5 Time Tracking Tips That Will Ensure Your Remote Team Meets Deadlines

blog-time-tracking copyTime tracking helps managers track employees’ time and understand the exact details of where and how much time is being spent on what. This data is particularly of great use to the remote project managers, who do not have the luxury of walking down the aisle to catch up with those who are executing their project.

In the absence of the data, it is really hard to ensure that milestones will be accomplished, timelines will be adhered to and most importantly extensions will be tracked effectively.

The data generated from tracking time tools gives ample opportunity to the mangers to improve the business process of the company and give constructive feedback to the employees.

That’s what separates smart agencies from those that continue to slog and struggle to identify what’s going wrong with outsourcing.

Here’s the thing:

  • Smart agencies that make the most of outsourcing have excellent processes in place for time tracking. They understand that time tracking is, perhaps, the most important aspect of their project.
  • It is these solid processes that help them be more organized and scale projects correctly.

If you are an agency or a soloprenuer outsourcing your projects to teams based outside your city/country and/or across time zones, you will learn the importance of time tracking to ensure on-time project deliveries.  This read will be particularly useful if you are sitting on the fence and still thinking whether you should deploy time tracking or not.

Smart agencies that make the most of outsourcing have excellent processes in place for time tracking. 

Yes I will help you sell this to your remote employees so they would like to be tracked for time without feeling uncomfortable about it.

I am going to show you the best practices I followed for tracking 13,497 hours and successfully deliver projects, while sitting in a time zone very different from that of the clients I serve. And will answer all your questions one at a time.

Read on.

1. Know that there are right tools out there

Time tracking tools like Hubstaff, Harvest, RescueTime, Time Doctor assign licenses specific to the PC they are installed on.

  • These tools track mouse movement and count the number of keystrokes performed. They also take screenshots at random intervals.
  • In addition, they even track all the data regarding when the team member stopped for tea/coffee, went on a lunch break and for how long.
  • These time tracking tools also require the employee to fill out memos and enter logs/updates from time to time.

This generates a lot of data for you, but the best feature is that it runs in the background and does not interfere with the team member or any of their running programs/applications.

2. Bear in mind that time-tracking is not micro-management

Many agencies and businesses tend to underestimate the importance of tracking an employee’s time.

Some even end up confusing time tracking with micromanagement. While there is a fine line that separates the two, there is still a big difference.

  • By definition, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees by methods of spying, negative reinforcement, constantly checking-in on progress and general control over every aspect of the employee’s work day.
  • On the other hand, time tracking software gives employees the freedom they need to complete their work in an environment that is non-evasive yet conducive to creativity and problem solving.

Let’s face it, who can really think properly when someone is constantly breathing down your neck?

Time tracking tools will give you a lot of in-depth reports about what your team is working on without ever having to bother them. You will start to see that these tools become especially relevant in the case of remote desk management.

3. Remember that Time Tracking tools are meant to track-down inefficiencies

As the project progresses, you and your clients will start to spot opportunities for tweaks and revisions within the project which will alter the initial scope of work. This is normal for any project as they usually tend to take on different forms as progression is made.

You may be in for a shock once you compare your own time estimation with the real data you’re seeing from the time tracking tools; moreover, making the entire effort of investing, installing and building processes around your time tracking tools totally worth it in the end.

The tracking software ensures that:

  • You are not billed incorrect amounts or footed a bill which is higher than for the number of hours it actually took to get the job done.
  • You’ll be better able to spot inefficiencies and potential roadblocks that could throw your project off the rails down the line.
  • You’ll have the ability to better explain to your clients the reason for additional billings based on the strong data and timesheets you’ll have at your disposal. You will have exact details about project extensions and scope enhancements powered by data.

These tools will prove to be beyond valuable from the word go.

The real purpose of time tracking is to spot inefficiencies that could throw your project off the rails down the line. Click to Tweet

4. Sell time-tracking to your remote-team/freelancers before you deploy it

When you first introduce the idea of time tracking to your remote team, there might be some resistance to change. Thoughts might circulate that you do not trust them, and there is a good chance that they will not be very comfortable with this level of tracking in the first place; however, if you communicate the intent properly they will come to understand that the purpose is not to spy on them.

What if the time tracking software tells you that the developer is taking way more time on a specific project than they are suppose to?

You’ll know that the skill sets have not been mapped correctly with the project he has been assigned.

  • In this case you can speak with them and discuss interests to better map out projects for a better fit.
  • Take time to make them feel comfortable with the new tools you’re putting into place.

So plan out a mini training session and involve the rest of the team in joining so everyone can see the benefits of the system.

Most importantly, time tracking tools will bring you a better return on investment through accurate tracking and billing and when it does, offer the team a surprise bonus.

Remember: Good employees WANT to be tracked for efficiency and results.Click to Tweet 

Keep in mind that most companies do require employees to fill out their own manual timesheets. What ends up happening is they spend their Fridays trying to remember what they did all week which is neither efficient or effective.

Guesswork is never a substitute for concrete data.

The beauty of time tracking software is that it runs in the background so your team never has to guess about what they’ve accomplished all week.

5. Spend time training employees to write perfect status reports

Writing well thought-out and detailed reports requires the right mindset. Reports and updates should not be seen as responsibilities but more like a way of communicating exactly where you stand on a project while looping everyone else in.

Train your team to ask themselves:

  • What exactly are they trying to accomplish with the task at hand? For example, are they troubleshooting, performing fixes or making revisions?

Total accuracy is the #1 key to great reports as every word counts.

Below are some tips to completing the perfect progress report:

  • Be sure to keep sentences short and to the point. Reports should never contain paragraphs of content that is difficult to read and understand.
  • If a certain task goes over three hours, it’s best to break the update down into subcategories better outlining the specifics of what went into its completion.

For example, instead of reporting “Worked on Homepage”, create a bulleted list of exactly what was done to the homepage, e.g.:

  • Fixed the header menu on the homepage
  • Set up the slider on homepage

The more specific and detailed the reports are, the better you’ll be able to track and foresee future time extensions.

Progress reports provide a channel for clear communication as they aid managers in tracking, assessing and understanding the status of their project at any given time.

In Conclusion…

Time tracking tools should never be seen as way of personally tracking or spying on your team.

They are purely a way to track down system inefficiencies, ensure developers are assigned  projects they’re best suited for and ultimately provide for the most accurate billings.

These tools will give you the data you need to make smarter decisions.

Make sure to use time tracking tools for all the right reasons and you will be well on your way to building a highly efficient, process-driven, outsourced team that will deliver quality projects on time, every time.

What else would you like to know?