Spotting Top Timesheet-Based Payroll Automation Tools

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 20/02/2023
timesheet payroll automation

The market for timesheet-based payroll automation tools is huge. It is therefore difficult to navigate it, let alone find the solution best suited for your business. In this article, we will try and help you choose wisely. We will look into frequent decision-making mistakes and less-known factors to base your choice on. 

There is an undeniable connection between the timesheets and payroll. Namely the latter directly depending on the former. The numbers logged by timesheets lay down the foundation for the payroll process, which is quite straightforward. In theory, at least. In reality, there is a plethora of challenges it poses. In addition to that, with the growing demands and ultra-fast pace of today, simplicity isn’t something that’s easily granted. Instead, this is something that’s to be pursued. 

Innovation-driven challenges require innovative solutions. While rapid modernisation of our lives is the prime culprit of chaotic demands, it is also key to addressing it. However, digital solutions are also growing in numbers each second, making the search and implementation for one a challenge of its own. But don’t worry. After reading this article, you will find it easier to navigate the market and make the best decision for you. 

How Do You Do Timesheets for Payroll?

The simple answer is that you multiply the hours logged on a timesheet by the employee’s pay rate. The theory makes it sound easy, but in reality, there are several intricacies involved that complicate the process. Such as differentiating rates or a huge number of employees. 

That’s precisely why you need timesheet-based payroll automation tools. They do these calculations for you, put them in reports and unlock a variety of procedures you can then complete in minutes.

Complicated Does Not Equal Good

Most of us have experienced the rapid growth of digital technology in the past few decades. We, therefore, remember the fascination with all kinds of different things programs can do. The more - the better! However, it is about time we let go of that mindset. Today we are flooded with all types of innovative features. It is therefore best to focus on quality over quantity. 

Core Features Over Extensive Features

We’ve spoken a lot about how long lists of features are not a definite sign of a top-tier tool. Naturally, we always want more for paying less, but don’t fall into this trap. See, vendors know that. That’s why they put elaborately extensive lists of features. And often this also serves the purpose of hiding they might be lacking in base functionality. Top timesheet-based payroll automation tools mostly capitalise on the core features, and anything additional comes as an extra. With this said, we are by no means saying you should avoid software with additional modules. Especially not if they directly cater to your needs. What we are saying is that they simply should be secondary. 

For example, if the tool of your interest offers a very powerful holiday management module,  an in-depth client management tool and a second-to-none timesheet design builder - that’s great. However, if it has a clunky integration with your chosen accounting tool and you can really ONLY customise the design of the timesheets…Those otherwise great benefits aren’t of much use to you. Although, admittedly, they sound great. Sometimes what is written doesn’t convey reality. And for that reason, it’s best you either get a free trial to investigate the tool’s capacity yourself or book a demo. Mind, in the latter scenario, while you will be shown around the software by a specialist, their job is to sell. Be mindful of that. 

Simple User Interfaces

Another measure software developers sometimes take to make their product appear more powerful is over-complication of the interface. If there are no huge flaws to hide, the effort is actually always put towards simplifying the interface. There are many reasons why top timesheet-based payroll automation tools do that. First of all, it’s to make the most important features easily accessible for the end users. They understand you’re busy and have better things to do than trying and figure out where things are. Sure, depending on how granulated the features are there are likely to be extra steps to take in order to reach specific functionality at times. The basic level, on the other hand, should be a click away. 

Secondly, it’s the understanding not everyone is quickly adaptable to the fast-paced technological landscape. The older workers can often be less tech-savvy, and you don’t want to jeopardise their performance by confusing them with an ultra hi-tech innovative tool. Anything over complicated will either deter them from using the tool entirely or they may become very prone to errors. All in all, while powerful-looking software certainly comes off as more impressive, it’s the functionality and usability that matter.

Not the Loudest Voice in the Room

Just like the truly rich prefer staying humble, truly good tools won’t be aggressively forcing themselves onto you. Best software normally has advocates to speak for them. Additionally, you will find them being more than happy to help and guide you in ways other than sales calls. But let’s dig deeper into these elements. 

Research the Clientele

Nothing speaks better of the quality of the tool than the success it brings to its users. Most websites are happy to flaunt their positive reviews and names of the companies they worked with on their websites. Some even share case studies detailing what has been done. However, it’s worth remembering the vendor will always be biased. Naturally, they want to highlight the positives only and will always bring forward the biggest, most successful businesses they worked with. Even if the work was small, easy and short-termed. 

The first step would be to check the companies that have been listed. From browsing through their websites, you can gather a better understanding of what their challenges might have been. It can also help you gather the size of the scope. If you want to go a little extra, try and contact relevant executives from the company on LinkedIn. They might be happy to answer your questions. Additionally, check reviews of the company on software comparison websites like Capterra. Users are usually allowed to leave feedback there and since often times you can get more realistic reviews on there, emphasising cons as well as the pros. Finally, investigate executives of what companies are following the vendor’s LinkedIn account (if applicable). These people usually are either existing clients or interested in the tool.

Scout their Content

A diverse database of industry-specialised content is a good sign the vendor of your choice has a wide knowledge of the challenges and solutions you might be facing. However, don’t draw that conclusion solely from the number of blog posts. Give them a read too. Are they extensive and informative, or are they short and share well-known facts? Companies often employ marketing agencies to write their content, but you can easily spot it based on how in-depth the articles are.

It’s also important to remember that blog posts aren’t the only content to analyse. Check the other resources they offer, compare how they relate to what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t forget to pay their social accounts a visit too: is their tone consistent with the website? Do they still talk about similar topics and share relevant information on them? All in all, the quality and diversity of content and its consistency should give you a good idea of whether the tool is truly designed to help. All these factors point out to the developer’s understanding of the industry, needs and challenges. And that’s the critical component needed to create a top timesheet-based payroll automation tool.

Aligned Values

Finally, before you make a decision based on your tech requirements, you need to take the human factor into consideration. When you commit to a SaaS tool, you don’t just sign a contract. You start a professional relationship and it can either make or break your success. That’s why it’s important you and the software provider share values. 

Learn More About the Vendor

No matter how great the solution is or how much of a perfect fit it is to your business - you need to get to know your vendor. We aren’t talking about connecting with all the company’s employees on LinkedIn, of course. (Although it might be a good idea to establish that relationship with the customer success employee if you are allocated one.) The aspect we are encouraging you to dig around into is how the software provider will communicate with you past the purchase. Naturally, every company is on their best behaviour and maximum attentiveness when they are trying to sell. But what can you expect after?

Investigate the legal part of the website, such as privacy policy and T&Cs. Additionally, try and find out more about the SLA. Mind, not every company makes them publicly accessible for a variety of reasons. If you are already in touch with the sales rep, inquire them to send it over. If not, you can always contact the vendor privately through the ‘contact us’ Finally, don’t dismiss the importance of the ‘about us’ section. Not only will this give you insights into the provider’s value, but also tell their story and potentially showcase their expertise. There will also be useful information such as locations - a must to consider to avoid time zone disasters. 


With millions of timesheet and payroll solutions available, it’s very easy to choose a tool that won’t live up to your expectations. Alternatively, when you know all common selling tactics and key features to actually pay attention to - it’s nowhere near as daunting. Remember, often less is more. And in this case, that’s a saying to go by.

Best timesheet and payroll automation tools shouldn’t come with pages of features. Nor should they blow you away with intricate user interfaces, packed with functionality you may never use. As a rule, often best solutions aren’t all flashy or loud in the space. They let their clientele do the talking. You will also find out they try to add value by sharing their expertise in the field free of charge. Finally, before committing, ensure you and the vendor are on the same page values-wise. This will help you manage the expectations. 

Care to see if we’re a match? Get in touch.

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Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.