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Karbon make every time entry by default as billable - Need a fix

  • 7 February 2022
  • 20 replies
  • 217 views

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  • We’re trying to get a handle on our non-billable time, and we notice that Karbon counts 100% of the time as billable. 
  • After taking a closer look, we found that the timer has by default a task type of “none” which is billable - this is where the problem lies.
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There is no place where we can set up Karbon to memorize the last used option, so the timer will always jump back to “none”=billable. 

 

Is anyone using Karbon time to track billable time? If you do, how do you resolve this issue? It’s too big of a burden to ask the staff to choose every time the task manually.

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Best answer by SamG 7 February 2022, 05:15

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@Jacob Oberlander what good is tracking your time if you don’t differentiate between the tasks?

I’d suggest you setup a couple (as a minimum, for a start) of Task Types, set them as non-billable and tell Staff to select it. It’s the bare minimum, if billable staff can handle choosing a task type, admin staff surely can 🙂

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@SamG let me elaborate

  1. All our team members are performing billable work. Our goal is to have all team members do 80% billable, for example.
  2. How many times per day does your team member switch the timer within a day? I think it’s a lot. So it’s time-consuming to have to click on the drop-down every time manually.
  3. Even if the tasks are set up as needed on the work, it doesn’t prepopulate on the timer.
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I click the timer maybe 20-30 times per day. Sometimes Billable, sometimes Non-Billable, I always select a Task Type (of which we have 20 - although about 8 are used daily).

So they’re doing billable work, but you only want them to record their non-billable time?

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I want them to record everything but billable is not that much of an issue since Karbon is defaulting it to “none” which is billable. My issue is that I want to make sure that non-billable is marked as such. 

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I don’t understand. If you change None to be Non-Billable, then all of the Billable time will be marked as Non-Billable.

There is a simple fix… add some Billable and Non-Billable Task Types (which, I still don’t understand why you haven’t set these up, they are vital to enabling you to obtain meaningful data from the time recorded) and have your staff select them...

Userlevel 2
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I don’t understand. If you change None to be Non-Billable, then all of the Billable time will be marked as Non-Billable.

There is a simple fix… add some Billable and Non-Billable Task Types (which, I still don’t understand why you haven’t set these up, they are vital to enabling you to obtain meaningful data from the time recorded) and have your staff select them...

@SamG Jumping in for @Jacob Oberlander , first you can’t change None to Non-Billable, it’s a default task type from Karbon, it doesn't show up under setting where we setup all task types.

Second, we did setup around 15 task types, some billable and some non-billable, but @Jacob Oberlanders question is if we can have Karbon automatically fill out the task type based on the Work setup or based on your last selection, like what they have with the role.

Userlevel 2
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@SamG I know that it’s possible to ask all user to select the task type, but since this is not required when entering time people will forget to select them..

Userlevel 4
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@SamG I know that it’s possible to ask all user to select the task type, but since this is not required when entering time people will forget to select them..

I am always concerned when people employ staff who have no attention to detail… If they forget, tell them to review their timesheet before submitting it, to add it. You have 15 task types, if the staff are ignoring inputting that information they are robbing you of insights.

Userlevel 4
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I don’t understand. If you change None to be Non-Billable, then all of the Billable time will be marked as Non-Billable.

There is a simple fix… add some Billable and Non-Billable Task Types (which, I still don’t understand why you haven’t set these up, they are vital to enabling you to obtain meaningful data from the time recorded) and have your staff select them...

@SamG Jumping in for @Jacob Oberlander , first you can’t change None to Non-Billable, it’s a default task type from Karbon, it doesn't show up under setting where we setup all task types.

Second, we did setup around 15 task types, some billable and some non-billable, but @Jacob Oberlanders question is if we can have Karbon automatically fill out the task type based on the Work setup or based on your last selection, like what they have with the role.

I know you can’t change None to Non-Billable - I was pointing out how Jacob suggesting it defaulting to billable was not an issue for billable time, I’m saying if it defaulted the other way, it would be an issue for billable time. So the moral of the story is - you’re not supposed to use the None task type.

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Hi @Jacob Oberlander!

Another option you have would be to create a role for non-billable work and then set custom task type rates for that role:

When a staff is doing non-billable work, you can make the role default by having their non-billable tasks grouped in a work item.

We are big proponents of standard work at our firm, and we’re experimenting with having non-billable/admin work setup in a work item that includes tasks like:

  • Clear triage
  • Organize to-dos
  • Prepare for team meeting
  • etc.

As long as the staff member is on their admin work item page and they are assigned the non-billable role, the timer and time will default to non-billable.

Does that help at all?

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@max what do you mean by “Standard Work”?

Also, so are you saying the timer has to be started from within a particular Work item page that is an admin/non-billable Work item?

I can’t imagine ever being in the admin Work item, let alone needing to be in there to start the timer, I start the timer whenever I’m finished what I was doing (usually back at Triage or in My Week) then add the Work item (and later Task Type when I’m saving the time entry).

If the staff can’t remember to select the task type when saving the time entry, how will they go remembering to open the admin work item before doing something that is admin @Jacob Oberlander @davideigner ? (In my mind, admin is something that sometimes happens between Work items, not a Work item that you actively open to do)

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@SamG different people approach work in different ways. It sounds like you have a process that you like, which is great.

Standard work is the basis for lean management. It’s a process to stabilize, standardize, and then improve work processes. Here’s a write-up on the basics: https://www.gembaacademy.com/resources/gemba-glossary/standard-work

On a related note, I believe admin work is the silent productivity killer that introduces and expands context switching costs. Here’s a video that gives a great demonstration of the cost of context switching:

I don’t know the best approach for you or for @Jacob Oberlander or for me, lol. My only goal is to be a little better tomorrow than I was yesterday, and that may look completely different in each of our firms.

What do you think? What did you think of the write-up and video? (Some people think it’s crazy to make a work item for admin work so that it’s standardized and consistent each time it’s done… lol.)

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@SamG there are so many admin / non billable items.

Sales

Marketing

Newsletter

Company Meetings 

Brain storming sessions..

In fact for me at the owner, only 20% is billable 

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@SamGdifferent people approach work in different ways. It sounds like you have a process that you like, which is great.

Standard work is the basis for lean management. It’s a process to stabilize, standardize, and then improve work processes. Here’s a write-up on the basics: https://www.gembaacademy.com/resources/gemba-glossary/standard-work

On a related note, I believe admin work is the silent productivity killer that introduces and expands context switching costs. Here’s a video that gives a great demonstration of the cost of context switching:

I don’t know the best approach for you or for @Jacob Oberlander or for me, lol. My only goal is to be a little better tomorrow than I was yesterday, and that may look completely different in each of our firms.

What do you think? What did you think of the write-up and video? (Some people think it’s crazy to make a work item for admin work so that it’s standardized and consistent each time it’s done… lol.)

I totally agree with Standard Work (provided the person policing it maintains the opportunity for innovation and process improvement).

I totally agree with the video also, which is why I think accurately recording admin time is so vital.

I don’t think you should create Standard Work items for admin tasks for Billable staff to use. Admin tasks should be performed by Admin staff (whose cost and opportunity cost is so much lower) or automation.

You should find out what Admin tasks your Billable staff are doing (through accurate time recording), so you can make them delegate them (have an Admin staff take them over), automate them (have a computer take them over) or eliminate them (if they aren’t necessary).

I’d need you to give me examples of how a Standard Work for Admin tasks performed by Billable staff would be actually applicable and useful, because at the moment I can’t think of anything except how much I would want to quit if I worked for someone who not only made me do so much admin that they create Work items and Standard work for it, but they make me follow standard work items for all the admin they are having me do.

The admin tasks I use regularly:
- Internal Admin: for updating Karbon My Week or Work Statuses
- Staff Meetings: daily 10min or 30min meeting
- Internal Training/CPD: weekly/monthly training
- Special Project Work: a couple of internal process improvement pieces I’m working on
- Sales & Marketing: meeting with prospects or drafting proposals

Except for the last two, one that is not repetitive and the other that I rarely do, how (and why) would you create Standard Work for these processes which already either don’t take long (a few minutes a day) or take a set amount of time (length of a webinar) and have few (if any) tasks/steps to document?

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@SamG there are so many admin / non billable items.

Sales

Marketing

Newsletter

Company Meetings 

Brain storming sessions..

In fact for me at the owner, only 20% is billable 

So if 80% of your time is non billable, why don’t you want to know the breakdown of how that non billable time is spent? (to see what your lowest hanging fruit is / biggest obstacle to tackle - through automation or delegation - to enable you to be less bogged down and a more efficient / effective leader?)

We should have specific Tasks for recording time for the same reason we specify accounts in a Chart of Accounts for our client. What gets measured, gets managed. And when we’re selling time and expertise, it’s important to measure how we’re spending our time and whether we’re applying our expertise.

I still can’t fathom why you would not want to find out what admin work your billable staff are doing in order to take it off them and free them up to do client work.

Userlevel 1
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This problem is actually worse than described in the discussion.

To summarise: - 

  • If no task type is entered then it defaults to None.
  • The task type of None cannot be changed to a non-billable task type.
  • Although the task type of None is treated as billable work when calculating utlisation, it is not included in the cost of delivering the work. This is clearly invalid. Either it is billable and there is a cost or it is non billable and there is no cost. It should not be a combination of the two.

As the Task Type is crucial in deciding whether a task is billable or not I am going to suggest that it should be a mandatory field in the same way as the Client is.

Every task in all of the Templates we use has a Task Type defined but even so, each week I find that there are a significant number of time sheet entries with a Task Type of None, making the utilisation figure look much higher than it really is. It then takes me a long time to persuade my colleagues to correct these time sheet entries by adding a Task Type.

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It then takes me a long time to persuade my colleagues to correct these time sheet entries by adding a Task Type.

I totally agree selecting a task type should be mandatory and that the inconsistency between usage re utilisation and cost is incorrect.

As for staff who need persuading to select a Task Type.. what do you with staff who refuse to fill in a timesheet at all? Let them away with it? If they can’t see how it’s them not doing their job, sack them. I wouldn’t want someone with such poor attention to detail working in an accounting firm, let alone in one I was running.

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@SamG No, we monitor time sheet completion very closely. Every week I run a time sheet report, then send a series of reminders to anyone whose time sheet is incomplete. After three reminders I send the report to the management team. 

It is only very recently that I realised that tasks with a Task Type of None were counting towards a  colleague’s utilisation. This seems illogical to me because time with a Task Type of None is not included in the cost of delivering the work, despite the fact that it counts towards a colleague’s utilisation. Therefore I would prefer it if the Task Type of None was not used at all. There seems to be no way of preventing this in Karbon so I now include a list of tasks with a Task Type of None in my Time Sheet report. I then contact anyone who has booked time with a Task Type of None to use a valid Task Type instead. 

I don’t think this is a lack of attention to detail. Colleagues are just focussed on work that they consider to be more important and the idea of sacking someone who did not complete their time sheet is draconian to the point of being absurd. Colleagues are always busy and until recently we did not understand the importance of specifying a valid Task Type. Hopefully this will happen less often now, but it would be helpful if Karbon made it more difficult for tasks with a Task Type of None to be recorded on a time sheet. 

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@Ian Jack I agree that it’s illogical the discrepancy in treatment in Karbon! Hopefully they change it, like your Feature Idea (that was merged with Max’s) 🤞🏾

We disagree about a few things, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, if you have to persuade (your words) someone to do something so simple and of little inconvenience to them (but material convenience to you), perhaps you there is a misalignment there 🙂

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@samg Yes we are all trying to achieve the same objective. All I want to do is remove any possibility that Karbon could be used as an excuse because colleagues find it confusing or misleading.

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