5-step business case for accurate time tracking in R&D
You can only measure what you can see
Visibility of your resources is about knowing at all times who is doing what. As we mentioned in our last blog entry, tracking time in R&D is really tracking people's time and tracking project time. In an R&D-intensive environment, that means seeing what's going on both across departments and among active projects in your portfolio. But measurement goes one step further than who and what: you have to gauge how much. Effort to projects is where you begin to create records and, from those records, patterns that you can leverage to recognize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
You can only manage what you can measure
This is tried and true, but let's look at it within the context of an R&D environment: So you have measures, and the patterns (or variances) begin to emerge. These patterns—who is working on each portfolio project, whether the priority projects are well staffed or not—allow managers to mobilize resources—talent and money—in ways that maximize utilization and (if the science delivers) the return on the R&D investment. But managing talent can be like herding cats—scientists are fiercely autonomous, and don't like to feel watched, so you want to make sure the user interface is as second-nature to them as possible, ensuring you get as much accurate effort measurement as you can.
You can only align what you can manage
Alignment is the biggest challenge—and leverage—of a business manager. If nobody is feeling watched, but the measurements are coming through in real time, team alignment will follow as a matter of course. The numbers tracked in time provide the substance, the patterns tell the story: is your brainpower where your strategic priorities are? Share the story across the organization, and your R&D talent will collaborate to meet your portfolio's strategic objectives. And collaboration will deliver value out of proportion with the measures you took to begin with when tracking time.
You can only account for what you can align
The buck doesn't stop here yet. Business executives need a simple, smart and convincing account of where R&D efforts are being deployed, and only reliable numbers from accurate time tracking assembled into clear narratives of headcount can deliver that. A clear account of resource utilization is knowledge that can be harnessed not only to deliver further value, but to sustain value creation per se, keeping the pipeline strong with new ideas and the funds to match them, because...
You can only finance what you can account for
Finally, either a business executive, an investor, the stock market or a third-party funder—such as a partner seeking a new product pipeline, a foundation seeking answers for its dearest causes, a government grant, or whichever other sources figure in the business model—need accountability of performance to sustain financial inflows. The buck stops here, where growth brings further opportunities for growth.
In summary, the business case for accurate time tracking arises from:
- maximizing the amount of measurement you can get
- managing the utilization of your most expensive resources—scientific talent
- engaging teams to align their efforts with your portfolio's priorities
- reporting success with the confidence that you can repeat the performance
- financing success to sustain the pipeline