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Tracking Time – How Should My Organization Do It?

When a new customer signs up with Innotas and begins working with their Customer Success Manager, one of the first topics centers around Time Management. While most customers want to track time for their IT resources, they don’t always know what types of activities to track, how granular to track, or what the benefits they can get from tracking time. The rest of this post will discuss the benefits and some basics around different ways to track time.

Innotas Customer Success Managers help customers get up and running tracking time as part of their IT Governance implementations to provide one or more of the following benefits:

  • Provide breakdowns of time spent on Project, Maintenance/Application Support, and Administrative activities
  • Help pinpoint Systems that are taking up too much resource bandwidth to maintain and may need to be retired
  • Historical views into where time is spent by IT resources allows you to shift resources to higher priority and higher value activities.

Once a customer decides which benefits are important, the next step is to decide which activities to track time against. Most customers decide on one, two, or three of these categories:

  • Project Work – these are your strategic projects and other smaller projects that have a defined start and target date.  Resources will be allocated to portions of the project or individual tasks for detailed project plans.  Almost all customers track project work as it is the most discretionary (albeit, highest value producing) work performed.
  • Maintenance Work – this is typically referred to as “Keep the lights on (KTLO)” and encompasses everything from working help desk tickets, to service requests, to operation tasks, to application break/fix activities.  Most organizations don’t plan to track this at first, but quickly realize that most of their work is performed here and that this area has the greatest potential for optimization.
  • Administrative Work – this covers meetings, holidays, vacation, etc.  Customers are split on this one – some report on it and some simply lower resources’ available capacity to take this into account (for example, instead of capacity of 40 hrs/wk, capacity is set at 36 hrs/wk).

The final step is to decide how granular to track time against the buckets above. Some of the questions that Innotas Customer Success Managers use to help determine this are listed here:

  • Project Work  – For projects, you can typically track time at the project, summary task, or task levels.  Each level adds a slightly higher amount of required setup, so simply choosing task level as it is the most granular isn’t always the best choice.  Some questions to help determine the level:
    • How detailed are my project plans?
    • How detailed are my resource assignments to projects?
    • Do I have consistency in my project plans?  Do I use templates for project plans?
    • Do I capitalize projects or portions of projects?  Do I capitalize based on specific tasks or work items, or based on a percentage by resource type?
  • Maintenance Work – For Maintenance work, time is usually tracked at the application level with several buckets to capture the different types of work (ie, enhancement, break/fix, support, etc).   Some customers also ask about tracking time to individual service requests or help desk tickets.  There is really only one question for this area – what are you going to do with the data you get back?  The answer to that question will help drive the setup of your applications.  Understanding how much time is spent on break/fix for a particular application is important, but understanding how much time was spent on each break-fix item may not be (and may introduce unnecessary overhead on your resources).
  • Administrative Work – For Administrative work, time is almost always tracked in a set of customer-wide buckets.  Similar to Maintenance work, ask what you plan to do with the data.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions to keep the discussion going.

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