“Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One
To my Friend A. B.
As you have desired it of me, I write the following hints, which have been of service to me, and may, if observed, be so to you. Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, tho’ he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent or rather thrown away five shillings besides.”
For many corporations time management is about making sure that work is done on budgeted and approved work. It’s not because there is a desire to understand genuinely what staff are doing. It is therefore a political football.
Time and again I have heard from executives; “Time management ? No lets not go there”. These are code words for “that’s going to stir up a **** storm”. Yet they have the bulk of their IT teams managing and working in Jira. And I can understand the concern. Imagine if people actually knew that staff were perhaps spending many hours dealing with bureaucracy, delays and problems rather than genuinely value added work? Yet this is just masking the political problem.
Time management (aka timesheets) which is based around the work actually being done is critical to understanding what is enabling or blocking staff and teams from being as productive as possible. Probably one of the reasons why some 77,000 organizations are managing time in Jira.
Why Time Matters, Even in Agile…
Many Agile coaches feel that time as a metric is less important than estimation around points, which ultimately leads to “velocity” based on the number of points achieved on average over a series of sprints.
Another key factor in this is the budgeting approach in scaled agile which often simply assumes resources are fully loaded by the product that is being built. In reality though there are many demands on the delivery staff’s time we believe that time and points are both important. Of course time is often still entered in another system which provides some tracking and assignment to officially funded projects, however this is totally disconnected from the work being done in Jira. Because stories will be completed in sprints, epics, and versions we can easily see, if time is entered at the story level, what work is being done on value added activity
Then, by default, product owners are prioritizing the top stories needed to complete the minimum viable product. There are multiple additional benefits of this approach:
- Reports can show tasks that are causing staff to burn time with low value add should trigger management to push back or re-prioritize
- Total time spent on value added stories vs total hours available reveals the team’s productivity ratio in reality
- Time management input will shed light on the work tasks done to complete a story prompting more tactical planning and learning
- Comparison of time spent vs story points acts as a natural learning path to improve estimation
- Historic understanding of velocity vs hours spent on value added work provides an important understanding of team performance overall
- When staff are unavailable the impact on velocity can be more accurately understood based on past performance
- Contrary to what many scaled Agile specialists suggest, accurate time logging on value added tasks makes scaling Agile easier because time is an absolute measure whereas velocity is very unique to individual teams
The case for Agile teams’ tracking time is very strong, in fact its critical to better, more accurate estimation as well as focusing teams on what they should be working on – value creation.
We don’t believe that there are absolute measures in the above, rather that management should be comfortable that ratios demonstrate that value added work is in a range of 70-80% of a team’s time. This, as well as many other reasons means that the time management category is very popular. As can be seen below.
Time Management Category
Time Management is a very significant category in the marketplace: it is the the 7th largest by instances (out of 27) with its 77,404 instances accounting for 6% of the marketplace total. Time Management is also growing at a significant rate: 31% over the past 12 months (ranking it 9th among all categories),
Timesheets – How they work
(If you are familiar with timesheets in Jira you can skip this section). Here are just some features and a quick explanation of how time management works in Jira. Firstly it should be pointed out that Jira comes with very rudimentary time management.
The screen shots below quickly summarize how Tempo works. Essentially all Jira issues can be selected and then time is either logged against it or planned against it. Issues can be anything and even just simple tasks.
You can see your whole day in the calendar view and simply fill the day in with the work you have done.
Its a very rich app and so we can’t do justice to it here check out this link for much more detail (https://www.tempo.io/blog/tracking-time-in-jira-with-tempo-timesheets-guide)
Tempo: Setting the Pace
When choosing a time management app there are generally two tiers you can choose from: paid or free. Depending on your needs both paid and free time management apps can work well but paid apps generally come with significantly more features and sophisticated reporting plus support, which may be essential depending on your use cases/requirements.
Paid time management apps are more popular and account for 72% of all marketplace instances versus 28% for free apps.
In the paid time management space the market leader is Tempo.
Tempo Timesheets makes up 45% of all paid time management instances and has shown an impressive 13% growth rate over the past 12 months. In terms of paid time management apps it is generally the only game in town with Prime Timesheet and TouchDown‘s offerings generally supplementing Tempo.
Tempo’s closest direct competitor is Everit with Timetracker – Time Tracking & Reporting. While Everit’s offering is very impressive and has shown very high growth rate of 31% over the past 12 months, its 2,000 instances leave it far behind Tempo.
Fizz Buzz: Bewitching the Market
Like the paid time management space, a single app also dominates the free market: Fizz Buzz and Worklog Assistant‘s 9,000 instances constitute over 70% of the market, a remarkably high market share.
However, in this market the stand out app is Clockify by COING. This very impressive app has taken off over the past year with over 900% growth and we’re very excited to see where it’ll be in another 12 months time.
Although at the moment paid time management apps are dominating the market, the free apps show signs that they are catching up. Of the 5 fastest growing apps of over the past 12 months, four are free apps.
This speaks to the increasing quality of free apps across the board and it’ll be interesting to see how the market develops over time.
A great time management app, such as Tempo (www.tempo.io),, will help transform time tracking from just an admin task to a rich view of whether work being done is value added. Scaled Agile often speaks of delivering value, frankly a very simple way to measure this is to find out much time is spent delivering value.
Seems obvious right?
I know my company tracks these kinds of metrics systematically. Its time to blow away the politics around “control” and financial management and bring work and time tracking together. More importantly there are plenty of ways to ensure budgeted work is tracked in Jira, its a matter of making it so.
A closer study of this category also reveals a significant level of innovation around automatic time recording, minimizing administration and overhead. Lots of new entrants with a number of trimmed down functionality and automation.
For those that see time as either not important or the purview of the Program Office or Accounting let me assure you this not the way a very large number of organizations see it. In fact 77,000 and counting.
I strongly recommend a deeper understanding of the benefits of tracking time where the work is being done. Its easier because its traceable and the real time nature of Jira and associated apps provides a powerful way to understand the real work that is being done.
Please reach out at email@example.com if you have any questions and/or wish to set up a touch point to discuss about Atlassian tools and apps.