Some interesting alignment of ideas is coming into play this week. First: One of our clients is buidling a set of data warehouses to collect and report on staff productivity across their widely distributed enterprise. The organization has many different locations, as well as ingrained operational processes that have been in place for 30-40 years. And basically, one of the major challenges is the ability to capture measurements associated with units of work. A very intersesting aspect of this is trying to understand ways to synchronize notions of "work" - is there a notion of a "unit of work," and how is that unit reflected in what people actually do.
The second issue has to do with my company's requirements. As consultants, we charge based on time, which necessitates a means for tracking the time spent on each activity. The challenge we have is a little different - each activity has its own set of policies associated with the task. For example, one task has different charge rates depending on whether we are working at the client site or working at our own site. Another example: in some cases the time period is daily, others hourly, while still others need to be tracked on the quarter hour. In each case, we need to keep track of activity metadata - activity name, class, onsite/offiste, billing rate, time increment, etc.
The direct operational driver for time tracking is invoicing - if you charge by the hour, you need to keep track of the hours worked so that you can assemble an invoice. But more interestingly, time tracking, when coupled with task management, gives the same kind of information that our client is interested in - productivity assessment.
So right now, our goal is to come up with a time tracking process that captures all the information we need (for invoicing) while enabling us to figure out what we want (for productivity). More on this saga to follow...