Guide to Purchase Time & Attendance and What to Look for in Time & Attendance Software

Purchasing an employee time and attendance system can be a major undertaking for any company. Many purchase criteria must be considered – everything from functionality to interoperability to cost must be weighed carefully when evaluating time and attendance software.

Sometimes large teams are necessary to plan a time and attendance system roll-out; input from nearly every department is recommended at the minimum.

Whether you’re at the enterprise level or an emerging business, the purchase process is relatively similar – though it may include greater or less detail. A large company probably requires functionality and interoperability that would go beyond the scope of a small deployment.

Typical Time & Attendance Deployments

  • Basic Time & Attendance – Ideal for small companies, the most basic time and attendance system consists of a self-standing time clock that uses paper time cards to record each punch. Some perform basic calculations to compute the amount of time worked each day. They are not integrated with software.
  • Integrated Time & Attendance – Ideal for any sized company, an integrated time and attendance system consists of networked time clocks that are integrated with time and attendance software.

This white paper will provide some helpful hints for purchasing a basic time and attendance system, but is truly focused on integrated time and attendance systems.

Going far beyond mere features, this white paper will cover complex time and attendance considerations that you will be able to prioritize based on your company’s unique needs. We’ll also discuss delivery model, reporting, integration capabilities, customization ability, vendor reputation, regulatory compliance, and continued support.

Before diving into the features to look for in employee time and attendance software, we’re going to start with some of the more fundamental criteria to consider when purchasing time and attendance software.

Fundamental Purchase Criteria for Time & Attendance Software

Let’s be realistic. Without even reading this white paper, you already know a lot about the time and attendance system you’re going to buy. You know whether you want a simple solution just to track employee labor or if you want a fully integrated biometric system for several locations.

It’s the process of sifting through the features, determining what you need, and the reality of deploying a successful solution that makes the process of buying a time and attendance system daunting.

Luckily, that’s exactly what we’ll cover in this white paper. By highlighting some of the features that are available out there, you’ll be able to evaluate the usefulness of each feature.

In addition, we’ll provide you with detailed background on some of the industry-specific purchase criteria you may not consider otherwise.


We might as well discuss pricing right away since that’s always the first thing that comes to mind when buying anything. As industry insiders, we know that in the time and attendance industry, you get what you pay for. We also know that some companies lowball price but hide additional fees for… well…. just about everything. There is a lot to watch out for when buying employee time and attendance software.

Regarding complete time and attendance systems – including both the software and the employee time clocks – you won’t find anything decent for under $600 that does more than very basic time and attendance. Anything lower than that would definitely fall into the “too good to be true” or “there must be a catch” categories.

Another approach some time and attendance vendors use is to give away the hardware to sell the services (an aggressive SaaS model). These vendors specialize in certain small businesses that require only basic functionality for a few types of employees. None support benefits tracking, accruals, shift differentials, or true time and attendance features.

The time clocks and other hardware are part of a larger fee when you go with a shared services HRIS provider – and regarded as a relatively small line-item in a much bigger invoice. But Acumen sells the hardware to save you perpetual rental fees. You get your money back in savings in as little as four months.

Price shouldn’t be inhibitive, though. Especially at the sub-$1000 level. According to Nucleus Research, employee time and attendance systems can save approximately 2.2% of an employee’s gross yearly salary. For a company with 25 employees earning an average of $22,000, that equates to a savings of $12,100 in the first year alone. Chances are, this company’s time and attendance system will pay for itself within the first year.

We recommend using your projected savings for one year to create the budget for your time and attendance system

It’s important to remember that time and attendance systems are money savers – unlike other most capital equipment expenses. Still, many small companies opt for a simple system instead of a biometric system to save a mere few hundred dollars. These companies, however, are just not considering the total cost of ownership. A few unscrupulous employees with a buddy punching scheme can easily negate any savings incurred from buying non-biometric terminals. Time cards, ribbons, and repairs make the standalone, old-fashioned punch clocks actually more expensive than entry-level biometric time clocks.

Let’s move on to some of the purchase considerations of medium and enterprise-level companies regarding cost. Many of these companies are already using biometric time clocks – so for many medium and enterprise-level companies, complete integration, automation, and features are key drivers in their time and attendance initiative. Perhaps the company wants to track and manage mobile employees. Maybe they have complicated remuneration schemes such as shift differentials or weighted overtime needs. This article will help you identify the features you need to evaluate the choices out there – and get the best price at the same time.

Purchase Criteria for Time & Attendance Software Functionality

Undoubtedly, the project to update or roll-out an employee time and attendance system stemmed from some pain or inefficiency your company is facing. Everybody has different needs, unique “pain,” and specific features that are considered essential. The problem is that every time and attendance application is different – and many aren’t going to satisfy every feature wish list.

At the same time, there are going to be some features that are nearly universally found in time and attendance software. One would expect to find functionally like storing employee information, recording punches, and managing time off.

Of course, there are also companies like Acumen that can customize both licensed and SaaS time and attendance (or job tracking or employee scheduling, etc.) and satisfy any requirement such as a unique accrual, complex shift differentials, weighted overtime, or any other addition.

We’re going to skip the “no brainer” features and discuss some of the items that are really going to be the deal sealers or deal breakers. Feel free to make note of how important each feature is for you to make a better purchasing decision when comparing time and attendance software. We recommend prioritizing features and noting which are essential.

Purchasing Time & Attendance Software: Conclusion

Purchasing time and attendance software often seems like a huge undertaking when you first start the research process. You just don’t know what you need, what’s out there, what’s feasible. We hope this white paper has made the process seem a lot less daunting by providing you with industry insider hints, advice, and features to consider.

One basic rule of thumb any company can rely on is that if you need anything beyond basic functionality, if you need true automation, or complete system integration, public software is not going to suffice. And many of these systems are little better than using a spreadsheet to manage time and attendance.