All posts by chris.vandersluis

What do the version numbers mean?

We’re often asked what the significance of our version numbers are and how often we release a new update, upgrade or version.  Here is an extract from the TimeControl Installation Guide explaining our 4-part version number:

HMS releases updates to TimeControl in three different levels:

Updates

An update to TimeControl is identified by the 3rd level of the version number.  For example, in version 8.0.1, “1” would be an update.  An update to TimeControl includes fixes to existing functionality and while it may have small additions to the data structure it has no changes to the existing data structure.  An update may include minor enhancements to existing functionality and, less typically, new functionality.

Upgrades

An upgrade to TimeControl is identified by the 2nd level of the version number.  For example, in version 8.1.0, “1” would be an upgrade.  An upgrade to TimeControl may fix existing functionality and will contain enhancements to existing functionality as well as new functionality.  An upgrade may include some changes to existing data structures as well as additional data structure elements.

Versions

A new version of TimeControl is identified by the 1st level of the version number.  For example, in version 8.0.0, “8” would be a new version.  A new version of TimeControl represents a change in the underlying architecture.  This may mean a change or an increase in the types of platforms supported, in the technology layers such as database connections or communications protocol and in the fundamental interface design and architecture.  A new version typically includes new functionality and enhanced or changed existing functionality.  In some cases, functionality in a new version is deprecated.  Data structures may undergo significant change in a new version compared to an old version.

Build

In addition to new updates and upgrades, you may find a 4th digit in your version.  For example, in version 8.0.1.4, “4” would be a new version.  This is a “Build” number and this may change over time.  A new build is usually made when we identify a hotfix that is required but only for a limited circumstance so a complete new Update isn’t required.

Where to find your version number

Click on your profile logo at the top right of the screen and select “Support Info”.  You’ll see a screen like the one here.  The version numbers is in the Web Information area.  You can see the version is 8.0.1.0.  That’s Version 8, Upgrade 0, Update 1 and build 0.  You can ignore the “a” as this is sometimes used for internal systems.

What’s new in TimeControl 8.0.1?

We’ve just released an update to TimeControl.  Version 8.0.1 is available for on-premise download right now and we will be updating TimeControl Online in the next few days.  This version has a number of improvements:

Performance for very large implementations

We’ve made some underlying architectural improvements for clients with more than 50,000 users.  TimeControl is now more performant in situations where up to 150,000 users in a single system are deployed.

Incremental Filtering

When you are now searching for a project or charge code in the timesheet, we’ve implemented incremental filtering.  Instead of clicking on the ellipsis (…) and then selecting a charge, just start typing the code and TimeControl will attempt to fill in the rest.  This can be a big time saver!

Improvements to TimeRequest

We’ve updated TimeRequest to support more columns in the TimeRequest Header which we know will be useful for many users.

OpenID for Azure

Azure support for OpenID has some quirks that are unique to that environment.  TimeControl’s OpenID support now supports Azure OpenID more fully.

New Security Options

You’ll find some new security options in the Administrator/System Preferences screen.  This goes with a complete security audit of TimeControl where we added some additional screening and protection of the system.

While this just an update.  We’re preparing for a new TimeControl Upgrade in June with numerous new features. Stay tuned to these pages for news in the coming few weeks.

To download TimeControl version 8.0.1, go to timecontrol.com/support.

TimeControl Handles Resource Assignment Progress in So Many Ways

One of the key advantages of TimeControl is its ability to update planned tasks with the actual progress.  Gantt_and_Phone_300x200We often think of managing the progress of resource assignments in the simplest of terms: I assign you to do something, you tell me when you’re done and how much time you spent.  Yet, real life presents us with so many different resource progress options.  We won’t cover the many aspects of resource assignment management here and will, instead, look at just resource assignment progress.  We’ll cover just a few of the many ways TimeControl deals with resource progress by looking at specific business challenge scenarios here.

It’s more than just hours

TimeControl has always had the ability to go beyond the hours.  In some cases, costing of resource assignment progress is critical.  TimeControl is excellent at that.  In some cases you will want to identify the work remaining (Estimate to Complete) as a percentage or hours.  In some cases you will want to distinguish the assignment progress with the task progress.  TimeControl manages that as well.  In some cases you will want to go into more detail than the task assignment and TimeControl allows for lower entries with a summarization to the task and the assignments.  In some cases, there are progress costs that are both for labor and non-labor.  TimeControl’s expense entries or, in TimeControl Industrial, materials entries can handle that.

When transferring data to a project system, the options include hours, assignment progress, task progress, and costs.

A person does the assigned work of someone else

An assignment is made in a project management system and assigned to a particular person.  It turns out that someone else now completes the assignment even though they weren’t assigned to it themselves.  How can TimeControl manage that?

This is something TimeControl has had to deal with since its infancy in 1994.  When data is transmitted back to the project management system, the project manager has a choice:

  1. Do they wish to reject actuals in this situation or;
  2. Do they wish TimeControl to create an assignment in the project management system.

The results are quite different and the best choice is dependent on your project management process and what your project managers are happiest with.

In option 1, the actuals which can find no assignment with that individual will be rejected and those rejections will appear in a log.  Then the project manager will have to go to the project management system and alter the assignments to remove the first person and insert the second person.  Then the transfer can be restarted and those previously rejected records will go through.  For some project managers this is ideal.

In option 2, there will be a new assignment created in the project management system in the associated task.  The result will be a task that has one assignment for person 1 with no progress and another assignment for person 2 with completed progress.  Project managers then have to create an exception report to highlight tasks with progress for the last week but with assignments that have no progress.  Then they will have to decide how to alter the assignments to best reflect what actually happened.

One of the things about TimeControl that is handy is that this is not a global setting.  One project manager may be more comfortable with option 1, the other with option 2.

A person does work at different rates at different times of the day

This is a common request and we are often asked why project management tools don’t offer more options with rates in their systems.  The short answer is that when you are planning, you typically don’t think of all the rate variations that are likely to appear in real life.  It’s not something that occurs because you plan for it.

Let’s say a person works on multiple projects.  On project #1, they are billed at $75 per hour. On project #2 they are billed at $60 per hour.  TimeControl handles that easily by having multiple rates.  But, you say, what if they are billed at those rates but we pay them the same internally.  Again, no problem.  Each rate code can have multiple values associated for things like Internal Cost, Billing Value, Project Average Cost, etc.

Ok, let’s say there is one project and someone is working at different rates for different situations.  For example, we cost them at one rate when the weather is good and at a hazard rate when the weather is bad.  TimeControl handles this easily.  It allows the same task to appear multiple times in the same timesheet so that you can enter values like the Rate Code or other User Defined fields for that same task.  When this information is sent back to the project system, the project manager has the option to send the costs as well or just to send the hours.   The choice depends on what the internal costing process is for the project manager and the company but TimeControl will maintain the auditable values at a detailed level no matter which option is selected.

A person works as part of a generic or role definition of resource

When looking at resource assignments in a project system, project management software vendors would love it if you only made assignments at the individual level.  This is largely due to the licensing advantage to those vendors as each individual will now have to look at the system to see their tasks and then those people will need to purchase an individual license.  That’s all understood but this method then disables one of the project management systems’ most powerful tools: resource leveling.  Resource Leveling at an individual level makes no sense.  The algorithms and concepts are most effective when we use generic or role-based resource assignments.  If we do that and leave individual assignments as a separate exercise for team leads, you can end up with a project/timesheet disconnect.

Not in TimeControl.

In TimeControl for each employee, there is an option to say what resource code that employee is associated to.  That can be an individual resource code.  That’s certainly the easiest.  But, it can just as easily be a generic or a role resource.  Then when progress from that person is recorded, it is sent to the project system not as an individual but rather as the role or generic resource, aggregated with all other employees who are defined to that role or generic resource.

A person works part of the day as one resource and another part of the day as a different resource

In this situation, we have people who have different roles in different parts of the day.  Perhaps someone is a designer in the morning and billed at one rate but will be working as a documentation specialist in the afternoon and billed at a very different rate.

TimeControl handles this with the optional “Line Item Resource”.  When activated, a user can select in their timesheet what resource code they would like associated to each line.  That leaves them as many choices as are appropriate to their situation as you wish.  When data is sent back to the project system, the resource progress will be sent back line-by-line, assignment-by-assignment with the resource codes that were chosen.

And…

Of course, we’re not done.  Sometimes it seems that there are as many resource management scenarios as there are clients and having a tool as flexible as TimeControl means we’re almost always able to adjust to accommodate a particular resource process.  Plus, for many, many, clients sometimes simplest is best and none of these more involved scenarios apply.  In this case, you can reduce or even remove resource assignment and progress management altogether.

Talk about Resource Progress are sprinkled all over the TimeControl.com site or, if you have a specific challenge you’d like to talk to us about, contact us on the Contact form.

 

 

 

The free TimeControl Mobile App makes your timesheet feel natural even when you are working remotely

The free TimeControl Mobile App is designed to bring the power of your TimeControl timesheet and project progress updater right to the palm of your hand no matter where you are.  Designed to work with TimeControl on premise, TimeControl Online and TimeControl Industrial, the Mobile App works on both Android and Apple devices.

The free TimeControl Mobile App takes advantage of whatever screen resolution it finds to make the system as effective as possible for any device.  For timesheet functionality, the Mobile App takes your existing TimeControl configuration, profile security, data selections, language and customization so what appears on your mobile screen matches what you are used to whenever you use TimeControl!

All you have to do is log in as you normally would to your TimeControl system and you can create a new timesheet, edit an existing timesheet, approve or reject timesheets and even edit posted timesheets right in the App.  Have expenses to post in your timesheet?  The TimeControl Mobile App is ready for that too.  You can add expenses to each line and even take a picture from your mobile device of receipts and attach those to your expense report.  That’s even easier than it is on your desktop! All the permissions you have in your TimeControl system are taken into account in the TimeControl Mobile App.  The TimeControl Mobile App also supports your single sign on corporate authentication.

TCi_Mobile_CrewTimesheet3_300x237When linked with TimeControl Industrial, the Industrial functionality of Crew Timesheets is also available.  You can edit who is on a crew and create a new Crew Timesheet, edit an existing timesheet or submit the Crew Timesheet for approval.  If you are using a tablet, the TimeControl Mobile App will take advantage of the extra screen real-estate and present easier to tap-and-go entries for the Crew data.

TC_Mobile_Views_PolarArea_300x237Make decisions while away right from what you see on your phone.  With the free TimeControl Mobile App, data visioning is included.  The app includes many ways for you to display selections of data and then save that view for later use.  The ability of the mobile app to present data makes on the fly decision making easier than ever.  There are numerous formats including pie charts, bar charts, histograms and more so you can envisage your data in whatever format you need for instant decision making.

The TimeControl Mobile App has asynchronous support.  If you are working with the TimeControl Mobile App and you lose your Internet connection, there’s no need to fret.  The App will keep track of any changes you make and once your Internet is restored, it will automatically synchronize to make sure the App and the centralized system are both up to date.

What do you mean it’s free?
We mean there is no additional cost. None. When you download the app from Google Play or the Apple App store, you don’t pay a thing. All you need to do is connect to your existing TimeControl system.  The TimeControl Mobile App supports TimeControl on premise version 7.2 and higher, TimeControl Industrial on premise version 7.2 and higher, TimeControl Online or TimeControl Industrial Online.

You can find out more about the TimeControl Mobile App at: Mobile.TimeControl.com.

You can download the TimeControl Mobile App from Google Play or the Apple App store.

Contact HMS for more information on how the TimeControl Mobile App can help your remote workers get connected.

Tracking costs for special purpose accounting

costtracking_300x240We’ve been asked lately about how to configure TimeControl to track costs for specific short term purposes for situations that were unexpected.  A couple of recent use-cases include a manufacturer who has been asked by the government to do research and retooling to make medical grade equipment that they have had little experience in.  The government has promised to reimburse certain elements of this work.  Another case involves an organization that will do research then delivery of services that the government will reimburse.

As one of the most flexible timesheet systems in the industry, TimeControl is designed for such challenges.

First you need to determine what conditions you need to track for.  In situations where there might be government or tax incentives such as we are seeing with Covid-19, then you must determine if the incentives are simply objective based so that you can track them at the project level or type of work related so that you must track them at the task level.  Also, is there a requirement that the people doing the work be located in a particular jurisdiction?  For R&D type of work, it’s often the case that the workers must be located in a particular area in order to qualify for tax incentives.

Let’s take the most likely scenario given the challenges of today.  We’ll figure that all our staff are located locally or at least in the country and that the type of work is important, so we need to identify the hours that will go against certain types of tasks.  So, for example, if the project includes some effort by HR to transfer people from one department to another, that might not be eligible for government reimbursement but if the work is about re-engineering one of our production lines for the expected new product, that is eligible.

In this case the best configuration method would be to either use one of your existing user-defined fields or just add a new one.TC_AddNewFielda

If you have configuration rights as an Administrator, just click “Add a New Field” at the bottom of the Charge Table and TimeControl will ask you what type of field to add.  In this case a text field seems appropriate and you can create a description such as “Special Cost Type”.

TC_AddNewField2croppedNow the field appears in the list of User Defined fields.  We can make a drop down list by clicking the gear icon on the right and asking to add a Link list.  Then we click it again and ask to Edit the Links.

TC_AddNewField3cropped

Let’s add two possible entries for now.  One for Covid19 eligible for reimbursement and another for Covid19 non-eligible.

TC_AddNewField4aThat’s all there is to it.  There’s no special instruction for end-users. They just keep doing their timesheets on tasks they’ve been assigned.  The ability to group those hours is all in the background for administrators and Finance personnel.  That means there’s nothing special to do in order for this work also with TimeControl Mobile.

Now all charges against tasks in this project or any other that has this field set will be able to immediately be pulled out in reports and exports and making a costing of how much this project has cost should be relatively simple.  TimeControl will report any hours in timesheets against tasks with this flag set along with the appropriate rate values in reports that you create or in the Drill Down Analyzer.  If you aren’t using rates at all, you’ll still be able to get the total number of hours and then use an average cost rate to make the reports you need.

You can use this field in the future if there are any other use-case scenarios or, if you choose, you can always hide the field if you have no further purpose for it.

For more help on configuring your TimeControl, contact HMS Technical Services at support@hms.ca or speak to your account manager at info@hms.ca.

 

Thinking of migrating from TimeControl on-premise to TimeControl Online in the Cloud?

Since its first release in 2011, our TimeControl subscription service in the Cloud, TimeControl Online has been accompanied by a process for existing TimeControl on-premise clients to migrate to the online service.LIA_1_300x192

TimeControl is available both as a purchasable license for installation on your premises or as a subscription service.  The product is identical in both scenarios and, in fact, comes from the same code-base so any fixes or enhancements done by the HMS Software development team become available to both products right away.

The TimeControl Crossover Program provides a credit to an existing TimeControl on-premise client when they want to migrate to the in-the-cloud version.  The credit is based on the number of licenses, the original purchase price of TimeControl and the date when you last renewed your TimeControl Support contract.  In many cases, the credit is substantial and is applied to your first year’s subscription costs of TimeControl Online.

Once you are using TimeControl Online, HMS takes responsibility for maintaining the environment.  We manage the servers, the databases, backups, the web server, automatic upgrades to the latest TimeControl version, malware management and 24×7 monitoring of the environment.   All you have to do is login and continue using TimeControl.  All your familiar data is ready and you will be able to continue to enjoy your integrations with Project Management tools and your Finance systems.

The process for migrating to TimeControl Online is well established by our technical staff.  First, you need to be upgraded to the latest version of TimeControl.  This can be done on your own or you can have HMS assist you with the upgrade.  Once the data is on the same version as TimeControl Online, HMS takes a backup of your data and translates it into the data format used by TimeControl Online.  Then that data is uploaded by HMS to your TimeControl Online environment and all you have to do is log in.

All your data, reports, filters, validation rules, dashboards, login information is all transferred and is immediately available to you online.  TimeControl Online is already set up to use the free TimeControl Mobile App so if you’ve been waiting to set that up, you are ready to go there too!

One option is to have HMS do the upgrade and data transfer simultaneously as that can be done quite quickly.

If you have made more extensive integrations directly to your TimeControl on premise database or you have made other customizations for things like authentication, then you can speak to the TimeControl technical staff to see how this functionality can be replicated in the TimeControl Online environment.

If you are interested in taking advantage of the TimeControl Crossover Program or in finding out the advantages of using TimeControl Online, please contact us at: https://www.timecontrol.com/contact or by email at info@hms.ca.

For more information on TimeControl Online, visit TimeControl.com/features/timecontrol-online.

Have your TimeControl rules changed?

For many organizations in the past weeks, employees have changed their working conditions.  changesahead_300x223For TimeControl, this may warrant relooking at your timesheet and project progress capture processes.  This is a common occurrence when an organization merges with another or brings on a new department.

For most TimeControl clients, when they implement TimeControl, a process guide is created that covers all the different practices and procedures for events such as onboarding new staff or adding new projects or doing timesheet and project approvals.

In the last few weeks many clients have been shifting staff from working at the office to working at home or working at different hours in order to facilitate social distancing.  This might affect your regular TimeControl processes in a number of ways.

Perhaps your regular office hours are now flexible for anyone working from home.  Perhaps you have new sick leave procedures for your remote workers.  If someone has been tested positive for Covid-19 do you have new timesheet charge types for that person?

There are a number of TimeControl functions that processes that might need checking:

Filters

Filters are used throughout TimeControl to enable features such as restricting what projects are visible to what employees or how a validation rule should work.  If your business has been changed with some people now working from home or taking on new responsibilities, then these filters might need a review.  In particular:

Validation Rule Filters

Validation Rules can changed when working conditions change.  Perhaps you now have more staff working flexible hours or perhaps your current policies on personal time off have altered.  A review of the filters that are the building blocks of Validation Rules can help you adapt.

Employee Table Filters for Projects, Charges, Rates

In the TimeControl Employee Table, there are places to implement filters for each employee.  These filters determine what projects, charge codes and rate codes can be viewed by that employee.  If your situation has changed the way that projects and tasks are being completed, then looking at these filters to see if changes are needed makes sense.

You can find out all about Filters in the TimeControl Reference Guide.

Validation Rules

Have your Validation Rules changed?  You can deactivate a Validation Rule or change it to be a warning only instead of an error if your business conditions are in flux.  This can be done for each rule.

Projects and Charge Codes

Are you still creating projects and charge codes in the same way you done traditionally?  Also, are you creating certain project and charge code entries to identify the specific costs of the change due to Covid-19?  Being able to identify these costs specifically might become important in the near future because of insurance claims or government recompense for such expenses.

Assignments

With people not co-located, you may be rethinking how tasks are assigned. TimeControl’s Assignment function lets you assign or re-assign tasks and create budgets for them.  Perhaps your tasks and assignments should be rethought also in terms of your target completion.  It may take more (or less) time to get certain types of tasks completed.

Dashboards

While most organizations use email effectively to send out news, the Dashboard area of TimeControl is an ideal place to put persistent notices and relevant news in the Announcements area.  Announcements can have as-of and expiry dates and can be fine-tuned to be visible only to certain roles so not all announcements need to be seen by all employees.

TimeControl Mobile App access

Finally, the free TimeControl Mobile App may be more attractive than ever.  If you are using TimeControl Online then you already have everything you need to activate the Mobile App.  The App is enabled in the Administration Area for TimeControl overall then per Profile in the User Profiles area.  Users can download the App for free from Google Play for Android devices and the Apple Store for iOS devices.  If you are using TimeControl OnPremise, then you may have to configure TimeControl to be enabled for the Mobile App.  Contact HMS Support if you have questions about how to do that.

And more…

Aside from actual changes to configuration, what about your approval process and allowances for people who are not in their normal roles.  You may want to investigate delegation through the Alternate User functionality as well as how you are doing your approvals for both the timesheet as a whole and line-item approvals for projects.

What about new processes from HR for onboarding or offboarding?  Are there employees who might be temporarily not doing timesheets?  Are there any new rules from Payroll?

Typically such changes are quick to do in TimeControl but it is important to keep track of what you change because you are likely going to have to change it back sometime soon.

If you need assistance with changing your TimeControl, TimeControl Industrial or TimeControl Online configuration, talk to the HMS Technical staff at info@hms.ca.

 

 

SEFA is helping us start your week with some good news

sefa_300x65Here at HMS, whenever we receive a testimonial letter from a client, we get very excited.  This most recent letter from thee people at SEFA is no exception.  Bret Harris, SEFA’s Chief Financial Officer has written to us explaining how the TimeControl Industrial version has replaced a manual timesheet system for project tracking.

SEFA has deployed the Crew Timesheet option of TimeControl Industrial as well as the TimeControl Mobile App for some of their users’ phones and tablets.

The implementation of TimeControl at SEFA has streamlined numerous processes and they have also integrated TimeControl’s data into Microsoft’s Project Server as well as other corporate systems.

We deeply appreciate our partnership with SEFA and Bret’s kind letter.  You can read it in its entirety at: Timecontrol.com/why-timecontrol/testimonials/sefa.

 

 

HMS / TimeControl Covid-19 update

As we told you last week, HMS capabilities of working remotely have been well established for years.  In fact, our staff already work from 3 separate locations.   To better ensure we can continue serving you without interruption, starting Monday, March 23rd, HMS will be instituting a work from home directive.  HMS staff will largely be out of the office and only necessary in-person visits to the office will occur for a minimum of personnel.

As a TimeControl or TimeControl Online client, you probably won’t even notice.  For those seeking technical support, using the support@hms.ca email or going to the TimeControl.com website support contact page at: https://www.timecontrol.com/contact/tech-support is the best way to get your request into the proper queue and responded to quickly.  If you are used to calling into the office directly on the phone, you may find that this is somewhat slower than you’re used to.  Using Email or the Website will be as effective as it always is.

For those seeking information from our sales, administration or operations department, using email or the TimeControl contact form at https://www.timecontrol.com/contact or sending email to info@hms.ca is the most effective way for us to determine who you need to talk to and make sure they are getting back to you promptly.

We anticipate no interruption of service for TimeControl Online or service for our TimeControl on-premise clients.  HMS remains committed to making sure we are serving you with the same high-quality standards that we have been known for for over 35 years.

HMS Contingency Plans for the Coronavirus

For clients who are concerned about HMS Software’s plans in case of a Coronavirus outbreak in the Montreal area or any interruption in our services, we’d like to let you know our contingency plans for any such eventuality.

First of all, HMS is already set up for critical workers to be able to work from home in case any of our staff would require at-home quarantine.  We set up secure access for our key staff to be able to do this some time ago and keep the capabilities current.  Our servers for TimeControlOnline are located with Amazon in different data centers and this combination of factors ensures that we are able to maintain all TimeControl Online services uninterrupted regardless of where our staff need to be located.

Our technical support is similarly equipped to handle requests, and then deliver fixes and updates to our clients as required.

New sales can be taken care by our account managers working remotely as well.

Payments we expect and payments we need to make from an administration standpoint are largely done electronically now so any requirement to physically go to the office to retrieve a payments or sign and mail payments is reasonably rare.  We have made arrangements so that this too can occur off-site.

Our current prevention plans have curtailed any international travel for our staff and any staff who already work remotely are going to delay coming or going to the office for the moment to increase our ability for readiness if there should be any reason for concern.

As a result of this planning and preparation started years ago, HMS is confident in being able to maintain operations without any interruption of services to our clients.  Should there be a change of status at HMS, we will announce that on the TimeControl Blog,. the TimeControl website and our Twitter account.

If you have specific questions about our contingency readiness, please let us know on the TimeControl website at: TimeControl.com/contact.