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I have recommended 2 different options for this with customers:
- Tracking checkout/checkin or even SQL queries for days in state may be more trouble than it is worth because you still have to compile the data and make sure you are billing for "actual days/hours worked". You could use fields on your data cards to capture the date/time the file enters the state and the date/time the file leaves the state but this may not be granular enough. This is general time spent and automatically captures the time and may be marginally helpful.
- Honestly, I would recommend a CRM system to capture billable hours. Check out www.insightly.com Free for up to 3 users and may be thorough enough for what you're after. You could use the pipelines and assign the tasks to teams rather than individuals. Then they can keep notes in the tasks for billable hours and you get the high level status. Check out this 6 minute video...very helpful. The data is also exportable for future reference. This is also general time spent but requires you to trust your staff to enter their data but is VERY helpful.
Hope this helps.