Why do we not value time as much as money?
Remember, that we used a term "effective project tracking". All solutions are not created the same. Actually when a company is in need of project tracking, they often implement a tracking mechanism that is doomed to fail. Companies often forget that the planning process is controlled by a project manager, while time tracking demands full acceptance and long-term support of every employee in your office, or in your project team. If you implement a tool that your project team does not use heartily, consistently, and voluntarily, you have not really implemented a solution at all.
We have seen many different project tracking non-starters. For instance, one international financial brand had a full-time employee who sole responsibility was to run around the office with a clipboard interviewing team members about their progress and status and inputting the data into a comprehensive folder of Microsoft Project files. There was a commercial printing work that asked employees to enter status information into an Excel spreadsheet that was over 6k rows long.
As we write, thousands of custom-built Visual Basic timesheet applications grind along at different stages of completion not quite meeting the needs of the companies that developed them. There are firms that try to use paper timesheets that employees fill out for payroll and analyze them for project tracking purposes. When it comes to project tracking methods, it is an interesting world out there, and it is not pretty.
Rather than trying to create your own, you can find a commercially available time tracking system that best meets your needs.
Will Employees Use It?
Usability is one of the most important considerations as a time tracker is only as good as the information that it gets is useful for a company. If your team flout it (and they will if it's too hard to use) or worse, sabotage it, your tool will only serve to built a wall between you and your employees. Use the time tracker that makes tracking as easy and painless as possible for your people, and avoids human error as good as possible.
Better yet, if your tracker actually gives an orderly automated feedback to individual employees, it could build an incentive for timely and accurate information entry. If you are considering a web-based time tracker, keep an eye on nature of web applications. Often it makes them more cumbersome to use than desktop solutions. The possibility to use both a web entry method and a desktop client would be ideal.
Does It Give An Answer?
Do not get distracted by hundreds of reports that a project tracking system offers. Ask yourself what questions about your team's work time are the most important and see if a time tracker that you consider can answer them. First of all you should start with: "Are we on board with it?" "How much will the project cost in the end?" "What work takes longer than we thought?" "How much money are we really making on a project?"
Will It Help Me To Know More?
Ask your projects managers how you can use the time tracker to improve the way you work tomorrow. How will you take the information collected for your today's projects and turn it into a useful insight for the future work? This is how your time tracking system will pay for itself.
In the project managers' club we know that time is as scarce and valuable as money, and there is no factor more important to the eventual success or failure of our endeavors. But we constantly see examples of projects which are good planned but bad tracked, if they are tracked at all.
The question is not whether you should track time. You must do it. Take care to choose the right system for your organization. Be sure to evaluate it in real-world conditions before making your decision. Get the buy-in of every single team member.