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.
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
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.
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.
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.