Time Tracking in Project Management (Part 1): Why there is so little acceptance for time tracking in projects

Time tracking in project management has been the subject of intense discussions for some years now. The reason: This is not only about recording basic working time, but rather about booking time for specific tasks. The aim of the companies is to subsequently compare estimated and booked expenses and thus optimize processes and workflows. In doing so, many project members fear that this granular time recording makes it possible to compare the efficiency of resources. Regardless of the result of the work, it is feared that the human being is reduced to the time factor like a machine. Employees therefore fear to be judged only by their efficiency and are afraid of total monitoring.

After detailed discussions with the workers' council companies therefore often decide: working time is recorded to track overtime, but the granular recording of effort on projects or even tasks is simply prohibited. The employees' fear is very understandable if the employer has the precise goal of identifying and eliminating inefficient resources. These companies definitely exist.

However, the majority of employers and supervisors are much more interested in where inefficiency arises, in order to then reduce it by changing the general conditions. If the general conditions are improved, this is also in the interest of employees. In order to be able to see how much time is spent on which tasks, a database is needed. This is provided by the recorded time expenditure. The following example illustrates which improvements a positive approach to time tracking can create in project management as well as in the entire daily work routine.

The advantages of time tracking in projects

Let's say your supervisor asks you how much working time was spent last year on expo and event organisation. If you have not tracked the time spent on this, you can only give a very subjective assessment. This is often influenced not only by the working time you actually felt, but also by how well the events went and how stressful you felt the associated tasks were. 

So your answer could be: "I can't put an exact figure on the effort, but it was worth it, even though it was stressful". Or the answer could be: "It took an incredible amount of time, was very stressful and actually didn't help much". Both statements do not give an answer to the question. And even worse, neither answer provides reliable information about the following:

  • Which tasks or activities lasted longer or shorter than planned.
  • Which events were worth the high effort.
  • Which expos and events achieved a lot with little effort.
  • Whether sufficient resources were available or not.

Without this information, you and your supervisor cannot optimize future planning or argue for additional resources. Some people would suggest now that it is also sufficient to only track overtime. After all, they would say, overtime is meaningful enough to show that the effort was very high. In reality, however, you are working not only on one project, but on several projects, which usually overlap or often run parallel. And you still have the daily business. How would you be able to distinguish which project generated so much effort that overtime was needed? 

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Time tracking should therefore be seen as a tool that improves project planning and resource allocation. Moreover, it helps to identify those projects that generate additional work compared to the effort. 

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How can supervisors credibly communicate this approach? In the second article of this series you will find three tips on how to increase the acceptance of time tracking in your team/company. 

Read more about time tracking in projects:

The Iceberg Phenomenon in Project Management: How to Make "Invisible" Efforts Visible


Originally published in German on 2017-12-21: Zeiterfassung im Projekt: So schaffen Sie Akzeptanz im Team

Author: Carola Moresche

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