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How to Handle Time Tracking on a Team

We all struggle at estimating time however, a producer can provide options that will help team members get to know themselves better and provide improved estimates for each task as time goes on.

For young developers like myself, it may be hard to keep track of time while working on a task. When it comes time to recording your hours on the Product Backlog, you may not know the actual time it took you to complete the task. As a producer, we have to find ways for the team to get into the habit of not guessing how much time it took them to complete a task. If team members always guess, then they will never have accurate estimates. If your team does not have accurate estimates, then the entire company suffers; projects get delayed or finished way before a deadline. It is the producer’s job to create and provide tools for the developers to learn how to track their time better.

Every developer is different and may not find the tool the developer sitting next to him is using helpful. Therefore, as a producer, we have to provide tools that help each developer keep track of their time. Hopefully it only takes one tool but options are always better than terrible estimates and guesses of actual hours. In the case of Iron Games, my first 3D Capture the Flag game being developed at Southern Methodist University, I have provided my team with two different tools so far and am currently thinking about introducing a third one.

 

Sticky Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Iron Games we use the Agile with Scrum methodology so scrum boards are an important part of development. Our scrum board consists of sticky notes for each department that get assigned to individual developers. In the front of the sticky notes, we write the name of the task on the center and the estimated hours to complete the task on the top left corner. Once the task gets “checked out” (when the developer is currently working on the task), the developer will initial the sticky note on the bottom right corner and put the date on the bottom left corner. The top right corner is also reserved for the actual amount of hours it took the developer to complete the task. Normally, this is all the developers would need to move the sticky note from “checked out” to “complete”. However, for my team we have been using the back of the sticky note to keep track of our time. For instance, when a task gets checked out, the developer initials the sticky note on the front and initials it in the back. The developer also writes the date and the current time. When the task is complete, the developer goes back to that sticky note and writes the current time again. This helps them see exactly how much time it took to complete the task and have an accurate actual time to write on the front of the sticky note.

 

Time Sheets

A fellow producer introduced me to this tool and so far the programmers on my team have been enjoying using it. I created a time sheet that developers always keep by their computers. These time sheets are also easy to carry around in case anyone asks for their help and they need to track their time. It is easy for them to write down the task and the current and end time right next to it. The time sheets have a name and date box so that they also keep track of who is doing what on a certain day. They have our game’s logo so that they give off the feeling of belonging to the game. The time sheets always stay in our area of work so that developers know that only business goes in those sheets. At the end of our core hour session, the developers use the time sheets to update the scrum board and sprint backlog.

 

Electronic Time Tracking Software

In the case of Iron Games, we are currently using Slack as our official form of online communication. Recently, another fellow producer introduced me to an application that connects with Slack called Hourstack. In this app, developers can add tasks and estimates for each task. The developers organize tasks in a weekly calendar-like format. The tasks are easily accessible and controlled through Slack commands. The commands are the way people access the app through the Slack such as “/hourstack”. A developer just types the command (/hourstack start taskName) to start the task timer. The application gives you alerts for when you run over the estimated time and it gives you exactly how much time you went over. It is a great application and I am currently considering giving my team the option to use it.

 

In Summary

Producers can help team members keep track of time in multiple ways. Tools such as sticky notes, time sheets and online applications might not be the way your team likes to keep track of time but as a producer, you must either provide the options or keep looking until you find something the team actually uses. Anything that helps the team be more productive is a huge accomplishment. We all struggle at estimating time however, tools such as the ones I mentioned, will help team members get to know themselves better and provide improved estimates for each task as time goes on.

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