Companies ask their employees to track time for a variety of reasons. Each group that uses the time information from employee timesheets has some unique requirements and challenges based on what they need to do with the data. Project managers have specific needs for tracking project time in a way that makes monitoring work and making adjustments as efficient as possible.
Project managers need the following components to plan and execute their projects effectively:
- Project work breakdown structure that provides a logical way to create work estimates and track progress against those estimates
- Accurate estimates for planned tasks and assignments
- Forecasts for schedules based on work estimates and dependencies
- Availability of the right types of resources based on the schedule and work to be done
- Method for managing team member assignments based on availability and changes based on the way actual work progresses
- Detailed, real-time data on actual work completed for comparison to estimates and budgets as the project progresses
- Coordination with Finance for roll up of specific project data to project accounting categories and financial statements
Team member timesheets can provide the data needed to manage projects successfully if the process is well designed. If team members are given proper access to their assigned tasks (and only their assigned tasks), they can quickly and easily track project work in real-time provided they have flexible access to enter their time anywhere via browser, mobile, and offline options.
If all projects and assignments are captured in the same timesheet system, project managers can access resource availability information based on both cross-project assignments in the future, as well as progress on current assignments. For example, project managers can see if a team member is running behind on a current assignment and determine how that will affect future work and schedules for all projects.
Timesheet data can also provide exactly what is needed to track project progress against work and budget estimates. As team members enter their project actuals each day, project managers can access that time data, monitor project progress and make adjustments quickly to avoid late deliveries and budget overruns. During the project post-mortem process, they can also test the accuracy of their estimates and improve their estimation for future projects.
While not explicitly included in the project management process, most project managers have an additional requirement to provide their project data in a manner that complies with corporate financial reporting. The project accounting process carried out by Finance is tracked at a higher level and includes specific regulatory requirements for accounting, revenue recognition, and inclusion in financial statements. The best way to ensure that project managers are able to track time in a fashion that suits their needs is to include a process whereby the detailed project tracking data is summarized and transferred to the correct project accounting categories automatically.