That which gets measured gets done.
If a lack of visibility into how time is managed and spent is an obvious problem for your organization, time tracking is the simplest, single best thing you can do to improve the ability of executives, managers and PMO, and teams to help your business accelerate growth.
For many businesses, the amount of project requests exceeds the organizational resources available to deliver on them. One of the single most important elements necessary to drive value from your project team resources is knowing what they are working on and ensuring that their efforts are aligned with business objectives.
Project teams are working on a variety of tasks on any given day. On some days, you may be aware of exactly what your team members are doing. But on the more hectic days, you may not have a clue. For those who want a high-level overview of activities and progress across their organization, this information may be scattered in spreadsheets or worse — nowhere. When a project comes in wildly over budget, stake-holders may have some explaining to do.
You may be missing out on important resource issues and other organizational data, which, if you were adequately informed about them with real-time insights, you’d be armed with the ability to immediately mitigate. The lack of centralized data and visibility may become a liability as your business scales.
What’s the point of time tracking?
Time tracking is about recording the amount of time spent on a task, or in JIRA and Tempo Timesheets — on a JIRA issue. This helps businesses manage the work efforts spent on their projects and activities that fall within a portfolio. For a software team, it might include how much time is spent completing a story or fixing a bug. For another marketing team member, that might include how much time was spent on preparing for a conference.
When every project team within an organization is tracking time in the same manner using the same tools, executives and PMO can more easily roll-up that information to gain better insights on resource allocations, efficiency, productivity, and the overall state of organizational portfolios. With the right tools time tracking gives accurate insights into different types of labor expenditures, including capital and operational expenditures. Project teams can keep track of estimates versus actuals, and then forecasts based on the results. Account managers can gain accurate data on what they should be charging their clients.
What time tracking isn’t
Tracking time doesn’t need to be about keeping a watchful eye over the minutiae that team members work on throughout the day. It isn’t about making team members demonstrate their ‘worth’ to their team leads. Rather, time tracking is intended to help project teams ensure that their projects are within scope in terms of allocations, schedule, and budget.
Time tracking is beneficial to businesses at all levels, but particularly to team leads and project managers that need to measure progress and make necessary course corrections if expectations aren’t lining up. If a project manager estimates that a project will take their team 30 hours, but it actually takes three times that amount to complete, they have no way of knowing they’re that far off. They also have no way of showing their managers that the organization is spending its time on the right initiatives that align with their overall business strategy.
How time tracking benefits all organizational stakeholders
Implementing consistent time tracking tools and processes organization-wide benefits the entire company. Perhaps most importantly, it ensures that teams are working efficiently on tasks and projects that have been better prioritized. On the highest level, it helps the business to better compete and reduce the time it takes to get products or services to market.
How time tracking benefits executives
Time tracking gives C-levels the ability to determine whether organizational activities are delivering value by demonstrating specifically what their teams have been working on, the outcome of that work, and whether that project work aligns with strategic portfolio goals. They can determine at a glance how much time has been focused on R&D and innovation, how much time has been spent on building new products, and how much time has been spent on fixing the current product line. They can gain accurate insights on whether more time is spent on operational efforts versus on building the business and accelerating growth.
Executives can also focus on keeping employees happy and nurturing a work-life balance that aligns with their company values. Tracking means facing the reality that not all goals can or should be made a current priority, and being able to identify if project teams are being pushed too hard. That can lead to a quickly deteriorating morale and worse — burnout and attrition.
How time tracking benefits project managers and team leads
Project managers and PMO are tasked with managing team resources, scheduling, and budgets. Without a centralized overview of what their team is working on, they cannot accurately measure estimates versus actuals and keep their teams focused on progress. Manual time tracking in spreadsheets is not only a hassle, but can lead to inaccuracies and data that isn’t in sync with the overall budget.
When team members are tracking their work with one tool, that generates greater visibility, which means team leads and managers can have more realistic expectations about their teams, and other organizational stakeholders can be better informed about project progress. Time tracking also leads to more accurate estimates with future forecasting, and is critical for accurately billing time for customers.
How time tracking benefits team members
Time tracking is about change and awareness. When we see how we spend our time, we can better understand how we can improve our use of it. A culture that encourages this awareness means that project managers are less likely to place arbitrary or unrealistic demands on team members if they’re armed with better data to help them make more accurate forecasts. It also means that team members who track time have a better understanding of how long certain work efforts take them, which increases the likelihood of success across the board.
By tracking time, you gain benefits that include:
• Better Project and Resource Insights: Identify what project teams are spending the most time on and make better decisions regarding resource allocations in the future. See how changes to team structure or size affect project progress. If you increase your number of resources, how does it affect how your team spends its time? Are project team efforts aligned with the overall business goals?
• Accountability: Foster a culture of focus and purpose, and ensure that the right resources are working on the right work at any given time. Team members and project managers can see how they’re spending their time and how they can improve.
• Data to Support Business Decisions: Gain real-time insights into project progress, identify value streams, and back up your hiring requests.
• Financial Management: Know how organizational activities are affecting the bottom line by distinguishing various capital versus operational expenses.
• Customer Account Management: Get real-time information on billable time for your customers. Know immediately if your projects are headed over-budget.
• Compliance Initiatives: Many businesses, including public companies subject to regulatory disclosure requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley, and private companies that want to streamline financial data, need better oversight of accurate, auditable, real-time reporting and record keeping of their operational expenses, particularly those subject to depreciation and amortization. Time tracking against projects can help ensure compliance with these initiatives.
Creating a culture of tracking time
Encouraging and implementing time tracking tools doesn’t need to be a top-down initiative that results in bad organizational vibes. It’s a process and a way of creating a better work-life balance that can be facilitated if everyone understands its benefits — where project teams can see structure and a desire to improve and gain progress rather than a bureaucratic initiative that only managers can benefit from.
Instead of simply handing over a tool to project teams and asking all team members to use it, explain the reason why and how everyone can gain from it. If teams are being pushed too hard or projects are constantly coming in over-budget, that doesn’t lead in a constructive, positive, or laid-back work environment. Knowing what we’re doing and what’s expected from us helps everyone stay in sync, on track, and feel accomplished if our talents are being best put to use.
Implementing the right tools is, of course, critical. Team members are often working with a number of tools and are dealing with a number of distractions throughout the day. Streamlining these tools is important for many reasons — to reduce hassle, inefficiency, and the potential for billing inaccuracies.
Time tracking is Agile
The idea of time tracking within an agile environment might seem counterintuitive to agile project management. After all, agile is all about flexibility, and placing individuals and interactions above processes to empower teams. Requiring team members to keep track of the amount of their work might seem like an unnecessary hindrance to a team getting real work done. However, if you’re using the right tool, tracking time can actually rally team members together towards a shared goal, keeping everyone on the same page.
Making progress an organizational priority is something that can be accomplished with the right tools, processes, and culture in place. With lean, agile processes in mind, Tempo Timesheets was purposely built to seamlessly integrate with JIRA Software, JIRA Service Desk, and JIRA Core to enable development and other project teams to track their time as they work, and not have to maintain a separate project management tool to give project managers and team members greater visibility of their overall progress. With a free Tempo mobile app available for teams (for both Android and iOS), Tempo Timesheets makes embracing a culture of accountability and growth even easier.
Tracking time helps businesses at all organizational levels make the right decisions for all projects throughout their portfolios to align them with a company’s overall business objectives.
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