Define Invoice Milestone

Invoice Milestone: what is that? This video helps to explain that question. It’s actually a pretty simple concept. You sign a contract where the client pays you at agreed-upon intervals. Those intervals are called milestones. That is the only time you can bill the client.

Define Invoice Milestone: A date when a client has authorized a certain billable amount to be invoiced.

You agree to a fixed bid for a project and the dates when you’re allowed to bill the client. The client knows what to expect, and you know when you’ll be paid, and both parties know the exact amount it will be. Often the terms of these fixed-price contracts are one-third up front, one-third in the middle, and one-third at the end.  These kinds of deals are signed all the time. So Standard Time® supports them with invoice milestones.

You set up the invoice milestones for a project in advanced. You determine exactly how much each milestone is to be charged. And then you get email notifications when they are coming due.

Sometimes invoice milestones are a percentage of the total. Other times, they are fixed amount. And finally, they are sometimes just a date range that includes all the time and materials for the job.

Watch the video and give this a try on your next project.

Define Task Finish Date

Isn’t it crazy how nobody on your project team expects your project and task finish dates to ever come to pass? We put them out there like hazy mirages you never seems to reach. And then those dates come and go without the task being completed, and everybody forgets. Oops, we missed that date. Does that annoy you? Or aren’t you OCD enough?

Define Task Finish Date: A date for the completion of a task or project, usually  computed from a starting date and calendar days.

What’s weird is that project completion dates in the future never seem quite real. You throw them out there, and so far into the future that nobody can quite grasp the possible conditions of the project in that distant time. It’s like it’s unreal. But everyone agrees… yeah… we’ll definitely be done by then. That’s definitely enough time to get this thing done.

Problem is, there are either not enough steps to get you to completion, or little accountability to those steps. You just trust that this “sufficiently distant date” is so far out that you must be able to complete the project by then. How could you not finish by then? Missing a date like that would be inconceivable!

And yet we miss them every time. And forget we missed them.  Jeeeez, we’re dumb…

Define Finish To Start Link

Sometimes you cannot start one task until another is complete. Try to build a bridge without the abutments. You’ll have Galloping Gertie on your hands.

Define Finish to Start Link: A project task link relationship where one task cannot start until the previous task finishes.

Actually, Galloping Gertie was not caused by missing abutments. It was caused by resonating flutter from high winds. Sort of like swinging higher and higher in a playground swing set. Eventually bad things happen.

(see video below)

But abutments is a good example for link relationships, even if it doesn’t apply to Gertie. Sometimes you just have to finish up one thing before you can start another. That’s a “finish to start” task relationship. It turns out there are four type of task relationships.

  1. Finish to Start (FS)
  2. Start to Start (SS)
  3. Finish to Finish (FF)
  4. Start to Finish (SF)

In each of these cases, you’re linking either the finish or start of one task to the finish or start of another. If you think about it, you can imagine crazy cases where each one of these link relationships naturally occurs. Projects have all sorts of relationships you have to model in software so your project works.

Define Project Portfolio

When you’re starting to think about managing projects as groups, then you might be ready for project portfolios. Of course, you’ll always manage individual projects, but do you also want to manage groups of them?

Define Project Portfolio: A collection of projects managed as a single entity.

For example: in Standard Time® you can view revenue charts for an entire project portfolio. For the sake of this chart, you don’t care how much revenue a single project brings in. You care about an entire collection of projects. How much does the entire collection bring in?

Another example might be finding the effective billing rate for an entire project portfolio. In other words, how much are we making per hour on this entire portfolio of projects? We care about individual projects, of course. But we’re interested in comparing one portfolio against another. Which portfolio has the highest effective billing rate?

Watch the fanciful little video below, and then try this for yourself. It will take some time. You will need multiple projects to be able to call it a portfolio. One project doesn’t make a portfolio. So you’ll need to assign tasks to resources and track some time for multiple projects before you can really start seeing value. This is a high-level management technique.

Define Resource Allocation

In project management, resources almost always refer to employees.  I.e. human resources. And allocation almost always refers to scheduling tasks they will work on.  Hmmm, is that all there is to it? (watch the video below)

Define Resource Allocation: Using people and objects in projects on a shared or recurring basis.

So no… employees are not the only resources you can allocate to your project. Got a tractor? Using it for landscaping? Then it is a shareable resource that you must schedule use for. In other words, only one landscaper crew can use it at any given time. It can’t be used by two crews at the same time, right? After all, it’s just one tractor. If two crews need tractors at the same time, then you need two tractors.

And no… scheduling tasks is not all there is to allocation. But yes, scheduling shareable resources is often necessary, as described above. Consider a load of manure, used by those landscaping crews above. You’ll have to split that bad-boy load up. You can’t have all the crews fighting for their “fair share” of the poo, can you? So you allocate a percentage to each crew. You guys get a little poo, and you other guys get some too.

That’s resource allocation.

Consider this video for an overview of resource allocation:

Now consider what the snarky little Kat has to say about resource allocation.

Define Project Resource

When you come in to work and find that you’re assigned to 14 new projects, it’s time for an employee availability chart.

Define Project Resource: a person or shared object committed to a project, such that it cannot be used on another project at the same time.

And… what’s an employee availability chart?

It’s a chart that shows bars for each week, telling how many hours an employee has available to them. On an empty week, you’d see a 40-hour bar. On a booked week, you’d see no bar. Or, on a partially booked week you might see a short bar.

Bars on the employee availability chart are based on project and task assignments. You may be assigned 25% of your daily hours on a certain project, and 75% on another. These would total up to 100% of your daily hours. Or, you might be assigned to certain tasks that fill up your day.

Before assigning resources to projects, it might be good to check their availability; they might be assigned to other projects that you didn’t know about.

To be fair, project resources can be more than just people. They can be equipment that is assigned to a project so that nobody else can use them at the same time. Any shared item or person can be a resource.

Define PTO Accrual

This little video will help explain paid time off or PTO. Scroll down for a look. If you’re tracking vacation or PTO in a spreadsheet, you probably already know there are hundreds of computations that can go wrong. Using paper and pencil is almost impossible.

HR managers appreciate the flexibility of PTO rules from the Standard Time® app. To begin, employees have their banks for hours. There is a bank for vacation. A bank for personal time. And banks for every other kind of time off, like sick, training, maternity leave, and jury duty.

Now that you have your banks of hours set up to represent the exact number of hours available to each employee, and for each kind of time off you should set up some rules for accrual. Every employee accrues (earns) hours periodically. The longer they work, the more they earn. And then they use those hours on their own time schedule.

Set up PTO accruals earnings weekly, monthly, semimonthly, or yearly. As time ticks by, the hours add up. But what if too many add up? You have an anti-hording device to cut off too many hours. That enforces your company “use it or lose it” policy.

Watch the little video cruise over to the ST website for a look at the real thing.

Start a timer with RFID Tag Reader

Learn how to start a timer with an RFID tag reader. (scroll down for the video) You can buy a starter kit for about $30 that contains an RFID reader and some cards and tags. That’s all you need to track time with RFID. Check amazon.

Already got RFID readers installed?

Now that everything is in place, you can start and stop a timer in Standard Time® using with just a simple RFID scan. Wave a proximity card in front of the RFID scanner and a timer starts. Wave it again, and the timer stops. Now you’ve got some serious time tracking data to work with.

Every RFID scan in Standard Time includes the following information. Of course the end user doesn’t realize or care that all this is automatically collected. They just wave their card and go on. But you can use this intel to improve manufacturing, assembly lines, or just for employee time and attendance.

What is collected in every RFID tag scan:

  1. Employee name, and the workgroup they are in
  2. Timestamps for start and stop times, including the actual hours between those timestamps
  3. Project the employee is working on
  4. Task the employee is working on
  5. Client the project is assigned to
  6. Billing rates assigned to the employee
  7. Client cost for the full duration between scans
  8. Salary cost for the full duration

Seriously? All that is collected in one scan? Yup. Pretty powerful.

What you can report on with RFID scans:

  1. Total employee hours for a given date range, like last week or last month
  2. Total project hours for all the projects in your organization
  3. Total client hours
  4. Salary and client billable amounts
  5. Client invoices

Watch the video and try it out.

Define Project Management Triangle

Did you know there are (at least) three competing demands on your project? And did you know that you can’t have all three? You can only pick two. (video below) Here they are:

Define Project Management Triangle: A triangular graph illustrating the three project constraints of time, cost, and scope.

So those are the three constraints that pull your project all out of shape. Time, cost, and scope. And the crazy thing is, as a project manager or project stakeholder you can only pick two. You have to let the other go where it goes. Are you ready for that.

Scenario #1: Let’s say you want your project right now, and really cheap. Guess what? You’ll get something really junky. In other words, the scope will be small and probably less than what you’re expecting.  You chose time and cost. You got scope handed to you.

Scenario #2: You want your project right now, and you want everything under the sun. Okay, now you’ll find that your project costs you a fortune. You chose time and scope. Cost now depends on those two, and it’s going to cost you big-time.

Scenario #3: You want this thing done cheap and you want a lot. Well, that is going to take some time. Because it’s cheap, you’ll just have to wait for some things. You chose cost and scope, and so time is the one thing you’ll have to live with.

See how these things all inter-depend? Did you know you can see a graph of your own results? Watch the video and try it out.

Define Timesheet

Do all your employees hate filling out project timesheets? If so, you may have the wrong timesheet. The “hassle factor” may be just too high for comfort. Go down farther on the page for a delightful little video by Zach the project geek. He wants to hear from you.  🙂

Define timesheet: An entry form for period accounting of employee and project hours. Standard Time® is an example of employee timesheets.

Normally, timesheets are weekly. They normally list projects that employees are assigned to. Sometimes those projects can be expanded to show tasks. Often task hours roll up to the project level so employees can see how many hours they spent on each project for each day.

Sometimes timesheets show only the seven days of the week, and sometimes they show all the days of a pay period. Totals are often shown at the bottom of each daily column, and weekly totals are shown below those. Pay period hours may also be displayed, where the expected number of hours are compared with actuals.

Graphical timesheet, as shown in Standard Time, may display time segments in a graphical form, as you might see in a Microsoft Outlook calendar. Drag blocks around to change time or actual work.

Behind the scenes, project timesheets often collect billable amounts based on actual work. Billing rates usually depend on the person performing the work. Invoices collect all those time segments, with their billing rates into one bill. Clients can see details and rates associated with every task and person on the job.

Good timesheets make life simple for both companies and employees. Let’s see what Zach has to say in the video below.