Want to stop feeling like you’re babysitting your technicians’ use of their time?
Achieving a good balance in your MSP for technicians’ tracking time on their time sheets is essential to making staff feel organized. And just as important, it helps you feel like less of a micromanager.
Too much time tracking will lead to stress for the technicians if they have to track every minute of every single day. They will feel suffocated.
And too little time tracking with no systemization makes it hard to know what they’re doing.
Particularly with remote MSP staff, which we can provide, you need to define a policy on what technicians’ targets are, and they need to be reasonable.
So here’s our guide to the best practices when it comes to time tracking.
MSPs must systematize time tracking with a timesheet
A timesheet is all anyone is going to see to measure how well technicians are doing their job, which is why we insist that be thorough. Technicians must document:
- What they have done with their day.
- What they’ve done on each ticket.
- Specific details, like IP address, credentials and anything else that makes ticket notes clear.
The time sheet also needs to project that the technician has truly done a day’s worth of work. From a business perspective and a technical perspective, thorough ticket notes are super reliable for time tracking.
MSPs musn’t track technicians like a hawk
Many MSPs make the mistake of tracking every single minute during the full duration of the technician’s working hours. If an engineer works from 9am to 6pm, they shouldn’t have to track mundane things like taking a lunch break from 1pm to 2pm. This type of micromanagement of their time is oppressive, especially for those working from home.
You have to account for reasonable occurrences in the life of your staff, such as:
● Going out for a smoke
● Being interrupted by a partner or child that lives with them
● Going to the washroom
● Having a chat with a colleague, etc.
● A coffee break
Be flexible and make room for numerous unexpected disruptions. Otherwise, if you ask your staff to track every single minute, you are essentially asking them to lie.
You have to have a policy here and avoid placing yourself as the annoying bad cop. Who wants to be the boss that’s randomly calling technicians and saying:
“Hey! What were you doing between 11am and 11:40am? You didn’t log it and so you didn’t reach your 8 hours target today.”
You shouldn’t put yourself in that position and put your tech in a situation where they have to be a superhuman worker.
But also… don’t be that MSP that doesn’t track time at all
We have some MSP clients that don’t track time at all on the help desk. This is problematic because there is no information to distinguish in the statistics of a ticket why some tasks needed five minutes to resolve while others needed an hour.
It’s a good thing to be a relaxed boss, especially if you are working remotely and balancing lifestyle with work. But you must have an organized way of managing your technicians.
The technicians who naturally manage to make tickets disappear quickly might look better in the statistics in a way that isn’t representative of the effort put in. You won’t have an accurate idea of:
- Which clients are consuming the most time.
- Which technicians are wasting time.
- What types of issues are taking the most time to resolve.
- What types of issues get resolved quickly.
If a technician bills an hour and a half on a ticket, but lacks thorough notes detailing what that hour and a half was spent doing, there might be something you need to optimize there. You need the oversight of technicians tracking time.
Set clear expectations for how MSP technicians must track their time
A rough guideline of what is expected from our technicians is the following: four lines of ticket notes for every 15 minutes spent. That is the level of resolution of ticket notes that you’re looking for.
A 23 minute task can be inputted as 30 minutes. This way, there is no micromanagement and no stress for the workers.
Tracking this way takes less time, as you don’t need to calculate the exact amount of minutes a task has taken. Timesheets get to look neat and tidy at the end of the day, and you can easily highlight tickets where the rounding has not been done properly.
So let’s say one of your technicians is working on a password reset. They can write four brief notes per 15 minutes like the the following:
● Line 1: User called in. I answered the phone.
● Line 2: User requested password reset for the account.
● Line 3: Logged into panel. l reset password.
● Line 4: Confirmed user was able to log into the system after I reset the password.
That is an example of a 15-minute password reset ticket. They can add a fifth line stating that the ticket was resolved. They don’t have to stick with just four. But we believe it’s a reasonable expectation to have technicians doing at least four things every 15 minutes.
MSP technicians should even track things you probably didn’t think about
Your MSP’s technicians should track all the time that they spend working on a ticket and related documentation, even the less obvious stuff. This includes:
- All the time they spend researching a ticket before they call a client.
- All the time they spend on the phone with a client.
- All the time they spend waiting for something to be completed.
- All the time they spend updating documentation and ticket notes, as well as time spent writing the ticket notes after a ticket is complete.
This should all be tracked. You should define these expectations in writing so that technicians are clear on how to do their job well. Otherwise you will have to be the nagging mother telling a child to brush their teeth. It’s harder to enforce expectations if you as a manager are inconsistent, resulting in bad customer service for your clients. Don’t be a negligent boss. Don’t let that happen.
How MSPs can create time tracking consistency with logged time everyday
This is what we have found to be fair and balanced:
MSPs should use every minute time tracking for about 65 percent of the day, or 15-minute increments for about 80 to 90 percent of the day.
We believe this is pretty humane, as your staff will take time for:
- Making coffee
- Bathroom breaks
- Getting up to stretch
- Looking away from the scream
- A healthy moment to daydream
- Getting a snack from the kitchen, etc.
You can’t bill for those things above, but you still need to present something to clients that says this is how much time we spent on your tickets. So technicians absolutely must log when they spend time on issue-related research or documentation. If this isn’t logged, you can’t bill the client for it.
Many MSPs have a review with their clients every few months, and in those reviews, you can show exactly how much time is spent working on their tickets. If your clients are paying you a monthly set fee to manage their systems, you can show the value by comparing if you had billed them by the hour, how much that would have cost them. And you can use your percentage constant, whatever it is, to justify how much time it takes to perform your tasks.
Always remember this: MSP time tracking is not about pushing your staff away
Your job as an MSP owner is to create cultural compatibility that will set your technicians up for success, not isolate them.
Don’t get caught up in all the technicalities of being a supervisor. Time tracking is an easy area to lose yourself in the management of it all and forget the ethos of your company.
Make no mistake about it, the best technicians at your company WILL LEAVE if you turn into an obsessive time tracker. You must avoid creating that dynamic in your office.
Instead, create a dynamic of communication. Set clear boundaries with your staff. Ensure that you monitor their efforts in a concise, yet truthful manner. Your staff will enjoy a comfortable and productive environment for technicians to do their jobs well and feel good.
This is especially the case with high-level engineers who are managing projects, or may have had their own companies. They know their value and don’t need it to be defined by time tracking.
Senior level technicians love working in IT because it is exciting and challenging. They can do honest work and see the results of their effort clearly.
Micromanaging them and making them log every minute of every hour of their work day stamps out this spark because it:
- Makes them feel like they are not appreciated.
- Creates an impression they are being policed.
- Turns their focus away from actually doing the tasks.
High level engineers don’t only consider the salary of a position when choosing which MSP to work for. They also highly value work ethics and a healthy environment.
So don’t be the crazy interrogative boss everyone is afraid of. That is not a good idea.
Best practice summaries to leave you with
- Rounding up to the nearest 15 minutes.
- Expecting about 80% of the day to be logged with rounding up.
These methods let people breathe. They account for those reasonable occurrences and prevent your staff from lying to you about how they spend their time. They’re probably thinking about their tickets while in the bathroom or making that coffee anyway!
The best service you can give a client is when a technician has breathing room and doesn’t feel like they’re being tracked down to every little insignificant minute. Don’t create a bar that nobody can reach, otherwise don’t be surprised when your most talented staff looks for employment elsewhere.