All posts by chris.vandersluis

Why is TimeControl so popular with the Payroll Department?

TimeControl Payday, Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Vandersluis, Christopher Peter VandersluisWe often talk about TimeControl in association with project management tools but, because it is a multi-function timesheet system, TimeControl is often managed by the Payroll department.  What is it about TimeControl that makes it so popular with Payroll Departments?

First of all, let’s acknowledge that virtually every Payroll system has some kind of timesheet attached to it. We have nothing bad to say about any of them.  But Payroll timesheets are single purpose.  They’re designed to give that particular Payroll system what it needs to process employee pay.  The attractiveness of TimeControl is that it can be used not only for Payroll but also for updating Project Management, Human Resources, Billing, Job Costing and other internal systems and processes.  The benefit for Payroll is, that if the timesheet can do what they need, then everyone in the organization can be using one timesheet instead of several and that will create huge efficiencies in reducing reconciliation between disparate systems.  TimeControl was designed from its inception to meet the needs of Payroll.

So, what are some aspects of TimeControl that make Payroll happy?

It’s Auditable

If a project finance report is off by a hundred dollars or more, no one gets too excited.  But, if a paycheck is off by a single penny, there is all kinds of upset.  So, all entries, changes and approvals of time in the TimeControl timesheet is tracked and is completely auditable.  Even post posting changes are traced on a line-by-line basis.  This is an essential element of a Payroll system.  If the numbers are questioned, they can be recovered from the original entry and any changes will be immediately visible.

Approvals

If your timesheet is going to Payroll, then it almost certainly has to go through some level of approval.  It might be very simple or have multiple levels but knowing that the data that arrives into the Payroll system has passed the approvals required is a must.

Automated Validation Rules

When we explain this to prospective clients, the eyes of the Payroll staff light up.  TimeControl can have as many automated Validation Rules as desired.  A rule might be simple like “for salaried staff, no timesheet should be more than 24 hours a day” or “no salaried person can book more than 40 hours of regular (meaning paid-for) time in a week. Or a rule could be complex like “your timesheet cannot have more than 8 hours of sick leave on a weekday and no sick leave at all on a weekend”.  You get the idea.  Some clients have a handful of validation rules.  Some clients have dozens or more.  It’s all about catching potential and obvious errors at the point of entry rather than in a long cycle where someone has to start communicating from Payroll back to an employee about timesheet problems affecting their pay.

Validation Rules can be errors which must be corrected before the timesheet is released or they might just be a warning like “Be advised you have now used all of your paid-for sick leave.”  It’s up to the client to determine what rules are important to create in TimeControl.

Accommodating both Wage and Salary staff at the same time

Rules for Payroll for salaried employees and wage employees are often quite different.  Salary employees, for example, rarely are paid overtime.  Wage employees are often paid for overtime.  Some organizations want to pay overtime at different rates.  “Time-and-a-half” or “Double-time” are common requests.  Some organizations want to give employees an option to book their overtime into a bank to be used to take time off later.  All of these options and more are a part of TimeControl.  This means that both Wage and Salary staff are easily managed within the same system even if the calculations and rules are different.  Vacation time for example might be calculated at the end of each month as a number of days of vacation earned for the last 30 days for salaried staff.  Wage staff might have vacation accrued automatically by TimeControl also but calculated based on the number of hours worked that week.  Two different calculations, both handled in the same system.

Rates for Payroll, Billing and Project Management at the same time

Payroll’s perspective on rates is what will result in an employee’s paycheck.  But the Billing department looks at Rates differently.  First of all, the values of what we bill at vs. what we pay are almost always different and secondly, there will be hours counted for Payroll that might not be counted for Billing.  Project Management usually uses an aggregate or average rate to keep their reporting simpler.  TimeControl handles all of this and much, much more by allowing distinct values for each rate code.  So, for a particular employee, TimeControl might record their pay rate as $40, their billing rate at $60 and their project rate at $50.  Plus, security in TimeControl goes all the way to the field level.  Employees are almost never shown the values associated to their timesheet and individual pay rates are almost always restricted to only the limited number of Payroll staff who are allowed to see them.

Batch Transfer

Once the timesheets are complete in TimeControl, the data usually needs to go somewhere else; sometimes to several somewhere else’s.  TimeControl’s export mechanisms can track the batch of exported records so that a timesheet line is never accidentally sent twice.  Even after adjustments and corrections, only the new changed records are sent.  Batch Transfers are kept in TimeControl so a batch could be recreated if necessary.  The ability to know what was sent to the Payroll system and when and know that those records won’t ever be sent twice to inadvertently doubling someone’s pay is a favorite with Payroll.

What about Contractors?

As we’ve described in recent blog posts, TimeControl can accommodate both employees and contractors within the same time.  These records can be flagged distinctly so the contractor hours don’t go to Payroll, but rather to Accounts Payable and the hours of both employees and contractors can go to Billing.  Sound confusing?  It’s nothing compared to keeping separate systems and then trying to reconcile them later.  TimeControl was built for this.

What about timesheets that are only by exception?

Some employees do the same thing every day and are not tracked by Project Management, or Billing.  Imagine a receptionist for example.  They don’t even really need to do a timesheet except when there’s an exception such as a vacation day or a sick leave day.  TimeControl handles this with a function called Autofill.  If there are no exceptions, TimeControl will created an fill in an automatic timesheet for that employee with the appropriate number of hours per day.  If someone took a half-day of personal time off, then they can enter that and Autofill will just “top-up” the hours to the expected total for the day.  It can save enormous amounts of time making sure we have complete records for all the staff but not make people do work that creates no value to the company.

Is that it?

Goodness no.  There’s lots more in the TimeControl functionality that Payroll will find of interest.  Here are a couple of areas of the TimeControl website that will have more information that includes webcasts, white papers, slide shows and more:

You must balance the desire for flexibility with the associated responsibility

balance flexibility and responsibility, Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Vandersluis, Christopher Peter VandersluisCorporate Memory is an almost forgotten concept but we encounter clients who see it as a challenge on a regular basis.

We often say to our TimeControl clients that the tremendous flexibility that is provided with TimeControl comes with an equal share of responsibility.  There are so many ways that TimeControl can be configured and then, once configured, can be altered, updated, re-thought and re-imagined by the client that makes it so popular.  It’s rare when a client asks for something within TimeControl where we have to say “no”.  That flexibility was part of our original intent with the product from the very first version back in 1994 and remains core to our philosophy of how an enterprise timesheet and project management product should be constructed.

But, with great flexibility comes great responsibility.  When we work with a client in the earliest days of their deployment we make a point of saying that the client themselves are responsible for the documentation of their own process that involves TimeControl and the changes or configuration that was requested.  When we are asked to assist with the implementation, we have always created a technical deployment document where we describe the client requests for certain configuration choices and then put in the filters and field definitions that could, in theory have been done by the client themselves.

Fast forward a few years and it is extremely common for a client to report that their TimeControl Administrator is no longer in that role or no longer with the organization and a new person is having difficulty understanding why a filter behaves the way it does or why an export for payroll exports certain fields but not others. “Can you locate your internal process and TimeControl configuration documentation?” is usually our first response.  You may not be surprised to find out that this is often not to be found.

“Would you like a copy of the technical documentation we created when we deployed?” we’ll ask.  Oh yes, that’s very desirable and it certainly can be of help but like many internal systems, if there is no process guidance then a new administrator or new technical administrator could find themselves at a tremendous disadvantage.

This is true whether the client is using TimeControl on-premise or has a TimeControl subscription to TimeControl Online or TimeControl Industrial Online in the cloud.

It’s a truism to say that “things change”.  In an enterprise system like TimeControl that’s especially true.  TimeControl almost never lives in a vacuum.  It feeds billing or payroll or project management or all three.  It is fed by HR and by contracts and more.  If anything in any of those systems change (such as a new version or a new understanding of how those systems should work then the integrated solution that was once designed may start to hit some bumps.

At HMS we have learned over the years to take as many notes along the way as we support a client to be able to understand requests later but on a regular basis, we find that our notes have become the client’s corporate memory.  To be fair, some clients, including some of our largest have been exemplary at how they keep corporate records of how TimeControl was deployed and why.  Making changes for those clients is always easiest and least stressful.

For all of us, balancing the amount of flexibility you want to take advantage of and the responsibility of documenting and managing what you did with that flexibility is a challenge that is important to manage.

Find out more about TimeControl flexibility at: TimeControl.com/features/flexibility.

Is it getting harder to support an on-premise enterprise system?

TimeControl Online, Timesheeet Software as a Service Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Vandersluis, Christopher Peter VandersluisOnly a few years ago we wouldn’t have even had this conversation.  Even with Software as a Service becoming more popular over 10 years ago, the conventional wisdom at the time was that significant enterprise systems would always be housed in-house.

That conventional wisdom has changed.

Big IT vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon have pushed hard for organizations to shift to an online subscription model.  At one time the thinking was that this would be most attractive to small and medium sized businesses but that thinking has evolved too.

Here at HMS, we have had TimeControl on-premise available since 1994.  TimeControl Online, our Software as a subscription Service option came out in 2011.  We continue to support both on-premise and online clients and are committed to do so for the foreseeable future.  There are some clients who have very specific and very important reasons to keep their TimeControl systems in-house on their own data platform.  Often these are government or defense sector clients.

But let’s not think about the exceptions for a moment.  Let’s think about everyone else.

Imagine an organization that has heard the evangelism from Oracle and Microsoft and has decided to move some of its data systems to a subscription model.  Both Oracle and Microsoft are making it more and more awkward to choose and install an on-premise system so the incentive to shift might be high.

The savings to the organization is that they no longer need to have quite as much expertise in the IT department.  After all, at the subscription service center, security, monitoring, upgrades, system performance, database servers, operating system updates, network configuration, security patches and, of course, monitoring, updating the hardware servers themselves is handled as part of the subscription.

Now, with one or more systems successfully migrated, the need to handle these requirements internally evaporates as does the need to have that same level of IT expertise available in house.  Many of the IT personnel can be repurposed and there are the remaining in house systems to support but the numbers start to dwindle.

Who leaves first?

In many cases, there is natural attrition and the company is happy with that.  It’s better overall for morale if people are leaving of their own free will.  Older employees who are at retirement age or who can be given an incentive package to retire early take the plunge.  They are probably still young enough to continue in the IT industry if they wish working in other capacities.  But, those people who are leaving through retirement won’t be replaced or wont’ be replaced in the same numbers.

In some cases, some employees see the future coming and decide to seek other opportunities elsewhere.  In most cases, this will be the most experienced and capable employees.

For these two categories, the impact on the organization cannot be measured by just the number of employees.  A great deal of corporate memory, experience and skill go with these seasoned veterans.

We have had contacts at some of our clients announce to us they were retiring, then announce that they couldn’t leave quite yet.  Then announce they were retiring again.  Then announce that yes, they’d actually retired by had been retained by their old employer as a contractor so we’d be continuing to interact with them.  It’s not a unique story.

For the organization, the ability to continue to support the enterprise systems that remain becomes harder and harder and so it’s perhaps no surprise that in the last 2 years, we have had more on-premise TimeControl clients shift to the TimeControl Online subscription service than ever before.  We’ve made that easier in many respects by having an Evolve Program to help defray the costs of going online but the incentive is clearly coming from within.  And, this shift isn’t restricted to our small and medium clients.  It includes some of our largest clients as well.

We expect this migration to continue.

Our own commitment isn’t likely to change however until there are literally no clients left who wish to purchase or support TimeControl on-premise.  Until then we plan to support our clients both on premise and in the Cloud.

For more information on TimeControl Online, go to: Timecontrol.com/features/timecontrol-online.

To see more about choosing Online vs. On-premises, go to: TimeControl.com/how-to-buy.

To find out more about the Evolve program go to: The TimeControl Evolve Program. or contact one of our TimeControl experts at: Timecontrol.com/contact.

Supporting contractors in your corporate systems

Contractors, TimeControl, TimeControl Industrial, Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Vandersluis, Christopher Peter VandersluisWe often speak with organizations who are struggling with how to integrate their contractors into their corporate systems.  Payroll is rarely a problem.  The contractor is almost always paid by their own employer and that employer will submit an invoice for their person’s time.  It is in the project management and timesheet tracking areas where contractors become a more logistical nightmare.  This is exacerbated by environments where the individuals can change from week to week or even day to day.  When contractors are on longer-term engagements or working remotely, we hear about this more in relation to our standard TimeControl system.  When the contractors are taken from a pool each morning or each week, this comes up more in our TimeControl Industrial product in the Crew Management module.

TimeControl’s flexibility was designed to accommodate employees from multiple sources within the same organization.  Let’s look at that from a couple of different perspectives.

Authentication and Single Sign-on

Some clients report that to use any of their corporate systems, they need to on-board any workers whether they are full-time employees, part-time employees or contractors.  They use this workflow to record people for payroll, vacation and system access.  This can be a multi-step process that can result in additional hundreds or even thousands of employees receiving a corporate ID and can affect things like the number of licenses that must now be paid for in systems like Payroll or HR or Office systems that a contractor won’t ever use.  The challenge is so daunting and potentially expensive that organizations will isolate the contractors outside those systems where functions like timesheets will now be done completely separately.

TimeControl overcomes this by having authentication systems that are defined at the user level rather than globally.  On-premise staff can be authenticated in the corporate Single Sign-on  Active Directory such as Microsoft Entra or other LDAP mechanism. Contractors, on the other hand can use TimeControl’s own username/password login or alternate login mechanisms.  That frees up the corporation from having to bring every contractor on board the corporate infrastructure as though they are full-time employees.  Better yet, this can serve to avoid multiple timesheet systems (one for the contractor and one for the corporation) that don’t interact with each other.

It’s all together but that doesn’t leave the contractor company disenfranchised

With all the data for the timesheet now in one place, some contractor companies can be concerned they will lose access to their own employee’s timesheet information.  With TimeControl nothing could be further from the truth.  TimeControl’s can send data automatically to the contractor either by giving them limited and filtered access to TimeControl itself or by sending regular reports automatically on a schedule via email.  Data can even be sent via Excel so the contractors can automatically import that data into their own internal systems for their own payroll, billing and HR needs.  It’s a win-win.

Authentication and multiple approval layers

TimeControl’s approval mechanism is extensive and known as the most flexible in the industry.  Clients who use contractors are able to create an approval flow that will includes both the contractor’s representative and the corporation administration at the same time.  TimeControl is designed for this kind of challenge and it’s unique.  A timesheet could be approved on a remote site by both the contractor manager and the organization manager meaning that invoices from the contractor, once they arrive, will already have approvals from both sides.  Imagine how that will revolutionize the invoicing approval process at the end of the month with hours being pre-approved by both the client and the contractor.  We clients where invoice reconciliation times have dropped from weeks to hours.  We’re not kidding about that.
From weeks to hours.

It’s all about the flexibility

When you are merging the work of multiple contractors into the same system, clients often explain to us that the blending of corporate processes was a large barrier that TimeControl was able to overcome.  TimeControl’s timesheets can appear one way for one group of workers and very differently for other groups of workers.  When we weave in the additional functionality of TimeControl Industrial’s Crew Timesheet Entry and Enhanced Rates, the options become extensive.  Once entered, the data can be split, shared or divided up as need be in exports, reports and more.

We’ve mentioned a few things here you may want to look at some more.  HMS maintains a Manage Contractors solution portal with more information on using TimeControl with both Employees and Contractors at the same time.  If you’re interested in Crew Timesheets in particular or TimeControl Industrial in General, check out industrial.timecontrol.com or just contact us at timecontrol.com/contact to talk to one of our TimeControl specialists.

Where does TimeControl stand in the use of AI?

TimeControl.ai, TimeControl, Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Vandersluis, Christopher Peter Vandersluis HMS started using AI techniques in TimeControl back in 1999.  Surprised?  Artificial Intelligence has been around awhile and you probably wouldn’t have noticed how we leveraged it back in 99.  At that time we created a communications protocol called “HMI” for TimeControl to transmit enormous volumes of TimeControl data through the Internet.  It had the capability of re-routing traffic based on what paths would be fastest.  With the invention of .Net and other Internet-based technologies we evolved from it.

While we are investigating how generative AI could help TimeControl administrators get the best use of TimeControl now, the questions we more commonly receive on the subject are almost all in one area:

“Can you make TimeControl use AI to automatically fill in my timesheet?”

The short answer is yes but don’t get too excited quite yet.  We have the technical capability to have AI determine what the most likely entry for any particular user’s timesheet.  The algorithm would look at the user’s scheduled work, for example, and perhaps past examples of timesheets submitted by that user and then figure out what the most likely entries would be.

The problem is, should we?

An auditor would say, ”Who entered this data?”  “TimeControl did it on its own,” we’d have to answer.  That would a problem for any audit.

“Ah,” you might answer, “but TimeControl could create the draft timesheet and the end user could just approve it.  Think of the time saved?”

That too is technically possible but imagine this scenario: A user is scheduled to work 30 hours this week on “Task A”. They’re scheduled to work 10 hours on “Task B”.  The end of the week comes and the clever AI generator says “Based on the scheduled work, the timesheet should probably look like the schedule”.  The pressure on the employee to just click Ok would be tremendous.  Perhaps they’d even justify it in their head by saying “I’ll make it up next week by doing the reverse.”

You can see the problem.  Algorithmic calculations of what should have happened don’t mix well with the simple recording of “what actually happened”.  So over the years, despite numerous requests, we’ve resisted putting our AI knowledge and our ability to automatically fill in workloads into the timesheet very deliberately.  This is perhaps why TimeControl is supported by both project administrators and Finance administrators at the same time.

We aren’t however, unsympathetic to the desires to reduce the workload in filling in a timesheet and, as a result, there are many features and functions within TimeControl that can reduce the time required to get one’s timesheet complete.  They include:

Preloading where TimeControl will automatically preload your timesheet with the project name and charge code to which the employee was assigned, and which fits into a particular filter of time.

Filtering which can filter out projects and charges the employee isn’t even working on.

Personal Preloads in which the employee defines projects and charges they always want to appear on their timesheet (think “Internal Meetings”) that they don’t want to go looking for.

Validation Rules and testing those rules on the timesheet.  This allows any errors to be caught before they’re even submitted for approval.

Notifications where TimeControl will remind you by email if your timesheet is late or about to be.

Copy where you can just copy a previous week’s timesheet in its entirety if you know you did the same thing this week as you did last week.

TimeControl can also just get you to the timesheet faster by configuring your personal preferences to have the timesheet entry screen automatically appear.

Keeping the structured financial and auditing rules of Finance, the fast-moving progress of project management and the speed at which end users want to move on with tasks they are not focused on is a balance we’ve had to manage since TimeControl was invented some 30 years ago.

Take a look at the Best Practices area of the TimeControl website for more ideas on how to improve efficiency with TimeControl either as an organization or as an individual.

TimeControl was featured in an ECommerce-Fastlane report this week

We were delighted to see TimeControl featured on the ECommerce-Fastlane “Best Valuable Solutions For the Modern Business Environment” article this week.

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.

Additionally, HR management software such as those from SenseHR becomes a helpful tool as organisations navigate the complex landscape of HR responsibilities. This software fills in the gaps left by traditional time-and-attendance systems, particularly in scenarios where employee engagement and well-being are as crucial as monitoring time. Such tools may facilitate a detailed approach to managing employee relationships, covering aspects from onboarding to career development, and even conducting exit interviews. This type of software is more than just a record-keeping system, it improves the employee experience and ensures that HR’s long-term strategies align with the company’s goals.

TimeControl’s links to not only project management tools and HR tools but also systems like Payroll, Billing and Job Costing is one of its most popular aspects.  Find out more about TimeControl links including HR at: www.timecontrol.com/use-cases.

Our President, Chris Vandersluis is on the TrepTalks podcast!

Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Peter Vandersluis, TimeControl, HMS Software, HMS, TrepTalksIt’s always a thrill to hear about HMS, TimeControl and all the work and accomplishments we’ve made.  This week I’m excited to share a podcast I participated in on TrepTalks.  It’s a little longer than I usually get for a podcast but in just under an hour that gave us lots of opportunity to talk about the industry, the history of HMS and TimeControl and how TimeControl has become so successful both as a commercial timesheet system but also as a source of critical data that organizations of all sizes use for key business decisions about their projects and forward looking project investments.

I hope you like it.

The podcast can be found at: treptalks.com/interviews/chris-vandersluis-of-hms-software.

TimeControl Project Board Views are more than just Agile

Christopher Peter Vandersluis, Chris Vandersluis, TimeControl, TimeControl Project, AgileSure, I know we talk about Agile all the time here but it’s worth noting that the flexibility of TimeControl can carry you a long, long way past Agile project task assignment.  Here’s an example we used ourselves just recently at HMS.  Instead of having tasks listed as backlogged, in progress, in testing and complete, we organized the columns by hiring status.  Incoming applicants were easily added into the first column (don’t worry, these names are made up, they aren’t actual applicants).  We could attach a Resume, key indicators of skills and even a picture of the applicant if that was included.  Then  we screened those applicants and dragged the cards to different columns.  We were able to use assignment options in case someone  in particular on the staff had to review an applicant for a particular skill and the color coding was used to identify the priority or urgency of considering the applicant.  User defined fields (there’s an unlimited number of these) allowed us to key in particularly important skills.

Worked like a charm.

And, it made us think of all the other ways TimeControl Project may be being used out there for different uses.   Because TimeControl Project can be coded against a live project (like one you’d see in your timesheet) or against tasks that are a sort of internal code, we didn’t have to interfere with our normal project management tracking while we did this exercise.

Flexibility has its benefits.  For more about TimeControl Project go to project.timecontrol.com.

TimeControl BI promises to be one of the biggest features of 2024!

Chris Vandersluis, Christopher Peter Vandersluis, TimeControl BI ScreenWith TimeControl 8.5 now fully upgraded both for on-premise and online use, focus can now turn to what we think will be the biggest TimeControl feature of 2024: TimeControl BI!  This new visualization engine of TimeControl data is a stunning addition to the already rich reporting options in TimeControl.

TimeControl BI looks beyond the operational dashboard which typically looks at data of a few hours to a few weeks ago and presents data and trends of data over a long period.  TimeControl BI lets administrators and management look at where time has been spent in larger categories over time.  It can look at streamlining factors like how quickly are timesheets turned in or efficiency factors like how much do we spend on contractors vs internal employees for similar work.

The flexibility of the module, like all things TimeControl is extensive.  The module includes over 400 pages of documentation on how to create new dashboards.  TimeControl is an included module in both TimeControl on-premise and TimeControl Online with no extra charges or fees associated with the new functionality.

There is a new TimeControl BI page on the main TimeControl website for more information and with additional examples at: TimeControl.com/features/timecontrolbi.