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October 2010

Resolving the Time Tracking Dilemma: 8 Tips for Success

When it comes to implementing time tracking for Resource Management, many companies disagree on the granularity at which they should capture time. Some feel that summary or phase-level tracking is adequate, while others want to track activity at the task level.

Here are a few tips that can help resolve this common dilemma:

  1. Manage outcomes, not actions -- Use outcomes instead of tasks in your project schedules and timesheets. This gives a sense of freedom to people closer to the action; meanwhile, outcomes can be linked to milestones and prerequisite outcomes.
  2. Manage results, not hours -- Similar to the above; rather than focus on people accounting for a 40 hour week, simply have them enter their time spent against specific outcomes or results, regardless of what it adds up to. This drives the focus toward analysis of where effort is being spent, and away from how many hours people are working, which can be a de-motivator.
  3. Consider Daily Time Tracking -- It has been proven that daily time entry is actually easier, not to mention more accurate. People merely track time daily, then they can submit it weekly with greater accuracy.
  4. Understand How Time Capture Relates to Your Goals -- Time capture can tell you what was spent in the past, and enables a basis for future estimates, so it has some impact on later allocations. And if time entry includes a contributor estimate of the time remaining (see the next tip), then time tracking plays an even more significant role in predicting resource availability.
  5. Institute Contributor Estimates -- As a resource enters time against a specific outcome or task, they should always be sure to revise, if necessary, the remaining time. This can greatly enhance the accuracy of future allocations and thus resource availability.
  6. Don't Reserve the Whole Library if You Only Need One Book -- If you allocate resources to phases or projects, they will appear to be booked for months ahead. There will be no way to realistically see their availability for a two-week window of work (or make alterations at that level). If you want to be able to make decisions at a granularity of weeks, then you must allocate resources at that same level.  Same if you want to assess plan vs. actual at that level.
  7. Get Everyone on the Bus -- In order to make time capture work, all middle managers must be on board, especially if a culture change is required. Senior management must see to this, as it will take the entire organization's cooperation to make sure this is carried out effectively.
  8. Understand the Reasons for Time Capture -- Understanding the situations where time capture is required can help you sell it throughout the organization. Time capture is especially vital in the following scenarios:
  • When there's contract labor, in order to assess billed hours
  • For government contracts -- it's the law
  • For financial labor reporting, especially where regulatory oversight is present
  • When people are splitting their time on multiple projects
  • When paid overtime is involved
  • When work is being charged back to other departments
  • When you want to forecast cost at completion more accurately
  • When you want to improve your estimating capability by looking at past trends

Collectively, these 8 tips can help you get past the potential roadblock of capturing time for greater resource planning and estimation.

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Consumer Goods Growth & Innovation Forum Review -- Part 2 of 3

The 2010 Consumer Goods Growth and Innovation Forum did a great job selecting its panel of presenters, especially in light of their theme of New Product Resurgence: Bringing Back the Consumer and Driving Growth. They found a winner when they invited Michael Becker from the Mobile Marketing Association to present. Becker has a wealth of knowledge on all things mobile, especially as it relates to using mobile technology for marketing purposes. Just check out his latest book: Mobile Marketing for Dummies.

Becker presented a session at the Forum titled Reaching the Consumer through Mobile Marketing, covering new and innovative ways consumer goods brands can use mobile marketing to engage existing and potential consumers around new product ideas. He gave oodles of amazing examples from around the world on how manufacturers and retailers are using mobile technology to drive revenue and secure extreme brand loyalty.

Here are a few of the most progressive and forward-thinking case studies on mobile marketing that Becker cited:

  • The retail electronics giant, Best Buy, is employing mobile marketing in a big way to interact with consumers online and in the store. Shoppers can text a product number to receive more detailed information and product specifications than could ever fit on a store shelf, and can then compare products without ever having to talk to a salesperson. Additionally, they can download the iPhone Best Buy app to see weekly deals and make purchases, thus driving incremental online sales.
  • Ringtones have become such a personal expression of individuality but can also communicate a message or promote a brand. In an effort to encourage the use of condoms in India, a mobile phone ringtone campaign was combined with television, audio, and online ads to advertise safe sex practices as being "a smart choice."
  • Calvin Klein Jeans did something quite clever with one of their most recent billboard advertisements in both NYC and LA: instead of plastering a delicious, black and white photo of a saucy, young model up on the billboard, they put up a QR (quick response) code titled GET IT UNCENSORED. The amazing thing about the billboard -- Calvin Klein's target audience (young, attractive,  tech savvy, hip, twenty-somethings) knew EXACTLY what to do with the QR code. Once passersby accessed the video, they could then share the QR code with their friends on Facebook and Twitter. Talk about a product going viral! And as a bonus to all of this, Calvin Klein got useful statistics on their consumers.

Having a strong web presence and being active on social media sites simply isn't enough anymore, especially if your target consumer is a member of the Attention or Social Age, succeeding those geezers in the Information Age. Mobile marketing is viral, global, and is only going to grow over the coming years.

Becker's recommendation to the CGT Forum attendees was to "mobile-enhance" traditional marketing methods, focusing on ways to integrate mobile rather than focus on mobile marketing by itself. So to that, I say:

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Part 1: Move Over P&G and J&J: Now There's Something a Little More “Quirky” in the Mix