Project Management

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from

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Challenges that arise from implementing alternative metrics

Stakeholders: how to improve engagement

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Timetracking Questions! [Video]

Categories: video, timesheets

In this video I talk about some of the commonly asked Q&A around timetracking, especially about people feel about filling them in. For example, what about those experts who only want to take part in your project when they can cross-charge you for their time?

Posted on: September 05, 2016 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

When timetracking blocks efficiency

Categories: timesheets

The second edition of Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World is now out and I had to ditch several great case studies from the updated manuscript. I thought you might be interested in this one: it describes what happens when project managers and timesheets don’t see eye to eye.

Luke Reader has worked for project managers who handed him a list of tasks for the week.  A typical list would include the hours completed for each task and the estimated time needed to finish each one already filled in.  Despite the good intentions of his project managers he did not find working with timesheets in this way very effective.

‘Timesheets can put a barrier between the project manager and their understanding of what’s happening,’ Reader says.  ‘It also annoys the team by treating them as a production line rather than intelligent people who can usefully participate in managing their workload.’

Reader has witnessed at firsthand how using rigid time recording can back-fire, and as an IT project manager himself, has developed a more effective way of handling the work of his own team.  ‘The problem with timesheets on their own,’ he says, ‘is that the team soon learn that rather than say, “This task is late, I mis-estimated”, they invent new tasks such as a test cycle or a further review.  These are then written on the timesheet in an attempt to show how hard they are working even though the overall work is behind.  The project manager cannot tell what the genuine issues are.  And while the project manager can go back and challenge things, it means another cycle of going back to people – and time passes, which is something you don’t have on projects.’

Having learnt from the mistakes of others Reader now takes a pragmatic approach to managing his team’s time.  ‘For me, timesheets are a mechanism to allow contractors to get paid, internal and external billing to take place, and sometimes for company management to get an idea of what their staff do all day,’ he says.  ‘So as a project manager I make timesheets as simple as possible, ideally just having one task like “Work on Project X”, and I manage the people via discussion using the project schedule as the reference.’

I’ve worked on projects where I used timesheets and on those where I haven’t. When we have tracked time, all resources have done it, not just technical teams. Sometimes my timesheet has had one bucket task on, such as when I was loaned from one business unit to another. My ‘official’ business unit didn’t much mind what I spent the days doing as long as they were able to internally cross-charge for my time. A timesheet helped them do that, but it only needed one task on which was basically ‘work for XYZ department as required’.

On the other hand, I’ve had to put together quite detailed timesheets to cover the range of tasks that my project team did from very technical work to business process redesign and all the project management related stuff too. It’s time consuming but very enlightening. Even if you don’t intend to track time long term or have the requirement to do so, I’d recommend that as a time management task you give it a go at least once. We found that the whole team spent the most time on the task called ‘non-productive work and travel’. Not good! But at least having that identified meant that we could do something about it.

If you’re looking for more advice on tracking time on your projects there are more tips on timesheets in a Q&A here.

Posted on: March 16, 2015 08:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Ask the Experts: Managing time and information with Neil Stolovitsky

Categories: interviews, timesheets

In this instalment of Ask the Experts, I talk to Neil Stolovitsky, Senior Solution Specialist with Genius Inside. We discuss the use of social media features in project management software and also top tips for using time recording for better productivity.

Neil, Genius Inside’s latest release includes ‘baked in’ social media tools. How can project managers encourage team members to use the social features, if they haven't used Facebook or other social media tools before?

Social media tools have become ever-present in the way today's information workers communicate both personally and professionally. We have been fortunate enough as a project and portfolio management software vendor to develop a very comprehensive and robust solution over the last 15 years. That being said, features and functions are only as good as their usage and ability to improve the way project stakeholders work.

One of the biggest roadblocks we hear from the PM community is that social media tools can introduce pollution to their project information and can be dangerous in their inherent application to share uncensored information that can be potentially hurtful to a project's progress.  In order for project managers to encourage their team members to adopt these tools they need to invest in a social media strategy that will work for their environment.  If the recommendation of the appropriate tools are set up and are in line with the way they currently work, people will jump on board.  The bottom line is, social media tools have to be positioned as a means to improve productivity and helping their team members in their every day work, and not just another piece of technology that will make their lives more difficult.

Your product has a ‘wall’ feature. How does this help project managers work more effectively?

We believe Genius Project's social media function Genius Live! will not only address the market's demand for these tools, but moreover will change the way project teams will communicate by allowing project information to pro-actively find its users, as oppose to the traditional usage of PPM tools where the user must dig through the system to take action and find strategic information.

The idea behind the Genius Live! project wall is to push information to all project stakeholders, as oppose to digging through the project management system to find the necessary information to take necessary actions and make strategic decisions. We find that project managers are constantly faced with the challenge of getting to important project information to improve their performance and those of their team members and the project as a whole. The project wall feature is designed to eliminate this reality in a user-friendly and familiar design accessible from any web-enabled device.  

Sifting through information quickly can certainly be a time-saver. Why is recording time on projects important?

It is no secret to the project management world that time is money. Recording time allows project managers and their stakeholders gauge where they stand against their plan.  In addition, it helps organizations assess the efficiency of their teams and their ability to hit milestones in a timely manner. Genius Project has fully integrated time sheet functionality that allows users to post time against both project and non-project activities, and allows for an optional workflow for time sheet approval and review by managers.

What's your top tip for getting people to record time?

The best way to get people to record time is to provide multiple options, such as centralized time sheet and time slip functions, to capture time data in a simple format. In organizations in which there may be resistance to submitting time sheets, providing users with their own workspace to access their assignments and a centralized time slip option for each task will simplify the process. The primary goal is to provide a single method and location to record time to achieve the best results in accurate time capture.

That sounds sensible. People can only record time against tasks that have been allocated to them. While we’re on the subject, what's your top tip for resource allocation?

The main strategy for effective resource allocation is to have the necessary visibility into resources schedules when planning project workloads. This is best achieved when managing a single resource pool across all projects that ensures the accuracy of information, and also having the ability to quickly see resource schedules across all activities when deciding to assign the work in project plans.  

Thanks, Neil!

About the expert

Neil has over 12 years of IT experience with end-user, consulting, and vendor organizations, along with extensive expertise in business development, software selection, and channel strategies. He has published numerous white papers and articles covering Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for service industries, Project Portfolio Management, Professional Services Automation, IT governance, and new product development to a global audience. Neil currently holds the position of Senior Solution Specialist with Genius Inside.

Posted on: July 10, 2012 04:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Managing Money Q&A (Part 3)

Picture of workers with clocks instead of headsIt 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:

  • Planning
  • 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!

Posted on: June 14, 2010 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

- Dale Carnegie