Our Thoughts

A Journey in Time (Tracking and Forecasting)

Posted by Dave Tarnow on Jan 17, 2017 11:00:00 AM
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Alarm clock to represent time tracking

At Springthrough, and I’m sure other firms around the world, we use system upon system, upon system, to support our business needs. Any time we can integrate technology tools to make our lives easier, it is a huge win.

Our Project Management Office (PMO) works between many functions of the business, so I am often asked to coordinate from one system to another. Over the last year, Springthrough began using tools from Teamwork and Harvest to accomplish our goals of time tracking, reporting, and forecasting.

  • TeamworkPM is our project management tool and client document repository.
  • Harvest is our internal time tracking and invoicing tool. 
  • Harvest Forecast is our resource planning/forecasting tool.

Each system individually has a strong focus, but the real power comes when you use them together. 

 

Time-Tracking with Harvest and Teamwork

Time tracking is obviously essential in consulting work. I use Teamwork to track project activity like User Stories and Epics, monitoring the task list along each step of the way. Developers work off the task list in Teamwork to complete activities and enter how much time they spent. By turning on the integration between Teamwork and Harvest, our team never has to leave the system where they work on a daily basis. Instead, that information connects with Harvest to generate a time entry, and then an invoice quickly and accurately.

 

Analytics with Harvest and Teamwork

In order to make sure tasks are on budget, or find out why they aren’t, it is important for us to be able to pull reports for a specific project and track hours directly to individual tasks - a great feature within Harvest as long as the data is there. Internally this helps us learn how long specific actions take and helps us learn lessons if things go over budget. Rather than ask the developers to create a separate set of notes, which…let’s face it, is really wishful thinking with any busy resource, we use a simple integration. Harvest pulls the task name from Teamwork to prefill the notes field, so we have clarity around each time entry. See the screen shots below for an illustration of how this works.

 

Screenshot of Harvest integration with Teamwork for time tracking

 

Screenshot of Harvest integration with Teamwork for analytics

 

Planning with Harvest and Harvest Forecast

At Springthrough, we face a familiar challenge for any business with project-based work. It’s hard to see what’s coming down the pipeline, which makes it hard to determine how many resources (i.e. man-hours) we will need in the long term. It’s a balancing game where every little bit of information helps. 

The Harvest and Harvest Forecast systems are obviously closely tied, since they are two tools from the same company. These tools, working together, have taken forecasting and resource planning to the next level for Springthrough.

Using the two systems, we track time in Harvest and then use the Forecast integration to enter forecasted/estimated hours per week for each resource on each project. With this information, we get a long-term resource forecast AND a budget spend forecast for each project.

The forecasting tool has put us in a better position to plan hiring and resource allocations on a long-term basis. We now have better data to show where we need resources to work on projects that we’ve “won” as well as where our resources don’t have work lined up. The screen shot below illustrates the power of seeing how resources are forecasted.

 

Harvest and Harvest Forecast integration for resource planning

Having forecasts pulled into Harvest has improved our reporting back to clients. We now have a more accurate way to determine if a project is going to be over or under budget. Our clients appreciate if we can anticipate and change course, if needed, sooner rather than later. See the screenshot below that shows the additional reporting information we get for each project.

 

Harvest and Harvest Forecast integration for budget tracking

 

Having a million systems is never fun. As a PMO, we want our resources to be billing, not spending time on internal activities. Integrating systems has allowed us to create efficiencies that keep our developers writing code while also improving the data we need to run the business.

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Topics: Development Trends, Company Culture