Standard Time® Graphical Timesheet

Here’s a quick video showing how to use the graphical timesheet in Standard Time®. Sometimes you just want a quick way to drag and drop timesheet hours. Yes, this is the same system that lets you scan barcodes to track time, but you can also enter time manually or into a graphical timesheet.

Consider taking a look at this alternative way of entering employee hours. Not only are you using drag-and-drop for timesheet entry, but you are also viewing the relative positions of each entry. That’s sometimes far better than just numbers.

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!

Blocks of Support Time

Many consultants sell blocks of support time to their clients. He/she could sell hours for supporting networks, etc. Watch this video for help managing this area of your business.

How blocks of support works

Your consulting firm has a relationship with many companies.  Some small, some big.  Anytime a consultant goes onsite for a job, ask the manager if they want to purchase a block of support time.  Offer some choices.  100 hours, 200 hours, 250, 500, 1000.  Anytime the client needs help, you jump in and fix things.  That’s because you have a contract for a set number of hours.

Watch another video here:

http://www.stdtime.com/videos/blocksoftime.htm

It’s just a project task

Blocks of support time show up in Standard Time® as project tasks.  You enter a name and the number of hours for the block of time.  Then assign it to a client and project.  That’s it.  It now shows up in your timesheet and on the smartphone apps.

Getting the software

Put the Standard Time app on your phone.  Android or iOS.  Each block of time shows up as a Quick Task.  Tap a checkbox to start the timer.  Tap again to stop.  You just charged some time to that block of support time.  Your phone will sync with the cloud or desktop.  The hours your logged will be charged against the block of time.  (It will appear as a task in ST.)

Selling new blocks of time

Standard Time will tell you when a block of time is nearly finished.  You simply approach the client with this information.  “Would you like to buy another block of time?”  The answer will be Yes!

When the client agrees, simply add a new task to ST to represent the new block.  The new task will sync with all your Android and iOS devices in the field.  Support engineers will see it and begin logging time to it.  And the whole process starts over!

 

You Can Never Leave Your First Love

I do not believe a man can ever leave his business. He ought to think of it by day and dream of it by night.

— Henry Ford

That has certainly been true in my life.  To me, business has been something deeply ingrained in my life.  For many years, I wrote code on Christmas Day, New Years Day, Independance Day, and many other holidays.

Yes, I loved it that much.

I would do events I called “24-hour weekends” where I would start coding at 7 AM each morning and go straight until 7 PM on both Saturday and Sunday — two twelve hours days.  And then I would resume my normal 60-hour week on Monday morning at 5:30 AM.  That’s how much I loved my business.

Things have changed a little since I’ve gotten older.  Economic downturns turn you hard.  Turn you bitter.  Make you cynical.  And you say, “What good was all that work?”  So yes… I’ve had times where I’ve quit and vowed never to do that again.  I’ve actually quit my business several times.  But like a dog to his vomit, I’ve always returned.  And after doing that a dozen times, I guess I’m here for the duration — a lifer.

I still love my business.  The current economic doldrums put a severe throttle on my work efforts.  It’s awfully hard to put your life into something (and that’s what Henry was really saying in the quote above) when customers don’t reciprocate with any degree of appreciation.  But I still work hard.  I might even pull a few of those 24-hour weekends from time to time just to remind myself of the love I still have for my business.

Three Reasons to Track Project Time

Time tracking, for the purposes of project management, is an overhead some companies are not willing to undertake.  (Read this as an exploitable mistake!)  We all know that some level of administrative overhead is necessary to maintain a healthy organization.  And some level of process or methodology is also necessary.  In this article, I’m suggesting that time tracking should be part of that process.

There are three primary reasons to track project time that apply to all organizations.  It matters nothing whether your company is a consultancy, manufacturer, government agency, non-profit, or otherwise.  Time tracking is valuable to all.  Here are the top three reasons to track project time.   1) Reduce budget overruns, 2) Prioritize projects, and 3) Learn your own business.

I’ll discuss these three project tracking benefits in detail.  Feel free to skip to the ones that interest you most.

1) Reduce Budget Overruns
Human beings are curiously bad with two things: time and money.  A huge number of cottage industries are built around helping people manage time and money.  Why?  Because almost every one of us does it badly.  Admit it… your bank account scrapes bottom almost every month.  And you’re late for at least one event per month.  That’s so easy to predict, I don’t even have to know you to feel confident in its reach.  Everyone suffers from the same poor time and financial accounting.

Unfortunately, we carry those same poor principles into our work life.  I’ll venture to guess that your boss, and his boss above him, is also a poor manager of his personal time and money.  Just because he’s a boss, doesn’t mean he’s any better at time management, or money management, than you are.  We’re all crap.

But if you’ll just subject yourself to a little time tracking discipline, you can avert the most common budget overruns.  It’s the low-hanging fruit you’ve heard so much about.  Just track the time you spend.  That time translates into salaries.  Now you know the project cost.  Don’t spend more than you take in.  Simple.

I know a great time tracking product for this.  It’s named Standard Time.  Click here for Timesheet and Time Tracking Software.  You can install this on everyone’s workstations, and start tracking project time.
You’ll see why it’s important in the next two reasons to track time.

2) Prioritize Projects
Instinctively, you know which projects are strategically important to your company.  You know which ones represent a strategic investment that will pay off big-time in the future.  Even the lowest employee knows that.  (Although it’s the company executives that should enforce the participation in such projects.)  So, are they doing that?  Are you doing that?  (Hint: if you’re a low or mid-level manager, here’s your chance to advance:  Talk “strategic projects” at every meeting.)

“Secondary projects” are nice to do when you’ve got time and money to burn.  Have you got time and money to burn?  If not, you must focus on the strategic projects.  They’re the only ones that make money and keep people employed.  And how, exactly, do you do that?  You track time to them!

Collect all your hours for every project you work on, and then run a report that shows you which projects are getting the most time.  You might be surprised!  Even better, categorized your projects as “strategic” and “non-strategic” and run the report again.  Which category is getting the most time?  Are you surprised yet?

If you’ve already downloaded Standard Time (see link above), you can get all these reports for free.

3) Learn Your Own Business
Last thing: learn your own business (LYOB).  It takes 2 -3 years to really learn a business.  You may have a good guess within your first six months of employment, but you won’t truly know it for another two years!  Tracking your project time chops a year off that.  Here’s why:

When you track time to company projects, you learn what makes them efficient, and what makes them inefficient.  You learn the gritty details because you see everything that goes into the work you do.  My advice: pour over the descriptions in every time log entered by every employee.  Submit yourself to the excruciating pain of studying these details.  You’ll perfectly hate it!

But even as you hate it, you’ll love it.  You’ll become an expert on your business and will soon have the information you need to make improvements.  Time tracking provides the information you need.

Best Time Tracking Program

Give it to a busy person

Here’s an old saying, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”  There is a particular commonality among busy people: they complete an astonishing number of tasks each day.

Busy people feel they have to complete each and every task given to them.  Plus, they feel they need to do every one of them well.  Nothing is half-baked.  No detail is too small.  But to a busy person, all that work is not a burden, it’s an investment.  But still, they sometimes feel overwhelmed but keep motoring on day after day, doubling the number of tasks that normal people complete.  They rarely wait for someone to tell them to do a task twice, or even once for that matter.

I’ve noticed that busy people even walk faster than normal people.  They seem to be on a mission everywhere they go, even to and from work.  They drive faster and rarely make “quick stops” along the way.  They never say, “I’ll just be two minutes,” which has become a popular saying of the non-busy people of the world, because it’s never really just two minutes is it?

I admire busy people, and enjoy studying them, especially in the project management setting.  You don’t see them in meetings like the non-busy people.  Instead, they’re heads-down or jetting off to the next task.  That’s a discipline few possess, including myself.

Bottom line: if you don’t have a busy person to emulate, try becoming one yourself; someone might being to emulate you.  Prioritize everything, all the time.  Complete every task.  Grind out the details that most people gloss over.  Get a whole day’s work done by 10 AM, and then look for something else to do.  You might just find that the busy life suits you!

 

–newshirt

Should You Go Cloud?

That is the question…to cloud, or not to cloud?  I recently read an article by Sarah Fister Gale, found here: http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Publications/PMN0312%20cloud.ashx
It is interesting how many people go to the cloud without knowledge of security, back-up, redundancy, and so forth.  There is little doubt that the cloud has many positive attributes.  That is why cloud usage continues to experience robust growth.  However, too often people just assume the cloud is a magical solution with hardly any issues.  Well, that is normally the case…unless you happen to be my brother-in-law.  His company was utilizing a cloud hosted credit card processing service.  And things were great for nearly two years, until the cloud server went down and there was no back-up plan in place.  It took 3 days of hand wringing and lost sales to get back online.  In addition to immediate lost revenue, he lost long term customers.  The article above will certainly give you an idea on specific questions one should ask and a basic outline to help you make a solid choice for your cloud solutions.

Project Portfolio Management

Project portfolios are helpful for grouping work and managing projects individually and as a whole. Many companies start out not utilizing project portfolios. Then, as the company grows projects become unmanageable and the need for project portfolio management becomes clearer. Portfolio management helps companies maintain efficiency and breaks project work load into manageable pieces. It is vital that whatever project management software you utilize, be sure it is scalable to include project portfolios. It is likely you will need it! There is way too much to cover in this short blog. However, a pretty good white paper can be found from Mosaic Project Services at the link below.

http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/wp1017_portfolios.pdf

Planning for Pathological Issues

One of the more recognized terms in any business is Paralysis by Analysis…or Analysis Paralysis. You know, when nothing moves forward because too many people have to buy off on an idea, or a single person is the team lead and afraid to jump in with both feet. Well, I believe one way to identify Analysis Paralysis is to look for the most common symptom…pathological cases/scenarios. This is easy to spot. When “what ifs”, that are highly unlikely continue to pop up, then you can get stuck in the “what if” cycle, causing Paralysis by Analysis. These pathological cases have a sliver of possibility but cause an overwhelming fear for the project team. Then you’re off trying to plan or prevent the impossible. I have seen this happen many times and more often than you may think. Project leaders and team members can easily become myopic when focusing on their work. In my experience the best way to tackle pathological cases is head on. Politics is one thing, but a never ending project is another.