Anyone who has worked in a professional services setting before understands the importance of timely and accurate timesheets. As project managers, it is up to us (most of the time) to ensure that our project plans are structured in a way that allows for accurate time entry capture without being too overwhelming for the team (and thus maintaining the accuracy). Here are some tips on setting up a great plan in your PSA system that will keep the accuracy high and the (time entry) headaches low.
Separate Tasks by Phase
It’s good to break up your project tasks by logical project phase. For example, keeping all your tasks related to the Design phase of your project allows you to conduct roll-up reporting to determine how far along you are in that particular phase. Depending on your project reporting requirements, this may also prove valuable in showing your project sponsor progress reports. Also, if you want to do earned value reporting at a phase level, structuring your plan this way is vital.
Have Ongoing Buckets
In every project there are tasks that are likely to be ongoing throughout the project such as the task of managing the project itself, preparing for and attending meetings as well as any operational aspects of the project (timesheet entry and review, invoicing, etc.). It’s not best practice to create time entry tasks for all instances of these types of occurrences (you’re not going to create a specific time entry task for every project meeting, hopefully) and much easier to create ongoing ‘buckets’ for time spent on these things. Again, depending on project reporting requirements, you may want to structure the buckets with some thought however to make time entry simple and accurate for your team, having these ongoing tasks to code time to is optimal.
I have yet to see a project plan executed that did not need tweaking and changes along the way. There will be things that come up during the execution of your project that you did not plan for in your time entry tasks and that should likely be reported separately. It’s important to maintain a level of flexibility when it comes to your time entry plan structure. You don’t want to flip your plan on its ear each time a new challenge arises however you should build the plan with enough flex where you can simply add a task here and there specific to the anomaly and allow your team to accurately track their time.
Timely and accurate time entry is such a critical ingredient of project reporting that every project manager should be constantly asking themselves if they are structuring their project plans properly to support time entry and reporting. Follow these tips to keep your plans structured enough for you but simple enough for your team.