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Better Project Tracking: Easier than You Think

Every business can benefit from better project monitoring. With the right software, it's easier than many people think. When Resume Mirror realized its time tracking software, TimeTiger, could forecast project outcome, the company increased profitability on a key project by 5 to 10% and delivered the system to the customer 10% earlier.

Scenario

  • Uncertainty whether projects are performing as expected.
  • Regular status meetings take longer than needed and don't produce precise information.
  • A simple, easy way to obtain precise status information and reduce meeting effort is needed.

Resume Mirror, a division of Talent Technology Corporation, is a software company that builds software components, online services and applications for the Human Resources and Recruiting industry. Resume Mirror knew it had to improve its project monitoring capabilities. The company suspected that some of its projects were completing below delivery and profitability expectations and corrective actions were occurring too late or not at all during the project. "We would have regular status meetings and get a rough idea of where we were but you couldn't really tell if a project was going to meet its targets until after the fact," says Rick Barfoot, Resume Mirror's Director of Client Services, "I remember thinking after one particular status meeting, 'there are too many activities to keep track of. We need a way to make sense of all the information to know what's really going on.'"

Like most successful growing companies, the challenge for Resume Mirror was finding the time to figure out how to do a better job of monitoring projects and then following through and implementing it. The answer came after Resume Mirror purchased TimeTiger in 2004 to record time spent on its software projects. TimeTiger was selected because of its simplicity and ease of use for tracking time and it has exceeded expectations says Rick. "Our developers find it quick and simple to log time and management finds it easy and intuitive to report on time spent on development and other internal activities."

"TimeTiger sounded a warning bell early on. We were able to drill down quickly, identify the issues … and motivate the development team."

Pleased with how simple and easy TimeTiger was for time tracking, Rick wanted to see if it could help him improve project monitoring processes without investing much time. He decided to try the project monitoring functions on his next project. "I really needed a tool that was intuitive and would be quick to get up and running. A colleague had mentioned to me that TimeTiger had excellent project monitoring capabilities, so I decided to give it a try." says Rick.

Resume Mirror develops and markets software components that help organizations create efficient recruiting processes. Its software components provide resume processing and enhanced candidate matching and searching. The company's primary source of revenue is software licensing however most contracts involve some custom integration work which is delivered by its professional services group. A typical contract would require a project team of five to ten people. The company was recently selected by a government agency to build a career portal web application and Rick chose this project to try out TimeTiger's project management capabilities.

Once the contract was signed, Rick went to work developing the project tasks and schedule in Microsoft Project which he then imported into TimeTiger. During the import process, To Do lists were automatically created for all resources by TimeTiger. Rick chose to develop the budget in TimeTiger. "We were surprised at how simple and easy it was to get up and running with the project tracking features," says Rick. "All we had to do was import our project schedule and estimate costs. As soon as people started logging time we could instantly see what was going on with the project. By itself, this already provided tremendous value."

Requirements

  • Predict project cost and completion date.
  • Enable streamlined communications through believable data.
  • Produce an early warning signal for potential problems.
  • Be simple to use and understand.

Shortly after the project kicked off, a developer made an informal comment to Rick that made him wonder if the project might be tracking slightly behind schedule. He was not overly concerned because the developer seemed fairly confident and unworried herself. Whatever delay there might be was probably minor and he would be able to request another week or two from the client if necessary. Then he checked the TimeTiger snapshot and immediately noticed that it projected a significantly delayed completion date. Rick was surprised, "I was sure the forecast was inflated, so I checked the task level snapshots." He quickly realized the delay was real and larger than suspected. A simple request for another week or two from the client would not be enough and it would likely undermine credibility later when it became necessary to again ask for more time.

The delay was caused by the under-estimation of development work on a particular module as well as some ambiguity in the design that was causing the developer to take longer than originally planned. Rick decided to reassign the developer and gain progress in other areas while the design was clarified. He also scheduled a client meeting to discuss the delay.

TimeTiger shaped the planning of the client meeting and contributed directly to its success. "We handled the meeting better than we would have without TimeTiger. It allowed us to go in with accurate information about the cause and magnitude of the delay. The TimeTiger data made our customer feel more confident about where we were and how we wanted to move forward." Rick adds, "We spent less time and effort gaining agreement to proceed as a result of TimeTiger. It's a great tool to use during the client communication process. Furthermore, it enables the project manager to properly set internal and external expectations."

"We handled the meeting better than we would have without TimeTiger. The TimeTiger data made our customer feel more confident about where we were and how we wanted to move forward."

Client meetings were not the only place where TimeTiger reduced time and effort on the project. Rick estimates that as much as 1 to 2 hours per week (5 to 10% of total effort) were saved throughout the project by clarifying and reducing the need for internal communications. "I now have a central repository of project information. Rather than make a phone call or call a meeting and still not be sure about the true status of the project, I can just look in TimeTiger for an instant update," says Rick.

Result

  • Improved communication with the client throughout the project.
  • 5-10% greater profits.
  • Delivery 10% sooner.

Rick also estimates that TimeTiger's early warning capabilities helped Resume Mirror deliver the project 10% sooner. "TimeTiger sounded a warning bell early on that confirmed there was a gap between the amount of work done and the hours consumed. We were able to drill down quickly, identify the issues and provide objective information to motivate the development team. I would say this cut our overall time by as much as 5 to 7 days."

With 5 to 10% higher profitability, a 10% improvement in time-to-market and better client relations, Rick says it is a "no-brainer" that Resume Mirror will be using TimeTiger's project tracking functions on future projects. "TimeTiger isn't just about better tracking, it's about improving return on investment and doing a better job for our clients."

For more information about how you can painlessly implement Earned Value methods at your organization, e-mail us at sales@indigo1.com.


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