Creating your Rate Structure in TimeControl – an updated white paper

Rate functionality in TimeControl is so extensive that it can be overwhelming to the uninitiated.  TimeControl has the capacity for an unlimited number of rates, numerous rate values for each rate code, filtering to show some rates for some conditions and rate calculations that can be updated through Accruals and other mechanisms within TimeControl.  TimeControl Industrial includes additional functionality for Extended labor and non-labor rates.

There is a tutorial within the TimeControl Reference Guide and we have taken this content and turned it into a white paper on the TimeControl website so it is more easily accessed by existing and prospective users as they consider how they’d like TimeControl to cost the entries in the timesheet or materials and expenses areas.

TimeControl can serve to cost the same line in a timesheet one way for payroll, another for billing and yet another for project management.  Take a look at Creating your TimeControl Rate structure at TimeControl.com.

Design your Timesheet Approvals

TimeControl has the most extensive set of controls for creating timesheet approvals in the industry.  We created the term Matrix Approvals for timesheets over 20 years ago.  TimeControl’s approval mechanisms allow an organiztion to create numerous approval paths for the different aspects of their organiztion.  There are automated approvals using TimeControl automated Validation Rules and Workflow.  There are unlimited organizational approvals and even line-by-line approvals.  In version 7.1 of TimeControl even more rich functionality has been added to the approvals area with the new Line Item Approval mechanism.  If you are designing your own approval process you’ll want to look at the TimeControl white paper Creating Your Approvals Process which talks about all aspects of the approval mechanisms.  This paper has recently been updated to include information on the Line Item Approval Process.

Take a look at the updated Creating Your Approval Process white paper at: TimeControl.com/pdf/whitepapers/tc6_creatingapprovals.pdf.   For more information on our other white papers, check out TimeControl.com/resources/whitepapers.

HMS and BrightWork Announce Technical Alliance

We’re delighted to announce that HMS Software and BrightWork have reached an agreement to work together as technical alliance partners.  HMS Software CEO Chris Vandersluis and BrightWork CEO Éamonn McGuinness announced to their respective technical groups today that the two companies intend to work together to bring a BrightWork / TimeControl integration to market and to promote it through both firms.

I’m very excited about this announcement,” our CEO, Chris Vandersluis explained.  “HMS and BrightWork already have clients in common and Éamonn McGuinness and I agree that our clients will benefit from a bi-directional integration of our two systems.”

HMS will become a BrightWork Solution Partner.  BrightWork will become an HMS Technical Alliance Partner under their respective programs.

Since 1995 BrightWork has become known worldwide as the publisher of its project management system based on Microsoft’s SharePoint and Office 365.

HMS is, of course, known around the world for our TimeControl enterprise timesheet system.  The combination of both products will make for a powerful project control environment.

TimeControl already has a link from SharePoint and this link can be used by BrightWork customers already.  In the coming weeks, the HMS development team will work with BrightWork technical personnel to complete a bi-directional link.

Further information on bringing this combination of best-in-class products to market will be released in the coming weeks as technical details and other collateral become available.

For more information on BrightWork visit www.brightwork.com.
For more information on TimeControl, visit www.timecontrol.com.

 

Best Practices for Upgrading TimeControl

With version 7.1 of TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial having just been released, we thought it was a good time to update our notes on the best practices for upgrading TimeControl.

For many of us, we have gotten so used to having our mobile devices update our applications automatically in the background that it takes a conscious effort to think of proper upgrading procedures for enterprise applications. When the application is a timesheet system like TimeControl, this issue can be compounded by the thought that so little of most users’ week is taken up by entering their time in the timesheet.  Yet the data in a timesheet system may be absolutely critical to many corporate policies that are essential such as payroll or invoicing.  Upgrading clients is not an automatic part of TimeControl technical support but HMS is often asked to assist with such upgrades as part of a consulting mandate.

An enterprise application like TimeControl is one that should be upgraded within a structured process. Here are some best practices we have learned at HMS on how to implement a TimeControl upgrade.  The advice is likely useful for any corporate enterprise application:

First, make a plan

Yes, the upgrade can be downloaded in a couple of minutes.  Yes, it’s easy to click on the installation package and have it start churning through files and processes.  But no.  Don’t get started until you have a plan.  When HMS does an upgrade on behalf of a client, we have a standard template of how the upgrade will go.  It looks like this:

  1. Backup existing system
  2. Install the new version as a separate instance or if it exists, install into the staging instance.
  3. Upgrade the staging instance and turn off any automatic scheduling so you don’t upload exports or links to project management twice (one from production, and again from staging)
  4. Review logs from the upgrade for any errors then review all data for any issues. Record how the errors or issues were resolved.
  5. Use the staging instance and duplicate a representative number of timesheets from the current system. Review reports and exports to ensure they are working correctly.
  6. Inform existing users when you intend to bring your production instance of TimeControl offline to perform an upgrade
  7. Production Upgrade day:
    1. Take TimeControl offline
    2. Backup the data and the application directory in case it is needed for a rollback
    3. Upgrade the instance
    4. Review upgrade logs. Using your notes from any corrections that were needed during that upgrade, perform the same corrections here if needed.
    5. Restart TimeControl
    6. Do a check of basic functions to ensure the system is working properly
    7. If everything appears in order, inform the users that TimeControl is back up and available.
    8. If there are major issues for some reason with the production instance, roll-back and speak with HMS about errors encountered.

Next – Back it up

You might think that everyone backs up their enterprise data but sadly that’s just not true.  No matter how confident you are that your particular deployment of TimeControl will be seamless and instant, back up your data.  We do.  We don’t start an upgrade on behalf of a client without backing up the data.  In some cases, organizations with virtual servers can actually back up the entire TimeControl environment include the database server, the database itself and even the TimeControl instance.  That’s fine.  But don’t get started on an upgrade without backing it up first.

Look before you leap

This advice is often given to swimmers venturing outdoors into an unknown area.  Diving into water that looks deep but turns out to be rock-filled or shallow can be dangerous.  In the case of TimeControl, take a look at the “Read-Me” files, any “What’s New in this version” files and even the installation and upgrade guide before jumping into a new version.  Just because a new version of TimeControl has an exciting new screen doesn’t mean that you need to upgrade right away.  If your current TimeControl is happily operating then there is a disincentive to go through the effort of upgrading.

All the world’s a stage

”All the world’s a stage…” said Shakespeare (in As you Like It).  In this case, I’m referring to staging your upgrade.  Every enterprise system should probably have both a production instance and a staging or development instance.  Your TimeControl licensing allows you to do this without extra cost.  Establishing an instance of TimeControl that has everything your production configuration has (easy to do by copying the production database back to the staging instance) means that you can test out new updates before they’re made available to the end-users.  That’s just a best practice for any enterprise system, not just TimeControl.  This allows not only new updates but any configuration changes such as new filters, new reports, new validation rules to be tested out in advance.  With a new version like TimeControl 6.0 where the architecture was significantly changed or 6.1 where core functions like table management underwent big changes, you’ll be able to ensure that your system will work just as it should before end users are exposed to it.

Do the whole upgrade

One of the most common upgrade problems reported to our technical staff from clients is finding that the client either skipped a step or didn’t finish the entire process.  This is particularly true when clients are trying to upgrade through multiple versions and the client doesn’t let the ensure that the Transaction Server has started or that the Scheduling Server is actually running and complete the update work in each version before moving onto the next.  So, make sure you’ve complete all the steps to the update!

Be prepared to advance to the rear

During the Korean War, General Oliver Smith was asked if the American Marines were retreating.  “We’re advancing to the rear,” he is reported as answering.  When we’re talking about software, it’s a fact that not every upgrade goes perfectly and for a wide variety of reasons.  When you do your update, be prepared to retreat, regroup and try again.  If you backed up not only your data but also your application directory, you should be able to roll back the upgrade with relatively little effort or time.  If that happens, talking to HMS Technical Support about what errors you encountered may help.  Make sure to have your error logs and the process you followed available

We’ve seen a lot of updates and full upgrades over the last couple of decades.  If you’d prefer, HMS Consulting services is always available to help you get the very latest version up and running or, if upgrades are just not for you, you can ask HMS about subscribing to TimeControl Online and we’ll take care of upgrading for you automatically.

TimeControl Industrial 7.1 now available

On the heels of the release two days ago of TimeControl version 7.1 we’re delighted to announce the availability of TimeControl Industrial 7.1 . You can find out all about the amazing updates and changes of TimeControl 7.1 on yesterday’s blog post.  All of the features mentioned in the release of TimeControl 7.1 are also available in TimeControl Industrial 7.1  so we’ll focus today on the significant changes in TimeControl Industrial in this version.

TimeControl Industrial’s last version was 6.9 so this is a major upgrade to the Industrial Edition that includes all of the changes in version 6.10 of TimeControl and the evolution in version 7 to the multi-browser, multi-device architecture.   So this upgrade will be a signficiant one for TimeControl Industrial users.

Here are the new and enhanced features in TimeControl Industrial 7.1 that go beyond what was already in TimeControl 7.1:

TimeControl Industrial Crew Timesheets

tci71_crewtimesheet_300x240TimeControl Industrial’s core is built around the Crew Timesheet.  This addition to the classic TimeControl interface allows field data collection to amass high volumes of production values and enter them in a single interface.  This version of TimeControl has a completely rewritten version of the TimeControl Crew Timesheet which is built in TimeControl’s multi-device, multi-browser architecture.  There is no longer any ActiveX to be installed or anything else that is required on the browser.  The Crew Timesheet now works with virtually any browser including Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Mozilla, and of course, Internet Explorer.  There are other tools within the TimeControl Industrial Crew timesheet including the timesheet worksheet, materials entry and much, much more.

TimeControl Industrial Crew Timesheets Material Entry

Within the new TimeControl Industrial Crew Timesheet is a completely new Material Entry interface.  This tab of the Crew Timesheet allows non-labor entries for Material consumed, Equipment used and Production accomplished.  This area of the Crew Timesheet has been completely rewritten in version 7’s multi-browser, multi-device architecture.  The Material Tab duplicates the functionality of the main Material Entry screens except that approvals for these non-labor entries will be part of this crew timesheet’s approvals.  This will be particularly attractive to organizations who wish to do crew labor and non-labor approvals simultaneously through the same approval path.

TimeControl Industrial Material / Equipment /Production Entry

Aside from the tab on the TimeControl Industrial Crew Timesheet, TimeControl also has the main Material Entry module which has been rewritten in its entirety into the TimeControl 7 multi-device, multi-browser architecture.  This module allows the field data collection of non-labor entries such as Material, Equipment and Accomplished Production to be entered separately from the crew timesheet and approved along its own approval path.  This allows non-labor data collection and approvals to happen at times that don’t match the crew timesheet which is often the situation.

All TimeControl Industrial interface now in new Architecture

All remaining elements of the TimeControl Industrial interface have now been moved out of the old ActiveX controls and into the new TimeControl 7 multi-browser, multi-device architecture.  This means that users are no longer tied to only using Windows and Internet Explorer devices but can now use Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Mozilla or other browsers on their preferred devices to perform all of the TimeControl Industrial functions.  This includes Crew Management Crew Posting, Material Posting, Extended Rates management, Approvals and more.

And so much more…

Aside from these changes, there are also so many more that are now part of TimeControl Industrial from versions 6.10 and 7.0 TimeControl including: Sheduled Imports and Exports, Enhanced Reporting, Flexible Periods, the new Calendar View, the new GANTT view, Table Validation Rules, P6 Role support, Pay Periods, Windows Single Sign On and more.  There are also many more changes under the covers including performance improvements for high capacity or high volume implementations, ergonomic improvements to many of the screens, and improvements to the table interface which makes it faster to perform most functions.

You can get it now!

TimeControl Industrial version 7.1 is available immediately.  Find out more about the new features at Industrial.TimeControl.com/features/latest.  Existing users with a current support contract can access the upgrade at no charge at Industrial.TimeControl.com/support/updates.  For more information about your support status or to speak to HMS Technical services to request assistance with your upgrade, contact info@hms.ca.

Industrial users of TimeControlOnline users will be updated automatically in the coming weeks.

TimeControl 7.1 now available

Late last night we released TimeControl 7.1 and we couldn’t be more excited.  TimeControl Industrial 7.1 was also released but we’ll do a post and more notes on that edition of TimeControl tomorrow. TimeControl 7.1 includes numerous new features and many improvements on features that are already a part of the TimeControl 7 family.  The features we’ll mention here are shared by both TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial:

Line Item Approval

tc71_lia_300x240One aspect of TimeControl that has been a constant has been the multi-faceted way that approvals are handled.  We coined the term “Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals™” (Yes, that’s our trademark).  TimeControl has had both an organizational approval aspect and a project management line-item aspect of approvals since its very first version but now we go much, much further.  The new Line Item Approval mechanism allows additional parallel approval paths to progress as part of an approval design.  Imagine one stream of approvals for HR and Payroll, another for Project Management, yet another for Account Management or even another for Onsite Client approvals.  The implications of how flexible approvals have just become is so vast, we’re still wrapping our heads around it and will share our insights in a white paper in the coming days.

Web Services link to Oracle Primavera EPPM

primaveralogo_300x76TimeControl now has two ways of linking to Oracle’s popular project management product.   The existing database-to-database link will remain but for some environments this was not enough.  With the new TimeControl Primavera Web Services link, TimeControl takes advantage of the Web Services API within Primavera EPPM to create a bi-directional link with the same functionality as the existing link.  TimeControl has had an integration with every version of Primavera since 1997 and with this new architecture, it looks like that integration will continue for decades to come. For users of Primavera Professional or EPPM users who need intimate database-level integration in an on-premise implementation, the existing links will remain in TimeControl.

Batch Debit / Credit

TimeControl Industrial had a feature in the past used for doing Debit / Credit adjustments for many employees at the same time.  In the high-volume world of TimeControl Industrial, it was a must but it was also so popular that we’ve rewritten Batch Debit / Credit and have made it part of the regular TimeControl.  Administrators are likely to love this easy to use method of making adjustments for multiple timesheets and even across multiple employees in a single interface.  For organizations with many adjustments to make each period, this will be welcome news.

Employee Banks Report

We didn’t talk about this much in the last version of TimeControl because it was new even to us but the Employee Banks Report is a new dynamic interface that allows administrators to view, aggregate, group, sub-group and analyze the status of all data in the Banked areas of the employee records.  For larger organizations this view is tremendously powerful and allows HR managers to get a handle on what time off has been taken, what categories it’s in and what is still to be taken for any selection of staff.

And so much more…

These are just the more visible changes available as part of TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial 7.1.  There are so many more changes under the covers including performance improvements for high capacity or high volume implementations, ergonomic improvements to many of the screens, and improvements to the table interface which makes it faster to perform most functions.

You can get it now!

TimeControl version 7.1 is available immediately.  Find out more about the new features at TimeControl.com/features/latest.  Existing users with a current support contract can access the upgrade at no charge at TimeControl.com/support/updates.

TimeControlOnline users will be updated automatically in the coming weeks.

What button do I push?

 

userprofiles71.jpgLike most modern technology companies, HMS spends a great deal of time working on search engine optimization and key word analysis.  Last week one aspect of a report from our marketing team said that a keyword phrase that ended up causing a visitor to our website was “I’m in my timesheet and I don’t know what button to push.”  Now that’s a pretty specific problem from someone who wasn’t a TimeControl user but it highlights one of TimeControl’s great strength.

From the start of the very first timesheet that HMS created back in 1984 for one of our earliest clients, we knew that we had a design dilemma on our hands.  On one side, management had a long list of highly complex features for the timesheet including complex approvals, table management of many tables, reporting, integration with other systems and system management.  On the other side, we had the vast majority of users, more than 95% of them, who would be looking at the timesheet for about 5 minutes per week.  So, on the one hand, we had complex features needed, on the other hand we had absolute simplicity needed.

That’s where User Profiles came from.  User Profiles is what lets TimeControl present one set of data and functionality and rules to one set of users and a very different set of data, functionality and rules to another.  Using User Profiles, Administrators can configure TimeControl to show only those menu items, data selections and options that particular users require.  So, a regular timesheet user who looks at TimeControl for 2 minutes a day or 5 minutes a week and has no commitment at all to mastering the flexibility or nuances of TimeControl will only see one or two tabs and three or four functions.  Even the default pages of how TimeControl starts can be defined so a user might even start their timesheet in the timesheet view rather than the default dashboard.

This functionality has been so successful that there has never been a training manual for end users.  Oh, there is a user manual of course and there are some 5 minute Online Training videos for people to look at but these are rarely an issue.  That’s because for end users there are very few buttons to consider and the presentation of data in the format it’s expected makes the use of the timesheet intuitive.

There can be an unlimited number of profiles because TimeControl is designed to serve many purposes at the same time.  So a super-user type of Administrator with access to all data and all functions is a must but there may be other specific types of Administrators or perhaps something specific for Supervisors or Project Managers or Crew Entry personnel with TimeControl Industrial or Payroll managers and so on and so on.

TimeControl ships with four template User Profiles to start with but they are always reviewed during deployment and it is would be quite unusual to find two organizations with profiles that are exactly the same.

Even though User Profiles has been one of the most successful aspects of TimeControl since its first version, and even though there are some aspects of User Profiles that have carried forwards since version 1, we continue to make enhancements as features of TimeControl evolve that we wish to have secured or made available only to certain user roles.

User Profiles will continue to play a prominent role in configuring TimeControl deployments to match the specific business challenges that clients are working to solve.

 

FAQ: How does one deploy a timesheet like TimeControl for both the company and its sub-contractors at the same time?

subcontracting_300x244.jpgThis is a great question and a common one.  First of all, many organizations already have a clause in their sub-contracts where the contractor has agreed to use company-specified or company-provided systems.  It’s quite a common aspect of a sub-contract and is needed for many reasons.  If you’re using access cards for your front door, for example, contractors absolutely must comply with having an authorized access card in order to work.  The same logic can be applied to other systems.  It is relatively simple to insist that contractors use your internal timesheet system.  That being said, there are two things you may find are immediate concerns and TimeControl can handle both of them:

  1. Can you separate the access to data by the sub-contractors so they only see things that are appropriate to them and they can’t see things from either the company or other contractors?   TimeControl’s User Profiles allows you to set filters for many purposes including this exact scenario.  You can isolate the data for the sub-contractor to see as much or as little data as desired.
  2. Can you create an approval mechanism for contractors that is distinct from other contractors and from the company?   TimeControl’s flexible approval mechanism allows you to design an approval for each sub-contractor so they can be involved in the approval mechanism and you can insert people such as a contract manager into the approval mechanism for them.

The benefits of having both your internal personnel and your contracting personnel on the same timesheet system can be significant.  There is a use-case section of the TimeControl website dedicated to this with a webcast, white paper and other resources located at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/manage-contractors.

Meeting your HR and Payroll requirements with TimeControl

Human ResourcesWe tend to talk so much about the project management aspects of TimeControl that we often overlook the much more common part of a business that is interested in timesheets and that’s Human Resources.

Unlike the timesheets that are included with many project management systems, TimeControl is designed to serve both Project Management and Human Resources at the same time.  Aside from project management needs, there are several aspects of the organization that will have a great interest in the timesheet data.  Some of those departments are combined and usually all of them will fall within the Finance group.

Human Resources

This department focuses on employee attendance and participation in HR related tasks such as training.  HR will usually manage statutory holidays, vacation approvals, sick leave and other benefits.  Their interest in timesheet data is usually the exceptions.  When did someone take the day off and was that associated to some bank of benefits to which the employee was entitled?  HR may also manage time employees are expected to take for training, certifications, safety briefings and other compliance time.  Data collected from the timesheet can be key for tracking this type of effort.

Payroll

Well, of course everyone wants to get paid and for some organizations this means collecting timesheets with each hour identified.  Payroll may have to collect timesheet data even if everyone is on a salary.  There are many exceptions for which Payroll must be able to identify whether someone worked overtime, was absent or worked in conditions that would affect their pay (such as while travelling).

Other Finance

There are other Finance areas outside of the interests of which may also have an interest in timesheet data for such things as including Billing, labor costs for R&D tax claims, and labor cost of assets that will appear on the balance sheet for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and more.

What do these departments need?

One thing that is common to all the areas above is the level of data quality and control that they required.  Approvals for payroll will almost certainly be different and more stringent than the approvals for project management.  We often explain that if the budget vs. actual for project management is off by a hundred dollars, no one will get excited.  But, if someone’s paycheck is off by one single cent, they will feel compelled to complain.  The level of attention to the data is different from the HR perspective.

The TimeControl.com site has an area with numerous resources of interest to HR and Payroll departments.  These pages include webcasts, white papers slide shows and more.  Here are a few links that may be of interest:

If you need more help with determining how TimeControl can fulfill your HR and Payroll requirements, you can also contact HMS and we’ll set up a call with one of our implementation specalists.  Just go to TimeControl.com/contact and let us know you want to talk about your HR/Payroll needs.

 

Best Practices

Whether you are new to TimeControl or have used it for years, getting the fiscal year underway is a good time to review your timesheet practices to look for improvements.  bestpractices_300x168.jpgThe TimeControl website has numerous resources for this.

Organizational Best TimeControl Practices

When we think of best practices for timesheet use from the administrator or organization perspective, we think of processes, how to improve efficiency of the organization overall.  The TimeControl website includes a section in the Best Practices area called Timesheet Best Practices for Organizations. At: http://www.timecontrol.com/resources/best-practices/organizations

Personal Best TimeControl Practices

Timesheets are an application which may be used by every employee in the organization.  If we can save each person only a few minutes each week, the combined savings can be enormous.  The TimeControl website has a section called Timesheet Best Practices for Individuals at www.timecontrol.com/resources/best-practices/individuals which includes presentations and materials which show how each user can shave time off their timesheet entry effort.

Additional Use Case Scenarios

It is very common for us at HMS to receive calls asking how to use TimeControl for a particular use-case scenario.  This is often because TimeControl was originally implemented to solve a particular set of business challenges and now that it is a stable part of the organization’s culture, we don’t pause to think of what else it might be able to accomplish for us.  Take a look at the TimeControl Use Case Scenarios at www.timecontrol.com/use-cases to see the most common business challenges TimeControl solves and see if any of these can be applied in your own organizations.

Missing Features

You might not keep track of all the functionality that TimeControl offers.  Once you have deployed the functionality you originally designed into your timesheet process, it is quite common to ignore any new functionality which may have been added in the meantime.  So, take a moment and peek at the TimeControl Features overview at www.timecontrol.com/features which shows the most popular aspects of the TimeControl system.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

We use the TimeControl blog itself to archive answers to the most frequently asked technical questions.  You can go to the search function of the blog and enter “FAQ” or just click on this link at:  blog.timecontrol.com/?s=FAQ.

For more about TimeControl Best Practices, go to: www.timecontrol.com/resources/best-practices.

The official blogsite of TimeControl