As software development companies adopt new managerial technics, many of them chose to abandon traditional approaches along with corresponding project management activities. One of them is tracking project time on a task-by-task basis. This, however, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Many companies, from SMB to enterprises, still have to continually improve accuracy of their time keeping as a fundamental activity for payroll accounting and customer billing.
Speaking with our customers, I came to realize, that there are at least 5 challenges associated with searching for and finding a good time tracking/time sheet tool to upgrade the existing solution (usually spreadsheets or outdated homemade tools):
- Decide whether to develop in-house or buy a ready-to-use tool
- Collect user requirements and define selection criteria
- Define the most suitable payment model
- Find a flexible and customizable solution
- Integrated time tracking with the company’s project management and accounting platforms
With all the research activities, discussions and approval processes the implementation cycle may last as long as 5-6 months snowing under a good many people across the company.
Luckily, there are two simple rules that can help address these challenges and speed up the research process. The first rule is – “The question is the Answer”. The second – “Divide-and-conquer”! In order to quickly shortlist the tools available on the market, it’s worth grouping and pre-qualifying them based on the top-3 criteria:
- Process automation
The choice here would be pretty much defined by the three factors: purposes of time tracking/sheeting; required level of granularity; data privacy rules. In other words the points to consider are:
- Will the captured data be used for payroll accounting and customer billing?
- Should you be able to edit data once it’s captured?
- Do you really need to track working time down to minutes and seconds?
- Would screen capturing and recording motivate/demotivate your team?
- Do employees spent all of their time at the desk constantly using their computers?
Each of the above mentioned (automated, manual, semi-automated) approaches has its advantages and disadvantages.
Not all people like to be watched closely by screen monitoring programs. Moreover, even when a person’s screen is idle he/she may still be working on a task (thinking over potential solutions, discussing it with team mates, etc.). Automated monitoring systems do not typically provide the possibility to track time for non-project activities like meetings, trainings, vacations, public holidays, etc.
Manual time entry may seem to be a little outdated and bothering. But the real efficiency of this approach depends on how simple and straightforward your time sheet system is.
While semi-manual timers may seem to be balanced solutions, there are still a few things to take in account: an employee may forget to switch on/off the timer or put it on pause while working on multiple tasks.
- Payment model
The difference in this group is quite clear. Many providers offer both options. It’s just worth checking if the perpetual license cost already includes technical support fees.
- Delivery model
SaaS models are becoming more popular these days, they turn infrastructure maintenance burden off the company and free up time and financial resources for more important activities. However this model might be a better suit for SMB rather than enterprises, which already have advanced infrastructure and allocated resources, and may worry about data security.
Once the shortlist is ready, it’s high time to test the solution-candidate in the field. They say a good begging is half battle.
Yuliya Radzik, Business Development Manager
On behalf of TX Chrono (TFS/VSO timesheet)