Kat Boogaard

Why Time Tracking is the Secret Sauce for Agile Teams

Community Integrations

This guest post is from Kat Boogaard of Toggl, an online time-tracking tool that allows users to track the time spent on various projects and analyze productivity.

When it comes to agile software development and time tracking, people seem to fall into two totally different camps.

There are those who view tracking time spent on project activities as absolutely crucial for being as effective and efficient as possible. And, the others? Well, they roll their eyes, call it a complete waste of time, and almost physically recoil at the thought of such a “Big Brother” concept.

If you’re nodding your head and thinking that you belong in that first group, we wish we could shake your hand—hey, we’d even get matching t-shirts if you’re up for it. But, if you’re one of those skeptics in the second group? Well, we’re here to convince you of the magic that is time tracking in agile development.

Listen, we really can’t blame you for heaving an exasperated sigh at the very thought of having a timer running while you complete various tasks. The very point of agile is to be efficient—and, isn’t taking the time to record every single activity the exact opposite of that? Trust us—we get it. We’ve heard all of the excuses in the book, and we understand where you’re coming from.

But, that doesn’t stop us from believing that time tracking really is the secret sauce to becoming a totally kickass agile team. Using a handy, simple timer solution like Toggl (which integrates directly with Pivotal, cough cough) you’ll keep a much better grasp on where your team’s time is going.

Toggl logo

Still shaking your head and brushing us off as yet another group of timer-obsessed nutcases? Take a look at these super convincing reasons that time tracking is so effective for agile teams. Don’t worry—we won’t say, “I told you so.”

1. More accurate billing

Using an agile approach for developing software is supposed to make things simpler and more streamlined. But, surprisingly, it can also turn around and way overcomplicate the billing process.

Why? Well, because an agile method is typically utilized for projects in which requirements aren’t explicitly clear from the get-go—tweaks, changes, and improvements are bound to crop up, and it’s an agile team’s basic responsibility to respond to them.

So, as I’m sure you’re already imagining, rolling all of that into a neat invoice is usually enough to inspire a pretty intense migraine.

But, billing doesn’t need to be such an overwhelming headache if you’re always tracking your time. Because many agile teams charge using an hourly rate (again, the constant changes can make it tough to bill per project!), you’ll be able to pull all of the per-person hours spent into an invoice with—quite literally—the click of the button.

A streamlined approach to development that also leads to simplified billing, all thanks to just tracking your time? Well, dreams really do come true.

Watch, notepad, and typewriter

2. More realistic estimates

Let’s stick with this theme for another brief moment, shall we? Due to all of the reasons mentioned above, estimating the amount of time (and cost) for agile development can be pretty tricky.

Combine that with the concept of the Planning Fallacy—which asserts that we all have the tendency to grossly underestimate the amount of time a task will take—and you can be left with project estimates that are pretty far off from reality. In actuality, they involve a much larger investment in both hours and dollars than you had initially assumed.

But, once your agile team gets into the swing of time tracking, you’ll gather data about just how long specific pieces take to complete. Those are valuable insights you can use to inform future estimates and better carry off future projects.

In a way, time tracking sort of turns into your crystal ball for agile development. And, who doesn’t want one of those?

3. Improved processes

There are 12 different guiding principles behind agile. So, pop quiz: What’s the twelfth one? Well, it goes a little something like this: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Of course, one of the key benefits of the agile approach is that you can so readily adapt to changes and new requirements to create the best product possible. But, when doing so, it’s undeniably helpful to have some hard facts and information supporting those tweaks.

This is where—once again—time tracking comes into play. Keeping a watchful eye on how your agile team is managing time will help you to identify any bottlenecks, better refine your processes and procedures, and just become altogether more efficient and effective.

Yes, we understand the hesitancy and the skepticism behind implementing time tracking for your agile team. It can seem like a completely unnecessary formality—we get it.

But, that doesn’t change the fact that tracking time can have a huge impact on how successfully your agile team performs. So, make your best effort to check your preconceived notions and the door and give time tracking a try for your agile team. We’re willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised!