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Time Tracking : a pillar of trust?

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Project management is not an easy job. In fact, it’s several not-easy jobs.” Aligning the efforts of the team on one clear and attainable goal, and keeping them motivated as the project moves towards its objective, are essential elements. 

In terms of what it takes to be a successful project manager, qualities like leadership, empathy, negotiation skills and a good dose of humour will get you a long way. Some of these are qualities you are born with, some you will develop over time (like finding the right balance between humour and sarcasm, not uncommon in project management either) and some you can learn. Companies will often spend a lot of money on leadership courses, project management framework trainings, neuro-linguistic programming and other competencies that trainers and consultants promise are going to make the difference.

A factor often underestimated in projects until a deadline looms or budget is running out, is time management. Experienced project managers will know that solid prior planning of duration and efforts required (before and during the project) are essential, as well as keeping an eye on the clock while it is ticking. Are we still on track to meet that deadline? Are we still within budget? Are we going to meet the client’s expectations?

The basis for a positive answer to these questions, is time management: the sum of all time logged by the team members versus the time or budget left, or the time till the deadline (T-minus, in project management speak). Let’s have a look at how the different members of our hypothetical team log their time!

- Paul Procrastinator has other things on his mind, as usual. He will surely log his time at some moment in the near future, probably near or just after the cut-off, and most likely it will be hard to remember (for him) and verify (for the project manager) if his input is accurate. Paul is a likely candidate for an animated discussion with his superior when the facts (again) don’t match the figures.
- Model Molly  takes time logging very seriously. She meticulously records what she does from minute to minute, and spends so much time on logging her time that it eventually has an impact on her performance. Molly’s detailed logs will draw scrutiny and raise questions at some point in the future.
-  Average Angela will measure her efforts from a distance. She logs the big chunks of work all right, but the smaller bits and pieces may not always be taken into account, and will be added to the balance later, in a “something like that” way. Her project manager will discover at some point that the totals don’t add up, and Angela will have difficulties explaining the inconsistencies in her logs.
Seth Slacker is okay with everything, he’s a chill dude. He will log his time exactly as forecasted in the project schedule, no big deal. Not for him all right, but he is bound to be way off the mark after some time, thwarting the project’s success and attracting unwanted attention in the process.
-  Drowning Donna has so much on her plate that she’s about to go under on most days. Obviously, logging time is not the first thing she’s thinking about when swamped. A bit like Paul, she will get down to it at some point, but by then it will be hard to determine exactly what happened. Her logging will be directionally correct at best, but may be off just as well, depending on the amount of stress and pressure from the deadline, her project manager, or the customer.

For our project manager, the sum of these inputs is what he has to work with in terms of time (and budget) management, but as demonstrated, it is hardly and exact science based on objective facts. This reflects on the success of the project: as the time-spend grows less and less proportionate to reality, it will start to have an impact on profitability. The lack of transparency will frustrate the client, and even though the bill may still be fair, trust will erode, and ultimately he or she may go and look elsewhere. 

What can you do, if you have people like Paul or the others in your project teams? Stricter rules, more follow-up and closer supervision may work up to some point, but (before sarcasm takes over) an objective and automated way to measure time spent on a particular project may prove to be the better option. 

 

A fully automated, cloud-native and scalable solution like Lexor uses Artificial Intelligence to analyse every document, phone call or message, allocates the time spent on it to the right project, and produces detailed real-time reports, for state-of-the-art project management, deep insights and transparent invoicing details, all within the same tool. Moreover, Lexor facilitates projections based on historical data and makes accurate forecasts and reliable bids and proposals easy. Lexor runs on Microsoft Azure and integrates out-of-the-box with all Office 365 productivity applications, such as Word, Outlook and Teams.

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