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How to track the time and manage the resource of your SEO team

Around a year ago, I started in my new role as Resource and Project Manager. One of the problems we were having was keeping track of all the small tasks we did for our clients. Unlike web projects which usually consist of large tasks ie design phase, build phase, alpha, beta etc, with Search Engine Optimisation, the work is usually split into much smaller tasks and done by a variety of specialists.

The joys of tracking time

The joys of tracking time

We tried various ways of keeping track of all the tasks that were completed for each client but found that we were ending up with a large amount of spreadsheets, no way of tracking exactly who did the tasks (being a small team tasks were often swapped around and there was no record of this) and exactly how many hours were spent on each task.

After looking into a variety of time tracking solutions we came across Intervals (http://www.myintervals.com/). What we liked about Intervals was its ability to be adapted to the way that out individual company worked.

Intervals is actually more suited to larger projects than the ones we work on but it’s fairly easy to adjust it.

You start by setting up your clients and then under the clients you can set up as many projects as you like. So for us we might have 2 projects for one client, a PPC project and an SEO project. When you set up the project you can give your project a start and end date, a budget and add estimated worktypes. Costs are associated with these worktypes, meaning that any time anyone logs time to one of these worktypes it works out the percentage of work that has been done and shows you in a little bar the percentage that the project has been completed. This is a nice, quick, visual way of seeing which projects have been started, which are nearly completed and which projects have run over.

Each month the SEO managers decide on the tasks for their clients and pass them on to me to be added to my monthly spreadsheet and allocated to members of the team. This monthly spreadsheet contains all the client hours for each month and also people’s annual leave, team days and bank holidays, internal and external meetings and other projects happening in that month. This way we can see how busy we are and what capacity we have for any new projects to start.

Once all the work has been allocated I then put this into Intervals as ‘tasks’ and associate them with their client. I then add estimated time to each task and add a due date. I can also change the priority which changes the task’s colour, another quick easy way for the team to see which tasks need prioritising. You can also group these tasks into milestones which for me would be all the tasks that are due in that specific month.

There are 2 ways of logging time to a project. You can add time to a task or add general time, so if you’ve done some extra work that you didn’t have a specific task for you can log it straight to the project.

Alerts can be set up for when someone updates a task or adds a comment or uploads a document to the task or project.

You can then run reports for specific clients or to see what members of staff have been working on. It’s handy if a client asks ‘what have you been working on this month’, because you can just print off a report will all the hours/work logged to their project. And you can also send invoices from Intervals – a feature that we currently aren’t using but is something we are considering in the future.

The only thing it doesn’t do that effectively is track time off. But we’ve found a way round this. We’ve set up a project called ‘Annual Leave’ and each member of staff has a task with the number of hours they get off in the year. When they want to request leave they add a comment in the task with the dates they want and assign the task to their manager and change the status to ‘Holiday: Requested’. You can also send an email from that specific task in Intervals to your manager which tells them that there is a task that needs their attention. Once the holiday is approved the manager assigns it back to them and changes the status to ‘Holiday: Approved’.

When a member of staff takes a day off they log 7.5 hrs to that task so you can see how many hours they have left and work out how many days leave they have remaining that year. Not ideal and a little long winded but works pretty well for us as it has replaced our paper file and gives us one place to check annual leave/sick days etc.

Although I’ve been using Intervals for almost a year now, I am constantly changing and refining the way I use it and each month my processes get quicker and as a company we have become more efficient at our time tracking and reporting. I’ve had some ups and downs and found some bugs but the support team have been fantastic. Every query I’ve had has been sorted quickly and efficiently – not immediately as they’re based in California and are usually sleeping soundly while I’m having my troubles, however when I come into work the next day there is always a friendly email from someone in the support team….usually telling me, in the nicest possible way, that I haven’t in fact found a new bug, I’ve just been very stupid…..

Introducing anything new into a company is always going to have its problems. Some people who weren’t used to filling in timesheets and tracking their work have found it a struggle to remember to log their hours but hopefully over time our team has seen that the positives outweigh the negatives. Especially when a certain member of the team (me) needs to prove that they’re ahead with their work and can therefore afford to take a couple of days off during the week to go surfing.

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1 Comment
  • John on September 18, 2009

    Thanks for the writeup! Glad to hear that you found Intervals to be a good fit.

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