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Friday, February 24, 2006

The Science of Time Tracking

It amazes how some companies I have worked for struggle with time tracking. Whether it's making sure people are putting in their hours or deciding on how to track hours, it always seems to be an issue. Let me run though what I have been exposed to in the six years I have been working:

  • The first company I worked for used Changepoint for time tracking. This was a pretty cool tool. At first we were asked to update our time to the minute. That eventually changed to 15 minute updates. What was so ridiculous at this company is that we also had to track the amount of time we spent tracking our time. What a waste of time.
  • Company two also used ChangePoint if I remember correctly, and I think it was done in thirty minute time spans, which I loved.
  • After that company I started contracting. Time tracking consisted of a Word Invoice I would send to the Director of IT every month. The company was only about seven or eight people at the time, so there was no reason for a time tracking system.
  • Then off to Company 3. This place was an IT shop. You know a company that creates state of the art IT solutions so companies can increase revenue and become more efficient. Well they were tracking time in Outlook. Yes you heard me correctly, Microsoft Outlook. Somebody created a time tracking tool using the Calendar in Outlook over there. It wasn't soon before the system had too much data, and was extremely slow. Especially when everyone in the company waited until the last day of the month to update all of their entries for the entire month. Finally they created an in-house time tracking tool (pretty weak if you ask me). This was the first company where I noticed time tracking was being captured in multiple places. We had a weekly task list that captured how much time we spent on tasks (Excel document). We also had a weekly status report (Word document), that described all of the tasks. I was doing this for the entire team. Then I had to update my time in the time tracking tool. Copy and paste time. What a waste of time. And for some reason at the end of the month I had to print out my timesheet, sign it, and then give it to my manager. Don't ask me why.
  • Company four was pretty cool. We had badges that we scanned when we got in and left that tracked our time. We were supposed to clock in and out for smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, lunch, and cell phone usage, but the department I was in never did for some reason. They had a tool called Track It, but nobody ever used it. The one other thing we had to do was sign on to a web site and approve our time for each pay period. Pretty painless. Oh yeah, I forgot my manager was really strict on making sure you we put in 47.5 hours a week. Was supposed to be related to our bonus, but the rumors were everyone always got their full bonus no matter what.
  • The current company I work for is pretty interesting. I am documenting my time in Track It detailing out each task. All of the stuff I work on goes in this one task. Each time I have a new task, I just add it in to the hours of the one task. Then there is a bug tracking document that originally was in excel and is now a VB.NET application. It tracks each bug, the amount of hours it took to fix, and what days you worked on it. Pretty much the same information. About a month ago we started updating another excel document that has the amount of hours we spend each day on the project I am on. Each day has a comment where we put if we are updating bugs or creating new functionality. In addition to all of that documentation, we have to sign a sheet at the end of each pay period with the amount of time we took off for holidays, sick time, vacation, etc.

Seems to me none of these companies have mastered time tracking yet. Not sure why it seems to become such a difficult task wherever I go. I know one thing, these time tracking companies out there are making lots of money.


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