All posts by chris.vandersluis

TimeControl 5 is Alive!

It’s a paraphrase from the hilarious 1986 movie Short Circuit but we’re talking of course about TimeControl, not a newly self-conscious robot. While all the news from HMS has been about TimeControl 6, we wanted to put in a good word for the ongoing support and availability of TimeControl 5. There will be many organizations who are keen to deploy the venerable TimeControl 5 and put off an upgrade to TimeControl 6 for the time being. TimeControl 6 is an exciting new interface based on an exciting new architecture but that alone is enough for some IT departments to ask to put off installing it. Many IT departments have a standard that insists that new versions be available for at least several months before they’re installed. Others will prefer the rapid keystroke response of an ActiveX compared to the HTML version of TimeControl. For organizations who need TimeControl Industrial, they’re still looking at a TimeControl Industrial 5 environment.

Of course existing clients who have TimeControl 5 deployed may need additional licenses and HMS will not force them to move to TimeControl 6 in order to have them.

TimeControl 5 will be supported for the foreseeable future. In fact, we have some clients who are still being supported on TimeControl 4 and this year we have a couple who have just upgraded from the old TimeControl 3, purchased originally in the 1990s.

So, if you’re looking to move forward with a purchase of TimeControl, you have the choice now of requesting us to ship TimeControl 5 or TimeControl 6. If you ask for TimeControl 5, you’ll automatically be entitled to your upgrade of TimeControl 6, ready to deploy whenever you are.

Project and Project Server June 2010 Cumulative Update

Deploy cumulative updates (Project Server 2007) http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd239177.aspx  

 

Note: We strongly recommend that you install WSS and Office Servers 2007 Service Pack 2. The KB articles below provide information on how to download and install SP2 if you have not already done so.

  • Description of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 SP2 and of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Language Pack SP2 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953338  
  • Description of 2007 Microsoft Office servers Service Pack 2 and of 2007 Microsoft Office servers Language Pack Service Pack 2 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953334  
  • Description of Office Project 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) and of Office Project Language Pack 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953326  
  • The server patches require that WSS and Office Servers 2007 SP1 be installed. For clarity, SP1 is required and SP2 is strongly recommended. Here are the links to the SP1 Server Patches for your convenience:
  • Description of the 2007 Microsoft Office servers Service Pack 1 and the 2007 Microsoft Office servers Language Pack Service Pack 1 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/936984/en-us  
  • How to deploy the 2007 Microsoft Office servers Service Pack 1 and Office Server Language Pack 2007 Service Pack 1 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/945013/en-us  

The Server CU is released in two different versions. The first version is in Individual Packages specific to a particular product like WSS and Project Server. These are smaller downloads but they do not include language packs or patches for other products so patches for those products would have to be downloaded and installed separately.

 

The second version is the Server Rollup Packages. This is a set of two rollup packages which contains all the fixes for WSS, Project Server and MOSS. These packages should be used when MOSS is part of the deployment and/or you have language packs installed. The Server Rollup Packages are much larger (~200MB each) but they will greatly simplify MOSS patch deployment.

 

You can read about the fixes included in the June CU from the following articles:

 

Server Rollup Packages:

 

Individual Product Packages:

Client Installation:

In order to install this hotfix, you will need to have Microsoft Project 2007 SP1 installed on the client. The article at the URL below contains information on how install download and install SP1 should you not have it installed already.

 

Note: We strongly recommend that you install Project 2007 SP2 from the information earlier in the article.

Once we know that SP1 is installed, you will install the hotfix by performing the following steps:

 

NOTE: Microsoft strongly recommends testing within a NON-Production environment prior to rollout.

 

Download the hotfix from the KB Article above (KB 2028571).

 
Extract the patch package by running the .exe file that you downloaded.

Run the extracted .exe file to apply the patch to your Project Professional/Standard SP1 (or preferably SP2) client.

TimeControl 6 now available!

HMS Software announces the release of TimeControl 6. This version represents a significant evolution in one of the world’s most popular timesheet systems. Since its initial release in 1984, TimeControl has been one of the most recognized timesheet systems for organizations who wish to implement project timekeeping, time and billing and time and attendance within a single interface. Now TimeControl 6 brings a new architecture and new interface design to its clients.

Enhancements in TimeControl 6 include:

New architecture
Along with the new interface comes new architecture. TimeControl now fully supports a 64bit server environment. Client workstations using 64 bit operating systems have been supported for some time. TimeControl 6 will also embrace MySQL along with ongoing support for Microsoft’s SQL Server and Oracle databases.

All-new Timesheet List
The new timesheet list allows for multiple types of timesheets to be visible at one time. Now in a single screen, users or supervisors can see pending timesheets for approval, missing timesheets, historical timesheets and pending debit/credit adjustments. A powerful filtering mechanism lets the user select which type of files to view. This will make approving and managing timesheets much easier and much faster for administrators and supervisors.

All new multi-browser timesheet interface
The new timesheet interface is entirely web based and eliminates the need for ActiveX Controls. This new interface includes functionality for the timesheet, approvals, adjustments through TimeControl’s Debit/Credit system and the new My Account area to adjust personal options. Only Administrators may require access to ActiveX controls for TimeControl’s setup, linking to external products and reporting.
The new interface supports multiple browsers and hardware platforms. Testing was effected on Internet Explorer, FireFox, Mozilla and Safari.

Along with rewriting the underlying architecture and communications protocols for the new version, there’s a whole new look and feel for the interface to conform with more modern and ergonomically pleasing standards.

TimeRequest module tracks vacation requests and more
The all-new TimeRequest module allows users to make a request for certain types of times to be approved for entry in future timesheets. The most common application of this module may be for requesting Vacation time. Users will enter a request for a block of time to be taken for vacation and, once approved, the time will then automatically populate the users’ timesheet in the future when that timesheet is created.

The TimeRequest module is, however, not restricted to just Vacation requests. Any category of time can be exposed to the module. This allows an infinite number of applications such as requests for travel time, training time, offsite or onsite time or any other type of time category where the organization wishes it to be approved in advance.

Additional Enhancements
There are numerous additional enhancements to TimeControl 6 including the new TimeControl MenuStrip for navigation, the new MyAccount area which allows default selections for each navigation tab, additional rate values, cost values for the already extensive rate system, up to 9 banked time categories (up from 3), longer passwords and user names, enhanced security and intrusion logging and an updated language file that adds Spanish to the numerous languages already included in the system.

To see a complete list of what’s new in TimeControl 6, visit www.timecontrol.com/timesheet/latest.

TimeControl 6 is available for immediate shipment. TimeControl customers with existing current support contracts will receive updates to their systems by September 1st.

Applying Filter Constraints to Tables

In some instances there is a requirement to have a TimeControl Administration person to be able to see and or modify some of the TimeControl table information, but not all of it. An example would be the ability to see rate code information for a company division, but not all the rate information, for the entire company. TimeControl supports the application of a display filter to a specific table, where required. Filters may be applied to any of the tables following the example shown.
We start by adding the information that defines the condition, in this case a Department code in a user defined field, on the table in question. In order for the filter to function correctly the field data must be in a linked field, using the “field mapping” function. In this example I have set the Department to read “PMO”

We then create a filter applied to the Rate table to select only data relative to the “PMO”

We have created a User Profile specifically for the sup administrator in the Project Office and have applied the PMO Rate filter to that person’s profile. Filters are applied to the Rate table in the table security menu, on the User profile. If the required table does not appear on the list, it may be inserted. The filter is applied from the drop down list as per the example. The profile menu security also has been set to allow the user access to the Rate table.

When we re- log in as the sub administrator and load the Rate table, we only see the Rate codes for the Project Office, as specified in the user defined field. The restriction could also be extended to permit the sub administrator to only see the data and not modify it or similar constraints. Please note that any person sharing this profile would see the data.

This process of filtering may be applied to any of the primary tables in TimeControl.

Getting Started and Stopped into your timesheet

Sometimes just entering the number of hours per task in a timesheet is insufficient information for an organization. In some situations, knowing the time that an employee was doing the work is essential to knowing how to invoice and track that task and that employee. When that’s the case, TimeControl has functionality designed to start the start and stop times of an employee’s work day.

In User Profiles, A TimeControl Administrator can elect to make the Start/Stop button appear on the timesheet of people with that role.

Start-Stop-SingleOne start and one stop per day
There are two options in the Start/Stop area: Single and multiple start stops. If Single Start/Stop has been turned on, then clicking the Start/Stop clock icon on the timesheet makes a series of columns appear above the timesheet grid. Each column allows the user to enter the start time and stop time of the day. The total hours for that day are then automatically calculated by TimeControl. The entries can also be automatically pushed into these values from external sources such as a security swipe-card system.

Once there are entries in the timesheet, they can be used in automated Validation Rules and will be maintained in that timesheet. Validation Rules could check to ensure that all the hours in a day are accounted for or check that there is a start stop time for each work day or that someone must have been onsite in order to book the hours.

Stop-Start-MultiMultiple starts and multiple stops per day
There are some organizations that will have staff whose time in and out must be checked in more detail. They might have multiple shifts per day or they might need to check out when they take a meal break and check back in when they return. For those organizations, TimeControl provides the Multiple Start/Stops per period option.

By selecting the Multiple Start/Stop option, users with this profile who click the start/stop clock icon will see a panel open to the left of the timesheet grid. This allows an unlimited number of “intervals” to be created for each day. The time in and time out will result in a total number of hours which are then totalled for the day. Once again, these values can be used in automated Validation Rules and the times are maintained with the timesheet record.

Taking starts and stops a bit further
There are some TimeControl users who need to track even more detail. TimeControl’s flexibility allows the system to be configured so that every line has a start field and stop field on it. A start and stop field could even be made for each day of the week to track the starts and stops for each task.

TimeControl allows not just whether you were working and what you did with your time to be tracked but also when you did what you were working on!

If you’d like to see Starts and Stops in action on TimeControl, then take a look at the mini-lesson called Tracking Start/Stop times on the timecontrol.com website.

Managing multiple MS Project versions with TimeControl

With the imminent release of Microsoft Project and Project Server 2010 many organizations are strategizing their migration plans from earlier versions of MS Project. There are multiple scenarios for doing a version migration but one of the most attractive will be a phased roll out of the newest release; using it for the new projects while old projects are completed in the older version. This gets around the technically challenging aspect of physically migrating the data.

There’s only one major fly in the ointment with that plan and it has everything to do with timesheets. Since newer projects in Microsoft Project Server 2010, the system would expect to use the timesheet in 2010. That won’t connect to the older projects in 2007 or 2003. They will expect timesheets from their versions.

Will users have to do two or more timesheets? What about non project time? How will approvals work?

TimeControl provides an easy answer to this challenge. As a timesheet which is independant from the project management system, TimeControl defines its link to scheduling tools like MSP and Project Server at the project level rather than the system level. This means that TimeControl can support multiple versions of Project and Project Server at the same time.

This is good news for those scratching their heads over how to migrate smoothly from one version or even one product to another.

TimeControl’s design means that an employee’s timesheet can contain lines from different projects and whether those projects are managed in MSP Desktop, Project Server 2007, Project Server 2010, Excel or even just in TimeControl, the user will be insulated from having to worry about that. The tasks the employee must accomplish and report their time on will be listed simply on their timesheet like any other task.

As Project Server Administrators and Technical staff make plans to migrate to the new Project versions, many will look to TimeControl as not only the solution to supporting multiple versions simultaneously but also for the additional benefits of a timesheet that can manage the needs of HOUR, Payroll and Finance at the same time.

Knowing that TimeControl has had links with MS Project since 1995 and with Project Server since its inception will make TimeControl a logical choice for many organizations.

New Lessons in the Free TimeControl Training area

We continue to post new lessons in the free online TimeControl Training area. Each of these mini lessons last from 3 to 6 minutes long and it’s a great way to see some of the functionality of TimeControl working. Some of the newest lessons include:

The Drill Down Analyzer

One of the most powerful tools for TimeControl Administrators is TimeControl’s Drill Down Analyzer. This tool allows Administrators to group incredible volumes of TimeControl data very very quickly by a virtually unlimited number of criteria. It’s a perfect tool for answering ad-hoc questions that might otherwise require hours of design of a report or having to export and analyze the data in other tools. The Drill Down Analyzer allows you to simply drag colums of data into a hierarchical view and then see the result instantly. Duration, 4 minutes.

Delegation

Sometimes a person’s timesheet responsibilities must be completed by someone else due to an extended absence. For example, a supervisor might have to have someone else approve the timesheets for their department while they’re away for a couple of weeks on vacation. TimeControl handles this type of requirement very elegantly with Delegation of an Alternate User. In this case, the user assigns their rights within TimeControl to someone else and in the background TimeControl keeps track of who actually was in the system. Duration, 3 minutes.

Missing TimesheetsOne of the hardest things to do with timesheets is find them! TimeControl can track not only the timesheets that are missing from the system but also those which may be stuck in the approval process. Take a look at how to create the Missing Timesheet Report and the Automatic Missing Timesheet Email Notification. Duration, 5 minutes.

 
 

With 5.1.6 comes a bunch of speed!

A few months ago we released a build of TimeControl 5.1 that corrected some difficulties some clients were experiencing with a missing cursor when TimeControl was used in SharePoint. The fix was actually quite challenging and, as a result, we ended up reworking a whole range of code that included grids (that’s in a lot of TimeControl). It wasn’t immediately apparent but over the last couple of months reviews of the basic performance of TimeControl in certain situations resulted in some users experiencing much slower times doing fundamental operations. In some cases, the degraded performance was noticeable.

The good news is that with the release of TimeControl 5.1.6 we’ve gone back to those areas of code and worked them again. Now, you may not have even noticed some of this slower performance but we’ve made improvements in the following functions:
Posting: Twice as fast
Creating a new blank timesheet: Three times as fast
Creating a pre-loaded timesheet: Three times as fast
Importing a Project from Microsoft Project: Three times as fast.

There are a number of other areas and functions, but you get the idea. The performance isssues were not visible to all clients and, so you may not experience the improved speed if you hadn’t been affected by the changes one way or the other but, for those who did notice some functions running a bit slower, we hope you’re pleased. We’re hoping that all this speed saves users enough time to do things that are more fun that completing their timesheet!
Those with current support contracts for TimeControl can download the new version at www.timecontrol.com/support/updates.

Using Generic Resources with TimeControl

During a sales presentation of a project management software solution, the vendor typically speaks about resource management and resource assignments on an individual basis. In this scenario, the resource pool is comprised of individual, named people. In some cases the individuals have additional attributes such as a specific skill or be part of a larger resource group. For example, Bob may be an engineer and may be part of the Engineering resource pool. Kevin may be a designer and part of the Design pool. The intent is that Bob would be assigned to a task that requires Engineering and Kevin assigned to tasks involving design. TimeControl is very happy to work in the manor if desired. Each person making a time sheet within TimeControl has the option of being “related” back to a resource code in the supporting project management system. During the transfer between TimeControl and the PM system, resource information, including assignments is part of the data being shared. Once the timesheet has been completed, hours that Bob has entered for his Engineering tasks get transferred back to the PM software as actual resource hours for the Engineer / Bob code. In this scenario, the resource codes in the PM software represent an individual and match the TimeControl employees on a one to one basis as per the example shown in this screen capture.

clip_image002

In this example, and hours entered by the employee Sally Thompson resolves back to the individual resource code Sally Thompson in the schedule.

Recently I have spoken to several companies who are using their PM software with generic resources and wish to transfer the hours worked by an employee, from TimeControl back to the generic resources. Using generic resources is a very common project management practice in involves doing the planning at a group level such as Engineers, planners, programmers or similar. The resource pool in the PM software is comprised of group codes, and may or may not have individual codes. The project manager assigns tasks to the group code and the line supervisor decides who will actually do the work. The employee who works on the task enters their hours in TimeControl and that data is ultimately returned to the schedule as progress. If an employee in TimeControl is linked to a group resource code (also known as a resource pool code) the total hours for all of the employees who are linked to that resource code will be transferred back to the schedule as progress. An example of this type of reference is shown it this screen capture.

clip_image004

In this example hours worked by Tom Logan are resolved to the resource pool code Analyst in the schedule. In the case where an employee worked on a task and is a member of a resource group that was not originally assigned to the task, TimeControl can be set to create the resource assignment in the schedule as a part of the transfer process.

TimeControl can be used with employee specific resources or with generic resources or a combination of the two, depending on the requirement of the Project Office.

By: Ken Edwards

Importing legacy timesheet data into TimeControl

Some organizations have had timesheets for years and, when they implement TimeControl, they ask if they can import legacy timesheet data from their older systems into their new timesheet software.

The answer is yes. TimeControl is designed with an Import Timesheet feature that is described in the Reference guide. Unlike the imports for all the TimeControl tables, the Import Timesheet function is a fixed format of import. Several fields are required in a particular order. The TimeControl Import Timesheet function takes a Comma Separated Values (CSV) file which can be created in Excel to bring in the data.

The fields required are:

Field as described in the import tool

Database Field name

Example Value

Week Ending Date

TSH_WEDATE

20080321

Timesheet Header Type

TSH_TYPE

NORM

Timesheet Header Employee

EMP_CODE

GJ018

Timesheet Header Owner

USR_CODE

ADMIN

Project Name

TSD_PRJ_NAME

DATA

Charge Code

TSD_CHR_CD

Data.2.3

Rate Code

TSD_RAT_CD

STANDARD

Hours Monday

TSD_CMON

8

Hours Tuesday

TSD_CTUE

8

Hours Wednesday

TSD_CWED

8

Hours Thursday

TSD_CTHU

8

Hours Friday

TSD_CFRI

8

Hours Saturday

TSD_CSAT

0

Hours Sunday

TSD_CSUN

0

There are a few constraints to be aware of:

  • First of all each of the values that are being used to create new Timesheet Headers and Timesheet Details must already exist in the system. So if you are creating a timesheet for Employee code GJ018 then that employee code must already be in the Employee table. Same goes for the User, the Rate code, the Project name and the Charge code.
  • “NORM” is a normal timesheet. That’s distinct from a DBCR (Debit/Credit) entry that TimeControl might store internally.
  • The ANSI date type is year/month/day in the format 20080321 which is March 21, 2008.
  • Once the import is complete, you’ll need to check the log to make sure everything you were trying to import arrived.
  • The timesheets, once created, will be in draft status and owned by the “Timesheet Header Owner” listed in the import record. In the example above that’s user “ADMIN”.

For those who are keen to get started, the HMS Technical Support department (Thanks James!) has made a spreadsheet available as a template. To use the spreadsheet, first download the Excel file called tcimporttimesheets.xls from the TimeControl website. You’ll find the same data as is displayed in the table above. Enter your data into the appropriate columns then delete the first column and the first three rows which include descriptive header data and the one example record that is listed above.

Happy importing!