The two most important metrics by which a project manager will have her performance gauged is her ability to deliver a project on time and under budget. A project that meets these two goals is a reflection of not only a successful project manager, but also a productive team and a profitable agency.
The reality is that a number of variables will inevitably cause interference with the project, making these goals unrealistic and difficult to achieve. However, agencies that incorporate time tracking into their project management workflow have a calculated advantage in delivering projects on time and under budget. Here’s a few reasons why time tracking matters in project management.
The primary goal when tracking time on projects is to collect data. This is the fundamental basis for every point I’m going to make in this post. Because, after we’ve collected enough data, we start looking closer to see what it’s trying to tell us.
The first project management application is that the more time tracking data we have, the more accurately we are able to predict the future. That is a powerful tool to have at your disposal when pitching a client on a new project. The data will show us what went wrong and what went right on similar projects in the past. They say that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Well, time tracking data is like a history book. It’s a road map with well marked pitfalls to avoid when looking for the best way to deliver a successful project.
When our team is working on a project we want their time and efforts to be both efficient and rewarding. There is a fine balance between working hard and enjoying the results of our work. Finding this balance in project management is the key to understanding what to expect from a team, or what we like to call their velocity.
Time tracking tools give us the data we need to plot the team’s velocity. When we plan a project we set up expectations, or estimates, and then afterward we compare that to the actual amount of time tracked. This data is even more valuable if its broken down by task, because much of the work a team does is repeatable. And repeatable comparisons of estimated and actual time makes each measure of our team’s productivity more precise.
Once you know the velocity at which your team is capable of working, you can begin to understand and apply their full potential. The team might excel at some tasks while trudging through others. Some creative challenges might bring out their best while others leave them wishing the project over yesterday. Time tracking data will show which tasks were handled swiftly or begrudgingly, relative to the project manager’s original estimates.
Understanding what type of work motivates your team, and what demoralizes them, can help the project manager apply the team’s potential where it matters most. Yes, there will always be some work we have to trudge through, but, with time tracking data we can minimize the encumbering tasks and focus our team on projects that put reward first and profit second. Because project management is not just about the project, it’s also about assembling and nurturing a productive, successful, and happy team.
Time tracking matters in project management because it gives us all of the pieces we need to solve the puzzle of profitability. Once we know what to expect from our team, and how to maximize their productivity and realize their potential, we can create more accurate estimates before the project begins, and keep the project from spinning out of control once it’s underway.
When we apply to new projects the lessons learned from past projects, we are almost guaranteeing each one will be a success. And successful projects are the building blocks of a profitable agency.