We have worked at many clients and I’m always struck by the fact that some clients embrace timesheets as necessary and a good thing and some find timesheets to be ‘culturally unacceptable’ and an anathema.
I may be biased having completed a timesheet for the last 20 or so years, but I am firmly in the camp that they are very useful and not just for management, but also for every team member.
If you are part of an organisation that bills your services based on hours or days worked then a timesheet is necessary and critical for getting accurate invoices dispatched and getting these paid on time. Some organisations reject invoices if the time has been wrongly recorded. This can mean another 30 or 60 days delay before getting paid. So in these organisations there is no real argument about filling in a timesheet.
For other organisations that do not bill either other parts of their organisation or clients then the argument for timesheets is not as strong. It is still a good idea, however, to complete a timesheet for project activities and, in some cases, Business As Usual (BAU) activities.
Estimates of future work are more accurate when they are based on estimates of similar effort. It is rare for new project tasks to be unique. When estimating a new project or set of tasks, it is always good to base an estimate on what has happened in the past. Being able to interrogate a timesheet system by reviewing the time taken on project tasks is a good way of producing a more accurate estimate of a new task or project.
Staff that are routinely overloaded can easily be identified by using an on-line timesheet system. This overloading of staff can be ‘under the radar’ if time is not accurately recorded. In this situation where over-loading is happening, more staff can be brought in to help with the workload, or tasks can be reduced in number or scope.
It is in no one’s interest to have staff over-loaded. They may be able to perform a good job for a period of time but eventually something will give, e.g.: staff leave; increased level of sickness or tasks being completed in a substandard way.
Staff that are under-utilised are also easily identified by reviewing a timesheet system. These staff members can be redeployed to areas of the organisation where they are needed.
The true cost of a task is often not understood or it’s considered to be ‘just a few days’. With a timesheet system it is easy to enter internal rates for employees and external rates for contractors and consultants. It is often a big surprise when the person who has requested certain tasks to be done is told how much they cost.
For cost reduction it is in valuable to be able to drill down on timesheet data and find out the true cost of tasks. Tasks that can be seen as non-value added or not worth the cost can be stopped or not started.
To be able to benefit from a timesheet system as described above there are two important caveats:
1. It has to be a ‘system’ that has a database that can be easily interrogated and reported on. Spreadsheets do not cut it.
2. It has to be easy to use. If the timesheet system is clunky and not easy to use this just builds more barriers and can lead to people thinking that they are a waste of time.
As Peter Drucker says, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Timesheets are a good way of capturing the measurement of tasks so improvements can be made.