Time management strategies aren’t enough. What you need is a battle-tested workflow

Implementing a few time management strategies is not enough here. To ace time management at your company, you need a company-wide workflow for all the project stakeholders.

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski

Co-Founder

Timesheets & Time Tracking

06/10/2021

Table of contents

Time is money. 

This saying is even more real when we’re talking about the typical daily tasks of a project portfolio manager or COO. 

Their job is to make things run smoothly at the company, increase productivity, and eliminate waste (and that includes wasted time).

Implementing a few time management strategies is not enough here. To ace time management at your company, you need a company-wide workflow for all the project stakeholders.

As long as you don't have this global workflow for the entire company, time will always be wasted somewhere. 

Start by creating a company-wide workflow

Step 1: Create your workflow

This workflow should match the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, starting with software developers and PMs and ending with sales and HR specialists.

The workflow we’re talking about here is a combination of tools, a meeting schedule, and a clear division of responsibility for particular company processes.

From the perspective of a COO, it’s critical that your workflow:

  1. Doesn’t exclude the needs of any stakeholder
  2. Is easy to track and report, so you have some clear answers for the CFO or CEO.

Now, you might not have a workflow in place at all. This could lead your PMs to waste their time on endless meetings or dealing with problems like double booking. 

On the other hand, you might have a workflow in place but still experience problems. This means that your workflow isn’t comprehensive enough and excludes someone’s needs. 

Trust me; you need a solid workflow for your company to survive and thrive in the busy IT market (and build time management skills among your workforce).

What can such workflows look like? Below you can find some examples of workflows created by our clients.

Example #1: Planning-related workflow

The workflow describes how to plan, prioritize, approve and optimize developer work planning while keeping all the stakeholders in the communication loop - taking into account their different needs and situations. Each of these blocks is expanded with further sub-processes. Thanks to such a workflow you can quickly get a bird's eye view of your projects and see who is needed at which project stage. This helps to make decisions and allows for continuous optimization of the process.

Example #2: Reallocation workflow

Sometimes you might have to reallocate a person from one project to another. If PMs don’t have a workflow for that, problems like confusion about allocations or double booking might emerge (and create an even bigger workload for you). By shaping a clear approval process and capturing its logic in the project management solution you’re using, you steer clear of these risks and give your PMs a process they can rely on.

Here is a screenshot from an extensive document that one of our clients created to save time and optimize the allocation process.

If you'd like to download this specific part to implement it in your organization, you can do it here: Allocation process.

So, how do you create a workflow that improves the time management of your managers?

You need to think about what a PM’s standard day looks like and what they do. Then categorize these activities and analyze how much time they spend on individual activities to find possible time losses. A chart like this one helps a lot here:

For example, imagine company X with 6 PMs. You can easily see that they spend almost 30% of their time on client meetings and almost 20% on internal meetings - that’s quite a lot.

Once you have this information, you can go deeper and ask your people about what’s happening or just dig more into the data.

In the case of company X, it turned out that each PM has their own Excel spreadsheet and ended up spending a lot of time compiling data from different spreadsheets during the meetings to make decisions about projects (even 5 hours per each week). Talk about great time management!

You managed to identify a specific organizational problem thanks to a simple data analysis and conversation with your team. 

Along with the development of the company, more and more such problems related to how you manage your time will emerge - which is why such a single activity should be encapsulated in the workflow.

The simplest type of workflow here could be:

  • Implementation of a tool that enables logging of working time (also time spent on non-billable activities),
  • Carrying out regular meetings to analyze the time spent on specific categories of activities + suggestions for their optimization,
  • Implementation of the proposed solutions and testing,
  • Analysis and assessment of whether the solutions have solved the problem,
  • The circle is closed.

Such a system has a closed circuit and forces various stakeholders to work actively and constantly improve a specific aspect of the organization. In this case, it was the working time of managers and the entire workflow. With time, your company will certainly grow and that will complicate the organizational structure further, involving more stakeholders. That’s why you should expect the workflow to grow over time as well.

Start building your workflow now:

First, choose your starting point - the place that is your biggest pain point right now, the problem you need to solve as soon as possible.

Next, decide how and when you’re going to change other elements of your workflow. Remember to involve everyone who will be part of the workflow. 

Now that you know how to create a workflow and expand it, we can move on to the next stage - its implementation and time management strategies that accompany it.

Step 2: Implement your workflow

Change management is a tough nut to crack. But don’t expect even the brightest of your PMs to start following your workflow perfectly from day one.

Implementing your new workflow will take at least a few months. 

Now that you have a new workflow, it’s time to communicate it to all stakeholders. It’s important to consider the following points:

  • Workflow’s goal - you must communicate what the goal of your new workflow is to provide a rationale for its implementation,
  • The benefits it brings to each stakeholder (both organizational and personal),
  • The development of individual steps of the process together with stakeholders.

The first two points are essential to the success of the implementation. In my experience, I often met PPMs who implemented great processes (in theory). But in the end, nobody used them because people didn’t see the real value from their implementation. Of course, you can always just tell people to do it - but that's probably not the point. ;) In other words - you have to sell your workflow to others.

The last point, on the other hand, comes with two advantages - the first is that if people participate in the creation process, they will be more willing to implement it later (after all, I came up with it myself!). Secondly, onboarding and understanding the workflow will be easier in this case. Not to mention the time and effectiveness of the implementation as well.

As you can see, there are two key challenges you’ll be facing here:

  1. Creating a good process
  2. Implementing it correctly

Now that you’re aware of that, let’s focus on effective time management strategies and things that should become part of such a workflow.

3 time management strategies for managers

1. Plan and track time in non-billable projects

You wouldn’t believe how many COOs never track the non-billable work of their PMs.

But how are you supposed to optimize their time management skills if you have no idea where they invest their time in the first place?

Create non-billable projects in your project portfolio management software. Then allocate people to those projects, keeping in mind that this data will help you understand their future workload (thanks to planning) and actual work done (thanks to tracking).

If you don’t know how much time managers spend on specific activities, you don’t want to assume anything at the start. Just track the working time and then start planning or ask your managers to plan it on their own.

2. Plan work ahead 

If you work in IT, you’ll probably agree with me: splitting a large project into smaller pieces is the best way to approach resource planning and project estimation.

If you’d like to learn more about estimating projects, take a look here: How to do cost estimation in project portfolio management

What’s more, this division into work packages is also critical for more accurate planning. And if you plan well, you’ll avoid wasting time later on - be it double bookings, inaccurate estimations forcing your team to work overtime, or extra meetings required to clarify project requirements.

A good plan removes all of these distractions so you can set your eyes on the prize.

3. Set clear priorities

Imagine that two clients approach you. Both projects look interesting, and you have the right skills on board to realize them. But you don’t have enough resources to realize them both. Which one is a better choice? 

You should be prioritizing the projects that have the greatest impact on your bottom line. 

You need a complete set of information to run simulations and check which project is more profitable - and just better for your business.

This insight will ensure that high-priority projects are fully staffed before you start allocating team members to other projects. It also means no more scheduling conflicts!

Support your time management strategies and workflow with the right tool

You might have all of these best practices in place, but achieving your goals will be a challenge without the right tool supporting.

Here are 4 elements you need to save the time of your managers:

1. Single source of truth for everyone 

Keeping all the key information about your projects and allocations in one place is a smart move. Find a solution that provides a single source of truth for all your employees, and you’ll never have to deal with questions like “Is X available next week?” or “When is this project ending?”

This also means saying goodbye to many pointless meetings and multi-tasking. You won’t be forced to give people answers about current or future allocations while trying to tell whether a project is profitable. 

All of this data will be available in one place to everyone at all times.

2. Bird’s eye view of ongoing work 

It's critical to keep an eye on the larger picture. Your company is a complex mechanism, so you should be able to easily switch perspectives from individuals to projects, zoom in and out of them.

A big picture view like this will help you identify productivity leaks and potential time waste.

You need this type of view for a quick and efficient decision-making process.

3. Long-term project view 

Being able to plan in advance might seem like a luxury, but it doesn’t have to be.

When talking to managers, I often hear things questions like:

“Arek, we have no idea how much work will be necessary for this project in the next two months!" 

or 

"The client's requirements are always changing, so how can I reasonably predict the future workload on this project?"

Stop thinking like that. Don’t be afraid to make assumptions based on past data and the likelihood of your cooperation in the future. The fear of making mistakes in estimates is common here - we usually want everything to be perfect, but the future is simply unpredictable. The trick is to allow yourself to plan something imperfectly based on the information you already have.

Run your numbers and prepare your business for the project to avoid wasting your (and your team’s) precious time later on.

4. Time tracking capabilities

Adding time tracking into the mix makes a lot of sense. You want to get better at forecasting how long-term projects develop, right? To achieve that, you need a solution that combines time tracking and project management features.

The most advanced software includes not only time monitoring and timesheets but also a dashboard with predictive timesheets that show which important tasks the team should be focusing on at the moment.

When this data is combined with financials, you get real, actionable business intelligence. You can instantly see the cost generated and income earned by your team members - per project, customer, or period range:

Get Primetric to clarify workflows at your company and ace these time management strategies - book a demo.

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski

Co-Founder

Arkadiusz is Head of Growth and Co-founder at Primetric. Prior to that, Arkadiusz was at the helm of his own software development company where he oversaw operations. A great enthusiast of process improvements, his personal mission is to make software companies more profitable and efficient on their path to growth.

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