Filling out time sheets is about as fulfilling as doing taxes. This mind-numbing activity is an interesting symptom of what’s broken with the way we deliver software today. What’s worse than the time wasted filling them out is the fact that the numbers we fill out are largely fictitious, as we have no hope of accurately recalling where time went over a course of a week, given that we’re switching tasks over a dozen times an hour. As Peter Drucker stated:
Even in total darkness, most people retain their sense of space. But even with the lights on, a few hours in a sealed room render most people incapable of estimating how much time has elapsed. They are as likely to underrate grossly the time spent in the room as to overrate it grossly. If we rely on our memory, therefore, we do not know how much time has been spent. (Peter Drucker. The Essential Drucker, ch. 16. Know your Time)
Tracking time is not a problem. When done well it’s a very good thing, given that time is our most scarce resource. Done right, time tracking allows us to have some sense for what the burn downs on our sprints are, and to predict what we will deliver and when. It allows us to get better at what we do by eliminating wasteful activities from our day, such as sitting and watching a VM boot up or an update install.
Effective knowledge workers, in my observation, do not start with their tasks. They start with their time. And they do not start out with planning. They start out by finding where their time actually goes. (Effective Drucker, ch 16. Know your Time) (Peter Drucker. The Essential Drucker, ch. 16. Know your Time)
Drucker was a big advocate of time tracking systems for individuals. With Agile, we have now learned how effective tracking story points and actuals can be for Scrum teams. Yet all of this goodness feels very distant when the last thing that stands between you and Friday drinks is a time sheet.
What we need is a way to combine the benefits of personal and team-level time tracking with those needed by the Project Management Office (PMO). With the Automatic Time Tracking feature of Tasktop Dev (screenshot below), we validated a way to combine personal time tracking with team estimation and planning. I still use this feature regularly to be a good student of Drucker and figure out where my own time goes, and many Scrum teams use it to remove the tedious process of manually tracking time per task.
While that automation is useful for the individual and the team, it did not help the PMO, that works at the program, enterprise and product level. PMOs use specialized project and portfolio management software such as CA Clarity PPM. So now, in our ongoing effort to create an infrastructure that connects all aspects of software delivery and to keep people coding and planning to their hearts’ content, we have stepped out of the IDE in order to bridge the divide between the PMO and Agile teams.
The Tasktop Sync 2.8 release includes updates to the leading Agile tools, such as support for RTC 4, HP ALM, CA Clarity Agile and Microsoft TFS 2012. It also ships the first Sync support for Rally and the TFS 2013 beta. The other big news is that we now are announcing a partnership with Serena in which both Tasktop Sync and Tasktop Dev will be OEM’d as part of the Serena Business Manager lifecycle suite. This new integration, which further cements Tasktop’s role as the Switzerland of ALM, will be showcased at Serena xChange in September, and ship this fall.
With Tasktop Sync 2.8, we have finally managed to connect the worlds of Agile ALM and PPM both in terms of task flow, and time reporting. While the support currently works for CA Clarity only, integrating these two worlds has a been a major feat in terms of understanding the data model and building out the integration architecture for connecting “below the line” and “above the line” planning (Forrester Wave). For the individual, it’s like having your own administrative assistant standing over your shoulder filling out the PPM tool for you, only less annoying and easier to edit after the fact. For the Agilistas, it’s about getting to use the methods that make your teams productive while making the PMO happy. And for the organization, it’s the key enabler for something that Drucker would have been proud of: automating the connection between strategy and execution.
About Mik Kersten
Dr. Mik Kersten is the CEO of Tasktop Technologies, creator of the Eclipse Mylyn open source project and inventor of the task-focused interface. At Tasktop, Mik sets the strategic direction of the company as well as drives many of Tasktop's key partnerships and key customers accounts. He created Mylyn and the task-focused interface during his PhD in Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. Mik has been an Eclipse committer since 2002, is a 3-time elected member of the Eclipse Board of Directors and serves on the Eclipse Architecture Council. Mik's thought leadership on task-focused collaboration and improving the software economy makes him a popular speaker at software conferences, and he was voted a JavaOne Rock Star speaker in 2008 and 2009.