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Tracking and Reporting Time on Complex Projects

If your staff manages complex projects, you probably have a critical need for a robust timesheet system to manage budgets, policies, staffing, hours and billing as well as project phases.

Whether you are working in the construction sector, a creative design firmIT services company, management consultancy, or in almost any corporate environment, your business success depends on knowing whether your strategy and projects are on budget, whether you have the staff and skills to complete a project phase and whether your clients or internal users have been billed appropriately.

After you choose the appropriate timesheet or time billing system you must fully train your staff on the use of the software. Some systems have packaged interfaces to project management software which further enables you to manage staffing and project phases.

If you are paying an employee salary and benefits you will lose money on this person if they are not adequately utilized. Assigning tasks and projects to each employee allows you to commit 100% of a skilled employee time to a project or to segregate their time into lesser percentages. When the employees enters their time on a weekly basis, they will enter their hours against a particular project or client and this will allow you to track the planned versus actual hours and address gaps or issues accordingly. As you build a history of actual hours per project or initiative you will find it easier to accurately plan for future projects. You can simply look at comparable historic projects and use the actual to effectively assign resources and achieve optimum productivity.

If strategic initiatives or projects include phases, you can assign employees by skill set e.g., designers, project managers, analysts, attorneys, negotiators, customer support and engagement management. Whether you charge clients or an internal budget center, you can assign an hourly fee for a particular person with a unique skill set. You may choose to discount this fee for regular clients or for internal projects. If you are working on a fixed fee project, your project plan phases should be compiled to add all hours and staffing, and report on expended hours as the project proceeds to be sure your project remains in the black and you are not spending more hours on a particular phase than planned.

Remember that the more detailed your project plan and timesheet system, the more skilled your project or report coordinator must be. If your staff does not know how to leverage the features in these reports, you will run the risk of spending the money on the detail and getting nothing in return. Effective use of these systems requires the identification of 5-10 critical metrics. Using reporting packages within the timesheet system and your project management software you can create graphs and charts for monthly management dashboards and better track results, and trends and plan for new initiatives.

About the Author

Susan Obijiski is a technology professional, consultant, business coach and writer. Her experience includes management consulting, and she has published research for Gartner Group. Susan is a frequent speaker and presenter on a variety of topics including software and technology, business strategy, process improvement and organizational culture change.

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