5 Ways Time Tracking Helps Engineers

by | 21 May. 2021

 5 min read

Time tracking is a proven method for identifying and managing efficiencies, and that’s true for people in all types of industries and positions. It can be especially valuable for engineers, whether you’re working a contract gig or managing a team of developers or other people. Discover five ways time tracking tools can benefit engineers and related teams below.

1. Ensuring You Get Paid for Billable Time

One of the biggest benefits of good project management software that includes time-tracking elements is that it lets you maximize your billable time accurately and transparently. A big challenge for many organizations is understanding how much time was actually spent on an endeavor, and that’s before you get into the weeds to understand how much of that time was billable versus nonbillable.

Consider this: You have three people working on a project. They work 8 hours per day, but is all the time they put in actually on this particular project? And is it actually billable? If you’re not tracking time, you don’t know.

Team members take breaks, field administrative phone calls and emails and handle tasks that don’t really have anything to do with production efforts for the client. For example, are you going to bill the client for the time the team member takes to figure out how much to bill? No, those are your business administrative expenses.

Some businesses that don’t keep exact track of their time estimate it and err on the side of caution. That means they probably bill the client less than they need to, which is bad for the bottom line. Other businesses aren’t as cautious and might bill the client more than they should. That’s bad for customer experience and your ability to compete in the market.

Implementing time tracking tools puts you in the position of Goldilocks if she could skip straight to the “just right” porridge. Time tracking reports also provide you with data so you can back up your billings if necessary. 

2. Understanding How Time Resources Are Used

It’s about more than protecting your client’s price point, though. Employee time tracking and scheduling software helps you understand how time resources on your team or in your company are being used. 

When you’re tracking time appropriately, for example, you can see if someone is spending 5 hours on a task that should only take 1 hour. That should lead you to investigate: Is the person overbilling to inflate their numbers, do they need training to better understand the task or is there a reason that you haven’t accounted for that’s causing the task to truly take this much time? 

On the flip side, you might see an employee taking only 1 hour to complete a task that generally takes others 5 hours. That sounds like great news, but it’s worth investigating too. Is the employee not tracking time appropriately — resulting in lost billable time to the client? Perhaps they aren’t doing the task correctly, which can be an issue for quality. Or, maybe they really are that fast, in which case, you may want to learn how they’re accomplishing the task so quickly so you can train others in their method. 

3. Identifying Inefficiencies for Process Improvement

Time tracking doesn’t just put the spotlight on differences in the way each person handles tasks. It can also bring to light how some of your processes simply aren’t efficient. Consider a hypothetical example below:

  • Person A handles a task that should take 30 minutes.
  • That task is required before Person B can handle the next part.
  • However, you see in time tracking that Person A is taking 45 minutes to handle the task.
  • An investigation uncovers the fact that Person A is actually done with the task within 30 minutes on average. However, to put the task together and communicate it in a way that Person B can work with, it takes an extra 15 minutes.

This investigation uncovers an inefficiency within your process that you may be able to improve. Can the team work together to integrate these tasks in a better way? Is Person A doing some unnecessary preparation for Person B? 

Yes, in some cases you might uncover a perceived inefficiency and realize this is just how the process needs to work. In these cases, you can adjust your understanding of how long various tasks might take. But more often than not, you find something that can be improved. In fact, in many cases, Person A may have misunderstood what they need to provide or Person B may be asking for things they don’t even need!

Keeping a constant eye on time tracking helps you, your teams and even contractors you work with continuously improve processes for greater efficiencies and value for the client. 

4. Ability to Find Routine Manual Tasks That Can Be Delegated or Automated

Consider that hypothetical example above. Moving a task from one person to another is routine. Could you automate it? If you can’t automate it, could you delegate the preparation of the work required to move from A to B to a less expensive resource?

For example, if a software engineer or developer is doing task A, could a virtual assistant handle the transition work? Transition work might be deemed administrative and not billable to your client, in which case you want to delegate it to the least expensive resource on your end that’s still qualified to complete it.

Production scheduling software with built-in time tracking can help you identify these types of issues. And knowing about them lets you make smart decisions to increase production and efficiencies while decreasing costs, bottlenecks and potential morale issues. Chances are that your skilled employees don’t really want to be sitting for hours doing tedious tasks that could be automated or handed off to someone else.

5. Create a Data Bank to Enhance Estimates

Finally, time tracking lets you create an ongoing bank of data. If you or your engineering team has handled a specific task 100 times — and you tracked that time — you have 100 data points about how long it takes to perform that work.

With 100 data points, chances are you’ve covered the gamut from “fast and simple” to “we ran into some serious problems and slow downs.” And that means the average time it took you to perform that task is much more accurate to reality than your best guesstimate or relying on the time it took you the last time.

That lets you create estimates and quotes that are much more accurate, which increases client confidence and helps you better manage your business. Plus, when you can accurately paint a picture of the budget, you reduce your own stressors. No one wants to be the messenger to the client or C-suite when a project is substantially over money or time budgets because someone incorrectly estimated how long certain elements would take!

Are you ready to find out more about how time tracking and related software solutions can benefit you as an engineer? Whether you’re running your own project teams, contracting with freelancers or are part of an SMB or enterprise organization, Visual Planning can help. Contact us to set up a demo or learn more about our various solutions and how they can be implemented in your business.  

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