The Value of Time Management for Agile Teams

Agile has gained significant traction, especially among software development teams.  In VersionOne’s 11th Annual State of Agile Development survey, 94% of organizations are practicing agile.  Understanding that Agile is here to stay, PMO’s have to rethink how to collect and report on time spent across the entire project portfolio – both waterfall projects and agile projects.

I can only imagine the looks of angst the PMO gets when asking Agile teams to enter time into their PPM tool.  However, there really is a value to the agile teams when tracking actual time worked against a project story and/or task.

For example, while some budgets are rather simple to understand when the entire team is dedicated solely to a single project, it can get tricky in many other common circumstances.  What if people (often Product Owners or Scrum Masters) are contributing to multiple projects.  Or, perhaps you are required to track costs at a sub-project level (a certain stakeholder is responsible for paying for a certain backlog item).  Having resources tracking actual time worked will help managers report on budget status for these scenarios.

Many people feel like timesheets are just another way that “Big Brother” is watching them.  However, time tracking can enhance your ability to accurately estimate by learning from the past.  In Steve McConnel’s book Software Estimation – Demystifying the Black Art, he measured a confidence interval of 30% when doing an estimation quiz with hundreds of attendees.  Agile teams need to provide estimations that accurately reflect relative complexity.  By tracking time against stories (or even more granular tasks that make up a story), teams can build up a historical reference points to drive more accurate estimations in the future.

For example, in the sample report below, this is a team that is pretty accurately forecasting points across the team.  This is what you want to see – and you can use this data to help understand the effort associated to points.  (Note, don’t look at actuals while you are actively working on the stories.)

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However, if you see something similar to the report below, you may need to dig deeper to better understand some of the anomalies.  The 4 point stories look pretty good with only one small outlier.  However, the larger story points have some fairly large variances.  This could be due to a more junior resource not understanding the complexity of the larger stories.  Or it could be related to a specific story/feature.  With time tracking, you can also generate reports by person to see any resources who may need some extra help in estimating techniques.

timesheet hours by points

By tracking time against the activities, teams will have the visibility & insight to improve estimation techniques and in turn, allow them to improve efficiencies.  Help your agile teams understand this isn’t a “big brother” initiative.  Help them understand how they will benefit and you will be able to achieve greater adoption and drive more positive results.

For more information on how to leverage Project Online for time tracking with hybrid agile & waterfall teams, please review this webinar:

Delivering a Unified PPM & Agile Management Solution with Project Online