We’re delighted to receive this letter from HPS

Once again we’re proud to publish a letter from one of our clients.  In this case it is our UK-based friends at Hyde Part Solutions.  We’ve known the HPS for years so when they went looking for a timesheet, we were delighted to work with them.  The letter from Richard Jebb, the HPS Chief Technology Officer explains how the flexibility of TimeControl was a deciding factor. HPS has been growing at a rapid pace the last couple of years and we wish them continued success.  You can read the letter in its entirety at TimeControl.com/why-timecontrol/testimonials/hydepark.

Our thanks to Richard and the whole HPS team for their kind letter!

Everything I know about TimeControl, I learned in the Sandbox!

In early 2018, HMS introduced a new service associated to TimeControl Online. Called, the TimeControl Sandbox, it is a parallel service that brings a separate instance of TimeControl Online and features to replicate the exact data from the production instance of TimeControl.  The purpose of the service is to provide TimeControl Online administrators a separate TimeControl for the testing of new features and the creation and testing of new Link definitions, Validation Rules and Accrual processes without affecting the main system.  The TimeControl Sandbox is also an ideal place for training.

The cost is a small fixed price per year regardless of the number of users on your TimeControl Online subscription.

Here’s how it works

HMS creates a second instance of your TimeControl Online environment and links this instance to your production instance of TimeControl.  At any time, the Administrator can restore the complete production database into the Sandbox. If you have multiple backups, you can choose which backup to restore.

Some key points

  • You can never restore the Sandbox database into the Production database. This prevents any possibility of damaging the production database.
  • To move configuration changes into the Production system, the Export Packages function exports packages such as Reports, Validation Rules and Filters from the Sandbox and the Import Packages function imports them into the Production system.
  • Scheduling in the Sandbox is turned off. This prevents any unexpected transfers to or from corporate or project management systems.

For more information on the TimeControl Sandbox or to find out pricing, contact HMS at TimeControl.com/contact or email info@hms.ca.

What a difference Mobile Makes

It’s the day before Thanksgiving in the United States. More than 54 million people (yes, million) will travel more than 50 miles for the holiday in the US this year. So we’re going to take a moment to think about how to manage your timesheet responsibilities while you’re mobile.

The free TimeControl Mobile App has been available for over a year now and is one of the most sought-after elements of TimeControl functionality. If your organization has enabled the Mobile App, you can create your timesheet, edit a timesheet that is already in progress, and complete and release a timesheet. If you are a supervisor, you can do your approvals while on the move (in the passenger seat!). You can approve or reject a timesheet and, if need be, attach an email notification. If you are an administrator who had only a few more adjustments to do, you can recall a posted timesheet and apply debit/credit adjustments to it.

And all that from your phone or tablet!

The TimeControl Mobile App is available at no charge from the Apple Store for iOS iPhones and iPads and from Google Play for Android phones and tablets.

For more information on the TimeControl Mobile App, visit Mobile.TimeControl.com.

 

Our President was just featured on the Top Entrepreneur Podcast!

Here’s some news we don’t have every day.  HMS Software’s President, Chris Vandersluis was just featured on Nathan Latka’s Top Entrepreneur Podcast!  Nathan and Chris discussed HMS Software’s history as a premiere publisher of timesheet software and the rise of TimeControl as one of the most popular timesheet systems.  The Top Entrepreneur podcast is hugely popular and has featured some remarkable guests in the past.  We’re very proud to have our own President on the show!

The podcast can be found on iTunes at: http://nathanlatka.com/thetopitunes (it’s episode 1209) or from your desktop on Nathan’s site at: nathanlatka.com/thetop1209.  Take a listen to hear their conversation!

TimeControl 7.4.1 is now available!

We’re delighted to tell you that TimeControl 7.4.1 is now available for download.  This version updates TimeControl, TimeControl Industrial, TimeControl Online and the free TimeControl Mobile App.  TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial clients with a current support and maintenance agreement can download the new version immediately at TimeControl.com/support/updates.  HMS is preparing for the upgrade of TimeControl Online which will happen automatically in the next 2-3 weeks.  TimeControl Online customers will be notified a week in advance of the update.

There are many new features to be excited about.  Here are some of the highlights:

Charge Hierarchy

TimeControl now supports multiple methods of displaying a hierarchy of charge codes.  TimeControl has long been recognized for supporting hierarchical charge structures but the new functionality takes this to a new level.  Field hierarchy permits hierarchy to be built from multiple user defined fields in the Charge Table and you can create multiple breakdowns then switch them on the fly when you’re searching for charge codes in the timesheet!

Numerous new API methods

We have made extensive additions to the TimeControl API making it even easier to integrate TimeControl as part of an overall corporate environment.

Mobile Debit/Credit Adjustments

The TimeControl Mobile App now allows Debit/Credit update Adjustments.  This allows supervisors and administrators to open a Posted timesheet and apply adjustments to that timesheet and release those adjustments to Posting.

Mobile Posted Expenses and Attachments

The TimeControl Mobile App now includes the ability to view the expenses that are attached to a posted timesheet in the past as well as any attachments that might have been associated to the timesheet or expenses.

Assignments

We have made major changes to the Assignments Table.  Assignments can now be made as part of a person’s full time availability so one person could be put on two tasks simultaneously at 50% of their availability each.  You can also now have the assignment start and finish be dates other than the charge start and stop so assignments that were meant to occur only during part of the charge can be defined that way.

Administrator configuration enhancements

We have taken numerous elements of the TimeControl configuration and moved them from the TimeControl.INI file into the Administrator System Preferences and User Profiles functions.  This will make a huge difference for TimeControl Online environments where some of these features had to be managed at the server level.

New User Profile Features

There are numerous new settings in User Profiles that allows TimeControl’s configuration to be tailored to the person or group with that User Profile setting.  These changes include all-new Super-User reject and Modify rights .  You can also change how the Timesheet List appears, allowing only a certain number of weeks in the past or future to display.  A new Highlight feature helps when adding a timesheet by highlighting the current week or the last missing week for a new timesheet.

Control Period Create Times

When creating timesheets, TimeControl allows the number of periods in the past and the future to be constrained to avoid accidentally creating a timesheet in the wrong period or in a period when Finance is not expecting it.

Copy Hours

We’ve made it possible to control who is allowed to copy hours when creating a new timesheet using the Copy Timesheet function and activated the ability to copy hours.

And…

There’s so much more.  We’ve done a lot of work on high volume capacity, improved performance, added more revision auditing, and improved usability across the application.

Find out more at TimeControl.com/features/latest

Our president was recently interviewed on the B2B News Network

If you haven’t seen the interview already, we’re quite proud of it.  The piece is entitled Inside the Mind… of Chris Vandersluis and is written by Dave Gordon who is featured regularly on the Business to Business News Network.  Dave asks Chris to talk about the history of HMS Software and the evolution of TimeControl and to discuss for other entrepreneurs how to service some of the most well known organizations in the world as a small niche software publisher.  We invite you to give it a read.  The article can be found at:

www.b2bnn.com/2018/09/inside-the-mind-of-chris-vandersluis

New Testimonial letter from R2.ca!

We have the privilege of having some pretty awesome clients.  For those who have visited the HMS Software offices in person, you know the corridors are covered in testimonial letters written by clients over the years and we are very proud of each and every one of them.  This month we received what is, for us, a first.  Marie-Lyne Vachon, the Financial Controller at our Quebec-based client R2.ca sent us a beautiful testimonial letter in French.  You’d think with HMS having our headquarters in Quebec Canada and with virtually all our staff being bilingual, this would happen more often but it has not.  We’ve taken the liberty of translating the letter so you can read the original letter in French or the translated letter in English.  From all of us at HMS to our users at R2.ca and Marie-Lyne we say a hearty thank you!

We don’t do enough French blog posts due to our large profile of clients outside of Quebec and Canada but for this letter we can’t resist!

Nous avons le privilège d’avoir des clients assez impressionnants. Pour ceux qui ont visité les bureaux de HMS Software en personne, vous savez que les couloirs sont couverts par des lettres de témoignage écrites par des clients au fil des ans et nous sommes très fiers de chacun d’entre eux. Ce mois-ci, nous avons reçu ce qui est, pour nous, une première. Marie-Lyne Vachon, contrôleur financier chez notre client québécois R2.ca, nous a envoyé une belle lettre de témoignage en français. Vous penseriez que si HMS avait son siège social au Québec, au Canada, et que presque tout notre personnel était bilingue, cela se produirait plus souvent, mais ce n’est pas le cas. Nous avons pris la liberté de traduire la lettre afin que vous puissiez lire la lettre originale en français ou la lettre traduite en anglais. De tous les employés de HMS à nos utilisateurs de R2.ca et de Marie-Lyne, nous disons un grand merci!

TimeControl DCAA Solutions area updated

Every year the US Defense Contract Audit Agency audits thousands of contracts with the US government.  If you have ever been part of such an audit you will know that the DCAA places a particular emphasis on verifying timesheets associated to workers working on projects that they oversee.  It is not enough to have a good time and attendance record.  The DCAA must validate that hours billed to government contracts were spent on those projects and not on other work.  A complete task-based timesheet is required that encompasses all work.

In 2017, the DCAA audited over $281 billion in defense contract costs.  The DCAA is not restricted to defense contracts alone.  Their standards and audits are also used by NASA, the DoE, Homeland security and other agencies.

While the DCAA deliberately does not endorse or certify software products, and instead focuses on an auditable process, the standards they require are well known.

TimeControl has included DCAA compliant functionality for many years and has been selected by clients on numerous occasions to be used for DCAA audit compliance.

HMS maintains a resource portal with a number of useful tools and links to aid in becoming DCAA compliant when using TimeControl.  The portal is free and is located at: dcaa.timecontrol.com.

Integrating TimeControl with external clock systems

The first timekeeping systems were surely built around the idea of a punch clock.  These clocks would be placed near the entrance to a building and hourly workers would be required to insert a card into the clock to have it stamped with the current time.  The start and stop of the day would be used to calculate the hours present and thus the hours to be paid. 

As technology advanced, so did the entire idea of timesheets.  TimeControl has been around quite some time but even in 1984 when HMS created its first custom timesheet, there were already many clock-based timestamp systems on the market.  In fact, the very first timesheet HMS ever created was for Philips Information Systems in Canada and that timesheet included functionality to integrate with the building’s security access system.

When TimeControl became a commercial product in 1994, the lessons learned in the many customized timesheets were woven into it and the concept of integrating with external clock attendance systems remains.  But, by 1994 the number of companies in the time clock business was huge and we picked a different direction for TimeControl.  Our timesheet would be project-management based, we decided and yet flexible enough to be used for many purposes.  Still, just like that first timesheet we built, we expected to have some demand for integration with clock systems.

Clock systems now come in many flavors.  Some are biometric based, using hand prints, finger prints or retina scans to ensure that the person clocking in or out is the correct person.  Some systems are based on using an employee identification card which is swiped or held in proximity to a reader.  And, yes, I’m sure there are still old punch systems with the card and the analog clock.

The purpose of these systems can vary.  The original attendance for payroll is the most popular but other systems such as the one we originally used for Philips was for building security.  Other applications might be for workforce management such as a hospital or safety such as access to a hazardous area such as a mine or heavy industry facility.  We have seen such systems used in fabrication to identify when a new process is being kicked off by using a barcode scanner or an identity card swipe at a workstation.

Whatever the purpose, the end result of those systems records the person who activated the clock, the clock identification and the time.  This data ends up in a database and the application software that typically comes with the clock gives some ability to manage what to do with the clock’s time.  There are several typical needs of such systems.  Let’s take a look at them before we look at how they would relate to TimeControl.

First there are a number of different times to keep track of:

Actual clock time

This is the time associated to the person when it was accessed.  By using the clock’s identity, we can usually determine whether this was a clock access on the way in or the way out of the facility.

Schedule time

The actual clock time is almost meaningless if we don’t have a schedule time to compare it to.  This was the time that the person accessing the clock was expected to access the clock either in or out

Calculated time

This is heavily dependent on the organization’s rules.  If someone accessed the clock at 7:55am and their schedule was to start at 8:00am, then the calculated time is probably 8:00am.  But what if they’re 10 minutes late?  What if they’re an hour late?  The rules for how to calculate the time is based on whatever the rules are for arriving at times outside of the expectation.

Adjusted time

Perhaps the person arrived at 6:55am and they were expected at 8:00am.  The system then calculates an 8:00am start.  But, the person arrived an hour early at the request of their supervisor who now needs to adjust the 8:00am calculated time back to 7:00am.

Official time

Regardless of what the rules are, there is always a resolved time; the official start or stop of a period of work.

Whew!  That was a lot of time.  Let’s turn our attention now to TimeControl.

In the current TimeControl we use a Start/Stop panel in the timesheet to allow the recording of multiple starts and stops of each day for each employee.  This means that each employee can have numerous starts and stops of work and TimeControl will calculate the totals of those hours.

This does not replace the standard grid where employees are expected to enter what they did with their day but it does allow organizations to compare what was done with how much time the employee spent.  It is even possible to create validation rules to identify when the timesheet does not match the hours spent.  There can be many reasons for this of course.  For example, the person might have worked outside the office.  So these types of validation rules are most commonly warnings rather than errors.

While there is a facility to enter these times manually, the most common way this panel of information is used is to be integrated with one or several external clock systems.  TimeControl can easily link to the clock application’s database using either a direct data connection, scheduled import or the TimeControl API to move data from the clock system into this panel of the timesheet.  In this case, the panel is made read-only.

The data that is most commonly moved is the official date only with the remaining dates being kept in the original clock system for auditing purposes.

The advantage of integrating data from external clock systems includes having all the timesheet data in one place.  It’s extremely uncommon for such systems to have the extensive task, project and rate data that TimeControl includes but by integrating the clock’s start and stop data, the TimeControl reporting set becomes even richer and the source of the most detailed data is all in one place.

Integrating with a clock system means thinking through the process and flow and it’s not for everyone.  If you think there is a benefit for you to integrate your external clock system with TimeControl, then talk to someone on the TimeControl technical staff and we’ll do our best to help.

Choosing between Subscribing Online or Purchasing for OnPrem

A few years ago, we’d have thought that online subscriptions of Software as a Service for enterprise software was something destined for more modestly sized clients.  If you were a few dozen or a few hundred users, then your organization might not have had a full-blown IT team or a comprehensive data center.  The promise of completely managed software in a service business would have been more attractive to such organizations we’d have thought.

That was then, and this is now.

In today’s IT world, organizations of all sizes are rethinking how they look at the On-Line vs. On-Premise decision.  The efficiency of online services and the infrastructure organizations that support them mean that software of all sizes can be attractive in a hosted environment plus the security attached to many Software as a Service (SaaS) infrastructures is often daunting for an internal IT department to compete with.

There are compelling reasons however to select either Online or OnPrem.  Let’s consider a few:

Why install on Premise?

There are many potential reasons for installing a product on your own premises.

Integration

Many Software as a Service systems including TimeControl have API modules that allow programming access to many of the functions.  No system however, opens every single possible function into their API.  It’s not because programmers don’t want to but there is a cost/benefit consideration when creating such functions.  In TimeControl for example, you can use the API to populate all the major tables.  But there are other functions such as those for maintenance that are not accessible programmatically.  That’s because they’re only used once or rarely from time to time and therefore the cost of creating programming access to them delivers little or no benefit.

But it is certainly possible that someone might have a compelling reason to integrate with TimeControl at such an intimate level and then direct access to the database might be preferable.

Another Integration attraction is for high volume integration.  When we have 500 users, the speed of the transfer of data from one system to another is so fast it’s not worth talking about.  When we have 5,000 users, perhaps it is.  There are some clients who might have such a high volume of data transfer that direct access to the data for moving data in or out is attractive.

Security

The security of many subscription services is a key preoccupation of providers.  It certainly is for TimeControl.  We’ve written numerous white papers on the subject and also leverage the security.  But security systems inside of an organization can be made even more secure.  For example, an internal TimeControl instance can be made wholly inside the firewall and not be outward facing towards the Internet.  Then potential attacks on it could only originate by either hacking the firewall or from inside the organization itself.  In-the-cloud services including TimeControl Online are, by their very nature, accessible through the Internet.

We really, really like this version

Some clients prefer to stick with a version of software and not upgrade until they are left with no choice at all.  This isn’t for everyone but in organizations where many other systems and processes depending on this system or many systems are integrated, there can be additional work implied in upgrading that may be problematic for the organization.  If you install on your premises. You decide when to and if to upgrade.

Why go with Online?

Regardless of whether you are a small or large organization, there are many reasons that subscribing to an online service could be attractive.

No maintenance

Included in your subscription fee is the cost of updating, maintaining, securing and monitoring your system.  That’s not just the maintenance for the system you are subscribing to but also all its infrastructure including the operating system, the database, malware protection, disk space, hardware performance and more.  That can take a big load of work off your internal IT department.

Updates

When you are subscribing to an in-the-cloud service, your system is virtually always up to date.  That’s because all the updates are done centrally by the provider.  In most cases there is no cost to the upgrade or work other than internal training.

Support is easier

When you call for technical support for an in-the-cloud system, there are a couple of things that are easier for you.  First of all, technical challenges like an actual malfunction of the system is much more rare because the system is shared among many clients and even more users.  Plus the provider’s testing of that system happens in what is for them a perfect environment.  They chose the operating system.  They chose the database.  They chose the network settings.  They chose the anti-virus and anti-malware software.  That helps make the system much more stable out of the starting blocks.

A second implied advantage for support is that you are always speaking to the support department about the same version of the product.  There is never a “What exact version and build are you on?” conversation because everyone is on the same version and build.  That makes tracking down a problem and determining the cause much easier for the technician and gets you back on track much faster.

What about mixed environments?

It’s possible to have some of your systems in the cloud and others on your premises.  TimeControl is often deployed in a mixed environment.  In some cases, TimeControl has been installed on premise and has to link to ERP and Project systems that are hosted in the cloud like Project Online.  In other cases, clients are using TimeControl Online in the cloud and have to link to an internally installed project management system, BrightWork for example.  With TimeControl’s flexibility that hasn’t been a problem for us thus far and there are many combinations of on-premise, in-the-cloud, and hybrid environments you might envisage.

What about the future of TimeControl?

HMS is committed to maintaining both TimeControl Online in the cloud as a service and TimeControl for purchase for on-premise installation for the foreseeable future.  We want the product work how the client needs to.

TimeControl Resources

We have numerous resources discussing the options of subscribing Online or Purchasing for installation on premises.  You can find factsheets, webcasts and more at: TimeControl.com/how-to-buy.  There is also a series of seminars on the subject on our President’s blog at: EPMGuidance.com.

There are so many possible combinations of environments that it goes well beyond what we can discuss here.  If you have questions about what structure would work best for your TimeControl deployment, you should contact HMS at info@hms.ca.

The official blogsite of TimeControl