Challenges in Time Accounting in Software Projects

Time Management has always been a much talked about subject of management. Jim Rohn said “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Yet, software engineering has always understated the importance of time. In most organizations, time sheets are filed casually. I don’t know of too many developers who can honestly say that they file time accurately. As I tried to analyze the problem from my own experience, I have realized that there are two parts of this problem. Firstly, management don’t appreciate the importance of time accounting. Beyond project costing or billing, few know what to do with it. The second reason problem is the TGIF syndrome! When it is Friday EOD, the last thing that you want to do is spend time at 6pm recalling what you did on Monday morning and then painstakingly file time for the right task/activity. Often, you realize that the task/activity that you worked on is not on your screen! So… what happens? You file your 40hrs (whether you worked 30hrs or 50hrs) wherever you can. Result: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Digité Enterprise functionality lays significant emphasis of Time Accounting. Done right and done daily, it is a 5-minute task. Accurate time accounting has multiple benefits – it helps people understand how they spent their day (could be a problem for some). It helps Project Managers understand where their people are spending more time than what they should. The list can go on…. however, the biggest benefit is that when used on a daily basis and filled accurately, it does the job of progress reporting and status reporting automatically! How?

Assume a task is planned to take 10hrs. By filing time on the task for 8hrs and then saying that only 50% of task is complete OR that you need 8 more hours (either of which is possible in Digité Enterprise), you have told your manager that your task is now estimated to take 16hours and its % progress is 50%. When this happens across the entire team, I bet that it saves your Project Manager at least an hour every day (depending on team size). He/she does not need to talk to people to find out what an individual was doing, how much more time it will take, how much progress it will take, etc.

However, if this functionality is not well understood, it has the potential to make your life complex too. In Digité Enterprise, time can be filed on tasks as well as Project Items (Defect, Issues, Risks, etc.). Digité Enterprise architecture is based on the principle that projects that are planned by work decomposition (WBS) will file time against the tasks/activities in the WBS. On the other hand, projects that are executed with Project Items primarily will file time on Project Items. For example, a Development Waterfall project will file time on tasks. However, a Production Support project will file time on Project Items. Mixing the two will inevitably lead to confusion, inaccurate metric generation, etc.

Take a simple scenario: In a simple Development project, one would have a Testing activity(ies). Testing activities lead to Defects being filed. So, if you now file time on the Defect, what are you filing your time on – time to execute the test case that found the defect OR time to log the defect OR time to fix the defect? If someone files on the Defect and on the Testing activity, how does the system avoid double counting of the same?

To avoid such confusion, Digité Enterprise built its solution with the understanding that the time used to test and identify/log the defect will be filed in a Testing activity. Similarly, the time taken to fix the defect will be filed in a Defect Fix/Rework activity. WBS projects will not file time on project items.

Now, consider a Production Support project where you are doing help desk tickets. In such projects, it becomes important to track how much time a specific ticket is taking and to be able to monitor the productivity of people who are working on these tickets in the different stages of the workflow. Obviously, there is no planned task for each ticket because you don’t know how many tickets you will get ahead of time. To handle such projects, Digité Enterprise allows you to file time on Project Items like Defects, Tickets.

Accurate time accounting is critical for all IT organizations – not just for EV and Quality metrics, but also for internal/ external financial accounting, costing and chargeback purposes as well; getting it done has been a challenge for long.  We believe that with Digité’s Time Accounting capability, we have helped our customers take a big leap towards achieving that.


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