Using Work Items to Track Deliverables and Quality Assurance Standards

Work Items are a list of things to do on a job. They are lower than tasks, (aka stages or phases). They are small steps of work that can be ‘ticked off’ as they are completed. If you already have a QA Check List of some sort for each job/project, then Abtrac Work Items are quite possibly the exact same concept. Examples of a work item might be a day-long site visit, or a 4 hour piece of work in the office to write a report. Each of these and more may all be under a task (aka stage or phase) of ‘Feasibility Planning’.

Most offices start the week and look ahead several weeks when sketching out work to be done and spreading it around the office for people to do. Using Abtrac work items, the benefit is that everyone knows what is being done and how long it is expected to take.

Seniors may be allocated 18-25 hours of work each week with an expectation of them completing it. From experience, one would know the rest of their time is unplanned interruptions, helping others etc.

Juniors may be given 30+ hours, but still allowed a contingency for impromptu discussions, interruptions and miscellaneous time like coffee breaks.

Work items were implemented into Abtrac as a result of users saying “look it is great knowing what happened last week and last month, but we need to know what’s happening next week and next month”.

So as a time management system, Abtrac switched to manage forward time as well as current time and time already spent.


Configuring Abtrac to Use Work Items.

There are a couple of simple steps to take before you can use Work Items.

  1. Every work item has what we call a ‘State’. This indicates the status of the item. Default states can be entered under Administration >> Maintenance >> Planned Time State. Examples would be New, In Progress, Completed, Cancelled, or On Hold. Some states are of interest i.e. they still need to be actioned and managed. Other states indicate the item has been done or in some other way dropped off the radar and doesn’t need to be kept in the uppermost view any more.

2. The second thing you may want to do is review the Administration >> Settings >> User Control Settings for ‘Job Work Items’, ‘Planned Time – Work Scheduling’ and ‘Work Item – Bulk Manage Items of Interest’. This helps to define the fields that would be shown in the respective pages and their position. This can be done at any time, even after you have started using Work Items in earnest.

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Entering Work Items

Each job can have multiple Work Items. As above, these are ‘things to do’ and can be manually entered one-by-one from various menu trees.

We will start from accessing Work items directly from the job pages. Click on a job code from Clients, Contacts & Jobs >> Search Clients and Jobs  to go to the ‘Job Details’ page. Clicking on the ‘Work Items’ tab from the left hand side give you a list of work items.

Here you can click the ‘New Work Item’ button to add a new work item just for that job.

The web page below opens.

Every item has to have a job code, a date entered, someone responsible for it, a due date, total hours, a work item state and of course, a description. The Work Item ID is autogenerated and cannot be changed.

Other fields are not necessary to save a new work item, but can still be useful.

In your Quality Assurance check list for ISO, or for in-house QA reasons, you may have items grouped under headings of some sort. These headings can be maintained in Abtrac by setting up ‘Work Item Groups’. You can add or edit work item groups by clicking on the hyperlink ‘Work Item Group’.

Similarly, some of our clients using Abtrac Work Items use Classifiers. Examples would be to indicate if the item is an engineering, planning or architectural item, or some other classifier commonly used in house. These can be added/edited by clicking on the hyperlink ‘Classifier 1’ or ‘Classifier 2’.

Other fields are also used by various Abtrac users to help them manage the item. In particular, the Task (AKA Stage or Phase) field lets you group the work items by task. This is useful because, when cloning tasks, you can also opt to clone the work items. This is a huge benefit because you only enter the Work Item list once and thereafter simply copy it from one job to the next one of the same type, at the same time as you copy the tasks.

In addition to tracking the movement of work items using the work item state, people also use the ‘Current Comment’ field in the work item.

You can type directly into the ‘Current Comment’ field. We suggest some ‘rules’ around comments, such as preceding the comment with a name and date.

Or, once a work item is saved, you can also add/edit diary notes in a sequential manner using the ‘Add/Edit Diary Notes’ button.

Double clicking on the ‘Current Comment’ field zooms the comment, so you can see a lot more than there is at first glance on the screen.

Once entered and saved, the work item can be optionally scheduled to someone to do, by clicking on the add button for ‘Scheduled Work’.

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When the Work Item is added and saved, click the ‘Back’ button to return to the ‘Job Details’ page. Click on the ‘Work Items’ tab and you can see the saved work item.

Clicking on the hyperlink Work Item number opens that work item.


A Second Way to Add Work Items

You can also add Work Items from the menu Time & Disbursements >> Work Scheduling >> Planned Work Item.

Here we see on the left hand panel, each client job that has work items against it and a count of the number of items still ‘of interest’. With a job being selected, we see on the right hand panel, the outstanding items for that job i.e. those that are still ‘of interest’. The first work item in the right hand panel (Item 1) also has a Due By date showing, indicating that this has been assigned to someone with the due by date of 10 August. Clicking on the number 1 will take you to the work item.

If you have no work items entered, you will not see anything in either panel. That is because by default, this page shows only ‘items of interest’ and if this is the first time you have come into the page, none might have been entered.

The ‘Show Zero Items’ tick box is towards the top right of the page. Clicking on it brings up all current jobs whether they have any items against them or not.

Click on the ‘Add Work Item’ button to add a new work item from this page.


The Easiest Way to Add Work Items

When Tasks (aka Stages or Phases) are set up for a job, you can copy the tasks from another job of the same type by clicking on the ‘Clone Task’ button in the job tasks page. At the same time, you can opt to clone the corresponding ‘Planned Work Items’.

So once your first job has a suite of work items added against it, you can clone the same work items along with the tasks at the click of the button below.


Managing Work Items

Work items can be used in various ways. The main reason for their use is to avoid having anything that needs to be done ‘slip through the cracks’ and get lost or forgotten or overlooked.

Work Items are also a way many Abtrac clients ensure their quality standards are maintained, using them to standardise how they approach each and every job.

The menu Time & Disbursements >> Work Scheduling >> Bulk Manage Items of Interest displays all the items of interest still to be acted on in one list.

This can also be done from the Time & Disbursements >> Work Scheduling >> Planned Work Item page by clicking on the ‘Bulk Manage Work Items’ Button.

You can filter by whatever columns are showing, based on the User Control Settings in your configuration of Abtrac.

E.g. click on the magnifying glass to the right of the ‘Due Date’ and choose the type of filter you want. Then enter the date filter into the cell at the top. This gives you, in this case, all items of interest with dues dates <= Jan 31st.

This will show everything due by or before the input date that is still an ‘item of interest’.

In the same page above, you can take the tick out of the ‘States of Interest Only’ tick box and search on anything in any field e.g. search in the Description filter for anything containing any word or words (or a piece of a word if you’re not sure how it might have been spelt in the first place). Without the ‘States of Interest Only’ tick, all items will show up whether they are still of current interest or long since done and dusted.

However BE WARNED!

If you select all items whether they are of interest or not, you could find your browser takes a long time to load thousands of records. So, before taking the tick out of ‘States of Interest Only’, make sure you have already applied other filters in some of the columns of the grid so as to reduce the records you want [to wait for] in your query result.


Whether you assign the work items to employees or not, each work item remains in its own right on a list of things to do, until it is deemed no longer of interest either because it’s completed, cancelled, put on hold or into some other ‘State’ which is set up by the administrators in your instance of Abtrac.