After doing some research, we found a tool called "Time Doctor". It sends daily reports to workers (and their managers) of current tasks and the time log for the previous day.
This software also tracks web sites visited and applications used. As you might hope, if someone seems to be spending too much time on “distracting” sites like YouTube or Facebook, it “nudges” them by asking whether or not they are still working. Likewise, after a period of inactivity, Time Doctor will ask whether or not that time was spent working.
It is worth noting that Time Doctor does these things automatically, with minimal disruption or effort.
The application consists of a desktop component which connects with a server and provides reports to management via e-mail (or a website). That means it works great even when people are in different locations.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure.
With that said, collecting data is different than gaining insights from data. For example, Time Doctor helped us figure-out what the chunks (or sub-projects) really looked like at the work level; this allowed us to name and right-size them at the planning level.
In addition, employees can gain insights about how they actually spend their day compared to how they planned to spend their day. Likewise, this data is useful at planning sessions to ensure that we actually do the things we said we were going to do -- and that people are working on doing what is necessary for “success” in their job.
When someone is working too long -- that may show effort; but you don't necessarily want people working harder. It is an opportunity to discuss delegating, automating, or just saying "no" to certain things. With growth, many projects become possible. As a team, you have to be careful with your choice of which ones get scarce resources (your time, machine cycles, etc.). Your choice to do something often means a corresponding choice not to do something else. That choice should be conscious.
Time Doctor creates an opportunity to do more than just say "No" to a task ... Instead, it can be the catalyst to re-direct that work to a different resource. Something that would cause overflow for someone might be a career upgrade or great opportunity for someone else.
What Are You Trying to Improve?
A tool like Time Doctor is not a replacement for assessing someone's actual work output, yet, it’s a very powerful tool to get extra data points. For example, you can find-out how many hours someone has been working, who they have been collaborating with, and whether they are in front of a computer or a customer?
Right out of the box, Time Doctor does what it's supposed to do. Nonetheless, if you want to get more out of it, you have to have the right intent.
Simply seeing a list of the tasks and activities that people work on throughout the day is useful. However, using that information to time when you talk with them, or help coach them to spend time on higher priority items is when you are actively managing and adding value, rather than simply data tracking.
So check out Time Doctor. It is an effective productivity and management tool for your team. Used properly, it will help you mark good management practice and encourage your team to a higher standard of performance and participation.