I've implemented timesheet systems for many different companies, and I thought I knew everything about timesheet implementation. I was wrong. With each and every company, I noticed that it took considerable time to convince several individuals about the benefits of adopting a new timesheet system. Some companies succeeded, while others failed – and the only difference between them was how they managed the cultural change.
Here are some of the challenges I have faced, with some advice on how you can avoid the same problems.
Resistance from different types of users
Resistance from users at different levels in the project process can seriously hinder your implementation. For example, project managers do not want to share information, higher-level managers do not want to become involved in project decisions, technology people want to build it in-house, and users see it as another useless activity added to their plate by senior management.
To overcome this problem, you need to involve the right people and show them how it will make their lives easier – a good tactic because it helps them see the benefit of what you're doing. On the flip side, you can’t involve everyone! I’ve worked with too many people who insist on leadership by committee. Pick a small, representative team, give them the title of "project board" and make them feel involved. Your life will be so much easier.
No Clear Objectives are Communicated
If the team cannot visualize the benefits of using the new system, they will not be willing to invest the time and effort to learn it. If team members are paid by the hour, for example, reducing the number of hours required to do a job is not an attractive option unless there are balancing considerations such as competitive pressures. Goals have to be clearly communicated to everyone, such as:
- Predict the cost of large projects accurately
- Achieve consistent on-time project completion
- Comply with government regulations like Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Senior management does not follow through after implementation
Management mandates the use of the new timesheet system, but fails to enforce the system once implemented. Senior management’s support and commitment is essential throughout the process. However, this does not mean they need to be involved in all the nitty-gritty details of the project. For example, a senior manager could be involved in communicating the objectives to the team members, or the first timesheet reminder could come from them till everything starts to run smoothly.
If the interface is hard to use, team members will become frustrated very quickly, and will start to use this as an excuse for not filling in the timesheet. To rectify this problem, first, invest in a system with an easy-to-use interface.
Second, keep data collection simple. In other words, KISS it: Keep It Short and Simple. When it comes to data collection, more is not better. On the contrary, more is destructive. Ask people to track too much data and they will rebel by recording useless data. Instead, track the absolute minimum amount of information you need to make profitable decisions. You need to install a timesheet system that delivers the goods without overwhelming your people. It’s difficult … but not impossible.
Not enough time for Testing
This is the phase that gets ignored when, at the last minute, people jump into deploying the system to everyone in the company. An e-mail with a link is sent to everyone asking them to start tracking time starting tomorrow.
Instead of rushing through the process, set a date to aim for launch and then work back from there. Make plenty of allowance for the testing and training phases.
It's essential to test with a small set of users in a tame environment, to ensure the system is set up correctly. Make sure that users can navigate easily through the system without it eating into their day. Don’t be tempted to put something out to the masses if it isn’t quite right. Your efforts will backfire. You need to get people on board from day one – or you’ll always be fighting a losing battle!
Nobody wants to take time away from work to learn something that isn’t directly relevant to his or her job. Focus training on how to perform job functions using the system. Raise awareness within the organization through workshops, e-mails, bulletins, newsletters, training, help desk, and upper management commitments.
You can never please all the people all of the time. Whatever you do, you will always have some dissenters. Don't let them derail you. Make sure you know who they are going to be in advance – identify them early, and then treat them as special cases.
Above all, your organization should take an accurate inventory to assess its current alignment, willingness, and readiness for a new timesheet system before committing to change. Good luck!
If you have a funny implementation story, or would like to share lessons you've learned, please leave a comment. Your feedback and real world experiences are an important part of the discussion. Post your comments, connect with us at LinkedIn, or send them to @Replicon on Twitter.