Why “Everyone” Needs to Fill in Timesheets [video blog]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Welcome to our whiteboard session today on why everyone needs to fill in timesheets. This is a place where a project can become a failed project or a successful project. I’ve found several times at the end of projects early on where I would find this mysterious team member who had not been submitting timesheets. So, at then end of the project, my budget was totally ruined.

Here are some best practices and some tips and why we suggest everyone fill out timesheets on your project. Here is what a timesheet looks like. It has the project name, the project team member, the task name or an ID, the date that the task was done, the duration, the start time, end time, and the status. Remember any timesheet can become customized for you, the project manager, to use, so you may need additional information for your purposes on your project, but, these are some of the high level basic items that we track.

What is a timesheet? It’s a method for recording the amount of worker’s time spent on each project task. So again, everything that is charged to the project, everything in your project plan has time associated with it. That’s where the project budget is built. As the project goes on and everyone is working on those tasks, it has to be charged to the appropriate task in order to keep track of the budget properly.

So who needs to be charging time or filling in timesheets? Everyone, everyone charging time to the project. So again, you’re trying to track time for multiple purposes, but it’s important and very critical that everyone charge time because that budget is being allocated somewhere in your organization, on the project, and so it’s accounting for time. Here’s why we would even track time on timesheets, because the data that we’re tracking is used for project costing, estimating.  So maybe some information for the next project or the next phase is information you are tracking that can used to make your other estimates in the future better. Tracking and management so you can track time and manage time accordingly, and most important is billing and payroll. When this is to help bill, say if you have vendor partners, so they for sure want to track their time because that’s how they bill and they get paid, as well as contractors. Then for employees that’s how they get paid, so they want to make sure they’re tracking time to the project so they can get paid. If nothing else that’s an incentive to all parties involved.

Then, what’s the value of this? Why would we even do this? If we buy into this, more importantly the value of tracking time on a timesheet is identifying problem tasks. As you’re managing your project, you find as you’re tracking planned and actuals, where something has gotten off track. So you want to catch that as soon as possible. You want to keep people managing or tracking their time on a regular basis. We recommend real time. Now, with a lot of the online tools you can do that.

Again, it’s comparing planned versus actual. This prevents you from getting to the end of the project and you’ve waited to the very end and you’ve discovered now that your variance in your planned and actual is off. In most organizations, being too much under budget is just as bad as being to much over budget. Regardless, it signifies a failed project in most organizations.

Then measuring employee and project performance. You can see maybe if there are employees on the project, employees or team members not just employees but team members whether they’re contractors or vendors, to see how they’re doing. You may find that something was overestimated, underestimated. You might find a person on your team that needs training and support, because if it’s taking too long, it may be that they’re struggling with something that you need to bring attention to and bring them support and again project performance. You don’t want to wait until the end.

We recommend doing this real time. Online is ideal, but regardless, everyone on the project needs to fill in a timesheet. These are some of the tips that have helped us and I hope they’ll help you too.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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