Relying on employees’ ability to just naturally get in sync with each other in the attempt to reach a common goal doesn’t really cut it in today’s business world. The marketplace is getting more and more competitive in a great majority of industries and if you fail to properly organize your team on every project so that the execution goes as smoothly as possible, you won’t retain clients, much less get new ones.
This is why project management is such a big deal these days. Scrum, Agile, Six Sigma, Kanban, Waterfall - these are just a couple of the most popular types of project management and workflow organization methodologies. The number of these just goes to show how seriously this is taken in many companies. It also testifies to the fact that different businesses need different types of project and task organization.
With this in mind, we won’t go into detail on any specific project management type, but will instead focus on the project life cycle stages that they, for the most part, have in common. These are: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. But we’ll do this with a twist - we’ll also discuss how finding the best time clock app for tracking your team and fitting it into this project outline can help you manage your team even more effectively.
So, to answer the second part of our question from the title: a good time tracking app fits in every stage of the project life cycle. Let’s find out how!
The initiation stage is always the first part of the project management process. As the name suggests, your team is supposed to initialize the project here. What does this mean?
Well, it basically includes the decision on whether you’re going to take on a project or not, who’s going to be involved as well as who’s going to be in charge, and what the final outcome is supposed to be. As you can see, these are all pretty general and broad considerations. All the fine details are left for the planning stage, which we’ll discuss in a bit.
As this stage is so general, it might be difficult to see at first how even the best time clock app can play any significant role in it. However, it can provide a bit of an input when it comes to deciding whether to accept working on a new project. In other words, it can be an important part in what is commonly referred to as a feasibility study. This is when your team analyzes whether the new project can be completed with the assigned budget and in the assigned amount of time.
One of the best time clock app functionalities is keeping historical data on the amount of time each past project took, how long you needed for each task, which tools were used, how much money was spent, etc. This will come in useful in a couple more stages too. For now, you can just look at the total time and budget on similar projects in order to make a rough estimate of whether you can achieve what the client expects.
For instance, if a client wants their project completed in three months and you see that the best case scenario was four, you can either ask for a deadline extension or decide not to take on the project at all.
Once the project is accepted, the next stage in the life cycle is typically planning. This is where everything is planned in much more detail - from assigning tasks, to determining deliverables and potential risks, to deciding on the timeline. This process includes four distinct considerations.
First, determining which tasks are to be done and how they’re to be performed. The more detail you have, the better. Detailed historical data provided by the best time clock app can again help out here because you can use this data as a reference on what you need to do and how much time you’ll need for that.
Secondly, you need to assign these tasks to the right employees. Consider expertise and efficiency but also take care not to overburden anyone (including yourself). You can create a new project and assign tasks directly within your work time tracker, or you can do it with a project management software.
Thirdly, plan the timeline in detail and set deadlines for each task and stage of the project. Again, use past time tracking data to see what’s realistic for your team. Trying to make the timeline feasible will ensure you can stay on track without working overtime or getting stressed out.
And finally, there’s the question of the budget. Deciding how much you should spend and on what follows the same general principle as setting deadlines - decide what’s realistic and try to stick to it as closely as you can during the execution stage.
The execution phase is the central part of the project life cycle. At this stage, all decisions from the planning stage are put into action. Two critical parts of the execution are collaboration and monitoring. So, first, you need to make sure that everyone needs to know what they’re supposed to do and that you keep the inter-team communication ongoing.
The second part - monitoring - is when you could really use the best time clock app. Keep tabs on every stage of the project and track time on tasks in order to see whether you’re on schedule. This way, you’ll be able to discover any issues early enough so that you can change your strategy and adapt your schedule before it makes any damage to the ensuing tasks and your workflow in general. In the best case scenario, you should get to every deliverable on time and keep the quality of work in accordance with the standards provided by the client.
The final stage of the project life cycle is the closing phase, during which your team releases all the deliverables and the accompanying documentation to the client. This is also the time when you make the final reports on the budget spent, the things done, and any outstanding payments to the client. You can use your time tracker to deliver the final billing information to your client and ensure that you’re paid according to the effort and resources you’ve put in.
Another thing you should do in the closure stage is project analysis. This is one of the most important and best time clock app use cases when it comes to project management. During project analysis, you should take a final look back at your data and evaluate your performance. Knowing what you did right and what kind of problems you had, whether you managed to overcome them and how, as well as comparing the workflow to your plan from the second stage of the project life cycle will make all the future projects that much easier to plan.
Organization is everything when it comes to ensuring the ultimate success of your team on every project. Now that you’re familiar with the basis of project life cycle and how time tracking software fits into it, you’ll be better equipped for smooth sailing from the initiation all the way to the closure.