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Product Portfolio Management

Resolving the Time Tracking Dilemma: 8 Tips for Success

Published By Jerry Manas

When it comes to implementing time tracking for Resource Management, many companies disagree on the granularity at which they should capture time. Some feel that summary or phase-level tracking is adequate, while others want to track activity at the task level.

Here are a few tips that can help resolve this common dilemma:

  1. Manage outcomes, not actions — Use outcomes instead of tasks in your project schedules and timesheets. This gives a sense of freedom to people closer to the action; meanwhile, outcomes can be linked to milestones and prerequisite outcomes.
  2. Manage results, not hours — Similar to the above; rather than focus on people accounting for a 40 hour week, simply have them enter their time spent against specific outcomes or results, regardless of what it adds up to. This drives the focus toward analysis of where effort is being spent, and away from how many hours people are working, which can be a de-motivator.
  3. Consider Daily Time Tracking — It has been proven that daily time entry is actually easier, not to mention more accurate. People merely track time daily, then they can submit it weekly with greater accuracy.
  4. Understand How Time Capture Relates to Your Goals — Time capture can tell you what was spent in the past, and enables a basis for future estimates, so it has some impact on later allocations. And if time entry includes a contributor estimate of the time remaining (see the next tip), then time tracking plays an even more significant role in predicting resource availability.
  5. Institute Contributor Estimates — As a resource enters time against a specific outcome or task, they should always be sure to revise, if necessary, the remaining time. This can greatly enhance the accuracy of future allocations and thus resource availability.
  6. Don’t Reserve the Whole Library if You Only Need One Book — If you allocate resources to phases or projects, they will appear to be booked for months ahead. There will be no way to realistically see their availability for a two-week window of work (or make alterations at that level). If you want to be able to make decisions at a granularity of weeks, then you must allocate resources at that same level.  Same if you want to assess plan vs. actual at that level.
  7. Get Everyone on the Bus — In order to make time capture work, all middle managers must be on board, especially if a culture change is required. Senior management must see to this, as it will take the entire organization’s cooperation to make sure this is carried out effectively.
  8. Understand the Reasons for Time Capture — Understanding the situations where time capture is required can help you sell it throughout the organization. Time capture is especially vital in the following scenarios:
  • When there’s contract labor, in order to assess billed hours
  • For government contracts — it’s the law
  • For financial labor reporting, especially where regulatory oversight is present
  • When people are splitting their time on multiple projects
  • When paid overtime is involved
  • When work is being charged back to other departments
  • When you want to forecast cost at completion more accurately
  • When you want to improve your estimating capability by looking at past trends

Collectively, these 8 tips can help you get past the potential roadblock of capturing time for greater resource planning and estimation.

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Written by Jerry Manas

Jerry Manas is an internationally best-selling author, speaker, and consultant. He is frequently cited by leading voices in the world of business, including legendary management guru Tom Peters (“In Search of Excellence”), who often references Manas’s bestselling book Napoleon on Project Management for its insights on simplicity and character, and Pat Williams, Senior VP of the Orlando Magic, who called Manas’s book Managing the Gray Areas “a new path for leaders.” Jerry’s latest book is The Resource Management and Capacity Planning Handbook (McGraw-Hill), which Judith E. Glaser, noted author of Conversational Intelligence, touted as “the first book dedicated to what is essentially the drivetrain of organizations—the effective use of its people toward its most important activities.” Through his consulting company, The Marengo Group, Jerry helps clients maximize their organizational people resources, leading to a grater capacity to innovate, a more value-focused workforce, and an increased ability to adapt to change. He is a popular speaker at events around the world, speaking on lessons from history, resource planning, organizational change, and other topics. Jerry’s work has been highlighted in a variety of publications, including the Houston Chronicle, Chicago Sun Times, National Post, Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, and others.