I’ve worked in the design industry for more than a decade—during that time I’ve heard countless complaints from designers about corporate, but one in particular is persistent: timesheets. Designers hate them. I hate them too; luckily being on the business side of design (that would be the non-billable side) remembering to fill out my timesheet is harder than actually doing it. But maybe that’s the problem; business people can’t truly relate to the tedious task of time entry that creatives are forced to endure each and every week.
At 8:00 AM an email is sent out reminding half of our staff that they neglected to complete their timesheets. A wave of grumbling follows. Typical Monday. At 9:00 AM, a creative encounters a technical difficulty when attempting to define a resource in the time tracking software, and the complaints kick off as billable time ticks on. Complaints about timesheets are generally expected, but the response this morning was a bit of a surprise, “La, la, la, la, la, la, la.” Yes, that is the sound of a creative’s complaint being verbally block out by corporate, eyes open, ears closed. Not interested.
In an industry often responsible for solving some of the world’s hairiest problems, how is it possible we can’t solve our own? I know! I know! Because problems like these, timesheets and the like, are business problems, not design problems. And the people responsible for solving these particular problems are business people, most of which aren’t creative. Unfortunately (only in this scenario), creativity is the key element in problem solving, and that my good friends is a hard fact.
So, as surprising as the “La, la, la, la, la, la, la” response may seem coming from corporate, it really shouldn’t be surprising at all. I wrote a blog awhile back about how marketing loves to do what obviously works, not what might work. That logic applies to corporate as well. Unlike design, which challenges creatives to suggest new ways of seeing reality, to work in the grey zone 24/7 under extreme conditions of ambiguity, corporate lives in the black and white world of 9 AM—5 PM, counting on what works to keep the doors open, not what might work. Because what if it didn’t?
Accepting that time tracking in a creative agency is a business problem that business people cannot solve, I’d like to ask the design community to lend a helping hand and suggest new ways of looking at time and time tracking—say different tools and methods e.g. tracking days vs. hours. Otherwise we’re stuck with, “La, la, la, la, la, la, la.” And the cycle continues…each and every week…
Update: Hooray! Problem solved. Big thanks to my friends at Artefact who launched an awesome software solution, 10,000 ft., in June 2012. If you’re looking for a resource planning tool, look no farther!