Understanding the Perspectives of Resources and Managers When Logging Time
In my 13 years as a consultant and professional services leader, two things have been relatively constant:
People don't like logging time
Companies struggle with time logging adoption and data accuracy
While I don't necessarily enjoy the data entry that typically goes along with it, I do appreciate, understand, and even personally enjoy the outputs of logging time. In this article, I will explore the negativity that surrounds this business process and challenge managers and resources to think about things a little differently.
Why do companies require employees to log time?
Attention time loggers, it's important for you to step out of your own role for a second to look beyond the chore of logging time and understand that there are very good reasons why companies ask you to log time. These reasons benefit YOU. The biggest reasons typically fall into these categories:
Capacity Planning - The better a company can understand how long a task takes, the better they can predict future resource needs and prevent you from being overbooked.
Utilization - Companies must keep a pulse on their resource investments and know how much time is being dedicated to billable and non-billable tasks. This helps a company minimize bench time and give you a balance of interesting work.
Billing & Profitability - Many companies use timecards as the basis for billing clients, especially for time & materials type projects. For fixed-bid and internal projects, time tracking is just as important so a company can measure margin and track operational costs. This is how you get paid.
Productivity - Time tracking can be a key quantitative measure of resource productivity. Time tracking can also be an important indicator of a productive work ethic and customer care. You work hard to meet your goals and make customers happy, right? Logging time is a great way to show evidence and take credit for your work.
Why do resources hate logging time?
Attention business leaders, it's important for you to step out of your manager mindset and consider why resources tend to think negatively about time logging. If you can understand this thinking, you can address employee concerns and manage more effectively - ultimately getting what YOU need to run the business.
Negative Enforcement - The only time they hear about time logs is when something goes wrong - days are missed, utilization is low, budgets are exceeded. Don't manage to the negative outcomes. Flip the script by consistently rewarding desired positive behaviors - on-time data entry, strong utilization, and budget efficiency. This can inspire the unrewarded to perform more like their rewarded peers driving performance gains.
No Communication - Even worse than negative enforcement is when resources never hear about time logs at all. When measurements exist in a black box, people start to wonder why they need to bother with useless administration. Managers must consistently communicate about critical measurements and show how they are used to drive the business, and in return, resources will respect the value of the task and put effort into providing accurate data.
Feeling Micromanaged - Many people think time logging is about big brother watching. Nobody wants to feel micromanaged or monitored; they want to feel like their work is appreciated and contributing to company success. As managers, you should leverage measurements in a positive way - instead of "why is your time low this week?", ask "I notice your time is low this week, what can I do to help free you up for billable work?" or "what can we do to plan for a more productive effort to end the week?". Resources will appreciate your care, and you'll be able to work together to improve results.
Feeling Subordinate - Often, management reporting is run by managers that don't log time. Managers that "do as I say, not as I do" can leave resources feeling like subordinate grunt workers. In my opinion, the absolute best way to drive the adoption of time logging is for managers to log time as well and to review their results alongside everyone else's. Even if the manager's time is only dedicated to internal projects, resources will feel better connected and know that accountability is important at all levels of their organization. Mutually-accountable environments foster loyalty and performance.
Aren't there more important things to measure?
Utilization based on time logs can be a very important measure, but time logging should never be the only measure. It is critical to balance many quantitative measures (in addition to time logging) and qualitative measures like customer satisfaction. Other quantitative measures such as on-time task completion, actual vs estimated task effort, and project profitability can help improve the integrity of the time logged and guard against resources inflating time to achieve a utilization target.
Ultimately, nothing trumps customer satisfaction, but when managed well, you can maximize productivity with a healthy blend of quantitative and qualitative measures.
Aren't there tools that can automate this tedious effort?
Sure, the market is loaded with productivity tools that claim to automate time tracking. Some tools rely on converting calendar events into time entries. But what if the meeting runs 30-minutes long or you get double-booked? Other apps attempt to record context switching on your desktop as a way to track activity. For those, I've had sub-par results at best because I tend to jump around in various systems working on a single task - these programs struggle stitching all of that together.
The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of the automation attempts you might be taking, there still must be a commitment to the manual effort required to reconcile time based on your ACTUAL work. So yes, automation can help but don't count on a 100% hands-free solution if you want a highly accurate timecard.
Key Takeaway - Time tracking is cultural!
In my experience, the companies with the most successful time tracking adoption are the ones that understand culture drives everything. Culture is not a top-down or bottom-up convention. Thriving culture comes from a balance of communication, transparency, positivity, and accountability. If you can appreciate those principles at all levels, then time tracking can be driven into your culture via good management and usable tools.
Are you looking for the right tools to implement a culture of time tracking in your organization? TaskRay with Flux Capacity provides robust time tracking and utilization measurements on the Salesforce.com platform.
Follow @Flux_Capacity for more resource management best practices.