Time tracking is a valuable concept for many projects. It allows managers and team members to organize their work more efficiently, plan ahead, complete projects on time and within budget. However, in reality most of the time tracking attempts fail within the first few months of being implemented and while the teams and projects where time tracking is implemented are quite different, the reasons why time tracking does not work are more or less the same.
Time tracking has evolved a great deal from the initial time sheets that were used to calculate the payroll of the employees. While it is still being used in that manner, a lot of additional uses such as project time estimation, project cost and employee productivity have been found. However, despite all the benefits that time tracking may bring to the team, there are still problems that managers are facing when trying to implement it and the first one they usually come upon is the human factor.
As with any new technology, the team has to be ready to use time tracking in their daily work. And if the team is not properly introduced to the time tracking concept and the advantages that it is going to bring to the process, they will probably not be on board with the idea. What happens in cases like that is that all of a sudden employees feel as if they are being monitored. Without understanding why they need to track their time, they will think that their performance is being measured and that they are being put under the magnifying glass. While some of them may strive under pressure, others will crumble. Therefore before implementing any time tracking software, the employees have to be introduced to the concept and the reasoning behind it. This way the whole team will be on the same page and the misconceptions will be avoided.
However the problems with time tracking do not stop there, another major issue that arises from the way time tracking is organized. Usually, an additional tool is introduced in order to track time. However having yet another tool is not convenient for the team and most of the time what happens is that they forget to use it altogether. And if the team is not tracking time, it will not bring any benefit. Therefore project managers should think about time tracking solutions that are or can be integrated in the tools that the team already uses. This way the team will adapt quicker and smoother.
Other issue that arises from using certain time tracking tools is when employees have to manually enter the time spent on tasks. While it sounds like a good solution on paper, because there is no pressure of live tracking and everyone can do it at a time most convenient for them, the reality is a little different. After a couple of weeks, what most of the teams find out is that the data in the system does not match the reality. The reason for that is the freedom that the employees have. Instead of tracking the time they spend on the tasks regularly, they guess the approximate values and write them in. While this may be okay for some teams, for others it is simply not acceptable and in that case automated time tracking solutions should be implemented where tracking time of a task is as simple and quick as drag and drop.
Another issue with the manual entry to the time tracking tool is repetitiveness. What happens is that employees have to update the time tracking tool periodically and they find this task boring. In turn, they try to do it as rarely as possible and do not enjoy the process at all. In a situation like that a tool that allows quick and easy or even automatic time tracking is really the best solution. However, when choosing an automated tool one should make sure that the calculated time at the end of the day is relevant for that project. Because, if the tracking tool selected does not fit the project needs, it will most likely be useless. For example, a project that is all about completing separate tasks and the time spent on each of them will not benefit from a time tracking tool that simply registers the hours that user has been active on the computer. Instead a tool that tracks each of the tasks separately should be used. Therefore choosing the tool with the right metrics is just as important.
Overall in order to avoid problems when choosing and implementing time tracking in your team, it is very important to prepare the team for the change, understand what information is important to get out of it and make sure that the way this information is collected does not interrupt the work processes already in place. By following these few steps, you most likely implement time tracking for a lot longer time than just a few weeks.