Monthly Archives: February 2016

Bad Time Tracking Apps

Some time tracking apps just don’t cut it. The girls in this video are complaining about keeping track of their time with spreadsheets and paper time cards. But the manager can only think of new steam engines to make the machines go faster.

Ever think your boss is like that?

Or are you the boss?

Hey, it happens to everyone. We get stuck in older business paradigms, and can’t see new ways to do things. There are new apps for time tracking and employee timesheets. Don’t be like these managers; download one and give it a try.

A New Time Tracking App is Out!

Even the newsboys know a good thing when they see one. All the news that’s fit to print! There’s a new time tracking app out!

Haha. Here’s a cute little video pitching Standard Time® from a newsboy perspective. All the boys are scrambling for their morning papers so they can make ten cents to go to the theater and eat goo goo beans and drink coke-a-cola.

That’s the kind of enthusiasm at Scoutwest, the makers of the Standard Time timesheet — eager to produce a good quality app everyone can use. It’s that American craftsmanship and mom and pop service you grew up with, or heard about from your granddad. But, with a modern time tracking solution as the flagship product. Isn’t that the kind of company you want to support?

You may find that they support you instead. Every feature you need for consulting, engineering, and manufacturing has been built in. Just ask, and they will point it out. Flexible billing rates, roles, task lists, project tracking, PTO accruals, expenses and mileage, and more. You won’t be saying, I wish it had this thing or that, because it probably already does.

Download a Modern Timesheet

All the gas buggies in this video know how to get to stdtime.com for a modern timesheet. Look how they motor right in at 4 mph. But the old-timer has no clue. Did you catch him? He just wants a little axle grease to keep the wheels turning.

So the question is, what’s holding you back from adopting a modern timesheet with project tracking built in? Are you stuck in the old world? Still using spreadsheets and scraps of paper? Or worse: verbally communicating hours like they did it before the machine age?

We’ve computational engines for that now!

Whatever the case, drive out there and download a copy and test drive it. You might like all the trips and levers. And then you’ll wonder what you did without a modern timesheet.

Project Manager has Task Alerts

Task alerts take some of the excruciating delays out of project management. That’s how it’s done in the modern world.

Tasks cannot go on forever. You know that. You need them worked and completed as fast as possible. Linger too long, and your project is so far over budget you’ll never make a profit. That’s where task alerts help. They pop up as a subtle reminder that the task is nearing completion. Employees are reminded to finish up and move on. No camping out on familiar tasks, and ditching the scary ones. Another popup occurs when you’ve entered too many hours. Employees are locked out until admins add more hours to the task. Nobody wants that kind of confrontation, so they finish up on time, most of the time.

In this video, workers know they can’t linger forever. Only fifty more units today!

Track Time for Engineering Projects

Engineers undertake the biggest projects in modern times. Don’t be caught using a spreadsheet keeping track of your time.  Sure, spreadsheets are nice; they calculate and organize every kind of engineering data imaginable. But we have to draw the line when it comes to entering engineering hours against project. They just don’t work. Here’s why:

  1. When you track engineering time in a spreadsheet, it’s usually only one person. That person becomes a bottleneck. They get weary of the job and make mistakes. There are time tracking apps for this work, which decentralize and collect time where and when it actually occurs. That makes the hours more accurate and more granular
  2. When that one person enters employ hours, they have to find a spot to put them. If there isn’t an appropriate task for the work, they make things up. Why not let the actual employees create their own tasks and enter the correct hours for them. Making stuff up never helped anyone.
  3. Spreadsheets have some pretty cool graphs. But they can’t run complex routines that build the kinds of graphs you need in engineering project management. Instead, you just get summations and statistics. Those are helpful, but maybe not exactly what you’re looking for.

Engineering Directors Dream

Don’t wake me up I’m having a great dream! All the engineers are getting Standard Time®.

See the dream below………

That’s an awesome dream for the engineering director. She’s getting a timesheet on every desk to track engineering hours. She can use that to compare actuals with estimates. That alone is valuable because project schedules without actuals are not so great schedules (real actuals, coming from real employees, that is). Forget about copying down what somebody said they worked, and typing them into the ‘Actual work’ field. That’s almost as bad as no actuals at all.

But in this awesome dream, the engineering director sees employees closing out tasks they’re finished with. It’s hard to say just how great that little advantage is. That small thing informs project managers that tasks can be set aside and not worried about anymore. Communication in any form is wonderful. But this really helps the PM keep track of stuff.

Here’s the cool thing about this director’s dream: It goes beyond just the engineering team. You have PTO and vacation tracking for the HR folks. And you’ve got reporting for the executives. Hey, that’s sounding an awful lot like an enterprise project timesheet.

Tell us your dream!

Service Techs and Route Drivers

Get a service fleet to support your customers? Route drivers? Or service techs?

Then you better track their time. Here’s why: (but watch the video first)

You could be spending a lot more than you need to. And, you may be spending time on secondary customers that don’t fit your priorities. The first issue is self-explanatory, but still pretty important. So let’s talk about the second one — the issue of priority.

Everyone prioritizes customers in terms of revenue and easy of support, right? Sure, you do it whether you know it or not. That’s only natural. You should probably codify that in a document somewhere, but that’s a secondary topic. Once you have your list of top customers, now compare that with the time you’re spending on each one.

Zowie! That could be a shocker!

What if the customers you’re spending the most time on are not the ones at the top of your “best customer” list?

Oops.

Start a New Business

The immigrants right off the boat are learning what to do in the new world — start a new business! And they’re learning which time tracker to use. Watch and find out.

Consulting is a lucrative and satisfying occupation. When you have the right software, it’s pretty easy to make money. Of course, you will need some talent and domain knowledge that clients want. But the software makes a big difference. Make sure you have the tools to collect billable and non-billable hours. That’s the basics. Just about every time tracking app in the world promises that. But they don’t all deliver in the ways you need it. Got a timesheet with totals and dashboards? How about task timers? Email notifications? Without these basics, you’ll be fighting to collect hours that mean anything to you or the client.

Now jump up beyond the basics. Take a look at project tracking, mileage and expense tracking, PTO accruals for the whole organization. Those are some heavy hitters you should consider.

Welcome to the new world!

Milestone Billing

Many consultants and freelancers bill clients by date range. In other words, all the time and materials for a chosen date range are included on invoices. But did you know you can use invoicing milestones instead?

Scroll down for a video on the topic

Let’s say you have a flat-rate project. The client has agreed to pay a fixed amount for the entire job. Plus, you and the client have agreed on a payment schedule. Such schedules commonly include some amount up-front, sometimes an amount in the middle, and the remainder at completion. Those are payment milestones are a contractual agreement.

Now that you have agreed to the milestone payments, you can put them into your timesheet software and bill accordingly. The video below demonstrates three ways to bill clients by milestone.

1. Bill clients by date range

Just choose a date range, and the software will find all the time and materials that fall in between those dates. Those will be totaled up for the invoice.

2. Bill clients a fixed amount of the project

Enter a dollar amount, and the invoice will include that amount. The time and material may also be included on the invoice, but the invoice subtotal will use this specified amount.

3. Bill clients a percentage of the project

Enter a percentage of the total project amount. The invoice subtotal will be a percentage of the total fixed bid. Time and materials may also be included, but their costs will not be used for the invoice subtotal.

 

Why the PMO Needs a Timesheet

Here’s what to do when the PMO office is asking for a timesheet on every desk.  (Yes, it’s not really PMO Office is it? It’s Project Management Office, so I don’t need the extra office after it. Well gosh, it just sounds better that way. 🙂 )

Okay, with that out of the way… The PMO is probably wanting to get employee hours so they can compare with task estimates. After all, there’s not much point in predicting task completions, and scheduling tasks without timesheet hours from employees.

Scroll down for a video (it’s a long ways down there)

Huge things happen when you inject actual employee hours into project schedules. It’s turning loose a basket of cats. Things happen you never thought of. Employees work on projects and tasks you didn’t expect. They finish up tasks, or cancel them altogether. They spend ten times as long as they should on others. Tasks get switched to other employees. And those employees send them back because they don’t have the resources to complete them. Sometimes team leaders jump into tasks they aren’t assigned to. Or split tasks into two or three new ones.

See how confusing this can get?

A project schedule alone is almost useless. It needs employee hours to bring it to life. And, it needs employee input. Employees should have the ability to modify tasks, create tasks, and delete them. If they don’t get that privilege, they should at least have the ability to suggest such changes, because they are the boots on the ground and usually know best what’s going on.