Your organization wants to take advantage of tax credits (typically for R&D work)
A secondary reason to track time is because the team wants to measure where they are spending time so as to target potential areas to improve. This is more of a side benefit than anything else – if this was your only reason to track time you’d be better off simply discussing these sorts of issues in your retrospectives. But if you were already tracking time then running a quick report to provide the team with intel likely makes sense for you.
So what are your options for recording time? Potential strategies, which are compared in the following table, include:
Automated report from an agile management tool. The basic idea is to extract data from an agile management tool (JIRA, TFS, LeanKit, …) and load it into your time tracking system.
Manual input by team members. Each team member, typically once a week, inputs their time into the time tracking tool.
Manual input by the Team Lead. The Team Lead (ScrumMaster) inputs the time for their team into the time tracking tool.
Manual input by a Project Manager/Coordinator. A PM or Project Coordinator, often in a support role to the team, inputs the time of team.
Don’t track time at all. ‘Nuff said.
Table: Comparing options for tracking time.
Automated report from agile management tool
Very efficient because it doesn’t require ongoing data input
Sufficient for CapEx/OpEx purposes
Sufficient for customer billing when the billing units are by the day (or greater)
Requires a bit of development work to feed data from your agile management tool into your time tracking system
May motivate the team to start treating the agile management tool like a time tracking tool (which often negates the value of the management tool)
Often requires a bit of (programmatic) fudging of the data to calculate the time not captured in the tool (such as coordination meetings, demos, retrospectives, …)
May require a bit of negotiation with your organization’s auditors (if any)
Only an option for teams using agile management tools
Works well for teams that are working in a fairly consistent manner (i.e. mature teams that have gelled)
Manual input by team members
Potentially the most accurate approach
Sufficient for CapEx/OpEx, tax credits, and customer billing
Team members often perceive this as an overhead
People will be motivated to input what they believe management wants, particularly if any sort of rewards or punishments are thought to be connected
Potential for significant expense across the organization (a few minutes per person per week starts to add up) if this gets too detailed or complicated
For people working on multiple teams (a question idea anyway) time tracking often becomes onerous
Manual input by Team Lead
Shifts the data input burden away from the team
Sufficient for CapEx/OpEx and tax credits
Likely sufficient for customer billing
Not as accurate as other strategies
Takes the Team Lead away from leadership tasks
Requires the Team Lead to know what is going on within the team (which frankly should be a given)
Manual input by Project Manager/Coordinator
Same as manual input by Team Lead
Not as accurate as other strategies
Likely requires the PM to interview/badger team members to find out what they did during the week
Little better than “make work” for the PM
Don’t track time at all
No overhead for the team
Your organization may be losing out on tax credits
This blog posting was motivated by a conversation that I had with Stacey Vetzal on Twitter.
"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."