Time Cockpit Blog

How To Introduce Time Cockpit

by Alexander Huber

It has been 6 and a half years now since we have gone live with time cockpit back in 2010. Over the years we have served various companies with different sizes and in different industries. In this article we want to share a high level checklist of questions you should ask yourself if you want to introduce time cockpit.

What’s Time Cockpit About

If you are searching for a new time tracking solution and you are new to time cockpit, I want to quickly circumvent what it is and what it is not. Afterwards, you can decide for yourself, if time cockpit is the right solution for you and continue reading.

What It Is

Time cockpit was designed for service companies (or IT departments) that live from billing their time to customers (internal or external). They want to track their employees’ hours and manage working time related topics that are important to a company in one software. Employees of our customers usually have their own computer or at least have regular access to one. Otherwise, they could not track their time. Companies from the following industries have decided for time cockpit (in no special order):

  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Production (often shared services)
  • Insurance
  • Telecommunication
  • Engineering (often shared services)
  • Health Care

Most of our customers share the same challenges and goals. They want a solid solution that can grow with a company and its needs and they want to reduce the amount of time spent by employees to accurately track their time. That is what time cockpit is all about.

What It Is Not

This is a hard one. Since time cockpit is customizable you can make nearly anything out of it. But out-of-the-box time cockpit is

  • not a dedicated billing software
  • not a dedicated project management software
  • not a dedicated resource planning software
  • not a dedicated calendar software
  • not a payroll system

Make no mistake, time cockpit is used for all of the above purposes. However, it was customized and extended for customers to provide the dedicated functionality. If you feel that time cockpit is a good start, but you are missing an essential feature that should belong to time cockpit in your case let us know at support@timecockpit.com.

A Checklist for Customers

Time tracking is often treated as a step child in a company and the corresponding projects are often treated the same. But it is actually placed right at the center of a services company. And because it does not have the greatest significance despite its importance, we want to share our experience about time cockpit introduction projects. Perhaps some of the questions here are worth a thought.

If customers decide for time cockpit they need to ask themselves various questions. At a very high level the questions are:

  • Who are the stakeholders of the system?
  • What features do I want to use?
  • How do I want to track time?
  • What do I want to get out of the system?
  • For what data is time cockpit the leading system?
  • Clean cut vs. migration
  • How should time cockpit integrate in the existing system environment?
  • How to handle workflows/ processes?
  • (Let it) make or buy?
  • Do I fulfill the technical requirements?

Fear not, we will provide the following list, the according questions and deliverables in a more condensed form as well in one of our next newsletters.

Kickstart Time Cockpit

If you just want to start with time cockpit without tailoring it from the start you should at least take a look at the following topics:

  • Clean cut vs. migration
  • Onboarding employees
  • Can I fulfill the technical requirements?

Who Are The Stakeholders of The System?

If we take a look at a typical customer, there are at least three types of employees:

  1. Employees whose working time is billed to the customer: They track their time on (hopefully) billable entities like a customer, project or task. For them time cockpit is the attendance and project-based time tracking system.
  2. Employees and back office: Their work is usually not billable. For them time cockpit is the attendance time tracking system.
  3. Management: They often do not track their time at all, but are only interested in the output of time tracking (reports, lists etc.).

The question here is:

  • What stakeholders do you have in regard to time cockpit and how will they need to be allowed for in the system?

What Features Do I Want to Use?

At the time of this writing, there are the following features that are important to a customer from a business point of view.

Project-based Time Tracking (or whatever you want to track your time on)

This is the task time cockpit was built for. Please do not focus too much on “Project-based”. Time cockpit is usually customized to allow you to track time on the entity you want. Examples are time tracking on customers, cost centers, purchase orders, work items and the list goes on.

The question here is:

  • On what entity do you want to track your time and is the granularity level appropriate?

For billing purposes it may be enough to track the time on a customer level. However, for internal analysis you may want to have data on a task per project level. This is exactly the granularity we provide with the standard time cockpit data model.

Please be aware that this is one of the most important decisions you will take in your time cockpit life. The decision on what entity you will track your time on influences what data needs to be imported in time cockpit, what you get out of the system and how your employees will use time cockpit. If your employees are forced to track their time on a very granular level, time tracking may become a tedious. On the other hand, if you do not require a certain level of granularity, you will not get the data that you want out of the system.

Attendance Time Tracking

Attendance time tracking means that you tell time cockpit how long have you been working. It does not matter if you worked for a billable entity or did administrative work. If you use time cockpit for attendance time tracking it will let you access some features that you cannot reasonably use if you use time cockpit only for project-based time tracking. In project-based time tracking, it is not necessary that you assign your whole work of a day to a e.g. project. That means that you potentially track less time in time cockpit that you actually worked in the company.

Nearly all of our companies use time cockpit in a way that project-based time tracking == attendance time tracking. That means that every time sheet entry in time cockpit is assigned to some kind of entity, be it billable (a customer project) or not (an internal project e.g. management/back office)

As a result you can track your billable time, the time you spent on internal task and also the attendance time of an employee.

The question here is:

  • Do I want to track only time spent on billable entities (customers, projects, tasks etc.) or also the attendance time of employees?

Absence Time Management

In time cockpit you can manage public holidays, vacation entitlements, vacations, sick leaves and compensatory times. These are used to calculate the deviation between target and actual hours (see Target-Actual Comparison of Working Time). To use the target-actual hours comparison feature it is advisable to manage the absence time in time cockpit.

To make full use of the feature, you should be prepared to deliver the following things (deliverables):

  • Holiday calendars (if you have employees with different public holidays)
  • Public holidays of the given holiday calendars/countries
  • Vacations
  • Public holidays
  • Sick leaves
  • Compensatory times

The questions are:

  • Do I want to use time cockpit for attendance time tracking?
  • Do I import the absence times or do I manage them manually in time cockpit (what is the leading system)?

If you have existing systems for absence times and cannot replace them with time cockpit (e.g. you are part of a larger company), you should think about implementing an import from the existing system into time cockpit. Then it is not necessary to replace the existing system.

Target-Actual Comparisons of Working Time

Prerequisite feature: attendance time tracking

If you decide for project-based time tracking == attendance time tracking, time cockpit can calculate a deviation of target and actual working hours. The time sheet entries of an employee represent the actual hours of work. The planned hours of work (the target hours) are calculated from the hours of an employee’s working contract and the absence times of a user (holidays, vacations, sick leaves etc.).

The question here is:

  • Do I want to use time cockpit for comparing the actual working hours to the planned working hours?

If the answer is yes, the output of time cockpit is often used for calculating wages. Time cockpit delivers the deviation between target and actual hours. The rating of overtime hours is usually done in dedicated systems and payroll accountants.

To make full use of the feature, you should be prepared to deliver the following things (deliverables):

  • The working hours per day for a given user (weekly hours of works)
  • Vacations
  • Public holidays
  • Sick leaves
  • Compensatory times

Working Time Limits And Violations

Prerequisite feature: attendance time tracking

Based on the actual hours of work and a set of rules according working time, time cockpit can provide you with a list of working time violations. A working time violation in Austria is e.g. if an employee works more than 10 hours a day or if there is no break of at least 30 minutes after 6 hours. By default, time cockpit ships with the standard rules of Austria and Germany. But you can also define the applying rules of your country or even your own rules.

Please note that time cockpit only identifies the working time violations. It does not prevent employees from working longer hours and tracking them.

The questions here are:

  • Do I want to use time cockpit to identify working time violations?
  • What working time limits apply in my country?
  • Are there any working time limits I want to incorporate apart from the regulations in my country?
  • How do I want to handle working time violations in my company?

To make full use of the feature, you should be prepared to deliver the following things (deliverables):

  • The working time limits for your employees

Signal Tracker

The signal trackers are sometimes a heavily discussed feature in a company that is using time cockpit. You can find everything about how they work and their benefit at: https://www.timecockpit.com/features/.

The decision to user the signal trackers or not should be left to the employees. They are intended help employees to do their time tracking faster. If they do not need them, or do not want anything to be tracked, the signal trackers can be deactivated by the user.

The decisions which features you want to use in your company determine how the work in an introduction project proceeds.

How Do I Want to Track Time

As mentioned earlier, this is a central question. It determines potential imports, the time tracking behavior of your employees and potential reports and billing. Most of our users use the standard data model of time cockpit that is, they track their time on projects and optionally on tasks. There are some questions that you can ask yourself to determine the entity you track your time on.

  • What stakeholders are to use time cockpit?
  • What do I currently track time on? Is the granularity level O.K. or do I need/want to change it?
  • Do my customers need the time sheets in a special way?
  • What do I want to get out of the system?
    • Effort on billable entities
    • Effort in internal task
    • Effort on different activity types (Development, Management, Back Office…)
  • Do I have existing time sheet entries that need to be migrated?

A lot of questions to ask. Our recommendation is to try and keep it simple. Software systems tend to become complex by themselves :-). Do not be afraid to question the status quo and change things to the better.

Clean Cut vs. Migration

Usually, we recommend making a clean cut. That means that no time sheet entries are migrated from an old to a new system. Migration has various effects:

  • Often worst practices are brought to the new system. The value for the customer does not increase very much.
  • Potentially you start with hundreds of thousands time sheet entries.
  • Considerable amount of effort for a customer to consolidate legacy data for the use in the new system.

However, we are aware that there are scenarios where a migration is needed. If you plan to do your project controlling in time cockpit you need of course all the time sheet entries for a given project. Otherwise controlling will not be possible.

General Imports

To get your data (e.g. base data like customer, projects etc…) into time cockpit, you have the following three options:

  • Manually add your base data OR
  • The data that should be imported in Excel format OR
  • A downstream system where we can import the data from. This option requires individual development of the import, but can be used for a periodic import as well.

Time Sheet Entry Imports

The questions here are:

  • What data do I really need historically?
  • If I need data historically, do I need all the data historically? If you want to do project controlling, you could decide to prune all closed projects and only import time sheet entries of active projects.

Please be aware that you do not need to import all time sheet entries to determine an employee’s current working time balance. In time cockpit you can create a so called overtime correction. When time cockpit is introduced an overtime correction is set to transfer the working time balance to time cockpit. The same applies to vacations. You can create a vacation entitlement in time cockpit that represents the new vacation entitlement from a given effective date.

Onboarding Employees

One thing that is absolutely necessary is to onboard employees.

The questions here are:

  • What features do I want to use? Just project-based time tracking or project- and attendance time tracking?

To make full use of the features, you should be prepared to deliver the following things (deliverables):

  • A list of users with name, email and date of joining
  • Per user
    • the weekly hours of work
    • the current balance of working time
    • the current vacation entitlement
    • a list of public holidays
    • the vacations of the user (optional)
    • the roles the user should have in the system (Admin, User)
    • the working time rules (for working time violations) (optional)

How Should Time Cockpit Integrate In The Existing System Environment?

Often time cockpit is not the first system introduced in a company. Usually, there is a whole system environment time cockpit needs to be integrated to. Time cockpit offers various mechanisms to integrate with existing systems. We have been blogging about integration scenarios quite often (e.g. https://www.timecockpit.com/blog/2015/05/18/Integrating-On-Premise-Resources-Into-Time-Cockpit-).

Generally we recommend to let the systems what they do best. Time cockpit is not a collaboration tool like SharePoint, it is not a billing system like billomat, it is no ERP system like Navision and it is not a CRM system like CRM. However, time cockpit most likely needs to integrate with such systems.

The questions here are:

  • What data do I need in time cockpit (see also How Do I Want To Track Time)
  • What should be the leading system for what data? CRM for customers, Navision for projects etc…
  • How often will time cockpit will need data from another system
    • Once -> Excel Import
    • Periodically -> Scheduled Import (e.g. tasks from Team Foundation Services)
  • What system will rely on data from time cockpit (billing, payroll accountant)?
    • In what format do the downstream systems need the data?
      • Paper -> Reporting
      • Digitally -> Scheduled Export
    • How often will time cockpit need to export data?

Often time cockpit replaces other system and takes over the role as leading system. This is often the case for customers and projects. If the time cockpit get the lead for base data, then you need to check what downstream systems will rely now on the data in time cockpit.

For periodic imports and exports we mostly use Azure WebJobs or Azure Functions.

How To Deal With Workflows/ Business Processes?

If a company consists of more than 3 people then there will most likely be some workflows in place. Examples for workflows in the context of time cockpit are

  • Weekly/monthly approval workflow for time sheet entries
  • Approval workflow for vacations
  • Notifications in the case of certain business cases (e.g. working time violations…)

There are some questions you should ask in the context of a time cockpit introduction project.

The questions are:

  • What digital workflows exist in the company?
  • Should workflows migrated to time cockpit?
  • What analog workflows exist in the company (e.g. manual vacation approval)?
  • Should manual workflows be supported in the digital environment?

If you want to know more about approval processes and how we typically implement them take a look at https://www.timecockpit.com/blog/2014/08/28/Learn-From-Best-in-Class-Confirmation-and-Approval-Processes.

(Let It) Make Or Buy?

This is some kind of strategic decision and depends on how your own business is set up. If your company has its own developers or interested individuals those people can introduce time cockpit and carry things further. In that case it makes sense to build up knowledge to handle most of the customization tasks yourself. If necessary we at time cockpit are ready to help in terms of conception and implementation.

If your business does not have much to do with IT and software you may be better advised if you let us do the customizing. At the bottom line this will save you time and money.

You should ask yourself:

  • Is time cockpit a strategic software that you plan to use to its whole extent by customizing it (or just the standard features)?
  • Do you have dedicated (development) resources that you are am willing to spend?

Do I Fulfill The Technical Requirements?

If you plan to use the web client there are no special prerequisites apart from a recent web browser. If you plan to use the full client then you should allow for the following prerequisites:

  • Operating System
    • Win 7 or greater
    • All windows updates up-to-date
  • Admin rights for installation
  • Connectivity:
    • Internet connection for synchronization to server
    • Port 1433 outbound open (needed by SQL Server TDS protocol)

You can read about the installation requirements in our online help.

Best Practices

Last but not least there are some general best practices and guidelines that will help you operating time cockpit.

Application Owner @ Customer

It is helpful for both a customer and us, if there is a dedicated application owner defined in the customer’s company. The application owner is the central contact for a customer’s employees and also for us as service provider. The application owner collects all time cockpit related things in the company (e.g. issues, change requests etc.) and communicates them to us. This measure reduces effort for the customer and us. Further, the application owner can be sure that time cockpit evolves in the planned direction.

Single Channel of Communications

We at time cockpit use zendesk to handle all our customer related communications. That is, support@timecockpit.com is the address for all time cockpit related concerns. We handle issues, information on technical maintenance and also change requests via zendesk. By using zendesk all communications are documented and traceable (for the customer and us). If somebody calls us or writes us a direct mail, this correspondence is only available for one person. However, if you direct your request at support@timecockpit.com, the whole staff will be able to see and work on the ticket. That is, there is no dependency to just a single person here at time cockpit.


Well, there are a lot of potential questions to ask if you want to introduce a new time tracking system. In my opinion a lot of those questions are not time cockpit specific, but will apply to other time tracking systems as well. Do not be discouraged by the list of questions! They only represent a list of all the questions that we came across the last years. Some of the things may not apply to you at all.

If you think that you should tackle all the above challenges/questions, then we advise an incremental approach. Keep it small and simple at the beginning (KISS) and start with the minimum. Give it some time to see how it is going and plan your next steps accordingly. See if time cockpit fulfills your requirements and decide if you are willing to invest more time to professionalize your processes etc.

Implementation Partnership

One pillar of our business model is to provide our services to customers. We introduce time cockpit together with the customer and also service the customers over the time cockpit life cycle. If you have customers that would benefit from time cockpit and who also need consulting services than let us know. We will provide you with the necessary resources so that you can do the customizations for your customers. Just drop us a mail at support@timecockpit.com and we will get back to you as fast as possible.