What is the real value in tracking time for project and non-project work? The fact is collecting accurate time measurements across an entire organization can be time consuming and potentially expensive. Collecting time for the sake of collecting time is a huge waste of good organizational energy. I have compiled a list of six reasons for tracking time with the corresponding assumptions for each benefit.
1) Calculate variance metrics (e.g. earned-value management)
Assumption: managers or project managers actually use the variance reports to take good corrective action. Some organizations collect earned value metrics or other variance metrics but do little with the data. “Doing” earned value management is a waste of time unless positive action is taken as a result.
2) Calculate time to complete (based on effort-driven scheduling)
Assumption: project managers have built an effort-driven schedule. I have never met a project manager that built a truly effort-driven schedule, let alone use time tracking to drive estimated completion dates.
3) Track overall project costs
Assumption: it is important to track actual project costs. If a customer will be billed for work done on a project, then it makes sense to track time. However, for many organizations that serve internal organizations, trying to track actual costs may not be the best use of company resources. Of course senior leadership would like to know the final cost of a completed project, but the big question is how will that information be used in the future to drive strategic decision making? Very few organizations look back at completed projects to get a better understanding of the cost of similar future projects. Unless there is high data integrity and dedicated resources to analyze historical data, you are far better off improving your resource estimation and capacity planning processes as this will improve portfolio decision making.
4) Track capital expenditures
Assumption: capital expenditures are a recurring part of doing business. With the tax benefits associated with capital expenditures, time tracking here makes a lot of sense and can be limited to the people associated with development, not for every person on the team.
5) Collect historical data for future parametric estimating
Assumption: organizational discipline is in place to use historical data for parametric estimating. As good as it sounds, parametric estimating requires a high degree of discipline and rigor to make it successful. Only mature organizations will be able to do it.
6) Collect resource data for capacity planning purposes
Assumption: capacity planning is being done in the organization. Even though capacity planning is done with forecasted resource estimates, using historical data can help managers better understand how much time a resource really spends on project work. This information can then be used to block out non-project time, with the balance of time available as the resource’s project capacity.
My personal approach is to right-size portfolio management processes to fit an organization's culture and maturity to be effective without creating a bureaucracy. Please contact me if you would like to know more about how project portfolio management (PPM) can help your organization achieve its strategic goals.
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