Just tell us about your week

saving_time_300x200.jpgThere is a feature that you won’t find in TimeControl though it has been asked for more times than any other enhancement request.  The specification usually looks something like this:

“We want TimeControl to automatically populate a timesheet with all the hours that an employee should have done so that they can just click ‘Ok’ if the timesheet is correct and save time.”

“Sorry, we won’t do that,” we reply.

It’s not that we’re being difficult.  In fact client and prospective client feedback is a key source of enhancements in TimeControl.  And it’s not that it would be technically difficult to deliver this feature.  The projected hours could have come from the project plan, for example and populating each cell on a line for that task isn’t a major programming challenge.

No, the difficulty is what would happen if we delivered such a feature.  As desirable as it seems to be for end users, we are certain that the result would be bad data.

Imagine that I ask an employee, “What did you spend your time on this week?”

Instead of answering with hours and tasks, they respond to my question with a question, “What do *you* think I should have spent my time on this week?”

I’d be instantly concerned that if I give my expectations that the feedback I’d receive would be tainted by the employee’s desire to please.

Or, imagine this scenario.  You come to the end of your week and your timesheet happily pops up your expected hours.  “Uh oh,” you think to yourself.  “I can see that I was supposed to spend 35 hours on task #27.  But I didn’t spend a minute on task #27.  I spent 35 hours instead on task #25.”  The pressure you’d feel to put at least *some* hours of your timesheet on task #27 would be enormous.

In the over two decades we’ve been selling TimeControl, we’ve seen these scenarios play out in countless organizations.  It’s not that employees want to lie.  They just don’t want to disappoint their managers.

Here at HMS when we get this request we now know to ask what the client wants this feature for and then we ask what they expect will happen to the quality of data if we were to deliver the feature.  The request always fades away.  As it should.  After all, life happens to projects.  The chance that something changed between the plans for the week on Monday morning when the week started and Friday when the timesheet was filled out will be the exception, not the rule.

Instead of prompting people with what they should have done, we want TimeControl to ask something very simple: “What did you actually do?”  TimeControl can preload tasks from a project system’s schedule or from personal preferences to save time in looking up those tasks but TimeControl won’t prompt with the hours per day that were expected.  The result is high quality timesheet data and in the end, that’s what will make managers happiest.

For those who are interested in how to save a minute here or a minute there on configuring and entering their timesheet, the TimeControl website has a section on Best Practices for timesheets at www.timecontrol.com/resources/best-practices.