects, tasks, due dates, and time entries.

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TrackingTime also offers company reports that can be filtered by users, services, projects, tasks, and clients. With this data, managers can create timesheets for their team members and share them with others in the company.

To help managers enforce collaboration and drive productivity, TrackingTime can also link up with project management apps like Slack, Zendesk, Trello, and Podio.

The Best Tool for Your Development Team

Assembling your high-quality team of engineers is the hard part; tracking their time and productivity should be easy. And there are plenty of tools out there to help automate this process. All you have to do is pick the one that’s best for your remote management needs.

Most importantly, if you’ve staffed your team right, you won’t need to use these resources to babysit your team. You’ll be able to use them to push benchmark metrics, keep calendars aligned, and identify areas where you can improve productivity. As Franklin wrote, “Time is money,” and with a variety of top-notch platforms to choose from, you shouldn’t have to waste another minute or dime.

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