A timesheet is a way to track time on a project or at work. They used to be on paper or old timey punchcards, but today’s timesheets, like most everything else, are online. With timesheet apps you can monitor the progress your time in making through the project and therefore keep the project on track.
That’s the basic definition, but a timesheet can be so much more useful.
A timesheet app can do what you expect from paper timesheets, but there are other, unexpected, things that it can do to help you when managing a project.
What Makes Up a Timesheet
Timesheets are designed to capture and track the progress of your team as they work through their tasks in a project. They are typically constructed to include these parts.
- The name of the person who is completing the timesheet. Though managers have access, the timesheet is a document owned by the team member to collect their hours worked.
- Timesheets group tasks by projects. This makes it easier for the user to see what they’re recording.
- There is a list of the tasks that have been allocated to that user. These tasks are then marked as complete when finished.
- Most of the timesheet is composed of a calendar with the days of the work week laid out. The user then marks those hours in that day they were engaged in the project.
- The columns and rows automatically total, which gives the users a quick view at the number of hours worked. This can be seen for a single day or week or however long the timesheet spans.
- Finally, there is a column reserved for notes that fall outside the categories listed. Here you can put comments or upload files or just reminders related to the tasks, perhaps why it took as long as it did or how come it wrapped up faster than expected.
Timesheets Get a Bad Rap
Managers tend to love or hate them. If you fall into the former category, good for you! That means you’re using it to track your team’s hours and therefore should be open to the different uses for an online timesheet.
But if you’re in the latter group, bear with us. Managing a project means having the right metrics set up to track its progress and ensure that it’s progressing as planned. Time tracking, in the traditional sense, is but one more means of measuring your project’s productivity.
Truth is, you should love timesheets. There are many reasons why employee time tracking is crucial for managing a project.
- Helps the Enterprise: Whatever type of organization you’re working for, they’re going to want to know how employee time was spent. Whether it was on project work, developing new assets or any other number of tasks, those hours have a direct impact on the organization’s bottom line.
- Return on Investment: Yes, ROI, those three little letters that can make or break a project. If you’re not tracking your time, then you’re not able to tell if that time was spent profitably. Timesheets show you where your efforts succeeded and where they didn’t, so you can tweak those efforts to get the return you expect.
- Supports Team: With timesheets, you can show how productive your team has been throughout a project, which is important for stakeholders to know. It’s also helpful when too much is being asked of you and your team. Now you have the hard numbers to show that if more is wanted, further resources are needed.
Other Uses for Timesheet Software
A timesheet solution is more valuable even then we’ve already outlined. While it’s great for tracking hours, this tool is flexible and adaptable in many surprising ways.
1. Building Historical Database
Timesheets don’t have to live for one project, they can be used to amass a wealth of data that can then be applied to future endeavors. Tasks are often not unique to one project, so you can see, for instance, how long a series of tasks has taken in the past and then take that information and apply it to planning for another project with similar work. Timesheets help you create a more accurate project schedule.
2. Billing Clients
If you’re charging clients for your time, then you obviously want to know how much time to charge them for. That’s clear, but timesheets also give you details to precisely explain what it is you did with that time. Now, if you’re invoices are ever questioned or returned for more information about a specific charge, you can easily provide backup that explains why the task took the time it did. This, understandable, is helpful when the work took longer than planned because of changes that the client requested.
3. Manage Your Workload
Tracking time can surprise you. Like any estimate, you’re only going on a guess, a guess arrived at by doing the due diligence, of course, but still a guess. But timesheets can help you compare your planned effort against your actual work. This leads to greater efficiency, because you can flag where your time is being spent, where it’s being wasted and where you’re being more effective in getting the tasks completed. Now you can adjust your workload for a day or over a longer period, to streamline your efforts and create greater project productivity.
4. Link with PM Tools
Timesheets are helpful even as a standalone tool, but once incorporated with an online project management then they really prove helpful. What you’ve done is expand the tools in your tool box and have found a way to streamline time management for busy teams. Workflow and timesheets are now integrated in your PM software. Your team can easily update them, and you in turn can easily approve them. You can also lock them, and set up automatic email alerts to keep track of when people have updated or submitted their timesheets, without having to constantly interrupt the workflow or micromanage your team.
5. Managing Resources
Because you are tracking the time your team takes to complete a task, there are so many other ways you can manage resources through this lens. You can see how efficient team members are at tackling their tasks and then know better who to assemble when you’re working on your next project. Timesheets can also help you see where a team member might be falling behind and in need of further training. A time log also helps you keep track of your team’s availability. You can see if you’ve over-allocated or under-allocated your resources and act accordingly, before an issue become a problem.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software with an integrated timesheet tool. The timesheet feature has automatic notifications and easy updating and approvals. But it is also integrated into a suite of tools all of which work together to provide managers more control over planning, monitoring and reporting on their project. Try it for yourself with this free 30-day trial.