Task and Time Tracking: The Challenge
One of the most challenging aspects of a Microsoft EPM implementation can be motivating project Team Members to log in to PWA on a regular basis and submit their task updates or record their time spent on various activities. For those of us who are implementers, we realize the importance of timely, consistent, and accurate updates; without this, we lose the very foundation of accurate historical tracking in Project Server. It is therefore very important that we make the Team Member's job of tracking their work as simple and effortless as possible.
One school of thought suggests that the more often the Team Member stops, thinks about the work that they have performed, and makes record of it, the easier it will be for them to track their work accurately. In contrast, if a Team Member procrastinates (we have all done this) and sits down in front of PWA once a week (or more!), it is more difficult for them to remember the details of the work that they performed. I would argue that the toughest part of time tracking isn't the process of clicking through PWA and typing the keystrokes, but rather it is the process of trying to remember what I did and how much time I spent doing it.
If I can easily remember how much time I spent working on each task for each project, however, entering those updates into PWA is a piece of cake!
I must admit that until very recently, I was a grumpy old man when it came to Twitter. I thought that it was yet another silly social networking toy and that I was not going to jump onto the bandwagon this time. However, after receiving recommendations from a couple of friends and using the tool for a couple of weeks, I am not only a believer, but I am a huge fan. For those who are not familiar, Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) is an extremely lightweight statusing or micro-blogging tool. Many people use it in many different ways, but generally, people post short messages (up to 140 characters long) that they think others may be interested in reading. Perhaps you are working on something interesting, or perhaps the woman in line behind you at Starbucks is talking too loudly on her phone, so you decide to post a short message about it.
When it comes to Twitter, its simplicity is its power.
Twitter + Mobile = Easy Tracking
Question: If you are a Team Member, when is the best time to record the work that you have performed?
Answer: While you are doing the work... or immediately afterward.
This might not be a problem if you happen to work at your desk all day and can easily open a web browser, visit the PWA web site, and update your work. However, what if you are down the hall, in a separate building, or even in a completely different country? What if you do not have easy access to the internet?
You can post Twitter updates by logging in to their web site, or if you use a mobile phone with text messaging enabled, you can post updates right from your phone. This is where things start to get interesting for us...
Mixed in with your other Twitter posts (entered conveniently on your mobile phone) in which you update your friends about that funny New York Times article and how nasty the break room coffee is today, perhaps you sneak in a couple of updates about the work that you have been doing:
- Check nyt.com! Palin did it again!
- MOSS Implementation: Install SQL 100%
- MOSS Implementation: Build app server 25%
- Once again break room coffee smells like feet
Twitter has just become your mobile notepad for tracking task and time progress, and the next time that you sit down to update the status of your work in PWA, you can simply open up your Twitter page in a web browser to review your progress. In addition, if you have told your Project Manager how to monitor (or "follow", in Twitter-speak) your updates online, they can get some quick updates about your work even before you have updated PWA.
Useful Twitter Work Tracking Conventions
If Team Members choose to use Twitter to help keep track of their work, it may be useful for them to follow a standard convention. Following are a few examples:
The 'Install SQL' task in the 'MOSS Implementation' project is 100% complete:
MOSS Implementation: Install SQL 100%
The 'Install SQL' task in the 'MOSS Implementation' project has an 'Actual Start' date of 5/18 and is 50% complete:
MOSS Implementation: Install SQL as 5/18 50%
The 'Install SQL' task in the 'MOSS Implementation' project has an 'Actual Start' date of 5/18 and an 'Actual Finish' date of 5/25:
MOSS Implementation: Install SQL as 5/18/2009 af 5/25/2009
I spent 4 hrs working on the 'Install SQL' task in the 'MOSS Implementation' project:
spent 4h on MOSS Implementation: Install SQL
This is not necessary, but if it helps them to perform more timely and accurate updates, then it is worth it. Also, this type of standardization will become extremely important if you choose to customize your Project Server implementation to automatically read Team Members' updates from the Twitter web site (Twitter has a programming API available... but one step at a time).
Taking It a Step Further: Displaying Twitter Updates in PWA
If you are unfamiliar with manipulating PWA pages and adding the CEWP, here are a few articles that provide detailed information and examples:
Hacking PWA with Web Parts:
Hacking Project Server 2007 Timesheets -- Hiding Planned Work Rows:
YAPH -- Disabling Start and Finish Editing on the My Tasks Page
To enable a Team Member to view their latest Twitter posts on the 'My Tasks' page, follow these steps:
1. Log in to the PWA web site with an account that has administrative privileges.
2. Visit the 'My Tasks' page and switch it into 'editing' mode.
3. Add the Content Editor Web Part (CEWP) to the page.
4. Copy the following code into the 'Source Editor' for the CEWP:
<input type="text" name="twitterid" id="twitterid"><br/>
Number of Tweets:<br/>
<input type="text" name="tweets" id="tweets"><br/>
var twitterid = document.getElementById('twitterid');
var tweets = document.getElementById('tweets');
var apiurl = "http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/" + twitterid.value + ".json?callback=twitterCallback2&count=" + tweets.value;
var headTag = document.getElementsByTagName('head').item(0);
var js = document.createElement('script');
5. Tweak the CEWP position, title, etc. as desired.
6. Switch the 'My Tasks' page out of 'editing' mode.
Any Team Member who chooses to use Twitter to track their work may now enter their Twitter user id as well as the number of updates ("tweets") they wish to fetch, and the Twitter viewer will display those updates within the PWA page for quick review:
If your organization has chosen to perform detailed time tracking via the Project Server Timesheets feature, then you can follow the same procedure to add the Twitter viewer to the 'My Timesheet' page within PWA:
Millions of people use Twitter, and more are starting every day. Although people commonly use it as a social networking tool, it is a very simple yet powerful application that you can use to supplement business systems such as Project Server 2007. It allows people to not only easily keep track of their work while they are doing it, but it also allows those same people to track their work from anywhere using a mobile phone with text messaging or web service.
This is one very simple example of how you can use Twitter and Project Server 2007 together. If you want to take this concept several steps further, the folks at Twitter have published a programming API (Application Programming Interface) which describes how you might build a custom application which automatically fetches task or time updates and automatically feeds task status and timesheets.