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How Lighting Beetle* Used Time Tracking to Banish Scope Creep and Improve Work-Life Balance

Lighting Beetle logo

Lighting Beetle* is a customer experience design studio based in Slovakia, with projects from all over the world.

Industry

Customer service design

Team size

41

Location

Bratislava, Slovakia

Plan

Premium

Results

  • Steady growth. From 2015 to 2018, when they first implemented time tracking and agile methods, they recorded 50% growth year-over-year in revenue.
  • Nearly 100% of projects completed on time and within budget. In other words, no scope creep, ever. They can accurately estimate their own capacity and manage client expectations accordingly. “We never over-scope because we own the scope and fulfill it,” said Marek Šolc, CFO of Lighting Beetle.
  • No late deadlines, due to accurate project time estimates.
  • Maintain work-life balance and avoid burnout thanks to the freedom and autonomy enabled by time tracking.
Team members of Lighting Beetle sorting out post-its on a whiteboard

Challenges

Guesswork is fun when you’re playing games. Less so when you’re trying to run a profitable business.

When Lighting Beetle* was first established in 2009, they found themselves playing the guessing game. They had a waterfall project management method.

Without any established benchmarks, they struggled with setting the appropriate deadlines. As a result they often found themselves overwhelmed with too many commitments and not enough capacity.

They didn’t want to disappoint clients, but neither did they want to overwork their team of talented designers.

In addition to multiple commitments, they were working with multiple external contractors and developers who needed to be paid. They were also working for multiple clients who needed to be billed.

But once again, they had no way to predict how much time or resources a project would cost. When it came to setting budgets or project plans, they had to rely on a combination of guesswork and negotiating around what the client wanted.

And finally, even if they were flourishing as a business they were floundering when it came to work-life balance. Underestimating how long things would take or how many people meant they were often stretched thin.

"Time tracking brought transparency and trust into the relationship with our clients."

Dominika Babulicová

Marketing manager at Lighting Beetle*

Solution

A project management makeover

In 2011 Lighting Beetle* started time tracking with Toggl Track. The practice completely transformed their approach towards project management and even niched its services.

Today, as a client-focused design agency, the studio delivers on both business goals and a strong customer experience. The secret to this winning combination lies in how their team is organized—with time tracking.

"I can't believe how we survived those two initial years without tracking time!” said Marek Šolc, CFO of Lighting Beetle*.

The internal changes were enormous. Time tracking helped the studio monitor the time and effort that went into projects and stay within budget. By measuring time spent against the return on investment, they were also able to adjust priorities and allocate resources accordingly, even mid-project.

A regular practice of time tracking eventually helped the team establish benchmarks and make educated predictions for future budgets. They no longer had to rely on vague guesses.

Toggl Track’s project dashboard made all this easy to execute and access. By inputting a project time estimate into the dashboard, managers were able to see—in real time—a visualization of project progress. They could see, on one page, a responsive forecast for how long the project would take to complete, and how many hours had been put into the project so far.


Healthy client relationships

External changes were just as crucial. Knowledge of how many hours went into a particular kind of task helped the studio generate fair and accurate paychecks for their roster of external contributors. This was the original inspiration to start tracking time. But client relationships also improved.

“Time tracking brought transparency and trust into the relationship with our clients,” said Dominika Babulicová, marketing manager at Lighting Beetle*.

Entrusting the project time management to Toggl Track, the team was no longer stressing about estimated hours, scope creep, and fast-approaching deadlines. Instead, they were spending that time on looking for better solutions to client problems.

And clients could see all that. The team was able to better manage client expectations, thanks to the way reports provided an overview into their time and resource allocation, showing how long it took how many workers to complete a certain project or task within a project.

The goodwill wasn’t one-sided. Lighting Beetle* also found the new approach more liberating. Because they knew exactly how long certain projects would take, they could confidently take the lead in setting boundaries, goals, and methodologies. They had the data to back them up.

“We are the ones building project plans, not the client. This is different from many agencies of our type, which often have to be micromanaged by clients,” said Dominika.

“We’re never late with projects. We always fulfill our commitments. Because we never over-scope, and we never experience scope creep. We own the scope and we fulfill the scope,” said Marek.


Freedom, transparency, and work-life balance

The upgraded workflows and the thriving client relationships were great for business. The ability to plan quarters ahead based on effort required for past work helped them maintain sustainable growth.

The way they worked improved across the board. Not just in terms of project time management and efficiency, but also in terms of freedom and autonomy.

Time tracking provides the foundation for the freedom to test and validate their own solutions and initiatives. Each team lead is responsible for their own resources, and for monitoring their own profit and loss.

The Toggl Track API is especially helpful for getting real time data out of Toggl Track,” said Marek.

“Every team or member can work with this data when they want to improve some metrics. They can work with the time tracking data to create dashboards, and the multiple ways of viewing it means they don’t have to work with multiple Excel files; thanks to the API it’s always up to date.” ​​ “Putting all this data together helps us decide on internal initiatives or strategic approaches,” added Dominika. “For example, sometimes you know you can’t put people on billable projects because you know you might need them on some internal project, like onboarding newcomers.”

The quality of life also improved. Because Lighting Beetle* had full control over resource allocation, equipped by solid time tracking data, they were able to deliver on the things they promised. And they were able to do it in a way that didn’t overwork their team.

“Any time someone feels like they’re losing their sense of work-life balance, or feel burned out, they can solve it with their team,” said Dominika. “We’re not completely holacratic, but we have a lot of autonomy among teams. It’s up to the teams to monitor their own time tracking, and some teams check in weekly, others check in monthly, but whatever the case the numbers are transparent.”


Popular with the entire team

All of the features that make Toggl Track so appealing to solo or freelance users are beloved within Lighting Beetle*, too, making Toggl Track popular with the entire team.

“The Calendar views are great because you can visualize your time as a calendar and also view your calendar events side-by-side with your time tracking. And also because you can start time entries directly from the calendar events. It’s very convenient.” said Marek.

The Toggl Track browser extension for Firefox and Chrome, which embeds a clickable little Toggl Track within tools like Jira and Salesforce, is also widely beloved.

“Some people use Asana. Sometimes we work with clients who want to use their tool, which might be something like Jira. But the Button makes it easy for people to start tracking wherever they may be on the web,” said Marek.

Lighting Beetle*'s most-used features:

  • Timer, or start and stop button

  • Project dashboard and project time estimates

  • Integrations with Google Calendar and calendar views

  • API for comprehensive data analysis

  • Autocomplete time entries

  • Favorites

Toggl Track is trusted by 70,000+ teams, including:

Time tracking for businesses

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Teams of 10+ are eligible for a custom tour to see how Toggl Track can fit into your business’s workflow. Demos usually last 30 minutes.

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