Filling up timesheets - good or bad?

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Our company requires that *everyone* fill in daily timesheets on our Intranet - right up to the departmental heads (I head the user experience department).

Very few people, including entry-level people are actually filling in their daily timesheets? Management is wondering how to increase compliance.

What do you think of this practice? Are filling timesheets an effective way of keeping track of what people are doing? Personally, I find that I'm almost always doing several different things at any given time, and it's very hard for me to put down any ONE thing as an activity for any given hour.

I'm interested in hearing other peoples' experiences with timesheets.

Regards,

Madhu

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2001

Answers

Are these employees salaried or paid per hour? If they are salaried, timesheets are just showing that the out-of-touch management distrusts its employees. There are easier ways for managers to know what their (immediate) employees are doing: ask! If they are meeting the work demands placed on them, I don't care how much (or little) time they spend doing the work.

I've worked with timesheets before and I think they are just an excuse to pay people less. "Oh, you only worked 38 hours last week." I think they are afraid salaried employees will work fewer hours but collect the "full pay". Most salaried people I know actually work more than 40 hours per week, so their per-hour wage is actually reduced.

-- Anonymous, January 10, 2001


Oh, they're all salaried. The management's idea is that if everyone fills up the online timesheet, the dept. manager can effortlessly analyse what most people are spending their time on, and that this will in turn mean easier allocation (and reallocation) of resources to projects.

-- Anonymous, January 11, 2001

I did work in a department and helped get people filling in time sheets with enthusiasm - once the rationale was explained to people. The main reason for the timesheets was that the department was understaffed, but departmental management needed hard numbers on staff activity in order to make a case to the bean counters.

If people can see a benefit to paperwork (CapEx, staff allocation, hourly pay and so forth), they'll do it. If no-one explains why they should care, they won't.

-- Anonymous, January 12, 2001


ewww, the dreaded timesheets...
McConnell goes into a fair bit of depth on the topic of 'what gets measured gets improved' in "Rapid Development, Taming Wild Software Schedules".
I think it depends on your corporate culture as to how useful they (timesheets) really are.

Typically Timesheets are a 'bean counters' tool, being course grained and really only offering a way of writing off the expense of employee overheads to cost centers. (oops, now I'm showing that I once entered the realm of management where time and space have no meaning).

If you're really interested in gaining meaningful metrics of just how you're doing (general group health), and just how much time is being spent on the different things you and your programmers are doing, forget the timesheets. First read PeopleWare (set your expectations) expouse it's brilliance (communicate your expectations). Read Painless Software Schedules (the method), and build your own way of capturing what really gets done at the coal face.

I've been doing this, & have extended Joelsí scheduling techniques so I can add in links back to the Specs & design for the unit of work and a couple of other things that I canít remember at the moment. This excercise can serve as a way of improving programmer/group morale by:

  1. Serveing as a way of communicating the amount of work which is actually involved in completing something, and
  2. Offering a sense of completion, because everyone can see all the things they've finished, not just what's left to be done.
  3. Increases programmer visibility, by allowing management & the rest of the company to see just how busy everyone has been (hopefully this is good & something you want), and reduces the on the spot "just what have you been doing?" morale destroying questions. Most programmers I know are usually too busy to remember what they did yesterday, let alone last week/month etc.
The final point is that if you're still required to do timesheets, it becomes an academic exercise that the good old faithful PA's can do ;)
Nothing pleases me more than being able to offload general adminy guff.
anyway, I think I've added enough spelling mistakes to embarrass anyone by now.
Ray

-- Anonymous, January 16, 2001

I have owned my own tiny company with 2 employees and 1 partner. We four kept precise track of our time or we couldn't pay ourselves because we couldn't remind our customers of what we did!

They key here is ownership and incentive. If you work harder, you should get rewarded higher. Period. If someone isn't incented to keep track of their time, why should they? Give them a base salary, but pay them more as they achieve more results. Keeping track of what they do is nothing more than ordinary communication as to what those results are.

I have worked at places that used timecards and had a lot of problems getting them properly filled out. But at my own company, I _never_ had a problem with people keeping track of their time. If thier time wasn't in, they didn't get their bonus and everyone suffered. Very simple. Not magic.

-- Anonymous, February 25, 2001



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