by Treb Gatte

The greatest reason in the world to track what your employees are doing

Apr 30, 20154 mins
IT LeadershipPersonal SoftwareProject Management Tools

Do you know what your employees are really doing every day? Todayu2019s business environment demands a level of organizational agility that is historically unprecedented. Holistic resource utilization management is needed more than ever, as it has become the operational bottleneck.

Do you know what your employees are really doing every day? Today’s business environment demands a level of organizational agility that is historically unprecedented. Our most consistent organizational roadblock is the capacity for your resources (or lack thereof) to take on new work. Holistic resource utilization management is necessary and needed more than ever, as it has become the operational bottleneck. Tracking all work leads to higher quality planning and better execution of both projects and operational work.

Glass half full?

I work with many organizations who have implemented Project Management Offices (PMOs). These PMOs provide many organizational services to improve project performance, such as templates, training and business intelligence to provide transparency. PMOs tend to lead to better project outcome. However, all of this effort and benefit is only covering roughly 40-50 percent of your overall IT spend.

What about the other 50 percent?

As we saw in our previous article, Your hidden ‘everything else’ resourcing problem, the lack of transparency on resource utilization, across all IT work, impacts your ability to effectively get projects completed. McKinsey points out that execution issues, like unrealistic schedules, are one of the leading four causes of project failures. If you are planning with only half of the resource picture, how can your project schedules be realistic?

Getting to total tracking

The goal of total resource utilization tracking is twofold. First, gain transparency of the level of effort needed to run the day to day needs to ensure project plans are reasonably scheduled. The second goal is to identify optimization opportunities in the organization.

Thankfully, it is relatively easy to get started tracking all work. There are two primary steps necessary to get started.

Start simple

First, have your teams do a time diary for two to three weeks, the goal is to gather raw data for analysis. This can be done using paper and pen for simplicity. Once gathered, the data should be aggregated and analyzed for natural patterns for grouping tasks. Some organizations are business unit centric. Others are application centric. The time diaries will also highlight specific tasks that may seem overly time consuming and are ripe for optimization.

For example, one client found that their team was spending six or more hours per week managing resource information in Microsoft Project Server. Typically, this is a 15 minutes per week task. The problem uncovered was that the time was being spent gathering the requisite information to complete the task. By creating a request form in SharePoint with required fields for all of the relevant data, they reduced the task time back to 15 minutes. The net impact was 312 hours of recovered team capacity that could be invested elsewhere.

Decide your tracking strategy

Second, decide how you are going to organize your time tracking. The organization should support the decisions that you would like to support.

Another client had a large application portfolio and wanted to determine operational overhead for each application. Projects were created in their PPM system by each application where each project contained four tasks.

  • Customer Support
  • Patching/Upgrades
  • Vendor Management
  • Other

Management used the captured time data to determine the top five applications for each category so that decisions around staffing levels, application replacement, training and other aspects could be made.

Only use detailed tracking for specific goals

Detailed time tracking may not be needed to achieve a goal of quantifying level of effort. Use detailed tracking sparingly and only to support specific outcomes.

For example, if you are tracking by process, you may track one or two specific processes in detail to support a goal of optimizing or eliminating these processes. For all other work, you can simply track level of effort. Once work is complete on the focus processes, you can start detail tracking on the next set of processes to optimize.

Do this, not this!

Many companies attempt to track operational work as one year-long task. Avoid this for two reasons. First, teams will change over time and trying to reflect that in a long running task is hard to manage. Rather, break up the operational work into week long tasks to make it easier to manage. Second, if you don’t use all of the allocated time, most PPM tools move the unused time forward. Breaking up the work into week-long tasks allows you to close out each week easily.

Using these steps will bring transparency to your resource utilization, yielding improved project execution and overall organizational efficiency.

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