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What I Learned from Moving to a ‘Serious’ Time-Tracking System

Published: February 26, 2018

Author: Adrienne Abrams

I’ll admit, I was hesitant to move to a formal time tracking system for the Creative team. While many of our projects are billed hourly and we keep track of project hours, I was hesitant to move into using a formal time-tracking tool. I’ve always associated these tools with big, bloated agencies. I fought against having to report all our time because we are all grown-ups and we shouldn’t have to prove how we are spending our time. Which is TRUE.

However, I quickly realized that this wasn’t the reason to switch to a tool (or not switch). The goal was to actually see how we were spending our time and to accurately track hours. As an added bonus, it’s made month-end and ad hoc reporting, and billing, MUCH easier.
So, how did we begin? We started looking for a tool; however, if I’m being totally honest, we didn’t do a ton of research. At the time, the team was using a handful of different, individual tools, ranging from a Google sheets to Tyme App. Tyme App worked well, so if we were going to make a change or possibly bring everyone on to a singular platform, the reason to switch had to be compelling. Our main criteria was ease of use and integration into our current workflow. While reporting functionality and some other bells and whistles were interesting, they weren’t paramount.  
As we thought about ease of use, we believed that a tool that directly integrated with our project management tool, Asana, would be valuable. Harvest was that tool. Before we committed, a few of the team members, led by our project manager, piloted Harvest. Our success was predicated on:

  1. Ease of use: Was it easy to use both in set-up and in day-to-day use?
  2. Integration: Did it fit in with our current process and with our tools?
  3. Intuitiveness: Did it make sense?
  4. Reporting: Was the data easy to pull and valuable?

Fortunately, we had resounding affirmatives to each of the questions above in our test, which meant our next step was a full rollout. We had buy-in and commitment from the whole team that they would migrate their time tracking to Harvest. Training was provided in advance of kicking off – and then it was off to the races.
The migration was surprisingly smooth. While there were questions along the way, overall it went according to plan. Other tool adoption has not been so successful. We attribute the success to the following:

  1. We jumped in with both feet. This wasn’t a soft launch.
  2. We committed to Harvest and to time tracking. Meaning – we decided to commit to the tool and to stick with it. We knew that things would take a few months to iron out and agreed to give it time before we made any real changes or sweeping decisions. (Spoiler alert: it worked.)
  3. We didn’t do everything at once. In fact, we are still learning how some of the features work. In month one, we began with only the core functionality: project-specific tracking. However, as time progresses (we are on month five), we are still discovering how much more powerful and useful the tool can be.
  4. Harvest integrates with Asana. It has become part of our workflow. In fact, the user can start a timer while working within a task (or log hours separately).
  5. Harvest offers multiple ways to track time. It’s not one-size-fits-all. So, you can figure out what works best for you.
  6. It eliminated weekly/monthly pestering at completing and submitting hours. It’s all just available for review – at any time!

Things aren’t perfect. The tool is better catered to someone who can devote long periods of time to one task versus working on multiple projects at once. However, so far it has significantly improved our accuracy in time tracking, streamlined billing and reporting, and overall helped our team gain efficiency … which we can now accurately measure and see!

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