How can you find time to report on your time? And why you should.
Even with the most talented and knowledgeable software
development team working on a project, it is impossible to work effectively
without being specific about the time spent on work.
some teams prefer to work on a loose schedule, and planning or reporting "officially" in an Agile
environment aren’t the easiest of endeavors, time reporting can help a team to be smarter in the long run than without it. Furthermore, keeping track of time can help
your team optimize its processes, saving money and reducing time to market,
while helping you streamline your process for future projects.
Dividing Tasks of Your Project Into Clear,
Actionable Items with Precise Deliverables
From the start of your project’s planning phase, it is critical
to think about what needs to be accomplished (let us emphasize the importance
of the age-old tip: define your requirements as clearly as humanly possible!)
and how long these tasks will take to complete. However, especially with Agile teams, sometimes there is a tendency to
dive right into the work, estimating schedules and approximating the order
of micro-projects along the way. It is only natural that this tendency takes
place during project development: with the burst of initial energy, many team
members are less inclined to pause and plan before beginning their tasks.
Nevertheless, this excitement eventually fades, leaving a
project team without a plan keeping them on task, or energy driving them
forward. An initial investment of time dedicated to the organization of the
project from the beginning can prevent an exponentially larger amount of time
from being wasted throughout the duration of a project. Even if you choose to
replace traditional Waterfall processes with those of the Agile framework, it
pays to devote some time for planning your project.
By dividing projects into tasks that are time-based, your team
members can be held accountable (but not necessarily punished or “incentivized”!)
for producing deliverables on a particular timeline.
Tasks that are typically described in vague “umbrella” terms can be broken down
into specific, enumerated actions, tracked using Love-PM’s
Gantt Chart feature. When clients or your own supervisors later ask about how
your team has spent time available, or how long it might take to process any
requested changes, you will have documentation to back up your work and to be
able to pinpoint the exact timeline and pricing necessary to move forward with
adjustments to your product.
Measurement without micro-management
Tracking time in an effective and ethical way can help your
team discover information about how hours are spent within a project team, as
well. In the software development field, many developers feel forced to forge
their timesheets in order to earn appropriate pay for coding production and
troubleshooting tasks. This behavior can lead to poor
management decisions in the future, and can promote dishonesty among
team members about how their time at work is spent.
In a service provider / developer setting (where you are a consulting or software development services provider) however, tracking time can
lead to increased efficiency – increasing
your team’s amount of billable hours. This tactic brings more profitability
to your business.
But be careful: time tracking is not really meant to catch workers
when they are not being responsible with their time. Expecting to happen so will surely fire back. Smart workers will be able to fill out they time. Just remember the old Parkinson's law that is still brilliantly valid.
So how to sell time tracking, then, to your team members? Appropriate time tracking
can help your team members plan their work better. What’s more, it helps
support your team members on projects that require a lot of small tasks, each, but otherwise has work that is hard to be estimated in advance. If
documentation of hours and work performed demonstrates that workers are at
maximum capacity and they need additional support, you will have the historical
information and current proof necessary to make decisions about bringing on
more staffing to support the team.
Planning Future Projects: How Time Reporting Can
Lead to Major Future Gains
When planning future projects, it is especially important to
keep in mind how time was spent during the course of your team’s previous
projects. Looking back at historical data of your team, it is possible to
pinpoint where time could have been used more efficiently, and to be able to
develop a realistic timeline for what needs to be accomplished by your team on
a current project. Considering what a difficult task effort estimation is
(especially so with Agile teams), this is an important benefit offered by time
tracking and reporting.
Reviewing time reports from past projects is a good way to
keep your business accountable and thriving despite challenges and setbacks that
future projects may pose to your team. In many cases, wasted time may not be
the result of anyone acting irresponsibly. Rather, team members might be
encouraged to dedicate time towards portions of the project that can be
determined, in hindsight, to have little impact on a product’s profitability.
Though it might not seem to be an important task in the moment, logging time
can provide critical insights that can lead to major project redesigns in the
future for your company, department or team.