Project Time Tracking: Definition & Advantages
Tips and information about time tracking in projects

When it comes to time tracking in projects and time tracking systems, there are often fierce discussions in organizations. Thereby the numerous advantages of project time tracking are frequently underestimated:

  • on-time delivery
  • precise development and delivery times
  • passing on the actual efforts to the customer
  • motivated and at the same time not overworked employees

Nowadays, competition is becoming significantly stronger in almost every industry. In order to remain profitable, companies need a short time-to-market, the best employees and well considered economic actions. This is exactly where project time tracking comes in and can help companies to achieve competitive advantages in today's highly competitive markets. By tracking and documenting the effort of a specific task, organizations not only gain economic benefits, but can also optimize their strategic planning and avoid a burnout of their employees. How project time tracking is defined and how it can be implemented is explained in the following chapters.

Content

  1. What is project time tracking?
  2. Why should I use time tracking in project management?
  3. Are there any case studies for project time tracking?
  4. How does project time tracking work the project management software InLoox?

1. What is project time tracking?

Project-related time tracking is about tracking the amount of work for specific projects or tasks. The working time required for a task is therefore booked on a certain project or more precisely on a certain task of this project. Usually specific time tracking systems or various project management tools are used for this. 

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Project-related time tracking means tracking the amount of work for specific projects or tasks. 

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With the time tracking for projects you will find out how much time was actually needed to complete a task. By comparing the actual effort with the planned effort, project managers can check whether they have made realistic effort estimates during project planning. With the help of these findings, the planning and effort estimation of future projects can then be optimized. In addition, time tracking in projects also serves as a proof of effort for the customer. Project time tracking thus helps companies to use their time resources efficiently.

It is important to note that project time tracking does not correspond to classic time tracking, since classic time tracking only documents the start and end of work as well as overtime. With the help of classic time tracking, it is therefore not possible to say in which activities the working time was actually invested. Without exact time tracking, projects cannot be planned in detail and costs cannot be calculated realistically in order to charge them internally or to the customer.

2. Why should I use time tracking in project management?

Time tracking as a strategic planning compontent

Time and effort in projects can be better estimated with the help of time tracking. If project time tracking is used for strategic reasons, it is not about the everyday question "who does what until when", but about finding out whether the working time is invested in the right things. Especially in departments that also provide internal services, it is helpful to know into which activities the working time actually goes. Where is how much work done and for whom? This core question is primarily of concern to cross-sectional departments, such as IT, development or logistics. It is important to find out how much time developers, for example, spend on internal support services and maintenance. As this calculated amount of time not available for core projects and tasks of the department and must therefore be considered in the long term. If this proportion is too high, measures can be developed to reduce or limit internal services.

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From a strategic point of view project time tracking is all about finding out whether the working time is invested in the right things. Where is how much work done and for whom?

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By learning from past projects how much time is spent on certain tasks and how long certain processes take, valuable information is created for the planning of future projects. If, for example, machine builders use a project management solution to comprehensively map their development and design processes and consistently track the time spent on these processes, the development and production times for new machines can be accurately predicted in the long term. With project time tracking, companies gain significantly more planning reliability and project managers can better assess how new large orders will affect the capacity of their employees and other projects.

Time tracking as an economic advantage

Project time tracking also pays off for service providers and all those companies that work on a fee basis. Because they are dependent on documenting the efforts involved in order to be able to bill their customers for them afterwards. If invoices are issued solely on the basis of estimates, this can quickly have a negative impact from an economic perspective. It is not uncommon for the hours actually worked to exceed the previously estimated effort. Without documentation of the invested time, it is difficult to pass on the additional effort and the associated costs to the customer. As a result, service providers often remain stuck with these costs themselves.

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Project time tracking is especially useful for service providers and companies that work on a fee basis. It allows them to pass on all efforts that have been necessary for fulfilling a task or project. 

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Instead, it is advisable to use time tracking tools to document the hours worked. Those tools allow to export lists for billing purposes in which the project participants have already entered their actual effort for the respective task. In addition, the employees should also have the possibility to record their working hours while on the road, if necessary. This is especially important for companies with a lot of service technicians, craftsmen, consultants and freelancers involved in projects. 

Time tracking for more motivation in the project team

Positive atmosphere

Often the tracking of basic working hours is already a major topic of discussion in companies and works councils. The views become even more critical when it comes to project or task related tracking of working times. Nevertheless, this form of time tracking can contribute to employee motivation and a positive atmosphere in the project team. An important basic requirement for this: do not use the recorded time and effort for evaluating the performance of individual employees!

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Project time tracking makes additional efforts visible and helps to improve future effort estimations. 

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It is not unusual for a project to take longer and to be more expensive than expected. While every project has a work share of clearly visible time expenditure that goes into previously defined activities and tasks, additional "invisible" time expenditure is created. The problem behind this is that the hidden time expenditure is neither calculated in advance nor is it known exactly what proportion of the total expenditure it represents. This could be, for example, countless coordination phone calls, e-mail traffic or endless feedback loops with the customer. This time expenditure is nowhere to be found and team members are stressed out because they take longer to complete their tasks than expected. In order to make this time expenditure visible, all employees should use a time tracking system by documenting and booking all time spent on the project. In this way, the actual time spent on each phone call and e-mail suddenly becomes visible.

Most team members are motivated when they know that their contribution to the work result is visible to the manager and the team. A tool for project time tracking also makes these contributions to the project success visible. This also prevents employees from losing interest in their work because part of their performance is not noticed anyway and therefore not rewarded.

Avoid burnout

With granular project time tracking, the basic workload of individual employees can be determined. For this purpose, it is recommended, for example, to create a project in the project management tool in which all employees can enter all their times for everyday tasks. In this way, the basic load of the employees is obtained and based on this, the employees can be assigned to the projects without overburdening them.

In addition, the estimates made in task planning are also becoming more accurate. If the employee reports back the actual time, the effort estimation for recurring or similar tasks can thus be adapted more and more precisely to reality. This means that employees are less and less likely to struggle with tasks for which they have been given too little time. At the same time they have the opportunity to realistically reflect the actual working hours for certain tasks to their superiors.

3. Are there any case studies for project time tracking?

Machine engineering: Mayer & Cie. GmbH & Co. KG

Motiv Rundstrickmaschine ©Mayer & Cie. GmbH & Co. KG

circular knitting machine ©Mayer & Cie. GmbH & Co. KG

With the support of the project management software InLoox, Mayer & Cie., the market leader in circular knitting machines, knows exactly what timeframe must be set for the development of new machines and how long the processes take. The company has used InLoox to comprehensively map its strategic projects, enabling it to determine an actual development period of four years in the construction department. Now that six projects have been completed with InLoox, one important experience for the construction department is that, for the first time, data is displayed 'close to reality' (according to development and construction manager Zoran Raic). In the past, for example, it was assumed that development would only take two years.

Architecture: Brückner Architekten GmbH

Penthouse Elbphilharmonie Hamburg ©Brückner Architekten GmbH

Rendering Penthouse Elbphilharmonie Hamburg © Brückner Architekten GmbH

General planner and specialist for high-quality interior design, Brückner Architekten, uses InLoox for economic controlling. The purpose of this is to determine how much time was spent on which task. The company also works partly on a fee basis and benefits here from documenting with InLoox. As InLoox provides the necessary proof of performed work and thus enables passing-on time fees.

4. How does project time tracking work with the project software InLoox?

Die Projektmanagement-Software InLoox hilft Einzelanwendern, Teams und verteilten Arbeitsgruppen, ihren Projektalltag effizient zu meistern. InLoox unterstützt sie bei der Planung, Dokumentation, Budgetierung und Durchführung ihrer Projekte und bietet ein umfassendes Zeiterfassungstool. Erfassen Sie Projektzeiten integriert in Outlook, online in Ihrem Webbrowser und unterwegs per mobiler Zeiterfassung auf Ihrem Smartphone – mit InLoox Mobile App. Sie können auch alle drei Möglichkeiten kombinieren.

InLoox supports them in project planning, documentation and budgeting and offers a comprehensive time recording tool. Track project times directly in Microsoft Outlook, online in your web browser and on the road with InLoox Mobile App. You can also combine all three options.

Time tracking with InLoox supports you in various situations:

  • Time tracking for project-related or personal tasks
  • Track working times for further calculation at a later date
  • Document activites 

Time tracking with InLoox stopwatch

Team members can track the time they spend on tasks precisely with the integrated stop watch in InLoox for Outlook. As soon as they start to work on project-related task, the can just start the stop watch. When they've finished the task, they can save the tracked time directly to the corresponding project task. So they don't have to guestimate their work times and can concentrate on the tasks at hand. 

InLoox feature: Time tracking - Track your time automatically with the integrated stopwatch (in the task sidepanel) and save your time tracking entry directly after you have finished the task.

Time tracking directly in Microsoft Outlook

You don't have to update long excel lists and add all information manually. InLoox can transfer key information from Outlook automatically, e.g. from calendar entries, tasks or emails. This makes documenting your efforts easier and more conistent - important for purposes such as billing.

Compare planned and actual effort

Compare planned and actual time spent on a task. This allows you to compare planned expenses (estimated effort it takes to complete a task) and actual expenses (actual time spent on completing the task recorded via time tracking). When team members track their time consistently, it allows the project manager to make better estimates for future projects. Better estimates lead to better project planning. 

InLoox feature: Time tracking - Compare planned effort with actual effort spent on tasks to make your planning more accurate.

Time tracking with mobile app

Especially if you are on the road a lot, it is helpful to rely on a time tracking tool that is available on all devices. Because if you don't look accurately at the clock, you will only be able to estimate the effort required the next day, when you have to fill in your times. InLoox offers you two options for time tracking on the move: online in your browser with InLoox Web App or on your smartphone with InLoox Mobile App. This way you are always up to date even when you are on the road and you can save time spent directly in your projects.

InLoox Mobile App for iOS and Android: Track your time from anywhere and assigne the tracked time to project tasks directly

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Summary - FAQs

What is project time tracking?

Project-related time tracking means tracking the amount of work for specific projects or tasks. This means that the working time required for a task is booked on a certain project or more precisely on a certain task of this project. Learn more »

Why should I use time tracking in project management?

Project time tracking has several advantages:

  • Strategic advantage: Time and effort in projects can be better estimated which leads to improved project planning.
  • Economic advantage: Based on time tracking service providers and companies that work on a fee basis can pass on all efforts that have been necessary for fulfilling a task or project. 
  • Improving project team motivation: Project time tracking makes additional efforts visible and helps to improve future estimations. By determining the real basic workload of each employees the project team can be assigned to tasks without overburdening them. 

Learn more »

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