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"I really like the way you can access your work items from within Outlook. I like the way you can bring up the full work item forms, make edits, and save immediately to TFS. It was great to create new meeting requests or mail messages from the work items."

Lori Lamkin
Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

"These types of products are important to the industry."

Joel Semeniuk
CEO and co-founder of ImagiNET Resources Corp.

"I know of a good number of companies that will love having something like this - getting their timesheet management into TFS (so it can be reported on, especially) will make life a lot easier for them."

James Manning
Software Design Engineer for Visual Studio project at Microsoft

"I like the idea of being able to link work items to e-mails and meetings. I also like that it provides non-technical information workers the option of working with TFS in a more familiar environment. Congratulations to TeamExpand on the release!"

Jason Barile
Principal Test Manager for Visual Studio Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

"TX Chrono, by TeamExpand, allows users to easily track how they are spending their time, store that information in TFS, and make it available for reporting in the warehouse."

Brian Harry
Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

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TFS Timesheet

Blog

Outlook Timesheet: Top Time Tracking Features

July 1st, 2011
by

Efficient project time tracking requires both development and management teams to be involved in the process. At the same time, not every manager is willing to use the same time tracking tools that your development team does.

The Outlook timesheet software is the tool that your project manager s will have fun working with, as it offers many useful features in the environment familiar to them. MS Outlook supports integration with third-party add-ins, and many companies develop Outlook timesheets for ALM software, e.g. Team Foundation Server plug-ins for Outlook.

When entering time in Outlook timesheet, users only see the work items they are assigned to. This makes their pick lists as short as possible and specific to them, which simplifies reporting and enhances its accuracy and consistency. Outlook timesheet lets users report time from any location via the Web and sometimes even through their Outlook mobile clients, which is great when your project manager goes on a business trip or has a meeting outside of the office.

Here are some other features to look for in the Outlook timesheet software:

    • Automated email reminders for late timesheets, with links that put employees one-click away from their responsibility
    • Multiple timesheet formats, including daily, weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc.
    • Timesheet templates that ensure that time is being filled in correctly, including rules for minimum/maximum hours, national holidays, days off, sickness days, etc.
    • Setting the terminology (tasks, work items, projects, etc.) to match your organization’s terms, so when project managers first see the timesheet, they deal with familiar terms

Outlook timesheet is a powerful productivity tool that allows for accurate time tracking and improves the overall workflow in the company. With the widespread adaptation of MS technology, Outlook timesheets are now more user-friendly and intuitive than ever before.

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Project Time Tracking Best Practices

June 9th, 2011
by

Project time tracking initiatives help software organizations stay within budget and measure employees’ productivity. There are a number of techniques to ensure that project time tracking software implementation is beneficial to your company. I’ve tried to list the most important ones below.

Define the scope of work: Make sure the time is reported according to your business processes. Each process should be split into a number of tasks, with custom reporting requirements considered.

Set priorities
for project’s activities and make sure you note, which ones must be completed first and which ones are flexible enough to be rescheduled. This project time tracking technique can help you manage the resources appropriately.

Performance comparison: You should regularly compare the current project status with deadlines. If something happens too late or too early, you have to find out why. Carefully consider if this alteration reveals potential problems, or if you simply have under/over estimated the time it takes to complete the activity.

Deadlines and Milestones. You need to have the best estimate about how long your project will take. If your organization used a project time tracking tool before, you can do a research and compare your plan with similar projects completed.

Project time tracking is one of the important metrics that you should have as a resource manager or a team leader. However, if your organization has never had time tracking in the past, you may have some resistance from the team when you implement project time tracking software. You have to talk to the team to ensure they understand exactly why you are implementing project time tracking and what its objectives are. Good luck!

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Project Time Tracking: The Evil of Overtime

March 29th, 2011
by

In the IT world, it is quite common that developers work extra hours on projects. This happens not only from pure necessity, like getting the project completed on time, but also for some psychological reasons. Yes, geeks often just can’t stop until the work is done.

Project time tracking can point out the overtime and become an effective tool to fight it. Why do you have to avoid spending extra hours in the first place? Normally, customers will pay more for the overtime, so is it really a problem? Here are some reasons that can make you see overtime not as a heroic effort, but merely as a destructive practice.

    1. Professional growth affected. It is sometimes tempting to spend extra hours a week clearing the items from the TO DO list, but developers will be accomplishing much more for their career by devoting those hours to reading tech books or exploring new programming languages.

    2. The lack of expansion. If you want to diversify your portfolio, then you should seek out technology experiences that are different from the ones used regularly. Working overtime will reinforce skills developers already have, while working on projects that require them learn new skills will make both the IT company and its development team more marketable and competitive.

    3. Lost productivity. The best stimulus for productivity is developer’s passion for the job. Spending long hours on the same tasks does not usually allow for this type of passion to grow.

Can project time tracking help resolve the issue of overtime? It definitely can. If the set of tasks for the developer is diverse and leaves a room for self-education and professional growth, it will benefit both developers and IT business owners.

For example, a new concept, process, tool, or technology studied by the developer at the free time can bring greater profits to the company and to the developer, than the ones used in the daily work. Project time tracking helps focus not only on short term goals, but on long term ones for business growth.

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How Can Project Time Tracking Improve Your Working Process?

March 3rd, 2011
by

We learnt long ago that project time tracking is required to monitor how many hours your team spends on certain tasks. The first use case for this information would certainly be to provide precise billing and accurate cost estimates to customers. This is the main but not the only reason why software development organizations need project time tracking tools.

By identifying the exact time spent on tasks, you can quickly find areas to be improved in your working schema. Project time tracking makes it easy for you to monitor your team’s progress throughout the day by logging working hours and running reports. Some other cases when project time tracking can improve your working process include the following:

    • Figure out the quickest possible time for a project to be completed in time.
    • Record the actual working hours against the planned hours to identify the deadlines.
    • Enable the team to track time anywhere, anytime, from any computer.
    • Identify and reduce the time spent by project managers and the team on tasks that take more time than planned.

Project time tracking allows for better planning, analysis, and reporting. The software that automates these processes is intended to make you understand how your business is distributing its time across projects, tasks, and employees. By noting and fixing the drawbacks of your working process, you can easily increase your team’s productivity.

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The Best Features of Project Time Tracking Software

December 17th, 2010
by

It is widely known that project time tracking helps manage employee’s workload, enhances the accuracy of billing, and provides great advantages to project managers. But the tricky thing is how to orientate in the overwhelming amount of solution and choose the right time tracking tool? In this post, I tried to sum up the best features that a cutting-edge project time tracking software should support.

Intuitive user interface

As this type of software is designed for business users, project time tracking software should provide an easy time entry with the user friendly interface. Users should also be able to insert comments about work associated with entries.

Project management support

Project time tracking software should allow setting tasks with estimated costs and deadlines. Project managers should be able to assign users to projects and view real-time estimates as users enter their time.

Billing management support

One of the best features that make project time tracking attractive to business users and decision-makers is the ability to base rates on projects, tasks, resources, clients, roles, departments, or users.

E-mail reminders

Users should be getting reminders to fill out their timesheets to ensure prompt submissions. E-mails can be set to automatically notify managers when there are timesheets awaiting approval

Reporting

Project time tracking software with powerful reporting capabilities is always going to be a winner. It is great if it provides report templates and tools to configure them. Project managers should be able to view reports in multiple formats, including the ability to save and share reports in PDF and Excel.

The project time tracking software should also provide support and maintenance services that can be accessed by users anytime.

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Project Time Tracking: Understand the Responsibility

December 3rd, 2010
by

On the basic level, project time tracking tools help review who is being productive and who isn’t. Can you go further than that and make your employees use project time tracking to actually be more productive? I think you can, if your team really understands, how these tools can eliminate time wasting.

Setting Priorities

Setting priorities ensures that your employees don’t spend time on tasks that don’t urgently require their engagement. Project time tracking software enables to prioritize tasks and categorize them to, for example, urgent, very high, high, and low priority. The majority of time should be spent on tasks that have a high priority. Low priority tasks can be either delegated or completed after the more important tasks.

Planning

Setting goals can dramatically increase focus and productivity. Project time tracking helps create daily, weekly, and monthly plans. Each employee can plan working activities to figure the best way to handle the amount of work and realize if the assistance is needed on early stages.

Reviewing Progress

Reviewing progress and realizing if the time was wasted, helps becoming more efficient. It’s important to be honest with yourself about how each hour was spent. Real-time submission of timesheets enables to track the time during the working process, not after the work has been done. At the end of the day, you can easily see how much time each team member spent on each task.

It is also important that resource managers associated with certain tasks confirm any estimates or deadlines associated with that task, accepting the responsibility and control over it. Taking responsibility for how working hours are spent ensures that the project time tracking software is properly utilized by the team.

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How Can I Leverage a TFS Timesheet?

November 24th, 2010
by

Team Foundation Server is a fantastic piece of software as it allows you to tailor TFS to your existing processes. However, the one thing that is missing there is a timesheet application. As you know, time tracking is a big requirement at many software development companies. Let’s see how your development team can benefit from a TFS timesheet extension.

View completed hours against remaining hours:
This feature of TFS timesheet enables you not only to analyze the workload of each project and each employee, but also allows planning future projects.

Set billable and non-billable work items, track overtimes: You can set different rates per hour for different types of tasks. You can track overtime and inform your customers that it has to be paid by a higher rate.

Plan holidays and days off for different locations:
In case you have development and management offices in different countries, as many software development companies do, you can bill clients and calculate salaries properly.

Submit timesheets to resource managers:
You can make each resource manager responsible for approving timesheets of the team that works on his/her project. It will save your account managers time when calculating salaries.

Create reports: You can create reports and convert them into Word, Excel, and CSV file formats to make it more convenient for you project managers and business analysts to examine your team’s performance.

Project managers can use the TFS timesheet for analysis and planning. Resource managers can leverage the TFS timesheet to view the workload, approve employees’ time, and control the work done by each team member. Account managers can use this TFS extension to bill customers correctly and to calculate salaries properly. Finally, developers can plan their work more efficiently.

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How Can Project Time Tracking Help Your Development Team?

November 12th, 2010
by

Though being implemented quite often, project time tracking is rarely utilized to actually improve a software development process. Software development teams have the time tracking data at hand, but are not using it, unless the work is billable. Here are some thoughts on how to use project time tracking to actually improve your team’s motivation and productivity.

More accurate cost estimates:
This must be the first reason for implementing project time tracking. When you track hours against work items for the project, you can avoid issues related to under- or overestimating. Underestimation appears to be a costly issue for companies and may result in delivering a project later, than planned. Overestimation makes it difficult to win the project, as you need to be as cost-effective as possible.

Improve productivity of each developer:
Project time tracking allows finding developers who constantly compile poor estimates, and helping them provide more realistic estimations. It also helps detect areas where it takes some developers to do their job longer than others. You can assign work according to developers’ strengths / weaknesses as well as to provide them with training in areas they don’t feel confident in.

Track effort against bugs:
Project time tracking helps to realize when a project of a similar size and scope as the one that you tracked before needs, for example, 30% of the total time for bug fixes. It helps to give more realistic estimates to customers.

Competition between team members:
If you publish graphs and dashboards on the basis of project time tracking, it can lead to the competition between team members and improve their productivity.

As you can see, project time tracking does not only provide for more accurate billing, but also is a great tool to improve your team’s productivity and enhance the performance of each team member.

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Is Project Time Software of Any Use to Sales Managers?

November 9th, 2010
by

I wrote a few posts on how project time software can improve everyday activities of project managers and software developers. I was wondering: are these tools also suitable for the rest of the staff in IT companies? Will project time software be of any use, for example, to a sales person, whose effectiveness is normally measured by the amount of leads found and contracts signed? I want to share a few thoughts on how project time software can enhance the operation of your sales department.

Managing results is not what helps raise successful sales people. It is much wiser to manage their actions that lead to the results. This is definitely a benefit of project time software. Tracking time spent by sales managers on different activities, you can actually manage sales team’s performance.

How can you do it?

    1. Introduce project time software to your sales managers and explain them, how it will benefit them and the company.
    2. Customize tasks in the project time software in accordance with sales managers’ activities: calls, e-mails, meetings, etc.
    3. Track time of sales people and view reports daily, weekly or monthly.

At the end of the month, you will have a clear picture of why some sales managers are more successful in their activities. For instance, an unsuccessful sales person might get in trouble for having a small number of leads. However, the same sales person could have been spending 80% of his/her time cold-calling. This means that he/she just needs training on how to cold-call more effectively.

This way, project time software can be helpful to forecast and measure the effectiveness of your sales efforts.

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Project Time Tracking Overview

October 25th, 2010
by

If you run a software development company, project time tracking is absolutely necessary for your business. Whether you practice flat bid or bill hourly, you need to know how your projects are progressing in real-time. Even if you don’t bill hourly, knowing where your time is going is never a waste of effort. Project time tracking makes your estimates more accurate, allows you to monitor working hours of employees, provides documented accounting of your time, and helps improve productivity. Here is a brief overview of project time tracking software types and features.

Web-based and desktop. Project time tracking can be performed either on-premises or via the internet. Some project time tracking software has desktop versions for all the major operating systems, while other is only Windows, Linux or Mac-based.

Free and paid. There are open source project time tracking tools, as well as paid ones.

The most common features. Project time tracking offers a variety of features. Here are the most common ones:

    • managing employees’ timesheets
    • tracking the time spent on projects and tasks
    • managing multiple projects and tasks
    • daily, weekly, and monthly reporting
    • providing project management and online collaboration
    • generating invoices

Integration with other tools. Project time tracking integration with e-mail clients, CRM systems, accounting systems provides for enhanced project management, better customer service, accurate billing, and improved workflow.

Project time tracking tools are built not only to track time, but to provide better collaboration and help analyze the activities within each project. Understanding which projects are taking most of the time and how that time is being spent is crucial to any business.

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