Sometimes, the simplest forms are the most effective. This Excel spreadsheet — which Riggs Construction & Design, Kirkwood, Mo., uses to track the money the company spends on workers' compensation insurance — is meat and potatoes; columns of numbers, tallied using a basic Excel function. But, says Pam Hagerty, Riggs' office manager, it saves her time (she used to tally this by hand) and she has all her ducks in a row when the company is audited each year.

The numbers in the top row are state codes for the different categories of work. Each code has its own column, with a corresponding “cost” column directly to its right (Hagerty has the insurance rates on a separate spreadsheet and does the calculations elsewhere, but it would be easy enough to program Excel to make that calculation for you).

One “extra” benefit of this form: The state of Missouri gives a rate reduction to companies who provide the number of hours worked in each category the previous year. “I can fill it out in two seconds,” Hagerty says.