Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 7, 2008 – Making the Time Tracking Switch

Over the next several months, our company will be upgrading the project management system and adjusting our processes to take advantage of new features. One of the features getting a significant amount of interest is resource management. The ability to plan resource availability in advance will allow us to understand our project capacity and identify bottlenecks in time to adjust.

The key to making this work will be creating and maintaining realistic project schedules with resources assigned and hours tracked at the task level. The tricky part of making this time tracking switch is getting the team members to buy into the concept of entering actual hours into the system and re-estimating the time remaining. In order to make this happen you will need an EDGE.

Expect Resistance. Your team will push back when you inform them of the new expectation to record their project hours at the task level. The obvious reactions you will get include:

  • It will take too long to break up my time.
  • I work on too many projects for this.
  • Why are you micromanaging me?

Anticipate these issues and have answers available. As an example, include additional time on the project schedule for status and timekeeping; up to an hour per week per project.

Direction from the Top. Communicating the change needs to come from as far up the organization as possible. When the CIO says this will help make us successful it carries a lot more weight than just you as a project manager advocating it. The directors and supervisors need to buy in, too. If management doesn’t take action when time isn’t recorded then nothing will happen.

Give Up Some Detail. In order to make this work you may need to cut down on the level of detail in the schedule. Trying to divide time up into 2-4 hour chunks for 3 different projects will drive them insane. The opposite temptation is to drop all the way back to the Phase level or, worse, the Project level. Either one of these is too high. Break tasks down to between 8 and 80 hours (approximately 2 weeks of effort). Additional details can be listed and tracked as started / completed in a spreadsheet to ensure specific tasks are assigned, worked and closed.

Explain the Purpose. It is important to clearly communicate why a more detailed accounting of the project time is required. Begin by explaining the need to understand resource usage and availability but make sure you follow up with these:

  • Being over or under an estimate is expected. The theory is that they will balance each other over time.
  • A realistic understanding of where we are off schedule allows us to discuss how to get back on track.
  • Re-estimating at the task level allows us to re-plan when future resources are needed. This is especially useful if we are ahead of scheduled or if other projects require the same resources.
  • This is not intended to single any individual out or micromanage the team.
    It will help identify areas where additional resources, training or other assistance can make a difference.
  • By reviewing the workload across all projects, management can find workload issues and take actions to correct them.

As the team sees this information being used to make project decision they will realize its importance get on board.


Cro said...

Thank you for the great post!
I'm going to have this situstion in a short while, I guess. So your tips will be usefull!
Which software are you switching to, by the way? I'm now exploring Wrike, and will soon switch my whole team on this one.

Thomas Cutting said...

Several people have asked which software we are using. I have used several different types including NIKU's Clarity and Mercury's ITG. This time we are upgrading ITG to HP's Project Portfolio Management. Technically this is not an endorsement for either.