It wasn’t that long ago that I gave a webinar on managing money on projects, but it is taking a long time to answer all the questions that I didn’t get round to doing during the live session. Thanks to all the fabulous participants, who asked such brilliant questions! I am still trawling through them hoping to answer them all, and here is today’s batch of managing money Q&A. They are all about timesheets and time tracking today.
If not via timesheets, how do you gather information on time spent on individual work packages?
I think timesheets are the only viable option to gather information on time spent on individual work packages. The alternative is not recording time at all. This is possible with fixed date projects where you have high commitment to work towards fixed milestones, but it doesn’t give you any data to use for forecasting in the future.
Without timesheets, how can you develop historic figures for future planning?
As I said above, you can’t. Guessing might work, but I don’t recommend it!
I found that subject matter experts are more willing to devote time on projects if they can charge time to it.
I expect this is true in companies where charging is part of the culture and reward structure. Other companies reward people on their contributions, team work, collaboration and so on, where being able to cross-charge for time spent is not as important. It can even vary by departments within an organization. I think the best thing to do is find out what works within your organization and do what you need to do in order to get the commitment required from the relevant people.
If you don't use timesheets how do you track actual hours against budgets?
You can’t. But if you aren’t charging for your resources, you don’t always need to. Salaried staff, seconded to a project for a fixed duration can work 3 hours a day or 13 hours a day and they cost the same. A project resource who charges your hourly for his or her time could spend an hour being not very productive, or an hour being productive, and they cost the same. Good management practices will mean you can monitor their workload and get the best out of both salaried and chargeable resources. Whether or not this is important to you depends on whether you need to cross-charge other departments for effort spent, or whether they will be charging you.
Are timesheets used for other resources (non-PM resources)? How do you capture PM time?
If you need to know how many hours someone is working on your project, or on individual tasks, then you need them to do timesheets. So ask them to! You can capture project management time in exactly the same way as you capture any other time. Here are some sample timesheet entries for project management activity:
- Risk, Issue, Changes and Dependency Management
- Project meetings (e.g. steering group, Project Board, team meetings, producing minutes)
- Team management (1:1s with project team members etc)
- Financial management (ordering, budgeting, forecasting)
You could have a big bucket task called ‘project management’ but I expect you would get more use out of the data if you broke it down further.
How do you convince everyone on the team to record their time accurately? Especially when working multiple projects? If they document them throughout the day, it’s easy, but is it practical?
This is the perennial problem with time recording. I think the best approach is to make it as easy as possible for the people who have to record their time. I saw a little desktop widget recently that times you and updates your timesheets automatically. You just have to click when you start a task and click when you are done. You can’t make it easier than that!
You also have to fight against the urge for people to put in more hours than they have actually worked in order to ‘look good’. Presenteeism is a problem in many offices, and this should be discouraged. How about sharing your personal timesheets with the team so they can see you setting a good example of how it should be done? What tips do other people have for getting time recorded accurately?
You can see the whole presentation online here, via a recording of the webinar. Read the previous instalment of Q&A here. I’ll have some more Q&A for you soon!