17 Feb When information is plentiful, attention becomes a scarce resource
“When information is plentiful, attention becomes a scarce resource” Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon was quoted saying.
As a manager and owner of a small business one of my key challenges is to keep the team on task so that we, not only get our Zoho projects completed on time and to budget, but also complete all the peripheral activities, such as keeping the web site up-to-date, staying in touch with past clients, marketing, etc. – the list sometimes seems endless! The challenge is that there is always so much peripheral stuff to do, and with a small team, 50% of which is remote, it is sometimes really difficult to work out exactly where time allocated to a task or project goes.
If you asked my team “What is your scarcest resource?” – I’m pretty sure they would all say time. However everyone has the same amount of time, and yet there are enormous differences in individual productivity. So in a bid to prove that the real issue was one’s personal capacity to attend to the right things for the right amount of time we have been experimenting with different ways of measuring where we spend our time by completing timesheets. This is crucial because we are either working to a fixed price delivery on a project or charging by the hour/day. In either case we need to be mindful of how long it is really taking us to do things and be able to justify ourselves to our clients.
Timesheet Options Using Zoho
The Zoho suite of products has so many different ways of time-based billing, measuring time per task, it can be confusing. Certainly for a novice just coming to Zoho how do you know which is best for your needs?
At i-Dynamics we have a philosophy of practice what we preach and using the technologies we sell to run our own business, so we have been working our way through all the time management options which are:
- Zoho Projects
- Zoho Books & Invoice
- Zoho People
- Custom Zoho Creator Applications
- Zoho CRM – Customised fields
Here we report on what we have found with Zoho Projects and Zoho People:
If you are a Zoho user and a project-based business, Zoho Projects would probably be your first port of call. Zoho Projects offers several different ways of logging your time from a historical weekly table-type interface to a stop clock approach. It also offers timesheet workflow for approval with fantastic reporting in the form of tables and graphs.
What we have found in practice is that Zoho Projects is great for the development and implementation team who essentially work 100% of their time on billable activities. However it doesn’t offer much of a solution for more general staff activities such as marketing, sales and finance for example. One work around we considered was to have a general internal project with tasks such as SEO, event planning, customer nurturing and so on. The nature of the time logging interface, however, did not really lend itself to this type of recording. This is because some of the team only work on billable projects part of their time and in practice the nature of their working environment is constantly jumping between tasks and the Projects timesheet interface does not lend itself to recording this easily.
The new Zoho People, however, has been a revelation for these members of the team, particularly the mobile app. What we have found is that team members always have their mobile phone with them. They check in as they get into the office (or desk at home) by simply dragging an icon to a picture of a chair, and then once checked in can easily log time against pre-set headings.
The reports, not only for the individual but also, at a management level are phenomenal and suddenly people have been able to see where they are actually spending time – result! In only 2 weeks I have seen a massive improvement in productivity because people are learning not to be distracted by interruptions. When you actually measure how long you spend researching an approach or clearing down your email you begin to see how much time is lost against really productive activities like getting quotes out, writing blogs and so on.
With Zoho People, I have allowed staff to agree what the core activities of their job are, and then they log their time against these activities. I am less concerned about the fact they may only log 5 hours in an 8 hour working day, than I am about letting them see for themselves that in practice only 62% of their time has been spent on productive tasks.
So as a result Zoho People has helped us to see that the biggest challenge we face at work, is attention management. This means being mindful and disciplined about allocating our time to different activities, and how we encourage others to focus on doing the right things.