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Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person

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Simon StuttsProject Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 4:53:16 pm

We're looking for a solution at our studio to help us with project tracking. We work with a large number of interns, so our main need is for something that allows us to assign a value to different individuals that describes their level of experience/amount of work they can get done in a given period. We're trying to find more efficient ways to measure our production bandwidth as a studio.

Anybody know any existing solutions for this?

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Mike CohenRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 5:11:41 pm

What do you mean "assign a value?"
Are you talking dollars earned per unit of time?
A basic spreadsheet might do the trick, but I think we need more details as to what you are trying to track.
Give us an example, for example:

Intern 1 - 20 hours - edited 10 30-sec spots
Intern 2 - 20 hours - edited 5 30-sec spots

if the above is true, obviously Intern 1 is twice as productive as intern 2, assuming all 30-sec spots are basically the same

If you can assign a dollar value to a 30-sec spot, such as $250 gross earned for the studio, then you can have Excel calculate (# spots * 250)/ # hours to calculate the earning potential of the interns.

If you are looking to track "bandwidth" other than earning potential, such as how much work you can manage with your crew, the same data can tell you the efficiency of each employee and how much work you can assign them.
That's even simpler: #hours/# of spots completed.

Or you could calculate both, and compare with how much you pay your employees so you know if you are actually making any money and/or how much it costs you per edited spot which tells you your profit.

If you want something that each employee can enter their own data, then you need a web-based or network-based program, either custom made or off the shelf.

As discussed a few threads down, a custom solution by a php programmer may be the fastest and lowest cost to implement.

Hope this is what you were looking for, but it is interesting to think about.

Years ago we used something called TimeTiger, a network based time tracking package. But it was so unwieldy to use, it could easily take 30 minutes a day to track all the different tasks you were working on, and pushback against using it was the net result. We wanted to figure out costs for more accurate project estimating.

Mike Cohen

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Mark SuszkoRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:09:27 pm

To me, Mike, what you describe is pretty scary. Because it commoditizes actual creativity in terms of productivity. I know you said "assuming all spots are the same".

Maybe that works for the mills that crank out car spots all day to a template. But it wouldn't take into account the things the person tried and experimented on, then discarded, before they went on to make the spot however it turned out.

I still believe every spot is a custom job, that scripts are not written, they are wrought. That just getting *something* out the door on deadline is not all there is to it. Before I lapse into the lyrics of some country and western song about old time values, I'll stop there.

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Ron LindeboomRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:17:18 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Before I lapse into the lyrics of some country and western song about old time values, I'll stop there."

I'd prefer it if you fell into an art-rock progressive mood and did something about the beauty of creativity along the lines of early King Crimson or Renaissance, perhaps.

Even in my pick-up truck I listen to pretty much everything except my two least favorite kinds of music, country and western.


Ron Lindeboom

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Mike CohenRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:27:40 pm

Mark - I would never make such a calculation due to all of the things you suggest. I was trying to get a better idea of what Simon was looking for, and taking a guess at what he is looking to do.

As I mentioned in my post, we had at one time tried to measure the time spent project to project, which did not take into account the nuances that differentiate projects. I say "we" but the idea was from a past IT manager who seemed to think he had it "all figured out." He did figure out how to alienate people!


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Simon StuttsRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 3, 2009 at 7:46:35 pm

Sorry I wasn't very clear in the initial post. My brain doesn't even really kick in until about noon.

What we're specifically looking for is a way to figure out our production bandwidth: i.e. if we are basing it on a 10-hr day, and on average, staff member X can get done 10 hrs of work, but intern Y can only do 6hrs of work in the same time period (due to experience, skillsets, etc.), it becomes a very very time consuming task to figure out exactly how much production can move through the pipeline in a given time. Spread that across 40-60 people, and what starts as a fairly simple way to calculate personal bandwidth rapidly becomes stupefying. And then when changes pop up in the schedule, you have to recalculate, and then our production manager gets crushed.

We've used Basecamp and some other project-management tools, but we're looking to see if we can track down a system or tool to help automate our production bandwidth estimates, taking into account variable skill levels.


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Bill DavisRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 4, 2009 at 3:16:02 am

This reminds me of one of my post-2000 rules to live by.

In any given presentation, the moment someone voices the term "metrics" I give them 10 minutes to say something that gives me a reason to keep listening... If they fail - I find a reason to excuse myself from the meeting. Nearly all fail.

I understand that meta-data analysis is all the rage. I also understand that productivity analysis is even more seductive when your company grows enough extra bodies so that they all can't contribute to the creative product.

But I've never met a piece of artistic work worth crap that didn't suffer for any time expended on one of those over the actual doing and refining of the work itself.

This is accounting. Pure and simple. IMO, Accounting enhances the ability to stockpile money brilliantly. And that is enough strength for it's justification. If you want to do accounting for other things, knock yourself out. But not me.

If I'd wanted to do that, I'd have gone into banking.


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Simon StuttsRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 4, 2009 at 3:31:07 am

Yeah - I'm not the tracking and numbers guy...I'm the motion graphics and design guy. :-)

Our particular challenges include a wide array of skill levels, a large amount of work to do, and the need to help others who have an impact on our production schedules understand what can and can't be done.

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Brendan CootsRe: Project Tracking - Bandwidth per person
by on Aug 5, 2009 at 8:08:48 pm

What you're asking for sounds an awful lot like Six Sigma, which is almost impossible to apply to service companies. A manufacturer has the benefit of saying "the average worker can apply 10 propellers to 10 beanies per hour" but we can't do that because there are too many varying levels of skill, creativity, attention to detail etc. across the production environment.

You're looking at a custom database with a front end, such as Filemaker Pro. One method that could work is to set up 10 "levels" per job function that you lump all employees into, such as "Level 10 Editor = Lead Editor" and "Level 1 Editor = Intern." The more levels, the easier it is to categorize and it's more fair to employees. You can set expected throughput for each of those levels based on your experience and past results, and control what work is even presented to employees based on their ranking. The level 1 guy is only ever asked to label tapes, and based on your experience SHOULD be able to label 100 tapes per work-hour. The level 10 editor is only asked to do the final polish and is expected to deliver 20 minutes of finished product per work-hour. The "Level 3 Motion Graphics" guy is only asked to do lower thirds and should be able to deliver 5 per hour. It will be tough to group out the work like this, but if you really are talking about 40-60 people it will be worth the effort.

From here, you assign a rank to each employee and communicate the expectations that rank bestows on them. A manager (NOT the employee) is expected to assign the work out to each employee, and then log their actual results in a central database. John Smith, a Level 1 Editor (intern) was given 1 Unit of work (which for this category is 100 labeled tapes) , and it took 2 hours. That is one more hour than expected, and your DB should reflect that.
Your central database will need some sort of front-end for inputting all the data and eventually plotting it in some meaningful way so that you can analyze throughput and, hopefully, track progress and spot the really bad apples. Using a database, you can even assign acceptable deviations from the norm and have it "flag" the agregious cases. The intern who took 15 minutes too long isn't a big deal, but the guy who slept on the job and took three hours probably needs a talking to. Your database could highlight the results that fall outside of this acceptable deviation, giving you an easy way to see where your bottlenecks are.

One added benefit is that this gives all of your employees specific goals if they would like to rise in the ranks and earn higher pay. Want to be a Level III Editor? Here's the requirements, prove you can meet them, and you're in. It all sounds very cold and corporate, but if you are managing 40-60 people you need some way to control costs and keep people from hiding in the cracks and dragging productivity down. Without a good tracking system, a few bad apples truly will make everyone look bad, and are difficult to impossible to root out.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

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