Forecasting of expected costs and time on projects is difficult. Most companies that I have worked with do not have a system (or no good system) for project managers to forecast the time required of their project staff to do the required tasks.
The timesheet system is often not linked to forecasting. In fact, many companies, if they even do forecasting, use manual spreadsheets. The problem with this is that they are constantly out of date, do not not get used the same way by all project managers, and are not linked to the actual time sheet data.
Consequently, the correct time information is not available, inaccessible, or difficult to collate and summarise.
I believe a good timesheet and forecasting system should allow a project manager to forecast the hours required on a task for each person (or for a skill level). That project manager would approve (via simple tick boxes) that person to book time to that project and associated cost code.
The project manager should automatically be informed by the system if the budget for that person or that task is used up (or close to being used up). This would allow the manager to allocate extra budget to that task, lodge a change request, or request further budget, and to keep track of the budget. It would also allow the PM to see what tasks are taking more time or less time than forecast.
For projects that repeat similar types of work, a system such as this would allow project managers to forecast more accurately based on the data from past projects.
Ideally, on the team member’s timesheet, the codes they should book to would automatically show up. This would save them time and would make it clear what they are supposed to be booking their time to. It would also be possible to display the allocated budget for that task on the person’s timesheet, showing the budgeted hours, hours used so far, and the remaining hours. It should also allow the person to click a box and leave a comment to the project manager that they will need more time than budgeted. This would reduce the workload on the PM in working out how much time is needed by each team member.
A good time recording and labour forecasting system should make the task of budget forecasting much more efficient and accurate, saving time and money.
A good forecasting and timesheet system that is properly linked would:
- Save time.
- Save money.
- Mean project managers would not have to always worry about going over budget (as they would automatically be informed when budget limits are approaching).
- Make cost reporting a lot easier.
Tell me if you know of a system that allows all this.