Time Tracking at WebReal with Time Cockpit
ERESNET GmbH is Austria’s leading IT provider for real estate agencies. The company runs www.immobilien.net, Austria’s largest internet platform for real estates. Beside that the team offers software solutions (e. g. WebReal) and statistical data (e. g. ImmoDEX) for the real estate market. We visited Mr. Christian Schackerl (in picture, left), a software development team leader at ERESNET. We talked about why time tracking is important for ERESNET in general and for development teams like his in particular.
The Importance of Time Tracking at ERESNET
Christian Schackerl has been a member of the software development team at ERESNET for more than six years. He had started as a developer. Today Christian is development team leader for ERESNET’s WebReal and Data Warehouse teams. Time tracking is important for him mainly for two reasons: project post calculation and internal cost allocation.
Concerning project post calculation he says: “At the end of each project we analyze the effort that we have invested. In such a process relying on one’s gut feeling is not sufficient. We analyze our time tracking database to identity room for improvement.”
Internal cost allocation helps them to distribute personnel costs to different business areas: “Some of our employees work for multiple business areas like WebReal and immobilien.net. Each year we estimate percentage rates per employee which we use for allocating personnel cost. The times booked onto different projects enable us to verify and if necessary correct these percentages. Making internal personnel cost for our products transparent is essential for product planning and controlling.”
Give the Teams Control over Time Tracking Details
When rolling out time cockpit, ERESNET tried to avoid over-bureaucratization. Christian Schackerl emphasized that this has been critical for user acceptance. ERESNET’s management team defined the minimum level of detail for time tracking that each team has to provide. Based on the minimum requirements, teams and individuals are free to decide to collect more fine-grained time tracking data.
Christian Schackerl: “With time cockpit employees get a tool that helps them finding out where they spend their time. They can identify time sinks and get rid of them together with their responsible manager. Similar things are done on a team-level. For instance in my team we have decided to collect data on a task-level, not only on project-level. With this we can analyze the amount of time we typically need for ad hoc support and pro-active error prevention. We might not stick to this level of detail forever. If we recognize that the numbers are rather constant and they are ok for us, we move back to a more coarse-grained data collection.”
Communicate What Time Tracking is Used For
Data protection is important especially for time tracking. Christian Schackerl told us that ERESNET’s management team communicated clearly what the time tracking database is used for. Collecting only the data that is absolutely necessary prevents the feeling of being spied.
Graphical Time Sheet Calendar helps Reducing Effort for Time Tracking
Keeping the effort for time tracking to a minimum has been an explicit goal for ERESNET. It should not be necessary for employees to spend more than 15 minutes per week for time tracking. It is suggested to enter time sheet bookings daily but accepted if someone enters it once a week. Christian says: “Time cockpit’s graphical time sheet calendar is a great tool. Having to enter time sheet bookings in a tabular form would not be satisfactory for us. The integration of Outlook appointments is also of great help. Time cockpit shows my Outlook appointments in its graphical calendar. I just have to double-click it and the time sheet booking is nearly done. If it happens that a meeting takes longer than expected, I can easily adjust the auto-generated booking in time cockpit’s calendar using drag and drop.
Time cockpit’s integration with Team Foundation Server is especially helpful for developers like us. If you do not enter your time sheet bookings daily you have to recall your work. Seeing Visual Studio project names, check-in’s, and work item changes directly in time cockpit’s calendar is a nice and useful feature.”
Learnings from the Time Cockpit Rollout Project
We asked Christian Schackerl about their most important learnings from the time cockpit rollout project. He said: “Retrospectively we could have prepared the launch a little bit better. Some users experienced technical difficulties regarding the integration of time cockpit in our IT infrastructure. We solved the problems with time cockpit’s support team quickly. However, we could have made the initial experience even smoother for some colleagues.
Secondly we learned that having a clearly communicated code of practice for time tracking from the first day on would have been beneficial. In the beginning we overstepped the mark in terms of the level of detail. Over time we have learned what we really need and tailored time cockpit accordingly.”
“Software-as-a-Service is the Future”
For Christian Schackerl Software-as-a-Service is the premier software delivery model of the future. ERESNET values that time cockpit adapts to their usage. Christian says: “With software as a service we pay exactly for what we really need. We can start small and the system grows with us. I think it is important for growing companies that processes adapt to growth too. Missing software support for internal processes can be a real inhibitor for growth. Software as a service lowers the entry barrier and enables even smaller companies to work with highly professional tools.”