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.

FAQ: Is your timesheet DCAA certified?

dcaa_300x103For those wondering, DCAA stands for the US “Defense Contract Audit Agency”. The DCAA has set a number of standards for contracts paid for by the US government which include standards for timesheets. These criteria are used not only by the US Defense Department but also by Homeland Security, NASA, the Department of Energy and other public sector organizations who find the criteria to contain good business practices.

However, the DCAA is very clear that it does not endorse or “certify” any product. It has a required process and a range of required criteria which some timesheet products might be able to fulfill and others not.

TimeControl does fulfill the DCAA standards and we keep up to date on the criteria when they are changed. You can find more on this on the TimeControl site in the DCAA Use-Case solutions portal.

FAQ: How do we manage timesheet rates when we need one value for payroll, one value for billing and yet a third value for project costing?

Calculator_300x169This is a great question and a challenge easily managed in TimeControl. TimeControl’s rate system is incredibly flexible. First of all, you can have an unlimited number of rates defined per employee, per resource and/or for the whole organization.

So, an individual might see different possible rates for overtime, billable time per client etc. Next, for each rate there are by default 9 values. This combination gives limitless possibilities. Imagine that you had a regular rate and overtime rate for a staff person but you also charge different rates when you invoice.

No problem.

You can have two rate codes per client with each rate code pair having one internal value for the code and one billable value.

There are so many possible rate options that we’ve created a special area to talk about rates on the website which includes a comprehensive white paper.

You can find more on this area of TimeControl at www.timecontrol.com/features/rates.

FAQ: We just implemented Project Server which has a timesheet. Why should I consider another timesheet?

forkintheroadYou’re not alone. Microsoft has sold thousands of copies of Microsoft Project Server which is now available both for purchase and online subscription.

Project Server includes a timesheet which is designed to update the tasks listed in the Project Server database with hours and estimates to complete. You can also add administrative tasks to track non-project time.

In effect Project Server has not one but two timesheets and since Project Server 2010 has not one but three timesheet interfaces. So far so good. But for people who need to do not only timesheets for project updates, but also timesheets for auditiable financial purposes, Project Server administrators tend to look at Project Server partner timesheets (like TimeControl) to extend timesheet functionality.

Here are a few things you get with TimeControl that you can’t get with Project Server:

  • Link to both Project Server and Project Desktop at the same time
  • Link to different versions of Project Server at the same time
  • Link to multiple instances of Project Server at the same time
  • Extensive Rate functionality with unlimited rates per person
  • Business Validation Rules
  • Approval Workflow
  • Manage banks such as overtime, and vacation
  • The Matrix Approval Process™
  • Expense Reports
  • Missing timesheet email notification
  • Global tracking of timesheet approvals
  • Vacation Request/Approval with timeRequest™
  • Link simultaneously with Project, Project Server, ERP, HR, Payroll
  • TimeControlMobile interface

You can find out more about how TimeControl extends Project Server functionality here in the Solutions area.  Go to the Microsoft Project Solution’s page on the TimeControl website for more information.

FAQ: How many employees do I need to be before buying a timesheet makes sense?

staff_300x122This is a great question because it’s applicable to so many situations beyond timesheets.

To answer your question shortly, if you can no longer manage the hours in your head because there is too much detail required, you need a better system. If the work can be accomplished on a napkin or in a single Excel file then you need to think about a better system.

For most organizations, once they exceed 10 to 20 employees, the data becomes too hard to manage manually but your own situation may vary depending on how much detail you require for each employee.

If you are 2 or 3 people all working in an office small enough that you can shout down the corridor and find out everyone’s hours, you probably don’t need a timesheet. If you are 30 or 40 people or more and shouting down the corridor as a method of getting data is frowned upon, then you should be thinking about an automated system.

We have successfully deployed our own TimeControl timesheet system for organizations with as few as 10 employees and it has delivered great value.

We’ve deployed TimeControl for as many as 10,000 employees and, again, it has delivered great value. So, while each situation is different, the idea of standing back to look and see if the complexity of the challenge warrants an automated system is a good one.

If it isn’t clear that you will get a positive return on your investment of time, money and resources, then it might be better to wait.

That’s true for a timesheet, but it’s also true for any other enterprise system.

FAQ: How do you decide whether to purchase and install on premises or subscribe online?

onlineoronpremise_300x240This is a great question and very current as so many systems are now offering hosted online options. With TimeControl, you fundamentally are able to access all the functionality in our TimeControlOnline subscription as you do with the on premises installation. So the decision on whether to install TimeControl at your premises or subscribe to TimeControlOnline in the cloud should not be based on functionality.

Here are some of the key decision points that you may wish to consider:

Do you already have an infrastructure and personnel to support in-house applications? Do you already have servers, databases, technical staff who can ensure the application’s system requirements are maintained and that maintenance of the servers such as backups and security updates are kept up to date? If you don’t have such an infrastructure or the people to support it then going to a subscribed service might be better.

Do you have other enterprise applications that are installed at your premises? If you already have other applications that use commercial databases, web services and application servers, then you already have all the building blocks of an on-premises installation of TimeControl and the additional effort and costs to install TimeControl will be negligible.

Are you intending to do deep integration with other systems? If you are thinking of doing extensive integration of TimeControl data with other corporate systems, then an on-premises installation may be more attractive. When installing at your location, you will have direct access to the TimeControl data in its database and can take advantage of advanced reporting techniques such as mash-ups and data-level systems integration.

You can find out more about whether to choose an onsite or online deployment of TimeControl in the How-to-buy section of our website where there are webcasts, factsheets and other materials that will help you make the right choice.

Finally, if you’re really not sure, then ask us. Our implementation experts at HMS can walk you through all the advantages and disadvantages to each of these options allowing you to make an informed decision.

Load Balancing TimeControl

Load BalancingWe’re often asked if TimeControl can be “load balanced”.  The short answer for most TimeControl clients is “You won’t need to worry about that” because the volume of traffic through TimeControl can be easily handled by a single server.  We’ve had up to 10,000 users on a single rather modestly sized TimeControl server in the past with millions and millions of timesheet lines and performance was not an issue.  However, there are some situations in very high volume situations where being able to instantly share TimeControl traffic across many servers can be valuable and TimeControl’s architecture has been able to take advantage of load-sharing since the late 1990s.

In modern-day web environments TimeControl uses Microsoft Server’s Internet Information Services (IIS) to provide the TimeControl interface to the client.  That website then communicates with the TimeControl Transaction Server which in turn talks to the database server where the TimeControl database resides.  The main bottleneck for performance in that situation is the web server itself.  It’s got a lot of work to do in order to render each page the user sees, collect the data the user submits, send that data along to the transaction server, get a response back and get the information back onto a web page that the user is looking at.

By using Microsoft’s Application Request Routing (ARR) and Network Load Balancing (NLB) which are a part of Microsoft Server, clients can use a web farm with multiple web servers serving the TimeControl sites to bypass this bottleneck.  Your IIS and Windows Server experts can configure these tools or other third party load balancers to help provide a high-volume architecture for TimeControl.  They will need to allow for “Sticky Sessions” using Client Affinity and URL Rewrites to send the data to the load balancer in order to make it work.  If ultra high availability is critical, then using Health Checking can ensure that data is instantly rerouted to healthy servers before the client even knows it.

For most clients this will never be a requirement so you likely don’t have to worry about it.  Because it’s so rare, HMS doesn’t provide services for configuring your network or your web servers so you’ll need to use your own IIS and Microsoft Server experts if this type of situation applies to you.  There are other multi-server load sharing techniques for different situations that HMS can recommend if complex architectures which might affect performance is one of your challenges.  Talk to HMS Software’s technical support team about multiple Website/TTS/ATS combinations to offload reporting or Project Management system linking.

FAQ: How long does it realistically take to implement a timesheet system?

spiral-clockThis is a great question and I hate to give the most obvious answer but “it depends”. Because TimeControl is designed to be able to link to so many different kinds of systems, a complete deployment can include many different facets.

Let’s say that you’re keen to deploy TimeControl on its own with some basic links for individual projects in Microsoft Project or Primavera. The installation, configuration and deployment are probably not more than a few days. We created the 5 day QuikStart program for this type of situation. Clients don’t need HMS’s assistance to do this either. Many clients have figured out for themselves how to do their deployment.

If we take another situation, let’s say a new TimeControl client wants to link to their centralized enterprise project management system like Microsoft Project Server or Oracle-Primavera and also to the finance system for billing and job costing.

If TimeControl is the first product to bridge the gap between Project Management and Finance then there may be many unanswerable questions when they start.

How should rates be tackled? What level of resolution of the timesheet will Finance require? Is that the same level as Project Management? Are there coding standards or other processes that have to be identified?

Very little of these questions are technical, they’re more likely to be process related but they are critical to how the configuration should be handled. Let’s take an extremely common example. A client says “We want to track overtime”.

Both Project Management and Finance agree that’s a key criteria. “Do you need to know what task the overtime occurred on?” we ask. “No” says Finance “Yes” says Project Management at the same time. Resolving the answer to that question might take several meetings between the two groups.

A TimeControl deployment in this situation might take several weeks to complete most of which is used by the client making process-types of decisions.

FAQ: When is the best time to implement a timesheet?

idealtimeInvestors get asked a similar question: “When is the best time to invest?” They always answer with: “The best time would be at birth, the second best time would be today.”

Ok, kidding aside, there are some rules about when would be a good time to invest in a timesheet system like TimeControl and they have everything to do with the cost/benefit perspective. If you are an organization of 4 or 5 people, then you probably know what everyone is doing with their time already. Getting the benefits from a formal timesheet system is more complex.

Once you get to a size where that kind of information isn’t as readily available, you’ve got to start thinking of a timesheet. Another way to look at this is to think of where the timesheet data will be used. If you’re going to claim R&D tax credits from the government, then formal documentation of the expenditure of time is a must regardless of your size. So, the value of the tax claim has to be factored into your decision and the return on investment is easy to see.

Same thing goes for those doing formal project management. If your business is such that you need to do better tracking of how the tasks are being progressed, then a formal timesheet system makes more sense.

If you are thinking of your cost/benefit from an efficiency perspective, we’ve created a Return on Investment calculator that lets you factor in some of the cost and benefit numbers and show you the break-even point of going with TimeControl.

The spreadsheet is downloadable by clicking here or by visiting the TimeControl Buyer’s Guide area of our website.

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