Tracking Planner Time

Dear Management Doctor: 

We track planner time spent on development projects.  It is a very cumbersome task. Do you have any ideas how this task can be streamlined and still provide the information required of the fiscal division? 

Tx, Up to my Neck in Timesheets 

Dear Up to my Neck: 

The answer depends on how you plan to use the data. I've worked with some organizations that have elaborate time sheets but no one ever uses the data. In this case I suggest use the data or drop the time sheets. Some places only record the data by broad category, i.e. use permits, variances etc. This data can be used to establish fees, and work load factors for staffing analysis. If the permit fee is variable based on the time spent, then it's necessary to record time for each specific project. Consultants are used to this type of time recording since they have to do it for billing clients. Once staff gets used to it it's no big deal. Time should be recorded daily or even as each task is completed. I simply record my time manually on my daily day-timer calandar. My staff record their time on a bi-weekly time sheet. There are numerous accounting programs that clerical can use to record and print out the data. Ideally the payroll time sheet and task time sheet are one and the same. For staff that does most of their work on the computer there are programs that allow staff to enter their own data as they work. Often the codes being used are too detailed or complicated. For example, its not important if you were at a meeting, on the phone or writing a staff report. Normally this level of detail is not needed. Also, if you routinly work on only selected projects they can be pre-printed on your time sheet or computer screen. If you need more response send me a sample of the recording sheet, project listing, and who uses the data. 

KISS-Keep It Simple Stupid is the word. 

Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes. 
The Management Doctor

Reader Responses

Regarding the 8/14 question on tracking planners' time:  our office uses the Timeslips program, which is used by most attorney's offices and many private planning consultants.  You can certainly choose the level of detail desired, but it allows for an immediate computer record of time spent working on a project, on the phone with an applicant, attending related meetings, or doing research.  At the end of the month, these slips can be culled together to produce a variety of reports or generate bills based on flat fee and hourly rates for applicants.  There is a bit of a learning curve to bring everyone on board, but it's very efficient once implemented. 
Best regards, 
Stan Clauson 
Stan Clauson Associates LLC 
(former C.D. Dir, City of Aspen, CO) 

Just found your website and love it! Regarding billing and tracking Planners' time, we have been billing projects on an hourly basis for quite awhile. With the 2000 budget our billing rate will be $90.00/hr. This is based on salary, benefits, supplies, support personnel, automobiles, administrative overhead, etc. (I can provide the budget justification if your readers want to consider this billing option.) However, clients expect a high level of accountability at this billing rate. If we can't tell you what specific job function we performed they tend to get irritated and challenge their bills – particularly if the project is going south. The process is cumbersome, but we have implemented a couple of systems to make it easier. First, time cards are done on spreadsheet forms that automatically total time and can have various information preloaded. The form is always running in the background on their computers, and the Planners update it as they perform specific tasks. I'm happy to email this form if anyone wants it. Second, our billing system reflects the tasks we performed on your job.

Paul Richardson

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