Why Project Managers Should Track Time
In offices all around the country, Friday afternoons are timesheet time. Everyone from the technical team to the project managers has a little grumble about the administrative overhead of filling in a timesheet. Someone, somewhere, has spent time that week working on something that doesn’t appear on the timesheet and has to ask where to allocate those forgotten hours. And you can guarantee that someone else believes that the whole timesheet exercise is only required because ‘management’ doesn’t trust the workers to get the job done.
For all the faults with time recording, once people understand why it is useful and how best to do it in a way that takes up the least amount of time possible per week, generally you can achieve a good level of employee adoption. So, why is it useful? Here are 5 reasons why you should track time on your projects.
1. It Improves Decision Making
Time equals money. If you know where your employees are spending the most time, you will find it easier to make decisions about how to make savings or deliver the solution faster. For example, if travel time is consistently high on a project, it might be appropriate to look at what other options are available instead of having valuable, highly-paid people on the road instead of focusing on completing the requirements of their day job.
2. It Aids Resource Allocation
Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tools make it easy to record what people are working on and what projects are in the portfolio. Put the two together and an enterprise tool can show you what resources are required for upcoming projects. Knowing what the work requirements are for upcoming projects means that you can work out who will be free to pick them up.
You could even do some resource modelling to establish what would happen if you pulled someone off a project early so that they could take on a new piece of work. Being able to ‘play’ with your resources like this will show you various different options and enable you to pick the most appropriate one for the situation.
3. It Encourages Communication
People might grumble about timesheets, but the data they provide makes a great discussion point. You’ll find out what people are working on if they don’t have the right lines against which to book their time. Under-the-radar projects are harder to hide. You don’t need an excuse to talk to the project team, but timesheets give you one. Report the consolidated time spent on the project back to the team and ask for their suggestions about which areas could be improved.
4. Forecasts Are More Accurate
It is hard to justify that you are nearly finished on a task when you’ve just changed the forecast for that task to allow you to book another 20 hours to it. It is easy for the project manager to see exactly how much work remains to do. That information is of huge value for the project plan and for forecasting what is going to happen over the rest of the project.
5. Estimates Are More Meaningful
As well as looking forward for forecasting purposes, timesheets also let you look back. How long did it take to complete the software testing last time? You’ll be able to tell to the nearest hour. That is really useful information to have when you are planning your next period of software testing. Your estimates for future work can be informed and improved by actual examples of where those tasks have been carried out in the past.
Time tracking might be an awkward subject to bring up with the team, but EPM tools make it easy to integrate into your project management methods. Once you’ve got robust ability to track time in place and seen the information that comes out of that, you’ll want to keep working with timesheets forever!