I ain’t your mother.

Clean your room, do your homework, be home by 9, and fill out your timesheet every day. Timesheet? I’ll go out on a limb and guess your mother never said that, but maybe she should have.

Most all of us are paid an amount of money for an amount of work, be that an hourly wage or a yearly salary. In many businesses the work you do may not directly relate to the business’s revenue, but at a business like Tivix where my colleagues and I are sold by the hour, accurate and punctual time keeping is critical. An hour of work only counts when that time is reported.

I’ve been fortunate to wear several hats through my career. Some hats required me to report my hours, other hats required me to do something with hours reported; maybe that’s why I feel compelled to blog about this.

As a developer, tracking your time seems like it should be an easy enough task. You plan to spend an entire day on one project, enter 8 hours on your timesheet and go home. It never works that way. You get called into a meeting with a prospective client, you have to help a project manager with an estimate, you have to jump in on another project with a fast-approaching deadline, or you help a coworker with a problem they are having. 

The end of the day comes and you realize you didn’t take note of when you changed from one thing to the next, and you have to recreate your day on the timesheet. Then you remember you have to pick up someone at the airport, so you plan to update your timesheet in the morning. Morning comes, along with a critical bug and your time keeping slips even further.  At this point updating your timesheet is a whole project of its own that you need to schedule time for. Thank goodness you can just do it Friday…

I’m not proud of it, but in the past I have been guilty of that. Perhaps I can only admit to my failings in timekeeping because when I wore the hat of a manager I could see that I was not alone. I was, it turned out, better than others. It was as a manager that I could really see the trouble caused by timekeeping not kept up-to-date.

When are invoices sent to customers? I haven’t a clue. What I do know is that invoices won’t wait for you. If an invoicing run needs to happen, it will happen with no one, not even your mother, reminding you to update your timesheet. This is where the problems start if time is not up-to-date.

If a developer is just a day late entering a few hours, it’s only a few hundred dollars. What’s the big deal? What happens is that the customers accounting team might close the Purchase Order for the project before the invoice for that few hundred dollars shows up.  That is a guaranteed phone call from the customer looking for an explanation. 

What’s worse is a developer letting unreported hours pile up for a month, or even more. Now this invoice can be for thousands of dollars and arrive at the customer in a different fiscal quarter, or even a different fiscal year when there isn’t budget to pay for it. This becomes a big headache for the manager, the customer, and accounting teams on both sides, turning an otherwise successful project into a problem. 

If you are working for a large corporation with lots of invoices for large dollars amounts, you could end up chasing small invoices for months. Even years, which I have had to do.

If your job requires you to report your hours, staying up-to-date may be even more important to your work than you think. As a manager I would give the big, interesting projects to developers that didn’t have a habit of creating headaches for me. If you are always being reminded to update your timesheet, you might not be doing the most interesting work.

It is easy to stay up-to-date on time tracking when tracking time is easy. At previous jobs, we didn’t have good systems in place for time tracking, which created some friction around reporting time. If you or your team is not using an application that can keep multiple timers for your different projects, you should find one. 

Here at Tivix, we use ChronoMate, which does exactly that. A quick click of the mouse and you’re tracking time on the project you are working on. At the end of the day we push our hours to FreshBooks, where invoices are generated. Keeping time has never taken so little time.

Now don’t make anyone remind you to enter your time. Your mother would be proud.

I ain’t your mother.

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