Tracking Time on the Web
What it's good for: The cell-phone nation. Red Gorilla was the only site (at press time) that allowed users to enter information by phone, a feature that our CEOs really liked.
Don't waste your time if: You like trying before flying. Though the basic program is free, "it doesn't have a built-in demonstration function, so there's no easy way to test it prior to signing on."
What our CEOs had to say: They were largely pleased, but some -- again -- were skeptical about Web-based software. "I particularly didn't like the idea of having to access the Web for my own information," said one. "Printing out invoices online seemed completely ridiculous."
What you ought to know: Red Gorilla, like some others, actively private-labels its time-tracking technology for use at other business sites. Its customers include AllBusiness.com and eWork Exchange. The company is looking into offering other software applications that will help small service businesses. Like OpenAir, it sees the many possibilities in the PSA space.
What it's good for: Small businesses and virtual companies. "Everything I need for tracking hours and expenses, and making invoices," said a CEO.
Don't waste your time if: You're a soloist or your company is hooked on its existing system. "Far too sophisticated for the needs of a sole proprietor," said a panelist. Another said, "We're using a PC-based system right now, so I have no reason to go back to the site again." CEOs who didn't have a PC-based system were generally pleased with the site and its services.
What our CEOs had to say: Links were lauded. "The site steered you to a lot of good business information," said one CEO.
What you ought to know: Although telephone access is still in the works, Elite.com does offer easy accessibility for portable computers, laptops, and handheld organizers. (Elite.com is a subsidiary of Elite Information Group, a company that designs and implements time-tracking systems for large law firms. The site is the company's attempt to reach small professional-service businesses.)
What it's good for: The basics. "Simple, low-end, but gets the job done," commented one CEO.
Don't waste your time if: You want some of the services that other time-tracking sites offer, like invoicing or synchronization with your Palm Organizer. Or if you prefer pizzazz to plainness in Web-page design.
What our CEOs had to say: "All the 'project' names defaulted to my company name -- where I would want to put the name of each client," said one.
What you ought to know: Freetimesheet.com fared poorly with our CEOs, but it still may succeed because of its partnership with Managemark, a company founded by Intuit (which makes QuickBooks). If Managemark becomes Intuit's avenue for Web-based software, a lot of QuickBooks users may wind up using the technology that runs Freetimesheet.
What it's good for: Small groups seeking a "bare bones" solution.
Don't waste your time if: You're in no mood for trial-and-error learning. Several CEOs had a tough time navigating ClickTime. However, CEOs who were used to Web navigation found ClickTime simple to use. Some users thought the site lacked a satisfying demo. "I was on my own to figure things out," said one.
What our CEOs had to say: "The design is iffy, the 'demo' is actually a sales pitch, and the tools aren't easy to understand. Their language is presumptuous, and there are errors in the copy," complained one. Another said he'd stay loyal to QuickBooks, which provided greater "breadth and depth advantages."
What you ought to know: The company, which also offers a tool called GoalManager for tracking employee incentives, is considering changing this application's name in case it enters the PSA space.
What it's good for: "Great interface for Palm," not to mention terrific instructions. "After the demo I was ready to go and didn't really have any questions."
Don't waste your time if: You want online help. "Surprise! Click on 'support' or 'help,' and there is none -- only an E-mail address and phone number."
What our CEOs had to say: The site got decent marks in a number of categories, but there were flaws: "Every time I tried to enter some sample hours in the Time Entry 'folder,' I got an error. Also, the monthly calendar was mostly hidden off the screen, and I couldn't drag it over to see the entire month."
What you ought to know: Although TimeLedger.com offers a free trial, it's the only site of the six that isn't free for five users or fewer. It costs $9.95 per month per user.