It’s time to sunset some of TimeControl’s Legacy functionality

In 1999, HMS released one of the first browser-based products of any kind.  As part of the release of TimeControl 4 at that time, we had to find a way to perform several functions including reporting and linking to certain project management tools like Microsoft Project using OLE (Object Linking and Embedding).  We accomplished this with a technique called ActiveX controls.  These were downloaded objects that lived inside Internet Explorer and allows us to deliver all kinds of functionality in a way that looked and felt very much like the Windows executable version of TimeControl 3.

In all these years since 1999, we have maintained support for some 32bit ActiveX controls even as much of the functionality they performed has been superseded by other functions.  The only remaining ActiveX’s in TimeControl now are the old 32bit excel-like reporting engine and the OLE links.

With TimeControl version 7, we started referring to these functions as Legacy Functions and moved all the documentation for them into its own section of the Reference Guide.  If you’re a TimeControl user or administrator and are wondering what on earth we’re talking about, there’s no need to worry.  Most TimeControl clients of today have never seen or accessed the TimeControl Legacy Functionality.

In TimeControl version 8.4 we will, at last, be sun-setting the Legacy functionality.  It has simply become impossible to support.  The ActiveX’s work only with Internet Explorer which is no longer supported by Microsoft.  The controls are 32-bit even though virtually all Windows environments are 64-bit.  And, perhaps most importantly, all the functionality that is currently in the Legacy functions have been superseded by more modern functionality in TimeControl.

For those using TimeControl Online or TimeControl Industrial Online, the only change will be the absence of the Legacy tab in the menu security.  All TimeControl Online clients have had the legacy functionality turned off by default.  For those using TimeControl or TimeControl Industrial on-premise, any upgrades of 8.4 and later will have the Legacy functionality removed.

There may be some who want to preserve the reporting views that were created ages ago in the TimeControl Legacy report writer.  This is already accommodated in TimeControl as any legacy report views are automatically converted into Drill-Down Analyzer views.

For any on-premise TimeControl clients who may still have some use of the Legacy functionality and want to know how to transition out of it, please contact the Tech Support department at support@hms.ca.

It was a good run with some incredibly stable code and functionality.  But it’s time, at last, to move on.

Designing an effective timesheet approval process for both Project Management and Finance

There’s a reason the Matrix Approval Process is at the top of our Use-Case Scenarios Solutions page on timecontrol.com.

When HMS was created in 1984, our first-ever project included a requirement to write a timesheet that would be used both by Payroll and Project Management.  “Easy,” we thought.  The payroll people needed an auditable count-on-able record of time and attendance.  The project people needed updates to pre-planned tasks in the project management system we helped select and implement.

Easy isn’t how it went.  The needs of the Finance department and the needs of the Project Office seemed severely opposed.  As we delved deeper into the design, it became apparent that the real disagreements all centered around how approvals of the data would be accomplished.  Our first pass had the project people doing all the approvals first then sending the data to Finance.  That was not successful.  Our next try had project people and Finance people all doing approvals at the same time.  Also, not successful.  Finally we spent numerous days barricaded in a conference room working the flow and the priorities of the flow of data for the approvals and the result was the Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals™.

Ten years later when TimeControl was released as a commercial off the shelf timesheet product, the lessons we learned from that first attempt along with the 7 or 8 timesheet systems we’d written for clients in the intervening time came along.  The purpose of TimeControl was to deliver a timesheet that would have auditable Finance quality data that could be used for purposes like Payroll, Billing, R&D tax credits, DCAA compliance and more and yet, at its heart, be a project-oriented task-based timesheet system.  The core of that design is the Matrix Approval Process.

There’s lots of data woven into different elements of our collateral and materials.  We’ve tried to put as much of it as we can into the website itself where there are white papers, webcasts, slide shows and factsheets on how to create a timesheet approval process with both Finance and Project Management in mind.  You’ll find it at https://www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/matrix-approvals.

Show me the money!

When we think about a timesheet, we’re more likely to think in terms of hours and minutes rather than dollars (or Euros or Sterling) and cents.  But, in the end, time resolves to money.  For some organizations, they try not to think in terms of rates because the conversation can be so complex or so contentious.

TimeControl was designed from its inception to tackle that challenge.  The first thing to think about is what a rate on a timesheet means and the problem can be that it might mean different things to different people.  Everyone might easily agree that a person worked on a particular task for an hour yesterday.  But to Payroll, that means one thing, to Billing that means something very different and to a project management team that might mean something different again.

That same hour that Payroll says “Well, that actual cost of that hour was $55.00.” might mean to billing “That invoice-able rate of that hour was actually $110.00” or “The invoice-able rate of that hour was $0.”  For project management perhaps they work on an average basis and don’t worry about things like overtime, double overtime, unbillable time or banked time.”  But other parts of the organization do worry about those very things.

The rate structure of TimeControl just like the rest of the product is phenomenally flexible and, unlikely virtually any other timesheet product we’ve encountered, it is designed to be flexible in multiple directions at the same time.

We’ve put together materials that can make this easier to understand for new clients who are just getting their rate structure started or long time existing clients who want to extend their TimeControl to tackle other aspects of costing in the timesheet.  You can find webcasts, screen shots, slide shows and a white paper called “How to create your TimeControl Rate Structure” on the TimeControl website at: https://www.timecontrol.com/features/rates.

 

TimeControl Flexibility allows for many use cases to be solved at the same time

We’re often asked at HMS if TimeControl is a “customized” timesheet solution.  Do we start with the basic template then customize the code to meet a client’s needs.

We do not.

But it might seem that way from the degree of flexibility that TimeControl is designed around.  Every copy of TimeControl is the same code as every other copy and that’s true both for on-premise and our TimeControl Online in the cloud.  But beyond the code there is so much more that can be done to configure the system.  That includes the way that TimeControl can adjust to the needs of many parts of an organization simultaneously.

As a result, TimeControl can be used for multiple use-case scenarios at once.  We’ve put several onto our website and there are certainly limitless more.  But, here are just a few from our TimeControl Solutions Page:

Project Management system integrations

TimeControl includes more existing integrations to project management tools than any other timesheet product in the industry.  These includes Microsoft Project on-premise, Project Online, Project Server, Primavera Pro, Primavera EPPM, ARES Prism, BrightWork, JIRA, InEight’s HardDollar and Deltek’s EPM systems.
See more at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/project-tracking

Human  Resources

TimeControl includes the auditable controls that allows it to be used for all the entitlements that HR tracks including vacation, sick leave, personal time off and more.  Also, banked time and vacation requests are a part of the product.
See more at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/human-resources

Payroll

TimeControl is often used for the time and attendance that is needed by payroll and is easily integrated into payroll systems whether they are online services or on-premise systems.  Being auditable is a key part of acceptance by the payroll department.  TimeControl can track limitless numbers of rates, overtime, double time, unpaid time etc. and can tracked banked time and other payroll elements as well.
See more at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/time-and-attendance

Time and Billing

For some organizations not only do staff need to be paid using timesheet data, clients also need to be invoiced based on that data.  TimeControl can handle both simultaneously.  Because of TimeControl’s remarkably extensive rate structure, internal payroll rates and billing rates can be tracked at the same time.
See more at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases/time-and-billing

Industrial Crew field data collection

Using TimeControl’s Industrial version, organizations can also deploy field data collection of Crew Timesheets, Material Consumption, Equipment Usage and even production accomplished.
See more at: industrial.timecontrol.com/features/crew-timesheet

We’re only touching a few popular items.  Take a look at the Use Case Solutions list at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases.  For features specific to TimeControl Industrial, go to industrial.timecontrol.com.

Happy Holidays from all of us at HMS

Here at HMS Software it has been a remarkable year and we’d like to take a moment to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season and a happy New Year.

We are grateful for the relationship we have with all of our clients, colleagues and business contacts.
Over the coming days we will have a holiday schedule which will allow most of our staff to be with their families as we rotate in and out of the office on a reduced capacity basis.
The hours for the holiday season below are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5):
Friday, Dec 23: Closed at noon
Monday, Dec 26: Closed
Tuesday, Dec 27: Closed
Wednesday, Dec 28: Open
Thursday, Dec 29: Open
Friday, Dec 30: Closed at noon
Monday, Jan 2: Closed
Tuesday: Jan 3:Closed
Wednesday, Jan 4: Open and regular schedule restarts

TimeControl and HMS are featured on StarterStory!

We’re delighted to see TimeControl featured this month on StarterStory.  The feature talks about how HMS was founded some 38 years ago and the evolution of the company with TimeControl starting as an on premise solution and then becoming both on-premise and SaaS solutions.

It’s been a year of HMS being featured on a wide variety of websites, podcasts and features like this one.

We’re very proud to have HMS and TimeControl showcased in this way.  You can read the story in its entirety at: www.starterstory.com/stories/hms.

How long should a timesheet be?

One key question when setting up a timesheet system is determining how long a timesheet should be.  TimeControl not only lets you select, it let’s you manage multiple timesheet lengths for different people on your system all at the same time.

How often should you collect, approve and close timesheet periods?  Daily?  Weekly, Bi-Weekly?  When TimeControl was first designed, we created weekly timesheets.  It was the most common and most popular timesheet length and, while it wasn’t always the frequency that Payroll needed, it was by far the most common frequency that project managers wanted to update their projects on.

In later versions of TimeControl we made the timesheet length a system selectable length but then realized that larger organizations needed something more.  They needed multiple timesheet periods at the same time.

So now TimeControl allows you to create multiple periods for a timesheet.  You can select daily timesheets for some employees who are perhaps working on shift work, weekly timesheets for others.  You can select monthly timesheets perhaps for those who are contractors, bi-weekly for others.  TimeControl accomplishes this by storing the final timesheet data by day so it doesn’t matter so much what frequency it was collected on.  At the end of the timesheet period, the timesheet data will go through its own approval process and be stored in a way that it can be reported on or exported in whatever time buckets are needed.

There are several possible selections when creating timesheet period calendars:

Daily – one timesheet period per day
Weekly – one timesheet period per week
Bi-Weekly – one timesheet period is two weeks long
Bi-Monthly – one timesheet from the 1st of the month until the 15th, the next timesheet period is from the 16th of the month to the end of the month, however long the month is
Monthly – one timesheet for the entire calendar month
Custom – This allows you to make virtually any selection of dates and durations so long as they don’t overlap.

On the employee record, the Administrator simply selects which generated calendar that employee will select time on.  This overcomes so many huge problems such as weekends being on different days in some part of the world for our users compared to others.

It is a remarkably flexible concept that we’re very proud of.  Timesheet periods that are flexibly generated which can then be then be applied to employees as they need.

This is explained in the TimeControl Reference Guide but existing and prospective clients who want to talk about how they can take advantage of TimeControl’s remarkable multi-timesheet-period structure can contact HMS and talk to one of our timesheet experts at info@hms.ca.

Project Progress is so much more than just the number of hours

HMS Software started as consultants and distributor for project management software many years ago.  One of the first things we ever focused on was the importance of progressing projects.  It turns out this is still a subject that bears repeating today.

We measure progress in many ways.  TimeControl was created, in part, to track one of those methods, task effort.  But this is the simplest and often the most misleading tracking method.  Just knowing how much time you spent on something without knowing how that task is progressing otherwise can easily lead to misinterpretation.  Imagine, for example that you have spent 40 hours on an expected 80 hour task.  You’re half way done, right?  Well what if you’re not?  What if the work turned out to be harder than you thought.  Instead of being only half done, you estimate there is still 120 hours of work to.  Instead of this ending as a 40 hour task, it will probably be closer to a 160 hour task, double the original cost or expectation.

TimeControl was designed with this in mind too.  TimeControl allows each person to estimate the work required for them to finish their task right on the timesheet line by entering the estimated remaining duration on the line.

This is even more powerful when combined with the use of a project baseline in the project management tool.  Not only can you see the progress against the actual activity, you can also compare against what you originally promised it would be.

In some cases, there may be multiple resources on the same activity.  If this is the case, TimeControl can have a project manager or supervisor update an activity percent complete update for the entire task.  This is visible on the Activity Tab from the timesheet or the Charge Table or from the Project Manager Validation Screen.

Some organizations use weighted milestones to measure an activity’s progress. This is a popular method for large projects because it is so much less subjective.  Project management tools like Primavera support this method of progress and TimeControl does too.  When you look at the expanded timesheet line window you’ll see a tab called Steps.  Here, if you are the key resource, you can progress the steps associated to that activity.

In some organizations, activity progress is measured by units complete.  For example, if you are doing a pipe-laying project, then management only cares how many meters of pipe were installed this week.  It’s a powerful measurement method because it is very matter of fact.  TimeControl supports this too if you are using TimeControl Industrial and enter such a measure in the Material entry screen.

TimeControl has been designed from the start to have project progress in mind.  It’s so much more than just collecting hours.

To find out more about how to use TimeControl for updating project progress, talk to one of our specialists at info@hms.ca.

TimeControl on-premise is here to stay

Many people have asked us if the on-premise version of TimeControl and TimeControl Industrial will be phased out.

In a word: No.

While over 75% of our new sales are for TimeControl Online, TimeControl Industrial Online or TimeControl Project Online, all of which are delivered as subscriptions in the Cloud, we have many clients who have TimeControl implemented as an on-premise system.

There are many reasons an organizations will want to purchase a license and install TimeControl themselves.  It may be security restrictions or integration with internal tools at the database level.  Whatever the reason, TimeControl will continue to be available as on premise option for anyone who needs it as long as there is a demand.

For those clients who are already using TimeControl on-premise and who wish to switch to a subscription of TimeControl Online, HMS has the Evolve Program to help with that.  There are commercial and technical aspects to the migration but end users won’t experience any difference in functionality.  Only their URL for TimeControl will change.  Talk to HMS if this is of interest.

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