Time entries can help you gain valuable insight into inefficiencies with how time is allocated. However, it’s only as good as the data you have. It’s import that time entries be logged in a way that is meaningful. A detailed comment, is unfortunately not enough. Your time tracking system needs to have the capability to categorize time entries. Without categorization you can’t know the total costs of things.
Think of what information you would like to see during and after the project is over. For example, if you would like to see the following chart.
Then these are the category options that you should have on your time entry system. Every business is different and is concerned with different things. For company A meetings might be a subset of communications. Or it might be important to separate client communication from internal communication. It is important that there are not too many categories. When data is broken down too granular it has a tendancy to lose its meaning. Categories should be different enough and generic enough to quickly and easily choose from when logging time.
The description of what is done during the time should be a single sentence, but enough to point someone in the right direction if more information is needed. After all, we want to utilize the consultant for more programming rather than becoming a court reporter. If more information is needed the time entry comment should be enough to point a resource towards a tag, branch, or issue # for more detail.
If these metrics are important to you then you will need to audit it tightly. Review this at least weekly to make sure that the entries you need are present. If you get to the end of the project and want to know why you are over budget and then realize your consultants have been logging 10 hour days to “Development” or “On Site Support” then it is too late. You can never reclaim that information and any attempts to would produce fictitious results. Knowing where your inefficiencies lay could give you the ammo to ensure that they are improved on the next go round.
Time is a very large part of the equation when working with consultants. So be prepared and figure out what knowledge you want to glean from where they spend their time.
Read the first part in our series. How to get more out of your consultant