The age-old question in Autotask: what’s the difference between Roles and Work Types? Both impact billing, from billing rates to whether something is non-billable. So when do you use each?

First, let’s take a look at what each is:

  • Autotask Role. A Role is always required, and defines the “foundation” of the person’s job (i.e., their role). Examples Roles would be “Helpdesk Tier 1,” “NOC Technician,” and “Technical Account Manager.”
  • Autotask Work Types. A Work Type is optional and provides for defining variations of work being done.

An Autotask Role is closely tied to a job title, with the differences that Roles are tied to Time Entries (and thus billable events). Work Types are how to provide for variations in the work done by a Role.

Examples of Roles Working with Work Types

Examples of Roles and Work Types:

  • The Role “Helpdesk Tech 1” may use the Work Types “Business Hours Support” and “Non-Business Hours Support”.
  • The Role “PC Support” may use the Work Types “Remote Support” and “Onsite Support”.
  • The Role “Technical Account Manager” may use the Work Types “Quarterly Business Review” and “Contract Management.”

When Should You Use Work Types?

As mentioned earlier, Roles are required, but Work Types are optional in Autotask (though they can be required via a System Setting). You should use Work Types when you want to vary the billing based on the activity, e.g., Business Hours Support is $100/hr and Non-Business Hours Support is $200/hr, when you want to be able to report on where your team spends its time, or both.

When Should You Not Use Work Types?

If you are a smaller IT company and you are NOT going to vary billing based on activity, do not use Work Types. The added administrative complexity is not a good trade-off for the potential to produce reports (that most smaller organizations rarely use for decision-making.)

That is, only use Work Types if you can say with absolute clarity that you meet one of the two Use Cases for Work Types as described in “When Should You Use Work Types?”

How to Implement Work Types

There is a right way, and a wrong way, of implementing Work Types.

The wrong way is to create several Work Types (e.g., Remote Support, Onsite Support), set them to required in Autotask System Settings, and then expect your techs to do it correctly. It’s just too much virtual paperwork and they’ll tend to choose the 1st item in the dropdown list.

A better way is to create Autotask Forms that your techs use when creating Time Entries. For example, you may have these Autotask Forms: Worked Onsite, Worked Remotely, Worked Outside Business Hours. It may seem like the same thing as having them pick Work Types manually, but using Autotask Forms forcing a tech to slow down and consciously decide what they did (while also prefilling any other values that you want to see in Time Entries).

The BEST way to use Work Types is to create Ticket Categories specific to each billing model you have and then to restrict the Work Type options for each Ticket Category to make sense. For example, let’s say you create the Ticket Categories “NOC Tickets” and “HelpDesk Tickets”. Clearly “NOC Tickets” don’t need the Work Type “Onsite Support,” while “HelpDesk Tickets” won’t need “Reviewing Backup Logs.” (Ticket Categories are specifically designed to allow you to funnel your team to the correct decision when entering data.)

Life Pro Tip: You can create an easy-to-audit method of using Work Types to ensure techs enter the correct one. Create a Work Type _INVALID_WORK_TYPE_ and set that as the default Work Type on all Ticket Categories. Create a Dashboard widget for your accounting dashboard that shows all Time Entries of Work Type _INVALID_WORK_TYPE_. On a daily or weekly basis, review and have the offending tech go fix their Time Entries.