HMS and Microsoft have extended our long standing alliance

TimeControl within Microsoft Teams
TimeControl within Microsoft Teams

We were delighted to announce this week that HMS has renewed its technical alliance with Microsoft. This will make 26 consecutive years we’ve had a formal partnership with Microsoft which, in itself is remarkable. Most software companies don’t last 26 years but this alliance has thrived over these many years.

The relationship formally started when we first released TimeControl version 2 in 1995. We had decided that we needed a link to Microsoft Project which was then at version 4.0 with version 4.1 named ‘Project 95’ about to be released. Once we’d found the right people to connect with at Microsoft, our ability to work together moved quickly.

Since then we have integrated TimeControl with every version of Microsoft Project right up to the most recent. That includes Project for the Desktop, Project Server, Project Online and Project for the Web. We invest in this integration every year. It’s a constant for the TimeControl development team. Numerous HMS team members have links to multiple Microsoft staff. It’s a broad team collaboration.

Over the years we’ve leveraged many aspects of Microsoft’s technology including SharePoint, Teams, Office 365, SQL Server and the Windows Server operating system.

That will continue.

To read our press release on the alliance’s renewal, see: TimeControl.com/resources/newsroom/press-releases/2021-06-09

Table Validations have a huge impact on data quality

We have had timesheet Business Validation Rules since the first version of TimeControl but did you know that you can apply the same kind of logic to table entries?

All TimeControl tables include an option called Table Validations.  These rules are defined by you and determine what makes an accurate entry into that table.  Think that doesn’t matter much?  You’d be surprised.  The number one issue reported by TimeControl Administrators is caused by inaccurate or incomplete entries in one of TimeControl’s tables.  Let’s imagine that you have a timesheet Charge Code filter that is defined by the department an employee is in.  That’s great unless someone forgot to enter a value for that employee’s department.

Table Validations can catch all of that.  You can make a rule that says that a particular field cannot be blank or a field is dependent on another field or that the value must fall into a particular range or even that the range is dependent on the value of some other field.  A rule can have several arguments within it and you can have multiple rules for each table.

When combined with TimeControl’s Pop-up selection functionality, this rule structure has data in the all-important TimeControl tables be of very high quality.  The rules are also respected when using an API or the TimeControl imports to load a table.  If an import doesn’t conform to the table’s rules, it will be rejected.

Table Validations are easy to create but you should strategize about what rules you want to create and follow to make sure you don’t make rules that contradict each other.  HMS Technical Services can always help.  You’ll find more information about Table Rules in the TimeControl Reference Guide.

New TimeControl White Paper on Change Management

Process change in an enterprise can be complex.  The more people who are touched by the changed process, the more likely it is to have people concerned by even the smallest change.  At HMS we encounter this phenomenon on a regular basis.  When you think about TimeControl, for most users it constitutes a tiny part of their work week but the implementation of a timesheet touches every human in the organization and sometimes beyond to those not even in the organization.  So, the potential for resistance to a new enterprise system becomes very real.

Our president, Chris Vandersluis, speaks on this topic often when lecturing or teaching at project management groups.  He has grouped some of his work on the subject into a White Paper entitled, “Managing the Change of Change Management”.  We’ve formatted it into a TimeControl white paper although the subject has relevance to almost any enterprise system deployment.

You can find the white paper on our Resources White Paper directory. or you will a version of it on Mr. Vandersluis’s blog at EPMGuidance.com.  The white paper can be downloaded in PDF format in case you wish to share it.

This is a subject that will likely be added to as time permits so keep an eye on the website for changes.

Getting back to the office in person and hybrid work

In some areas of the planet, people are slowly being called back to the workplace to do in-person work.  In other areas staff are still working from home virtually.  For those areas where in-person work is starting, a new type of work environment has evolved that has been termed a hybrid workplace where people will work in the office for some part of their week, work virtually for some part of their week and perhaps even have flexible schedules for some part of their week.  This kind of environment would have been considered quite radical only 18 months ago but not so much today.

Many organizations shifted their on-premise corporate systems such as timesheets to a more online environment when the pandemic first ordered shutdowns.  Other organizations made longer term plans for shifting to cloud-based software as a service but on a slower, more managed pace.  Here at HMS we have been busy since March of 2020 working extensively with both new and existing clients on shifting on-premise timesheet systems to our own TimeControl Online subscription service in the cloud.  That work continues.

As workers start to shift to on-premise work, there will be a natural blend of some people doing some work in the office, some people doing some work from home, some people doing all work from home.  Not everyone will shift simultaneously even within one organization.

There are other complications to getting everyone back to work as well.  During this time, some organizations have extended their offshore working teams.  After, all, if we’re all virtual anyway, what difference does it make if someone is at home down the road or at home on the other side of the world?  Now, as some workers shift back to on-premise work, these new offshore workers will have to be blended into shifting HR policies.

All of this may feel very disruptive to people as the routines they and their families have gotten used to are changed.

One thing that has been a stable force for the TimeControl Online clients is knowing that no matter where you are located, accessing your timesheet to report the work you’ve accomplished and, to report your presence or absence is a given.  The TimeControl Online subscription service in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere there is Internet via a web browser or a mobile device (Android or iOS).

We expect in the coming weeks that many of our clients will use TimeControl’s flexibility to add a field to the timesheet asking the employee to record where they were for the line item listed.  Did that work occur at the office, at home or, elsewhere?  It’s a change that takes only minutes and it will give the organization insight into where people are when they’re getting their jobs done.

Here at HMS we’re still all working remotely and will be for the next few months at least.  But, once we’re able to gather in person again, we’ll almost certainly start to do so in a phased-in approach with a blended at home/at work policy.  We’ll let you know, right here on the blog, when that happens.

For more information on TimeControlOnline, visit: https://www.timecontrol.com/features/timecontrol-online.

 

Free Timesheet Buyer’s Guide on the TimeControl website

The TimeControl team hosts a section of our website that could be of value to anyone choosing a new timesheet system.  The TimeControl Buyer’s Guide is a free collections of resources that are the culmination of experience from our TimeControl timesheet deployment experts.

This area of the website provides information that both helps prospective timesheet buyers determine what kind of timesheet they might require and then shows how TimeControl can respond to those requirements. The information isn’t specific to just TimeControl so no matter what kind of timesheet you’re looking for, these resources may be of use to you.

The Timesheet Buyer’s Guide includes a number of tools that may be of interest to those considering a new timesheet system including:

  • Webcasts of how to determine what type of timesheet might be required,
  • A white paper analyzing the choice of buying a commercial off the shelf timesheet system vs. subscribing to a timesheet in the cloud vs. writing your own customized timesheet
  • A downloadable evaluation checklist spreadsheet of the most commonly requested timesheet features with options for weighting features and scoring multiple timesheet systems,
  • A Return on Investment Calculator spreadsheet which shows the financial impact of automating your timesheet system and;
  • Numerous links to other resources.

The Timesheet Buyer’s Guide is available at: TimeControl.com/why-timecontrol/buyers-guide.  Access to the Buyer’s Guide is free.

 

The TimeControl team continues to add free Online Training

The TimeControl printed documentation can be intimidating at first glance.  It runs over 1,000 pages.  But our User and Reference Guides are only one of the many tools available to Administrators and end-users on how to use TimeControl.

We’ve done added some lessons to our Online Video Training Library. There are many lessons for TimeControl 8 and even older versions.

The video lessons are only 3-7 minutes each and are designed as “how-to” so users can work at your own pace. Each mini-lesson shows a single feature or function of TimeControl. Some are designed for end-users, others for TimeControl Administrators.

There are many other resources as well on the website including webcasts, white papers, slide presentations and factsheets.   You can browse through all of these resources at no charge at the Resources Area TimeControl.com.

Join our live Webinar showing TimeControl and BrightWork together

TimeControl is a multi-purpose timesheet designed to integrated with multiple project management systems. When it is integrated with BrightWork, you can create a collaborative project management SharePoint environment where the organization’s timesheets are blended naturally into the project process.

On Wednesday, May 12th at 11am EDT, 8am PDT, 4pm GMT BrightWork and HMS Software will co-host a live webinar showing how to enhance your Project Analysis in SharePoint using BrightWork and TimeControl.

You will discover:

  • How to quickly get started managing projects and portfolios with SharePoint
  • How integrating TimeControl as an enterprise timesheet brings a single point of entry for timesheets into the project environment
  • A live demo of BrightWork and TimeControl working together

Don’t worry if you can’t attend! Sign up anyway and we will send you the recording.

The Webinar is scheduled for July 11th at 4pm GMT, 11am EDT, 8am PDT.

To Register click: Register Here.

How TimeControl notifies users

TimeControl can communicate on its own automatically or on demand to users in a variety of methods and for a range of different circumstances.   Here are some of the methods TimeControl uses to talk to users directly.

The TimeControl Notification Bell

You may have noticed the Alarm bell at the top right of the TimeControl screen.  In most cases, the bell is white and motionless.  But, if there is a message from TimeControl notifications, the bell will start to ring back and forth silently, letting you know that TimeControl has something of importance for you t9 know.  Most notifications in this area are from the timesheet approval process but as time goes on, you can expect the notification area to include notices for different kinds of events.  In some cases, clicking on the message can bring you right to the document required.  Clicking on a “Timesheet Rejected” notice for example, should bring you right to that timesheet in the Timesheet Entry screen.

Emails

TimeControl can be configured to send emails for numerous different events.  It’s often not enough to count on people going into TimeControl and noticing the Notification Bell.  So, an email can direct users to go to the system to attend to a variety of events.  Emails can be sent for missing timesheets or rejected timesheets but also to let you know that a job has been processed, a report is waiting for you or that the Workflow Engine has detected a condition that you wanted to be notified about.

Dashboards

TimeControl dashboards can do so many different things but it’s one method TimeControl can use to notify you of your timesheet status, the status of other’s timesheets, vacation status for you or your team, budget vs. actual reports or so much more.  Dashboard are usually presented as soon as you log in so they can be a key place to get important information at a summary level.

Condition Reports and Scheduled Reports

TimeControl’s Report Interface can create reports that are delivered automatically on a schedule.  Scheduled reports will send an email with the report attached in PDF or Excel (or other) formats.  Or, if the report is too large to attach, it will include a link to an encrypted copy of the report on the TimeControl server.

Scheduled reports won’t send anything if there is no data to select so this is a great method of creating exception reports that will only appear if there is some exception to report.

Whether TimeControl is sending information to different users on demand or automatically, it’s capabilities of communicating directly with users with the information they need to know helps make the entire organization more effective.

 

 

 

 

 

Our President, Chris Vandersluis was recently featured on the B2B Podcast!

Our president, Chris Vandersluis was delighted to be interviewed by David Ledge of the popular, Business to Business (B2B) Podcast.  You can hear David and Chris discussing some of the business challenges HMS Software has been able to overcome and how flexibility of the TimeControl product offering has been critical to helping to thrive over 30 years of business.

You can enjoy the podcast in its entirety from:

 

Beyond the TimeControl menu and the mighty ellipsis

We all know that TimeControl has a tremendous level of functionality and the degree to which TimeControl is configurable and flexible makes the possible options of functionality even more vast.  The challenge for our TimeControl designers is that most TimeControl users will only access the system for a few minutes a week or perhaps a few minutes a day.  Once it’s properly configured, the interest of 95% of users who only enter their timesheet of how flexible or how many clever features are in TimeControl are of no interest.

The User Profile area of TimeControl allows some functionality to be masked completely from different user profiles.  That’s a great start.  Whole menu items can be hidden from view from users who will never need to access that function.  The User Profiles configuration can also condition data so only the data that’s appropriate to a user is displayed.  That carries through down to the field level as well as in reporting and numerous other areas.  The goal is to present users with an easy path to getting their timesheet done.

There are other ways TimeControl displays key functionality and makes secondary functionality less obvious so it’s only available if users want access to it.

In the timesheet itself, a click on the Ellipsis “…” on the grid can show a whole separate level of functionality below the line item level.  This includes adding expense report details, adding notes, seeing information about the Activity or Charge Tables or viewing and progress Primavera P6 progress “Steps”.  This is also where a line item can be copied or deleted.  There are quite a lot of options there but they’re all activated only when someone clicks the ellipsis on that line.

In TimeControl Tables, you might see the gear icon to view options.  This too can carry all kinds of functionality.  When it’s part of a list such as a Charge Code Table list, the option can change the sort, change the hierarchy view and even select what fields to put into the list for search or selection.

In different places in TimeControl, the gear icon will similarly present configuration options that affect the view.  But if the view looks just fine to the user, they’ll never have an interest in clicking on the icon and they don’t need to.  They don’t need to be confronted by all those options.

In a variety of screens in TimeControl, the More menu option will present context appropriate options for manipulating data or changing the data view.  This might include expanding or contracting a hierarchy view, filtering or deleting the data or, in the case of TimeControl Tables, creating or editing Table Validation rules.  The More selection will be different depending on where you are in TimeControl when you click it.

TimeControl’s focus on user experience always guides us in the design of the system so keeping functionality layered in a way that the vast majority of users only have to see what they need from the system is critical to the system’s success.  Yet, having a robust selection of functionality for those users who need access to it is also key.  It’s just one of the many ways TimeControl adjusts to the needs of the user.

The official blogsite of TimeControl