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Let's say I'm awarded a US federal grant for my project, of which I'm the PI on. How granularly does the US government need me to track time?

Two subquestions to this:

  1. My preference is to use a spreadsheet, like excel, to manage hours & rates; this keeps things simple:

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But, of course, there's no "timer" feature like there is in something like Harvest:

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When providing reporting to the government (or let's say they audit) will the government need to see the time as output from a timer, or will my own logged hours suffice?


  1. Let's say an agency I've hired tracks their time in Harvest as well, but they said their proposed hours may not line up perfectly with actuals. Moreover, the people they have on staff may rotate on my project tasks— meaning if I had Agency Person A scheduled for 100 hours, but Agency Person B (not listed on grant) does 20 of those hours, is this okay? How would this be tracked?
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Check the Contract and/or Refer to Counsel

No one here can answer on behalf of the federal government. You have to read your contract terms. If it doesn't say, then it's a business decision that needs to be made by your company's leadership, in collaboration with legal counsel and accounting/financial advice.

As a gross rule of thumb, though, the underlying question being asked is generally: "Where did our money go, and how was it spent?" From a purely pragmatic project management point of view, as long as your answer meets your contractual terms and is defensible in an audit, the internal details of how your company tracks time is largely tangential to how you manage the project's budget. Define your budget, track your costs, identify deviations from plan, and refer non-project finance or legal questions to the appropriate resources.

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