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Using the Harvest API for Radical Transparency with Clients

The beauty of Harvest is that it brings time tracking to life. All the data you collect through your timesheets gets pulled into graphs and reports that give you insight into your business. For the tech savvy, the Harvest API unlocks even more possibilities for making use of your data. In this guest post Zbigniew Sobiecki, CEO of Macoscope, shares how his company has taken advantage of the Harvest API to fit time tracking into their workflow.

Our work as a software house is governed largely by agile methodology. Part of this involves charging clients by the hour (as opposed to fixed-price projects) so they only pay for the time we actually spend working on their project. Such an approach makes Harvest the single most important data source in our whole organization.

What Exactly Does Harvest Do for Our Company?

First of all, each member of our development team should spend 6.5 hours a day working on client projects. Harvest helps us monitor their current workload and quickly notice when someone is working too much. Believe it or not, it can be a real lifesaver! Each developer on our staff is obliged to responsibly track their time every single day, so they aren’t relying on their spotty memories when trying to fill out timesheets a couple days later.

Harvest also allows us to be fully transparent with our clients and charge them only for work related to their projects. We bill clients only as we would like ourselves to be billed by others. We especially make sure not to round up time entries. Those extra minutes add up quickly and we dont consider it a proper business practice to bill our clients for them.

Second, we use Harvest to forecast sales. Anyone with project-related knowledge can look back a week or two and assess the number of hours spent on a project so far. This allows us to come up with an estimate on how much revenue the project will bring us one to three months down the road.

Third, Harvest helps us with estimates. We know historically how much time went into the design and development of every app we’ve worked on. We’re able to tap into that data to draw up business insights for future projects. This can be a game-changer for many of our clients, since for most of them the app we’re working on is their first mobile project. Sharing our prior experiences and insights allows them to understand the project better and know what to expect from the process. What’s more, we’re always able to verify our estimates, thus improving our calculations of the time needed for a given project.

Using the API to Get the Most Out of Harvest

Harvest’s built-in time tracking and reporting functionalities are essential to our business, but we’ve been able to take our use of Harvest to the next level by harnessing its powerful API. We created scripts that integrate Harvest into our workflow and generate reports for both us and our clients.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the things we’re doing with the Harvest API:

I. Harvest and Jira

We use a set of scripts that integrates Harvest with Jira, which enables us to log time in Jira based on tasks and then automatically export the timesheets to Harvest, giving us a better understanding of our data.

II. Client Reports

We use a tool that allows us to generate beautiful PDF reports for our clients. This allows us to maintain full transparency and make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of budget usage. These reports also allow our clients to see how much time we’ve spent on the project compared to its overall length.

client-reports-1

We even add our pictures to the reports, to help the client feel more like part of the team. We find sending these reports via e-mail introduces a nice touch of human interaction. Instead of having them to log on to some website, we provide them with important information straight to their inbox. This approach also allows us to make sure that the client understands the content of the report and gives them a forum to ask any questions.

client-report-2

Each report outlines the amount of time we spent on that clients mobile app in terms of

  • design
  • development
  • code review
  • bug fixing
  • calls

client-report-3

The reports and the transparency they provide also allow us to make adjustments that benefit both us and the client. For example, after seeing these reports, a client might decide that holding long meetings with the entire team is not the most efficient way to spend their budget. In the future we can cancel some of the meetings or invite fewer attendees.

client-report-4

Each report also breaks down time by individual tasks so clients can see exactly where the time is going.

Finally, each report contains a short summary which allows clients in a rush to understand quickly how much we spent during the course of this particular period of app design and development.

client-report-5

III. Internal Reports

We also devised a powerful set of reporting scripts that generate an essential intelligence package, which we receive every morning. This tells us exactly how our 30+ member team performed the day before.

This report allows us to track daily, weekly, and monthly budgets as well as the time that has been tracked per project and per person. It also includes information about presale activities, such as calls with potential clients and preliminary research, which we track in a separate Harvest project. Keeping tabs on this information allows us to calculate how much profit weve made on any given project and how much development/design time is involved in sales.

Additionally, we’re working on devising a script set that would report team performance back to the team itself, hopefully bolstering their sense of teamwork and esprit de corps by giving everyone a sense of how much effort they’re putting into the project.

Harvest is definitely an indispensable tool at our company. It’s the sole source of information on how well we perform in terms of time spent on projects for our clients. And by letting us know which tasks take up the most of our time, it enables us to draw countless conclusions on how to work better.

Zbigniew Sobiecki is a self-taught software developer turned entrepreneur. He has cofounded three start-ups: the first failed, the second was sold to a public company, and the third is Macoscope, an award-winning iOS and OS X design and development studio. You can follow Macoscope on Twitter.

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This was posted in Harvest Tips.
  • We run similar reports but the process is more manual. Very interested in the client reports tool. Is it available the public?

    If yes, please point me in the right direction.

    • Curran Boomer on February 3, 2016

      Hi Daniel (and Glen) – Thanks for reading the post! I’m glad you found it valuable. Client reports like this are not available through Harvest itself (though our product team is currently considering them!). This particular tool was built by Macoscope using the API for their own internal use. But there are a couple client dashboard integrations you may find useful. I would check out Cling, Pastel, and Harvest 4 Clients. You could also consider building a tool of your own with our API.

  • Similar request to Daniel – we’d love to not reinvent the wheel if they’re already available… Great post by the way.

  • Daniel, Glen thank you for your interest in the customized reports we provide to our clients.

    Reports like these are not part and parcel of our work as a mobile software house, therefore I am afraid we are not ready to share them with the public audience just yet. However, given your interest, we are obviously willing to share our experiences and contribute to the community, but we need to think about it more before we actually commit.

    Please, stay tuned and follow us on Twitter (@macoscope), so you will be the first to know if we happen to go in that direction. Once again, thank you for your comments, we are really pleased to see our work being appreciated this much!

  • Hi Daniel and Glen. Would you like to check our product http://www.pastel.io ? You can connect to your Harvest Account and start to invite the client right away. There is also the weekly report that you can schedule to send an update for your customer. Love to hear your feedback.

  • The forecasting of sales and reporting on expected revenue function remains one of the largest gaps in the harvest time tracker/forecast app. Lacking this we’ve been forced to consider going to a stodgy “Enterprise” product (NetSuite OpenAir is the current contender)

    We strongly encourage the harvest team to build this into their mainline product offering.

    • Curran Boomer on May 4, 2016

      Hi Shadow – Thanks for the feedback! I’ve passed it on to the product team and they’ll take it into consideration. I should let you know though we aren’t currently working on a change to forecasting expected revenue. The best workaround is to create ‘placeholder’ projects in Forecast for prospective business. I know it’s not ideal but it might give you a little insight.

  • I agree with the lack of ability to accurately forecast Revenue, and easily track projects costs vs forecast, is a gap. Would also be nice to see Gross Margin per project, planned and actual. This is different than prospective business, it relates to planned sold work.

    • Curran Boomer on May 13, 2016

      Hi Cory – Thanks for reading and thanks for the suggestions! We don’t currently have any changes in the works that will address these issues, but I’ve passed your feedback on to the product team and they’ll definitely take them into consideration.

  • Is the script to sync time entries from Jira to Harvest publicly available? We’re looking for this, but have yet to find a good solution (the official Harvest plugin for Jira doesn’t log time to the Jira issue too, which we really want).

    • Curran Boomer on July 11, 2016

      Hi Adam – The Jira integration referenced above was custom-built by one of our customers using the Harvest API. To my knowledge it’s not publicly available. The only thing I can suggest to you is the official Harvest integration for Jira. It sounds like you’ve tried it. You should be able to see how long you spent on each issue, but this information is only available in Jira, not in Harvest. Sorry about that!

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