Best Practices for a successful TimeControl deployment

We have compiled several best practices that we have established with our clients over many years of implementing TimeControl. While these practices are all generic in nature, you may find some of them of use to you.

NOTE : While TimeControl might only be used by most users for a few minutes a week, it should be considered as a critical process in the enterprise and thus the environment for TimeControl to connect to should be stable in order to ensure service. We recommend that a network administrator be responsible for monitoring resources and service availability and managing environment modifications. This person would be responsible for the connectivity of TimeControl. This may includes managing firewall settings, physical connectivity, security upgrades that come automatically from Microsoft or other internal network or security settings.

Connectivity must be ensured between:

  • The client stations and the Web Server
  • The client stations and the TimeControl Administration Transaction Server (ATS)
  • The Web Server and the TimeControl Middleware; the TimeControl Administration Transaction Server (ATS)
  • The ATS and the Database Server
  • The Database Server should be established as part of an environment that is guaranteed to remain available. This includes server redundancy, backups and an environment which is not shut down, rebooted or otherwise disabled except in a very controlled fashion. For example, modifications on other databases on that same Database Server should never impact the availability of the server or TimeControl’s database.

NOTE : all modifications in the environment can have an impact, no matter how small the impact or the modification

  • Database availability must be guaranteed at all times. Database availability without interruption is crucial in providing service availability for TimeControl. If a connection from the ATS to the database is interrupted (for example by rebooting the database server) then the ATS will suspend service.
  • TCP Ports used for database connectivity and Application Server Connectivity should remain open at all times. These ports are usually managed within the firewall.
  • Machine resource availability (processor, memory and hard drive space) should be ensured. Other processes which overload either the database server, the ATS server or the Web Server will cause TimeControl services to be interrupted.

NOTE: We recommend that a formal process be established for a requested for change in the environment and that such requests be approved and filed by a network administrator who should consider TimeControl availability or the steps to resume availability as soon as the change has been applied.Any modification to the environment, the system, the application or any other piece on the environment should be logged and made available for audit.

Linking TimeControl with other corporate systems

A question that is asked quite frequently is how to link TimeControl to external corporate systems. Some clients request links to move corporate data into TimeControl, some want to move data from TimeControl to another system.
One type of connection is a transfer of data into the TimeControl tables to create timesheets. Another example would be using a corporate HR system to feed new employee data to TimeControl’s employee table or a work order system to feed tasks and assignments to TimeControl’s charge tables.
It is very common for organizations to wish to transfer time and cost data from TimeControl to a corporate system for Payroll, HR or Financial uses. These links are beyond the connections to project management systems such as MS Project, Deltek or Primavera which are pre-configured in TimeControl.

There are two main methods to set up links to corporate systems. The preferred method depends on the specific requirements:

Batch Transfer:
TimeControl contains an Integration Wizard that allows the client to create a custom import or export batch file in order to link to their corporate systems. The definition of this transfer can include predefined or user-defined fields and data including data that might be required to link to the external application such as employee codes or work order numbers. The resulting file is in a CSV or XML format which allows for connection to a wide variety of applications. The data is exported against a selection filter providing data for a specific period, employee, project, business or other criteria. This is the most common way HMS clients link TimeControl to external systems such as payroll, finance, HR or ERP systems. It is easy to set up and to administer and Finance personnel are usually more comfortable with a transaction file of data that is at arm’s length from the corporate Finance system. This allows the Finance system administrators to use the Finance system’s business rules to check data on its way into their system. TimeControl supports multiple transfer templates to server multiple export requirements. If required, exported data may be batch tracked to avoid inadvertently exporting the same record twice.

This method allows transfer of data to be set up quickly and easily and allows for a final review of the data prior to being imported into the corporate system.

Direct Database Connection:
A more sophisticated connection but less commonly used method is to use direct connections at the data- base level with SQL scripts, stored procedures and triggers. Because the TimeControl data resides on a host client server database, direct data transfers are relatively simple to establish. This type of connection typically provides transparent, real time data synchronization. Setup using this method requires an internal SQL expert or an HMS consultant and the effort may vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on the complexity of the connection that is required.

This method provides a dynamic instant transfer of data which is not always required.

Manipulation of data with SQL Scripts

In some cases TimeControl clients have a requirement to manipulate the raw data that has been captured in TimeControl to support a specific requirement. It is possible to use SQL scripts and stored procedures within the TimeControl data structure to perform calculations, summarizations and other types of data manipulations. The results of this type of calculation are typically written to custom fields or tables within the TimeControl host database. This flexibility allows TimeControl to meet a great variety of client-specific requirements.

An example of this type of data processing would be multi-currency calculations done when there are several currencies in the rate table and where the costs must be reconciled to a single currency for reporting purposes.

Getting started with Validation Rules in TimeControl

TimeControl’s business rules engine, the Validation Rules module is one of the most powerful aspects of the timesheet system. There is almost no limit to the number of rules or the type or rules that can be created to test timesheets automatically.

Some examples of validation rules might include:

No more than 24 hours in a single day

Exactly 8 hours per day of regular time for salaried employees

Use the Acme Rates for the Acme projects

No overtime unless a) you’re eligible for overtime and, b) you did at least 40 hours of regular time this week

Each of these rules can be customized to only apply to a select group of employees or to be applicable to everyone and each rule can deliver a message saying that the rule is an error or only a warning. The result is that timesheet data that makes it into TimeControl is already of extremely high quality before anyone even looks at it for approvals! Also, the most common corrections to the timesheet data are done by the people who know the data best; the people who entered it in the first place.

When organizations first see the capabilities of the TimeControl Validation Rules module, it’s common for staff from the Human Resources or Payroll departments to get very excited. They envisage dozens or even hundreds of rules that will mean never having to look at timesheets manually again.

HMS implementers recommend caution over being too enthusiastic when starting with Validation Rules. Imagine a new system where an eager enthusiastic TimeControl Timesheet Administrator creates hundreds of rules for every possible timesheet error he or she can think of. The system is activated and new users try to enter their timesheets. A user receives one warning, corrects the error, then receives another error message, corrects that then gets another. In short order the user gives up on the system declaring it “too hard to use”.

It’s important to remember that one of the most challenging aspects of deploying an enterprise system like a timesheet is compliance and for that reason, we recommend starting with a tiny number of rules. Think about starting with a half dozen or perhaps 10 rules to get started and, after the system has been accepted by the users, gradually add new rules for the most common of repeated errors. The system will gradually become more managed naturally over time and users won’t notice the volume of rules when they’re added gradually as they’ll have learned in previous weeks to avoid the Validation Rules that have already been made a part of the system.

Validation Rules are one of the most powerful aspects of the TimeControl timesheet system and, like anything powerful, must be treated with care and respect.

Managing Multiple Currencies in TimeControl

We’ve got all kinds of PowerPoint presentations that have been used for technical purposes. Here’s one on how to manage multiple currencies in TimeControl. TimeControl has always allowed the rate codes to be identified by Currency or any other coding. But, what if you wanted to store TimeControl costs in a common currency that was converted at the time the work was done? Check out this presentation on managing multiple currencies in TimeControl.

Managing pay periods which fall in mid-week when using TimeControl

Most organizations expect to have their office staff use a weekly timesheet and indeed, this is why TimeControl is designed with a weekly timesheet structure. Once data is entered into TimeControl and approved, it is saved in a ‘Posted’ format where the structure of the data changes from a 7-day period into a day-by-day format. This allows the data to be used in a much more flexible way for reporting and exporting into various systems.

When the data is posted, it becomes very simple to request a range of dates which exactly match the needs of payroll, billing or Finance for financial reporting. Thiss works well in most cases when the data is accepted into these systems following the close of the business week and the completion of any timesheets which are included in the period.

TimeControl’s “Missing Timesheet Report” and “Missing Timesheet Email Notification” functions are important here to ensure that all timesheets have completed the approval process and are represented in the exported or reported data.

There are, however, occasions when data is so time-critical that the client wishes to report on it right up to the end of the day before even if that occurs in the middle of the week. There are organizations whose payroll requirements oblige them to pay for time up to and including yesterday’s efforts. There are other organizations that have billing that is so time sensitive that it must be sent immediately and include any hours up to and including the day before. For these organizations, TimeControl has created the Posted/Unposted report. It is specifically designed for those situations where data must be pulled from TimeControl in the middle of the week for use in a reporting situation.

The report requests a date range and then provides all the hours within that range of both posted timesheet data and unposted timesheet data from the middle of the current week. The data is listed into a single format so that it can be used in either a report or exported into Excel and then sent to other systems. If, for example a data range were to go from the 1st of September 2008 (a Monday) until the 30th of September 2008 (a Tuesday) and the requirement was to have reports completed for September billing no later than the end of business on October 1st (a Wednesday) then the Posted/Unposted report would take posted data for the weeks of September 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd. This data would have already been collected, approved and posted. The report would also add the unposted data from Monday September 28th and Tuesday September 29th.

Since the data may be taken from a current timesheet which has not been released and therefore has not been subjected to any business rules created in the TimeControl Validation Rule module, it is important to set up a process to ensure that the data is used properly.

If your organization has one of the situations where you will require immediate mid-week access to timesheet data, there are several considerations to put into your process:

Completeness
Since the Missing Timesheet report looks at completed timesheets, it will not be useful to determine if all timesheets have data which is entered into them by the middle of the week. In our example above, the timesheets of September 28th will all be in progress. A report should be included in your process which is run by the TimeControl Administrator of “unposted data” for that date range (in our example, it would be for September 28-29) which lists all pertinent users and the time against that week. If there are missing timesheets, those users will have to be contact to ensure they enter data for this partial period.

Data Integrity
Since time is being reported at mid-week, many of the usual TimeControl tests for data integrity such as Validation Rules have not been applied to the timesheet data yet. This means that there may be errors in the partial timesheet data that is reported that may be caught by a business rule at the end of the week and will need to be corrected. Since the purpose of taking the data mid-week is to send it to another system or use it for external purposes such as payroll or billing or financial reporting, it is important to check for any adjustments after the fact.

This can be done by keeping a copy of the Posted/Unposted report which is used for the export and comparing it to the same report done following the posting process. When the report is run for the same date range after the end of the week, it will obviously be taking data A simple comparison can be done between the two reports to check for any discrepancies (Typically they would be quite rare).

Posted/Unposted process
The following would be the typical steps in a process where the Posted/Unposted process would be required:

  1. Use unposted report to check what users have not entered data for the unposted period this week
  2. Contact those users who have not entered data for the partial week and ensure they have completed any timesheet entries which must be included in this report
  3. Run the Posted/Unposted report for the complete period required
  4. Send the report to the system required (e.g. Payroll, Billing, Finance). Save a copy for reference
  5. Following the completion of this week’s timesheet approval process, run the Posted/Unposted report again for the same period and compare for any discrepancies between reports
  6. Report any discrepancies to the systems required

Did you know… about IE8 (Internet Explorer 8)?

If it’s springtime it must be a new release of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and, as each version is released, the developers at HMS must scramble to make sure the browser is fully supported by TimeControl.

TimeControl’s version 4 and 5 families have depended on Internet Explorer as our only supported browser. This will change in the near future in response to many requests by long time clients and prospective clients alike but for now, making sure that IE works properly with TimeControl is critical.

With the release of IE8 you may experience a phenomenom of new windows like message or alert windows appearing behind the regular window of TimeControl. This is clearly very annoying. However, if you have already got IE8, you do not have to roll back to make TimeControl work properly. TimeControl version 5.1.1 fully supports IE8 and will put the rights windows in their proper place. To get access to the latest TimeControl you must have a current support and maintenance contract.

Go to http://www.timecontrol.com/ for more information or contact info@hmssoftware.ca with any questions.

Did you know… about using TimeControl without Scheduling Software?

A couple of years ago, we did a customer survey of all our TimeControl clients. The results were fascinating and we wanted to share them with you as it might give you, our TimeControl dealers, a different perspective on how you view the TimeControl timesheet business. Just over 1/3 of TimeControl clients responded to the survey giving us a very significant statistical confidence in the numbers that we looked at.

When we first created a timesheet system , it was a customized project for one of our clients. The year was 1983 and the client was Philips. There were far fewer options on the market then of EPM products but we picked a scheduler and then wrote a timesheet which would be used by Finance for managing payroll and HR and by Project Management for variance analysis. What we learned in the design of that timesheet can still be found in TimeControl today.

Given our origins, it is perhaps no surprise then that our thinking of TimeControl was as part of the critical path scheduling process. Our vision was that:
Project managers would do their planning in one of the popular project management tools

They would then assign work to individuals

Those individuals would then do the work and report how much time it took on the TimeControl timesheet

The hours and costs would be transferred back to the schedule which would then be updated and the cycle repeated

You can imagine our surprise then to find out in our survey that 52% of TimeControl clients were not systematically linking TimeControl to any project scheduling tool. Some of those 52% were using a scheduler to populate the TimeControl charge table but not all. For many companies, they viewed TimeControl as their project management tool. For scheduling purists like ourselves, we were shocked. But, when you think about the challenges of the integrated scenario we’d envisioned, the results of the survey started to make sense.

TimeControl is typically deployed to all staff members. That includes those who are purely project personnel, those who have both project and non-project duties and those who have no project duties at all. Project scheduling systems typically look only at the work which is part of a defined schedule. Just to get that project work centralized into one project management tool as part of one centralized project management process is a hurdle many companies never get over.
Yet TimeControl can be providing information to management over where time is being spent regardless of how centralized the project management tools are.

Going back to our survey, 87% of clients were linking TimeControl to some internal corporate system such as Finance, Payroll or Human Resources. The link of TimeControl data to those legacy systems seemed to be a higher priority to our clients than the link to the project scheduling system.

Of the 48% of clients who linked TimeControl to a project scheduling tool, those linking to a project tool, 65% were linking to Microsoft Project, 40% were linking to Primavera, 20% were linking to Deltek and 5% were linking to Project Server. (In the intervening 2 years, we think the Project Server number may have risen somewhat.) And 10% were linking to “other” project management tools. If you’re counting, you can see that adds up to 140%. That’s because some organizations were linking to more than one tool at one time.

Here at HMS these numbers changed our thinking on how we perceive TimeControl. No longer do we just think of TimeControl as an accessory to a project scheduling tool. We tend to think of TimeControl as a tool on its own and this thinking is reflected in some of the comments of our clients. Several clients reported that the selection of project management tools had been influenced by having TimeControl already deployed. “We’re looking for a scheduling tool that will integrate with TimeControl,” reported one. This means, of course, that TimeControl was deployed before the client made a choice over a centralized project management tool and this too makes sense. The deployment time for TimeControl is typically measured in weeks. The deployment time for a centralized enterprise project management system in a mid-sized organization can easily be measured in months. Sometimes it’s easier to start with centralized tracking than with centralized planning.

What does this mean for you, if you’re using TimeControl?

I think a couple of things:

If you’re currently using a project management scheduling tool, you can think of TimeControl as an extension to it or just on its own

You can think of using TimeControl for project personnel or for both project and non-project personnel.

You can think of starting a TimeControl timesheet deployment within an organization before the deployment of a complete EPM system. The deployment of TimeControl is almost always faster than the EPM and can provide a quick win with the client while they work through the much more complex project management processes that must be aligned to make a centralized EPM system work. When the time is right, you can merge the TimeControl deployment and the EPM deployment to provide the completed vision of an integrated EPM.

Let us know at HMS if you have any questions about how TimeControl can be considered beyond the link to an EPM System.

Did you know… about assignments?

For those who may have a lot of experience with project-status timesheets like those found in Microsoft Project Server and Primavera, you might expect that the only hours you can add to your timesheet are to assignments you’ve already been given.

That’s not necessarily true with TimeControl.

By default, TimeControl allows any employee to charge time any project or any task. If you want the system to be more restrictive you can do so by using the Employee Table Project and Charge filters. You can even make a filter that says ‘only show tasks to which I’ve been assigned’ (Ask HMS technical support to provide you this filter if you need it.)
We created TimeControl this way because of the incredibly common occurrence of someone doing time during the week on a task to which they weren’t assigned on Monday morning. Oh, you might want to make things a bit more restrictive. Not showing closed projects or unstarted projects or closed tasks for example, but otherwise, it’s very common for TimeControl systems to allow time to be charged on tasks to which you’re not assigned.

But what happens when the timesheet data goes back to the project management tool?
That’s a very good question. TimeControl allows for this too but it might work differently with each project management tool. When data is sent back to the scheduling system, TimeControl gives the user an option to decide what to do when a task is found but an assignment is not. If the user elects to make an assignment during the transfer, then TimeControl will do so. In Microsoft Project, the assignment’s “Work” field will have the same number of hours as the “Actual Work” that we’re transferring. That is something you may want to check and possibly adjust. In Open Plan and Primavera, the assignment’s assigned hours can be equal to the hours transferred or to zero. Having no value in the expected assignment would be the more accurate answer as the person really didn’t have that assignment to start with. The results of the TimeControl transfer are always displayed in the Link log which can be saved and reviewed later.

This may require implementing a project management process of checking for any new assignments in the project for tasks that are complete and clearing the original assignments of the people who will now not be required to do the work.

The great news about this is that the assignments can be created by TimeControl automatically as part of the transfer process.

Managing time or time management?

In our office we spend a lot of time talking to large organizations about how to implement labour control systems. It’s not coincidence, after all, we publish timesheet software but what’s surprising is the wide range of expectations of people who have been brought together to choose and implement the new system.

The first element of complexity that drives many of the issues is that a timekeeping system is one of the few if not the only centralized system which will be so wide distributed. Typically a timesheet system needs to be used by every single employee and put onto every single desktop. There is no other database-oriented application which will have to work together yet be used by so many. The larger the organization, the tougher the problem.

With more and more organizations becoming projectized, a desire to get a handle on actual labour spent is becoming a higher and higher priority in many companies. This often brings together a committee mandated to find (if possible), re- write (if absolutely necessary) a timekeeping system that will allow management a greater degree of control over timesheet data. The collection of people in such a committee often makes for some surprises. After all, collecting some timesheets should be a fairly low-priority function right? ‘Fraid not. First of all, while filling in a timecard, or timesheet at the end of each week is often a low priority for most employees, the need for that data can often be one of the highest priorities for the organization. If, for example, the payroll is keyed off the timecards, then not getting that data collected means no paycheque on Monday, something that is a high priority for most of us. Second, because so much of the company (if not all) has to use the system, it is very common to find representatives from all aspects of the organization. For what is sometimes the first time, Marketing finds itself in a meeting with Engineering, Administration, Production and Management. For these two reasons, it is not uncommon to find the committee also has some highly placed friends. It may actually have the Chief Financial Officer or Chief Information Officer actually on the committee itself.

So with all this highly placed interest, you’d figure that most organizations would at least have a clear idea of what it is they need. Well, that’s unfortunately not often the case.Part of the problem stems from a general lack of consensus over what function a timekeeping or time management system should perform. For some users, an agenda system similar to Microsoft’s Outlook seems like just the ticket. This “to-do” list has, after all, a place to record how much time a task took. Surely access to such a system would satisfy the needs of management? Such systems fit the role of time- management systems from an end-user perspective just as a Day-Timer or other hard- copy agenda would.

Another perspective often stems from the Human Resources department. Here, the management of “exception-days” such as vacation or holidays or sick-leave make interest in a management-by-exception system that is usually referred to as “Time and Attendance”. Time and attendance systems look to provide minimal information as they only look at anything that isn’t the expected work-week. In a salary-only environment, this is also enough to manage the payroll and a time-and-attendance system will often be used for this as well.

“Punch-clock” time systems add to the general confusion as the security department pipes up to say that they mag-card system that gives staff access to the front door is already keeping a running data stream of who’s in and who’s out. Surely the data from this system could answer all the needs put forward thus far? After all, if a person is absent, they won’t be able to use their card to get into the building. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been asked if our own timesheet system could reconcile data from the building access system. It sounds like a low-effort plan except that it doesn’t often give enough information to be useful to anyone but security. After all, if you didn’t swipe your mag-card on the way into the office today is that because you were a) sick? b) on vacation? c) absent without leave? d) on assignment out of the office? or; e) because you walked in behind a kind person who held the door open for you? It’s impossible to tell and, even if you could, it still doesn’t help the Project Management group with what you did with your time.When an organizations starts looking for time-management systems, the perspective of individuals is to find a system that helps the individual organize the tasks in their day. The organizational perspective is generally to took for a system which can collect actual hours spent by task to determine that the most effective use is being made of the resources available. We call such a system a Project-oriented timesheet. For a Project-oriented timesheet system to be even deployable, it must provide some key elements:

  • The system must have enough functionality to manage the data of the organization yet have and end-user interface that effectively requires no training. You should expect that the large majority of end-users will be looking for any excuse not to fill in their timesheet. “It’s too complicated” is just too tempting.
  • The system must have an ability to lock-down information such as total hours for finance so that these finance-oriented values are not altered without approval yet must still have some “redistribution” functionality which allows project managers to redistribute hours after-the-fact to get them onto the proper tasks and projects when in error.
  • The system has to support the organization’s internal hardware, software, operating system and data structure. After all, this will likely be the most deployed data application in the company. It makes no sense to start implementing such a system on a data environment which is contrary to the company standard.

Once you’ve found or written a system which is deployable, your work is not over. All the classic issues that come with deploying an enterprise-wide system will be here in spades. Make sure that some of these elements are on your list for consideration when you make up your implementation plan:

Get an executive-level product champion. Given people’s general reluctance to fill in timesheets, you can expect to require the authority of someone at the executive level sooner or later. Also, it’s almost a guarantee in most large-sized organizations that along the way you’ll find multiple department-level timekeeping systems in use that some people will be reluctant to abandon.Have a plan. I know I keep mentioning this in almost every column but it’s because I see organizations almost every week who still try to implement an enterprise-wide system without a plan. (Um… If I visited your firm last week, I didn’t mean you… Honest!) Once you’ve got a plan, make sure you manage its progress.

Start small. Over and over I see implementations where every employee is put onto the system on the first day. They’re sometimes successful (mostly not) but the pain you’re in for if you go this way! Start with a core group of users and schedule bringing on the balance week by week once the use of the system is stable. Leave the most reluctant (and unfortunately, sometimes the noisiest) until last.

Make sure that the goals that this committee sets out are clearly identified. If the need is really for a time and billing system, don’t be looking for just a time and attendance system. You’ll end up spending an enormous effort implementing something that won’t meet the demand.In the end, the most important analysis is a Return on Investment. The investment of money in the new system is the least significant. The effort to get the entire organization moving in one direction is what costs. Make sure you’ve identified what returns the organization will receive for that effort.

What’s actually happening here?

Years ago I wrote an article about how project management required tracking not just planning. It was a time when many organizations used the terms project management and project planning synonymously. In fact many of what we referred to at the time as project management software systems were, in fact Critical Path Methodology calculators which were all about the planned schedule and very little about the actual progress.

It’s almost 15 years later but it looks like that message is finally starting to hit home. We see this in the remarkable proliferation of timesheet systems in the project management space.As many of you know, I have been involved in the enterprise timesheet market for some time but our firm is not alone. Oracle and SAP have both linked their timesheet functionality into their project management modules and, although it’s still months away from seeing the next version of Microsoft’s Project Server, we already know that new timesheet functionality will be one of the marquee features.

A Google search finds over 150,000 hits on the term “timesheet software”.

So, what is it about timesheet software that makes it such a hot commodity these days and, how do I link the old over-reliance on planning as a project management methodology and the current interest in corporate timesheets?

The answer comes down to the very simplest of questions.

The most common request for project systems I get from senior executives is this: “Can you just tell me how we’re doing?”

You’d think the questions would be much more sophisticated and, when we scratch below the surface, those more sophisticated requests are there but the basic questions are the most thought-provoking. You would expect that senior management would be able to tell in an instant how projects are going, at least in general terms.

Executives are faced with a deluge; a virtual tsunami of data. It comes in many formats and in many flavors. Along with the data comes requests for rapid decisions on a myriad of topics. The biggest challenge for senior management is synthesizing this massive amount of data into timely business decisions.

So, where do timesheets come in?

With the economy becoming tighter and more global, efficiency levels and return on investment are never-ending thoughts for senior management. North American firms are competing not just with the company down the street, they may be competing with a firm from India, China or Africa where efficiency can be overcome by incredibly low labour costs. It turns out that one of the most sought after answers from the executive suite here is where time is being spent by their own labour force.

Everyone knows that projects are underway and I can’t think of a single organization where employees are sitting in their cubicles; idle, waiting for work to be given to them. No, everyone is as busy as a one-armed paper hanger. But yet, if you ask most project managers to identify how much time is being spent on tasks vs. the orginal plan, they will be hard-pressed to answer.

Human Resources Timesheets alone do not provide sufficient data. The most common timesheet type on the market is time and attendance. These timesheets will tell you how much time the employee has spent at work (critical information for, say, the payroll department) but won’t tell you what the employee did with their time.

Project-oriented timesheets are the answer. These timesheets ask employees to record on a regular basis how much time was spent on a task-by-task basis. If this system can be tied directly to an enterprise project management system, you have the capabilities of creating a close-loop system. This is a very, very powerful tool when deployed correctly. Since few employees are delighted to complete a weekly timesheet, the system must also be able to fulfill those duties required of it by HR and by Finance so that no one must fill in more than one timesheet per period.Work is planned in the enterprise project management system. Actual work performed and the progress attained by doing that work is captured in the enterprise timesheet system and the result returned to the respective tasks. Now you can generate budget vs. actual tracking reports and, see the actual work done in a number of areas.

While all project managers recognize this phenomena, there are added benefits to a corporate-wide enterprise timesheet system that may not be so obvious. When data is entered on a task-by-task basis we do, of course, track those tasks which exist in the project management system but we also track tasks which are not associated to particular projects or which might not have been budgeted to a project.

Analysis of these types of tasks virtually always yields fascinating results.

In a client deployment in the US, our enterprise timesheet system was used to track work in just this way. The client was a marine engine manufacturer. The client used Microsoft Project as their planning system and tracked formal budgets there which had been broken down by task.

This particular client has numerous offices across the US and around the world but most of the project work is occurring in one particular city in the US. They are a prominent employer in this area with numerous buildings around this city.After running their timesheet system for 6 months, they believed they had enough timesheet data for some real analysis and the results shocked them. Management was stunned to discover that project personnel were spending approximately 15% of their time in inter-office travel! Just moving from one building to another, which sometimes involved a short cross-town drive was eating away at their efficiency. No one in management had ever realized the profound effect of the seemingly short distances.

Management instituted changes immediately. Project teams were to be made up as much as possible out of co-located team members. The effects were virtually immediate.

Now your organization may not have an inter-office travel effect but virtually everywhere we go we find an effect that you may be familiar with.It’s meetings. Yes, meetings. Meetings can take up a phenomenal amount of time and when these meetings are accounted for management is almost always amazed. Remember, a lot of these meetings will have been organized by different levels of management. When confronted by empirical data, management is often willing to completely reorganize how often they schedule meetings.Norman Augustine, the CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation wrote in his book Augustine’s Laws, “The more time you spend talking about something, the less time you have to do what you’re talking about. Eventually you spend more and more time talking about less and less until, in the end, you spend all of your time talking about nothing.”

Yes, enterprise timesheets are all the rage and in an economy that demands faster response, cheaper solutions and more and more efficiency it is critical to know exactly where people are actually spending their time.

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