Don’t Just Count Every Hour, Make Every Hour Count

by Furqan Nazeeri | October 11, 2012

Estimated time to read: minutes

Each day at ExtensionEngine we track about 1,000 hours of our employees' labor of love across about 40 billable client projects and another dozen or so non-billable projects that are for either sales, training, development, philanthropy, etc.. That works out to more than a quarter million hours …of labor tracked per year and that's before you factor in a growth rate of nearly 50% per year. Keeping track of all that time is a monumental task by itself, but that is just necessary and by no means sufficient. Making sure that our team's time is invested in the optimal tasks in the most efficient manner is what delivers value for our clients. So how do we do that? The answer lies in three things:


People. Every organization seeks to hire the most talented people and in that sense ExtensionEngine is typical. We do hire extraordinarily talented folks. Our product and project managers are talented technologists who have advanced business training including Ivy League MBAs and the school of real world experience. Our award winning design staffs are world class practitioners of outstanding web and mobile user experience design. And of course, our engineers and QA professionals are some of the best in the world with more than half of our team having advanced degrees in computer science, math or engineering and an average work experience of more than 10 years. But that is just the ante in our line of business. What makes ExtensionEngine's staff different is that we hire great communicators which doesn't just mean total command of language, but also a zest for communication. A proactive need to share ideas, plans and problems. We also recruit and foster a culture of curiosity and innovation. Everyone at ExtensionEngine loves to learn. These things combined make the ExtensionEngine team uniquely able to deliver value. An hour of one of our team members time is one of the most valuable hours you can find anywhere in the world!

 Working at the Split Innovation Lab



Process. Almost all of our client engagements use the Agile Scrum development methodology. We excel at delivering rapid iterative releases of software which takes discipline around scope definition, time estimation, measuring performance, etc. Great process also means having the right tools and systems. At ExtensionEngine, we use an integrated suite of best-of-breed technologies to track time, collaborate, meet, manage knowledge, invoice, track expenses and report performance. For example, our time tracking tool is Harvest This tool is easy to use which makes compliance easy, but also it is very helpful in terms of reporting. It's so helpful that we use it for internal as well as external client reporting. The Harvest API also allows for customizations, like the scripts we wrote to gently remind staff who are remiss at entering time on time.



Policy. While I personally and all of us here at ExtensionEngine have a healthy distain for hard and fast policies aka regulation, there are cases where policies are  extremely helpful. For example, one policy we have is, "if it's not in Basecamp, it's not real." What this means is that we have a definitive book of record for every project and when our clients don't stipulate otherwise, we use Basecamp. This eliminates "gray market communications" and avoids situations where team mates (or clients or 3rd parties) miscommunicate. We also have policies around time tracking. Time has to be entered on a regular schedule (ideally daily) and we don't run payroll until all time is can imagine that drives individual as well as team accountability. But one of my favorite policies is, "Good news travels fast, and bad news travels faster." This keeps us grounded. Everyone hates surprises, but there is no excuse for compounding the problem by imperfect transparency. One thing you can count on when working with us is high transparency.



So that's how we deliver value. Hire great people, follow a proven process with best-of-breed systems and enforce successful policies. That's what we've been doing at ExtensionEngine for more than 10 years and that's what we will be doing for the next 10 (or more).

Furqan Nazeeri

Furqan Nazeeri is a Partner at Extension Engine. He regularly speaks on innovation in online learning and has 20+ years of experience building and managing high-performance teams. Prior to Extension Engine, Furqan was a founder/CEO of VC-backed Pivot Inc. (acquired by NASDAQ:CME) and EIR at Softbank Capital. He has a BSE in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Harvard University.

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