02/14/2024 - Articles

Project time recording - Why it pays to record project times

Since the ECJ ruling in 2019, there has been an increased focus on time recording, especially in project management. Project time recording is not just about simply recording working time, but rather about the detailed booking of time for specific activities as part of project work. While project time recording offers clear advantages, there are also concerns among employees. But what are the pros and cons in detail? Find out tips and best practices for introducing project-based time recording in your company here.

Definition: What is project time tracking?

Project time recording, also known as project-related time recording, refers to the systematic documentation of the workload for projects or tasks. People involved in a project book the working time spent on their activity to the task and therefore to the project.

Project time recording refers to the systematic recording of the time required to complete a task or project.

This distinguishes project time recording from traditional working time recording or attendance recording. Working time recording only documents the start and end of work and overtime. It is not possible to see in detail which tasks and activities the employee has invested their working time in.

Recording project time allows the actual workload to be compared with the previously estimated planned workload, enabling project managers to check the reality of their workload estimates from the previous project planning. Based on these findings, planning and effort estimates for future projects can be optimized. Furthermore, time tracking in projects serves as proof of the workload to the customer and helps companies to use their time resources efficiently.

7 Advantages of project time recording

Project-based time recording offers many advantages - not only for your company, but also for your project employees themselves. The following advantages are seven powerful arguments for introducing project time recording in your company.

1. Available capacities are identifiable

Project-related time recording enables better estimation of time and effort in projects, especially from a strategic perspective. It is not just a question of who does what by when. Rather, it is about ensuring that working time is spent on the right activities. This is particularly important for departments that also provide internal services, such as IT, software development or administration. Time tracking helps to determine how much time is spent on internal support services, maintenance, operations and line activities, which has an impact on capacity for core projects and tasks. From a strategic point of view, time tracking makes it possible to answer the question of whether time is being invested in the right activities.

2. Create a database for project controlling

Project-related time tracking enables precise tracking of the actual time required to complete each task. By comparing this actual effort with the effort planned in the project planning phase, project managers can check at any time during the course of the project whether their original effort estimate was realistic. Delays in the course of the project can thus be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, appropriate readjustments made in resource planning for future tasks or adjustments made to the project flowchart and timetable.

Once several projects have been completed, you can carry out various analyses based on the data collected and answer questions such as ...

  • which projects, tasks or activities took longer or shorter than planned.
  • which projects were worth the effort.
  • which projects achieved a lot with little effort.
  • whether or not sufficient resources were available.

3. Experience-based optimization of effort estimation

Analyzing past projects provides the project manager and client with valuable information about the effort required for certain tasks and processes. This information is used as empirical values for estimating the effort required for future projects. As your experience grows, you can continuously optimize your project planning based on data.

One example is the comprehensive mapping of development and construction processes in a project management system for companies in the mechanical engineering sector. Through consistent time recording, the development and production times for new machines can be accurately forecast, which leads to greater planning security for companies. Project managers can better assess how new large orders will affect the capacity of their employees and other projects.

4. Exact billability of services rendered

Project time recording is essential for providing the customer with proof of performance. It enables exact traceability of billable services and provides the basis for invoicing. Project time recording offers an economic advantage for service providers and fee-based companies. By documenting the actual hours worked, they can invoice their customers correctly.

5. Identification of time wasters

Project time tracking makes hidden efforts visible and improves the estimation of time expenditures. By using a time recording system, you can accurately document all efforts that flow into a project, including "invisible" time thieves in processes such as coordination calls, feedback loops or administrative work. Thanks to the recorded times, you can easily identify these and then reduce them through targeted measures.

6. Performance record for employees

Time recording tools enable employees to document their working hours, even when they are away on external appointments, e.g. service technicians, tradesmen, consultants and freelancers. In this way, you can seamlessly document the actual work performed, regardless of the location. Project employees can thus claim overtime worked.

7. Motivation boost

The motivation of team members increases when they see that their contribution to the success of the project is visible to their superiors and the team. Project time tracking software makes these contributions transparent and prevents employees from losing motivation at work because their performance is not recognized or appreciated. In addition, the continuous recording of project times leads to more precise effort estimates for recurring or similar tasks. This enables employees to plan better with appropriate time resources and avoid overwork.

What speaks against project time tracking?

Fine-grained time recording naturally enables detailed and extremely differentiated analyses and monitoring of each employee's work performance. As described in advantages 6 and 7, time recording enables, among other things, the identification of particularly committed employees (for example, through a particularly large number of billable activities). The recorded project times often form the data basis for employee appraisals and salary increases or bonuses. However, there is also a flip side to this coin.

Many project employees fear that their performance will be reduced to the time factor regardless of the work result, that they themselves will be seen as an interchangeable resource, constantly monitored and compared with others in terms of their efficiency. This fear on the part of employees is understandable, especially if the employer's goal is to identify and possibly eliminate inefficient resources. There are indeed companies that take this approach.

But even if this is not the case, the feeling that total performance monitoring is possible is enough to cause lasting damage to the motivation, trust and loyalty of project staff. For this reason, some companies prohibit the precise recording of effort in projects or tasks in general, i.e. they switch to recording working hours. In doing so, however, these companies forgo the many advantages of project time recording.

To ensure that the recording of project times works for everyone involved, you should heed the following golden rule:

Consider time tracking as a tool that helps you optimize your project planning and provides you with a basis for identifying uneconomical projects. Do not only use the recorded effort to monitor and assess the performance of individual employees! 

10 tips: How to create acceptance for time recording

To prevent resistance to project time recording among employees, it is important to take justified fears seriously and dispel them. The following tips will help you create acceptance for the necessity and advantages of project-related time recording.

1st tip: Communication and transparency

Clear and open communication is crucial. Explain to employees the reason for introducing project time tracking, how it can improve the workflow and the benefits for themselves and the company. Emphasize that it is not about monitoring employees, but about more efficient processes.

2nd tip: Early participation

Involve employees in the decision-making process at an early stage. This can take the form of workshops, meetings or surveys to find out and take into account their concerns and opinions. Your software provider should provide you with help and advice and support you in developing suitable strategies and designing specific measures.

3rd tip: Training and support

Make sure that your employees understand the technical aspects of time recording. Offer training to make it easier for them to use the new systems. Also make sure there is a clear point of contact for questions and support.

4th tip: Demonstrate the benefits

Highlight the benefits of time tracking. Show how it can help to optimize work processes, increase the accuracy of billing, use resources more efficiently, avoid overloads, create predictability and enable a better work-life balance. Explain to your employees that not only the company, but also they themselves benefit from project time tracking in their day-to-day work.

5th tip: Data protection and trust

Emphasize the protection of employee data and disclose how you use the information collected. Make it clear that you treat the collected data confidentially and only use it for the intended purposes.

6th tip: Pilot phase

Start project time tracking in a pilot phase with a small group of employees. Gather their feedback and experience in order to identify and address any problems or concerns at an early stage.

7th tip: Continuous feedback

Encourage continuous feedback from employees. Encourage suggestions and ideas and make adjustments accordingly to ensure that the project time tracking system meets the needs and requirements of the company and the employees.

Tip 8: Create incentives

Consider introducing incentives for those who actively and positively participate in project time tracking. This can increase employee motivation to accept and use the system.

9th tip: The role model function of management

Management should not only be behind the introduction of a project time tracking system, but should themselves use the project time tracking system consistently. This can help to increase acceptance among employees.

10th tip: Continuity and patience

Changes take time. Be patient and continuous in your efforts to create acceptance for project time tracking in the company. Plan your implementation project for a time recording system accordingly.

To create acceptance for the introduction of project time recording, you should involve your employees in the process as early as possible, take their concerns seriously and clearly communicate the benefits of time recording for all those involved. Treat the introduction as a project and plan it carefully, including the project organization and resource planning.

Project time recording with Projektron BCS: Project management software with time recording

Projektron BCS offers a flexible time recording system that adapts perfectly to your individual work processes and workflows, regardless of whether attendance, work or project-related time recording is involved. Various booking masks are available, including

  • Individual booking: Ideal for extensive tasks with high documentation requirements.
  • Weekly booking: Suitable for primarily recording attendance or longer working time periods.
  • Daily booking: Perfect for when there are many different activities, tasks and appointments every day. Here you can record time spent on projects or activities directly in a clear list. You can also book tickets, workflows and scrum activities in this view. The option to create booking favorites or display the most recently booked tasks further simplifies the booking process.

Record project-related times live via stopwatch

With the Projektron BCS stopwatch, you can document your workload for projects, tasks and tickets in real time down to the minute. You can immediately see how long you have been working on a task and can easily generate invoices at the end of the month at the click of a mouse. The stopwatch is available to you in all views in Projektron BCS, so that you can post exactly to the right task with just one click.

Clear and simple plan/actual comparison

Projektron BCS offers comprehensive project time recording as the basis for projekt controlling. As a project manager, you always have an overview of the project workload.

  • Employees provide estimates of the remaining workload for their activities.

  • Project managers receive an overview of the current processing status and work progress of individual employees and teams.

  • Project managers recognize deviations from the plan at an early stage on the basis of current actual data and can take well-founded measures.

  • Pre- and post-calculations of time and costs are possible at any time.

The combination of time recording and project management functions in Projektron BCS enables accurate billing of project work and project time spent. Invoicing can be carried out seamlessly, including all other costs, and sent directly from BCS to the customer. Detailed and customizable reports on recorded project times, working hours and attendance are available for internal controlling.

Mobile time recording with the Projektron WebApp

Mobile time recording is indispensable, especially for field staff who are involved in various projects. With the Projektron WebApp, you can also...

  • record working and travel times and breaks.
  • post directly to project and operational tasks, tickets, deadlines, Scrum activities and workflows.
  • view working time evaluations.
  • mobile expense recording.

All this makes time recording easier and contributes to more efficient project management.

Projektron BCS helps your project team to carry out projects more effectively and efficiently by improving communication and collaboration within the team, simplifying task management, supporting project planning, centrally recording billable expenses for the project and transferring them directly to the billing system. In BCS, you plan processes and successively optimize them based on experience and data. In this way, BCS helps you to optimize your business processes, complete your projects more successfully and increase the productivity of your project teams. 

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Best practice project time recording: examples from Projektron users

Almost all Projektron BCS customer companies use the time recording functions. The advantages are manifold, as the following three examples show.

Hörmann KG Antriebstechnik - See what you have done during the day

In 38 specialized plants in Europe, North America and Asia, more than 6,000 Hörmann employees develop and produce high-quality gates, doors, frames, operators, access control and storage systems for use in private and commercial properties. Hörmann KG Antriebstechnik primarily realizes product development and research projects. This may well involve 30 to 40 projects running in parallel.

In addition to the project management functions, time recording was initially a priority when introducing project management software in order to keep an eye on resource utilization. All employees have long been recording their working and project times in Projektron BCS, using the file repository and keeping themselves informed about the progress of the project. The advantages of project time recording are thus obvious to all employees and acceptance is consequently very good.

In the meantime, the Hörmann team has begun to use Projektron BCS not only for pure project work, but also for more complex line activities in day-to-day business, such as product support. This gives project managers a realistic picture of the basic workloads of all colleagues, which of course also benefits the project work.

Eva Klama, Assistant to the Head of Product Management

"Personally, I appreciate the 'daily booking' function in time recording the most. Here you can see immediately and clearly what you have done during the day and which activities required how much time. In this context, BCS visualizes resource utilization in a transparent, reliable and appealing way. As a company, we can now clearly see how much we are actually achieving. We currently have around 40 projects running at the same time, which is very impressive. It is also informative to be able to see the exact costs of the individual projects in real time."

:em engineering methods - recording project time in the field offline

:em engineering methods AG, or :em AG for short, develops and communicates innovative methods of product development and, as an integrator of IT systems in the product development process, offers a comprehensive range of services for manufacturers, suppliers and engineering service providers. For the diverse tasks of project management and project execution, from planning and time recording to controlling, :em AG consistently uses Projektron BCS.

Due to the company's strong growth, the tools previously used for project management and time recording were reaching their limits. The aim was to map all processes holistically in a software solution for project management in order to avoid multiple data transfers and multiple manual entries.

In particular, :em engineering methods had very specific requirements for time recording: Hours worked should also be able to be booked directly when working on site at the customer's premises. Because :em employees are sometimes deployed in very sensitive areas of their customers' companies, Internet connections are often prohibited for security reasons. It therefore also had to be possible to record times offline and transfer them to the system later. The project management software also had to be able to map flexible working time models and integrate freelance and external employees. Projektron BCS in conjunction with the Projektron WebApp met all these requirements.

Dr. Sven Kleiner, co-founder, owner and COO at :em engineering methods

"Our employees now know which tasks have been assigned to them on a daily basis. We can see exactly which parts of a project have already been completed and how much budget is still available. We now use the Projektron software for our time recording and performance records, project management, resource planning including vacation and sickness management, as well as for invoicing and expense accounting."

msg global solutions - central project time recording in international projects

msg global solutions Deutschland GmbH is a provider of consulting, implementation and managed services that helps companies improve their operational efficiency and decision-making capabilities with the help of SAP technology. Through SAP implementation projects for customers in the insurance and financial services sectors in particular, msg has grown strongly globally and today employs over 1,400 people in 23 offices around the world. Each year, msg carries out up to 200 external projects.

Customer projects are assigned to a country according to the customer location, but are always processed by an international team from up to ten countries. Projektron BCS maps the complete matrix organization of business units and countries in its internal tree structure. All employees record their project expenses centrally in Projektron BCS, regardless of their location.

For international invoicing, msg global solutions requires a multi-currency-capable system with daily updated exchange rates in conjunction with related invoicing. With Projektron BCS, msg was able to implement international billing and invoicing with limited implementation and administration effort. As Projektron BCS works via a web-based, central instance, there was no need to install the software separately in all 23 countries and then network them with each other.

Peter Schürmann, Head of Global Project Management at msg global solutions Germany

"Since all the information on effort, employees, location and project is available in BCS, we can automatically issue invoices internally at the beginning of the month via intercompany invoicing. The countries that create invoices and those that receive them have a complete overview of the invoices at the same time. This significantly reduces the time and effort involved in generating invoices. This functionality alone, directly linked to the project postings, would be a reason for msg global to choose BCS again today."

Project time recording: the foundation for successful project management

Project time tracking is essential for efficient project management. It enables the accurate recording of working time for different tasks and projects, which improves resource management, cost control, performance assessment, customer communication and data-based decision-making.

The project management and ERP software Projektron BCS offers a comprehensive and flexible system for project time recording. It includes various booking masks for individual, weekly and daily bookings. The live stopwatch enables accurate real-time recording of workloads. A clear plan/actual comparison provides a clear insight into the progress of work and enables estimates, plan deviations and pre-/post-calculations. The combination of time tracking and project management allows accurate billing, seamless invoicing with all costs accounted for and provides detailed, customizable reports for internal controlling.

About the author

Like all other departments at Projektron GmbH, Marketing also uses the options for digital work and project time recording in Projektron BCS on a daily basis. The workload for internal projects is evaluated in detail after project completion, lessons learned are recorded and processes are optimized. Kai Sulkowski is an editor in the marketing department and is always informed about the latest developments and innovations in the world of project management and work organization.

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Project time tracking pays off for your company! We offer tips, best practices and discuss controversies surrounding project-related time tracking.

Project time tracking pays off for your company! We offer tips, best practices and discuss controversies surrounding project-related time tracking.

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