Linking TimeControl with desktop project management software

 When we talk project management systems around HMS it’s most common to hear about Enterprise Project Management systems like Oracle-Primavera’s P6 or Microsoft’s Project Server or Project Server Online.  But we still have an enormous number of clients and prospective clients who are using desktop project systems like Primavera Pro, Microsoft Project Standard  or even Open Plan.  Perhaps it’s not avant garde to talk about stand-alone desktop systems but that should be more of a surprise.  These indivdual tools haven’t lost any of their value and TimeControl has had links to all these systems since it was first conceived.  We’ll be putting together a few posts on this subject in the coming weeks leading up to some collaterals that will appear on the TimeControl website in the coming months.

When clients call to talk about linking TimeControl to their project management system the first question we’re asked is if it even possible and immediately after that how does it work.  It’s not a complicated concept but it’s easiest to think about if you can rewind the clock 15 years and think about computing as you-centric.  Think about linking a corporate timesheet system to your personal on-your-desktop project management system and for a moment, don’t worry about anyone else.

Every version of TimeControl includes bi-directional linking to several desktop project management systems.  Let’s say you’re using the ubiquitous Microsoft Project and you are thinking how awesome it would be if you could just automatically upload all the tasks in your project along with the expected dates and individual assignments to your corporate timesheet system and then, thinking it’s probably too much to hope for, get back from the timesheet system not only the hours each of your team members worked but also the estimate to complete from each of them for the tasks they’re assigned to.

TimeControl does that.

While at your PC, you set up a link in TimeControl to the Microsoft Project file located on your hard drive on your desktop.  You transfer to TimeControl from Project and to Project from TimeControl at the moment of your choosing.  You can do the same thing every week whenever it is convenient for you.

But what if you’re out of town on the top of a mountain where there’s no internet most of the week?  That’s fine.  When you get back off the mountain, do your connection then.  TimeControl’s data will still be standing by for you.

Now, if that works just fine for you, could it work for other project managers in your organization doing the same thing?

Of course.

Now envision a number of project managers, each using the desktop project management tool and version of their choice, using the exact process we’ve described above.  You’d end up with a hub-and-spoke kind of diagram and that’s exactly how TimeControl works.

From the timesheet user perspective, they don’t even know and probably don’t care where the definitions of those tasks they work on came from.  An individual might actually have lines on their timesheet that began in 3, 4 or 5 different desktop project management systems.  Should they care what system the project manager is using when they’re doing their timesheet?  Why?  It’s enough that they enter the time that they worked on each tasks and the estimate to complete to finish that task.

Linking TimeControl with your desktop project management tool means you can be centralized for functionality that is important for you to manage and collect centrally and decentralized for functionality that would be better for you to allow to be managed by individuals.

You can find out more about the project systems that TimeControl already has links to at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/project-tracking.

Scheduled Imports and Exports

TC610_import_250x221TimeControl was designed from its very first version in 1994 to be able to integrate with other applications.  We knew from the first timesheet we’d ever created 10 years earlier that timesheet data would be sought after by external systems for departments such as HR and Payroll as well as the project management needs we were already familiar with.  So these features have had continual improvement as TimeControl has evolved.  Did you know that as of version 6.10 of TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial you can now automatically schedule an import or an export of data for external systems?  Most ERP administrators far prefer the idea of scheduling an import of a transaction file from timesheets using the tools and controls already present in their finance system.  Prior to version 6.10, TimeControl administrators had to create these files on demand.  Now, however, you can schedule the creation of such files.  The new Schedule Export allows you not only to pick a time, format and definition of the file.  You can also choose the filter and even the naming convention.  The new Schedule Import allows you to not only import a file that has been dropped in place by an external system but also how to dispose of the file afterwards.  For example, you can move the file into a directory used for processed files.

You can see what else is new with version 6.10 at www.timecontrol.com/features/latest.

We’ve got lots on the way for you

2016_300x169There’s so much going on here at HMS that we’ve been finding it challenging to keep up with keeping everyone informed.  But, now that 2016 is underway, we can start to get a few things scheduled for you.

Regular readers of the blog will have noticed a regular weekly pace of blog posts in the last few months.  We’ll be keeping that up starting now and are already scheduling blog posts throughout the year.

In the next few weeks you’ll be hearing some exciting news about all the goings-on here at HMS.  Some of the news already in the works includes:

  • New dealers in the UK and South America!
  • New technical alliance partners
  • New materials on the TimeControl.com website
  • Development updates and projected schedules for the next version of TimeControl (including screen shots of some new features)
  • Client Testimonials
  • A brand new client case study
  • Upcoming travel of HMS personnel to different events

There’s lots to tell you and we’re working on getting it all onto the blog so you can keep up to date.

If you’ve not done so already and you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, follow us on Twitter @HMS_TimeControl or subscribe to the new newsfeed subscription on the right hand side of the blog homepage.

Happy Holidays

happyholidays_300x194From all of us here at HMS Software, we wish you and yours the very happiest of holidays.  We thank all our clients for their support over these many years and we look forward to serving you in the New Year.

The HMS Offices will be closed on the following schedule (all times EST/GMT-5):
Thursday, Dec 24: from noon
Friday, Dec 25: all day
Friday, Jan 1: all day
Monday, Jan 4: all day

 

FAQ: Can you import historical timesheets into TimeControl?

old_new_crossroads_300x300Of course. Aside from importing all the supporting tables, there is a timesheet import function in TimeControl links that does specifically this. You’ll need to make sure all the employee information, charge code information and project information already exists but then the import is quite easy. There is a blog post on this here in the blog at: blog.timecontrol.com/?p=142 which includes an Excel template to help you prepare your data for the import.

Two new online lessons in the TimeControl Online Training center

onlinetraining_250x109Did you know there was a free video training area for TimeControl?  We’ve maintained free online lessons for TimeControl since version 5 (that’s years ago).  These lessons are short 3-6 minute videos each showing a feature or function of TimeControl.  Need to see how to approve or reject a timesheet, how to add an expense or how to display a report?  There are lessons for each of those.  We add to the TimeControl 6 list of video lessons on a regular basis and recently added two new ones.  There are now lessons for how to display your historic timesheets and how to use the timesheet list.

Anyone can access the TimeControl Online Training area at: www.timecontrol.com/resources/online-training/timecontrol-6.

FAQ: Can we start with the Online version of TimeControl but switch to our own internal TimeControl when we get bigger?

online_or_onprem_300x144You certainly can, but you can do a lot more than that. We’ve designed TimeControl Online, our Timesheet as a Service (TaaS) to support the identical code-base as TimeControl on premises. This means that if you are using TimeControl Online as a service and you install the standard TimeControl locally (with the appropriate number of licenses of course) then you can download you backup from TimeControl Online and instantly have your system active on premises. You’ll need to use the same database of course, which is MySQL but technically the movement from Online to on premises is stunningly simple. We’ve made moving between the two environments commercially easy too. You can get a credit from your remaining subscription towards purchase of TimeControl licenses. As easy as it is to move from TimeControl Online to TimeControl on premises, the reverse is also true. You can move from TimeControl on premises to TimeControl Online and we’ll give you credit from what you purchased towards your first year’s subscription.  You can find out more about the choice of TimeControl Online vs. TimeControl OnPremises in the How to Buy TimeControl area of the website.

Talk to one of the TimeControl account specialists about how this can work for you .

FAQ: Can we get access to TimeControl’s database to use with our reporting tools?

reporting_charts_300x200Absolutely. If you have installed TimeControl on premises, we publish the database schema design so that if you have the appropriate rights from your IT department, you can link directly to the database. We do not encrypt most of the data with the exception of authentication information. TimeControl does, however, include its own WYSIWYG report writer with extensive functionality. The TimeControl Report Designer includes capabilities to make both graphical and text-based reports, to save reports into PDF, Excel, JPG and other formats and to mix and match report formats within the same page. In addition you can control fonts, headers, footers, grouping, summarizing and even create formula fields. But if your heart is set on using another commercial reporting tool, then have the IT department give you read-only access to the data and you’re ready to go.  If you are using TimeControlOnline, you can also download a complete data backup in MySQL format every week and again use your own reporting or analytical tools on the data.

You can find out more about TimeControl’s internal reporting functionality on the TimeControl website at: www.timecontrol.com/features/reporting.

FAQ: Do we need to standardize on a single project management system before integrating TimeControl?

RubicStandardize_300x225No you do not and TimeControl is ideally suited for this type of challenge.  The pre-defined links to project management tools can link a TimeControl Project and associated charge codes to project information in Microsoft Project 1995 and up Microsoft Project Server 2002 and up, Oracle Primavera P3 through P6, Deltek’s Open Plan, InEight’s Hard Dollar HD and VersionOne.  And, it can link to all of those systems simultaneously.  TimeControl is designed to make as many project system connections as you wish and then each project can be linked through that connection to a project in that system.  This allows TimeControl to not only link some projects to Microsoft Project and some to Primavera P6 but TimeControl can link to multiple versions at the same time.  Imagine a situation where some projects are being managed in Microsoft Project Server 2010 and some are being managed in a separate instance of Microsoft Project Server 2013.  TimeControl could link to both systems at the same time and a TimeControl user wouldn’t have to worry about it.  They would just enter their complete timesheet in TimeControl and the data will go to the right project system and the right tasks in the background!

Find out more about TimeControl and Project Management tools on the Project Links page.

FAQ: How much internal effort and resources will I need to make a timesheet work?

internaleffortFirst, let’s talk about the effort to implement TimeControl when it is first deployed. This is highly dependent on several factors including the number of users on TimeControl and the number of external system to which TimeControl will be integrated.

The TimeControl QuikStart program was designed for a mid-sized organization doing a basic deployment of TimeControl with only a couple of interfaces to create.

This is a 5-day effort by HMS and requires internal support of a TimeControl Administrator for 3-5 days prior to making the timesheet available to the end-users.

If you are deploying TimeControl for 10-200 people and making a simple link to a project management tool and another export link to a finance tool, then this is probably sufficient.

Of course some people have much more complex environments and wish to integrate TimeControl to numerous internal processes and tools. Depending on the level of complexity, a multi-thousand person deployment covering numerous countries systems, internal payroll rules and more could take a team several months to complete the deployment.

Next, let’s talk about time to administer and support TimeControl once it is in use. The technical time to support TimeControl is negligible. You have to make sure data is being backed up, but that’s probably being done anyway as part of the DBA’s responsibilities.

Upgrades and updates take very little time and are done only a couple of times a year typically.

Administrators are often not full-time on TimeControl unless it is a system with thousands of users.

The work each week Administrators focus on is making sure new employees are onboarded and that employees who have left are made inactive and looking to do regular clean ups of old data.

The official blogsite of TimeControl