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.

TimeControl Multiple Timesheet Length Support

Here’s the challenge:  You have one group of personnel who need to collect timesheets every day.  Another group needs to collect them every week.  But, you are determined to use the same timesheet system.  Do you need two timesheets?  If you have two systems, how will you reconcile data into one system for reporting and analysis?

Perhaps the challenge is different.  One group of personnel will need to collect timesheets every week for project management purposes.  Another group will only enter timesheets monthly for exceptions such as sick days and vacations.  Yet a third group needs timesheets weekly but the week isn’t the same because of the country they are working in.   Can we reconcile all of these together?

HMS faced this challenge when we first introduced TimeControl Industrial.  Many people who do field data collection in industrial or construction projects do so daily.  Yet, many personnel who work on those same projects are not working in the field and have more of a weekly cycle for timesheet updates and approvals.

Overcoming that challenge with TimeControl was done with a very specific structure in early versions when the choices of a timesheet were either daily or weekly.  But, TimeControl now supports many timesheet durations.  TimeControl now supports multiple timesheet periods simultaneously in the same TimeControl instance.

In the Manage Periods module, Administrators can create multiple calendars for timesheets.  Supported options are: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly and custom length.  Then in the Employee Table, Administrators assign one of these calendars to an employee.

That’s it.

The employee now sees a timesheet associated to the calendar periods assigned to them.

TimeControl goes yet further in the area of calendars.  Once the data is collected, there may be multiple services that need reports or extracts of the data.  Even though some users are entering daily timesheets, some are entering weekly and some are bi-monthly, perhaps the Payroll department needs a list of timesheet data only on a bi-monthly schedule where the first part of the month goes from the 1st to the 15th and the second part of the month goes from the 16th to the end of the month.

No problem.

TimeControl’s External System Calendars are designed to be used for exports and reporting to handle just such a requirement.  You can have as many of these as you need.  So if there is another system, HR for example, that requires TimeControl data to be transmitted on a 13 month per year schedule, you can absolutely do that with these extra calendars.  You can create external system calendars in the TimeControl Period Generator Pay Periods module located in the Maintenance section of TimeControl.

Line Item Approval can also be associated to these calendars so if you have line item approvals for each of these external systems, you can ensure that the data has gone into an additional approval cycle before being transferred to that system.

Support for multiple timesheet lengths and external system reporting calendars is just one way that TimeControl’s flexibility empowers your existing corporate systems.

HMS and Microsoft extend a remarkable relationship

We’re delighted to announce that Microsoft has renewed their technical partnership with HMS for the 2018/2019 season.  This relationship is one of the oldest technical alliances in the industry.

This will be the 23rd year that the two firms have had a formal technical alliance partnership.

It can be easy to take a such a long standing technical alliance for granted, but this relationship with Microsoft is remarkable.   We started our relationship with Microsoft in 1995 in what was then called the Microsoft Project Partner Program to help with the link between the first version of our TimeControl timesheet and the early releases of Microsoft Project.  The relationship between HMS and Microsoft has grown stronger every year since.”

HMS Software’s TimeControl timesheet has had an integration with every version of Microsoft Project on the desktop since 1995.  The integration has evolved with new versions of Project.  The link currently supports Microsoft Project, Microsoft Project Online, Microsoft Project Server and with many other Microsoft products like SharePoint and Excel.

Microsoft has announced that HMS Software has qualified as a partner this year in two Microsoft Partner Network “Competencies”: the Application Development and Project and Portfolio Management categories.  To qualify for these programs, HMS submitted TimeControl to Microsoft’s rigorous 3rd party product testing process to ensure it meets Microsoft’s architecture and support standards and provided numerous client references who provided examples of where TimeControl successfully integrated with Microsoft Project, Project Server and Project Online and how that integration had provided benefits to the clients.  In addition, HMS has had a number of staff members pass Microsoft Certified Professional certification.

Microsoft technology is used to deliver TimeControl, TimeControl Industrial and TimeControl Online, HMS Software’s in-the-cloud subscription timesheet service.  Other Microsoft technologies used can vary from client to client. Windows Server is the platform for the TimeControl middleware server and web services and some clients will combine that with Microsoft Project, Project Server, Project Online, Excel, Office 365, SharePoint, SQL Server or Microsoft Dynamics ERPs.

Using TimeControl with Microsoft technologies allows clients to enhance their business processes to comply with numerous timesheet requirements such as simultaneous project tracking, billing, HR management, payroll, job costing and auditable governance such as R&D tax credits, DCAA or Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.

We have created a resources portal to help identify which Microsoft technologies can be advantageous when using TimeControl.  The portal includes numerous resources including white papers, webcasts, PowerPoint presentations and more.  The TimeControl Microsoft Technology Portal can be found at: Microsoft.TimeControl.com.

TimeControl Branding with your own logo

For many organizations, making TimeControl their own is a key element of deployment.  TimeControl allows you to brand your instance of the system with two logos.  The logos appear in the login screen and header of the interface.

Login Screen Logo

On the login screen, there is a transparent GIF graphics file which is shipped with TimeControl.  The file name is CompanyLogo.gif and it is expected to be no larger than 300×300 pixels.

You can edit and save a replacement file which will appear in every login screen.  We’ve turned the color of this one into a solid grey so you can see where it is placed but you can enter whatever you wish in the GIF file.

Interface Header Logo

In the main interface there is also a transparent GIF file which is located in the header directly to the right of the main TimeControl logo.

The filename is smallCompanyLogo.gif and it is expected to be no bigger than 300×45 pixels.  Again we’ve recolored this example into solid grey so you can see where it is placed.  You can edit this file and your branded image will then appear to the right of the TimeControl logo.

The files are located in the TimeControl Server directory: /Webfiles/Images/Logos/.

Just a reminder though, HMS does not support removal of the TimeControl logo or trademark notice at any time.

Full instructions are available from the HMS Support staff or in the TimeControl Reference Guide.

 

TimeControl Scheduled Reporting can make a big impact on decision making

We’ve made some big report capability improvements in TimeControl with Scheduled Reports.

TimeControl has always been known for its extensive reporting capabilities.  Being able to save any report into Excel format and having a built in report writer has been part of TimeControl since its creation in 1994.  Each new edition of TimeControl has improved reporting functionality.  Now reports can be a mix of graphics, charts and text and control within reports is extensive.

With the addition of Scheduled Reports, we have taken reporting to a new level.  Users can now create a Report Schedule which includes one or many reports.  Reports can be created hourly or daily or weekly or on the schedule you determine.  You can send the reports to one or many recipients and you can impose filters on the reports to be applied at runtime to ensure that only the right data gets to the right people at the right time.

The report can be sent as an email attachment in PDF, Excel, Word, or CSV format or, if the report is expected to be too large  for an email attachment, a link can be sent instead to an optionally encrypted file on the TimeControl Server.   The recipient will see the report in their inbox and can click to open the attachment or to go to the expected file.

The impact of TimeControl Scheduled Reports can be profound.  Where managers once had to visit TimeControl, go to Reporting, select the right report and filter and then view the results, now TimeControl will take care of that for them and make sure the information they need is in their fingertips. Exception reports can be set up so they only arrive if there is an exception to deal with and the entire process holds the promise of streamlining critical decision making for key stakeholders.

You can find out more about Scheduled Reporting on the TimeControl website or See it in action in Lesson #25 in the free TimeControl Online Training area at TimeControl.com/resources/online-training/timecontrol7.

TimeControl Online privacy policies have been updated as part of the GDPR

On May 25th new rules in the European Union on called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect.  These rules affect anyone who is from the European Union counties and as a result, anyone who uses TimeControl Online on behalf of their company.  The TimeControl Online service is fully GDPR compliant and we have updated our TimeControlOnline Master Subscription Agreement with an Addendum to ensure that our GDPR relevant policies are available to all TimeControl Administrators.

The TimeControlOnline Master Subscription Agreement can be found in the Maintenance Tab of TimeControl under “System”.

We will be doing updates also for the TimeControl website for all users over the next few days.

Any TimeControl Online clients who have questions about the new policy are welcome to contact privacy@hms.ca.

 

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