I work for a small tech start-up and we are trying to figure out an efficient way for track the developer's time and budget which doesn't take a lot for the dev team to fill in. An efficient way to track the tasks and time spent on it so that the business side can understand the internal costs. We found that hourly time tracking was not the best way to approach this and having the team fill in a google sheet wasn't successful. If you could share some tips and ideas to tackle this problem or if you could share your company's own success with time tracking, all help would be greatly appreciated.
Wonder if you really need to:
understand the internal costs
Maybe track it for a while, but don't force developers to track time unless it is absolutely necessary. Like billing clients per hour, but even then you could bill them on relative effort sizes and remove the need to track time.
You might wonder why shouldn't developers track-time? Let’s take a look at Jeff Sutherlands rant on the lameness of timesheets to see why:
Actually time sheets are worse than lame:
- they demotivate developers
- 10-15% loss of productivity is the minimum
- developers have to fake the time to fill them out properly
- erroneous data is used for reporting and management makes bad decisions
- customers are deceived
- they have nothing to do with quality code production
- they focus the whole organization on phony data instead of production
Nevertheless, this is not enough for many managers to give up time sheets. Just like the waterfall process, there is a psychological dependency so strong, it is as if they are on drugs.
Developers are smart people who perfectly know when something they are doing is just waste. This is therefor very demotivating, they rather create code in the same time. So unless you can convince developers that tracking time is totaly worth it, just stop doing it, because it will cost you more than you think you gain.
It is not so hard to divide relative estimates by average team costs, to get an good idea what stuff costs.
I would only worry about this if you really need to understand cost of goods sold, are doing billable work, or do accounting for software capitalization.
It's better to just track team throughput using velocity metrics. It vastly simplifies estimating and scheduling and once it matures it is a much better predictor of future performance.
All done without demotivating your engineers, so easier to get buy in to participate in estimating and planning.
You can achieve this in multiple ways:
- Track time in real time, you can look for Toggl which is probably the most used of its kind
- Require your team to track time daily, this is what we are doing in my company. We actually block the access to the tool if you didn't track your time the day before.
- Track the time based on the tasks completed. This require to have estimated all the time needed for each tasks and if there is a difference between estimation.
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As someone earlier said, you should start with why do you need to keep tracking of developers? What is the business goal or problem you are trying to solve. There are many tools for tracking, but what is your goals. Will someone look at those tracking is another question, you should ask yourself.
As people said tracking developer create mistrust, I'm not saying that you should not care how they spend the time on work, but is there other approach you can take?
Think what are your goals, what are your problems you are solving. Most of the times implementation of solution like time tracking or screening can kill team spirit and lead to a cycle of mistrust.