Time Tracking

Having spent much of my career as a consultant, I’m used to tracking my time against customer and project codes. But, in that environment, there is a tangible value associated with entering my time. If I don’t enter it, I don’t get paid.

But, corporate IT time tracking systems don't usually offer users anything tangible in return for their participation. Sure, I could run a report to see where I’m spending my time. But, how much value does that provide me as an individual contributor? (Okay, I suppose it might be helpful during my annual review. Maybe.)

What I’d really like to see is a system that gives me something in exchange for the time it takes me to use the system. For example, I know of a consulting company that implemented a 360 degree project and peer review system on top of their time tracking system. Their inspiration was the Amazon.com product rating system. It worked like this:

When an employee entered their time into the tracking system (which by the way had a very strong search mechanism for finding the right customer and project codes), they were asked to answer a few generic questions about the project, like this:

  • How do you feel about this customer? (very good, good, not good, bad)
  • How do you feel about this project? (very good, good, not good, bad)
  • How do you feel about this team? (very good, good, not good, bad)

Next, the employee was asked how they felt about working with each of the individuals who’d recently billed time to that same project code, using the same scale: very good, good, not good, bad.

Finally, every question also provides space for comments. These were optional as well. Typically they were used to give out kudos. Though sometimes people used it for “constructive” criticism, as well.

Once the user completed their survey, they were taken to a summary page that displayed the current week’s results, including: (Users were not allowed to see the current week’s results until they completed their survey.)

  • Your personal weekly peer review rating
  • Your personal comments from the weekly peer review
  • Your personal peer review rating trend (a graph of your rating over time)
  • Weekly ratings for every customer, team and project you worked with/on during the week
  • Comments for every customer, project and team you worked with/on during the week
  • Rating trends for every customer, project and team you worked with/on during the week

All data in the system was treated anonymously, but all data in the system was available to everyone in the company. So, people felt safe venting, but also knew that everyone could see what they were typing. This kept the comments civil – if not always 100% constructive.

The end result – it took a little longer to use the system, but everyone got something out of it:

  • The accountants got the billing information they needed.
  • Management got valuable insight into how well their projects were going (way before a traditional status reporting system would’ve provided that information).
  • Management got valuable insight into which customers were not worth the trouble, and were able to take proactive steps to disengage from those unhealthy relationships.
  • Management got valuable insight into which employees were truly admired (or reviled) by their peers and could take action (bonuses!) accordingly.
  • And, individual employees got weekly feedback on their performance.

Why haven't more companies leveraged the eyeballs they're putting on their corporate time tracking systems?

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