Category Archives: project management

See us at PMI Westchester April 2nd!

pmiwestchester_300x34.pngWe’ll be on the road next week at the PMI Westchester’s Professional Development Day which takes place April 2nd at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Kisco, NY.

HMS is this year’s Platinum sponsor so attendees will get a chance to talk to HMS personnel about their timesheet needs and see the latest of TimeControl, TimeControlOnline and TimeControl Industrial.

For more information on the conference, see pmiwestchester.org and if you’d like to make an appointment to speak to HMS personnel while you’re at the conference, contact info@hms.ca.

HMS Releases TimeControl version 6.8

We’re delighted to tell you that we have released TimeControl version 6.8. It seems like just yesterday that we were telling you about 6.7 and all the new features there including the new Workflow module, the elimination of the last ActiveX controls and updated OnBoarding and Project Link functionality but here we are again with a major release of new functionality! In this version, we are very excited to include a new module we have talked about for some time. The Accruals Module will allow TimeControl administrators to automate functions such as banked time or calculated overtime and more. We also have added functionality to Expenses and Timesheets to allow you to insert your own documents (such as receipts) and a new Menu Editor that gives you even more flexibility over the TimeControl menus! Here are some of the more noticeable new and enhanced features you’ll be seeing in this version: Accruals moduleAccrual4
TimeControl 6.8 includes a new Accruals module which allows Administrators to create a rules-based accrual of time into different elements of TimeControl tables. For example, Vacation could now be accrued automatically on a monthly basis and the amount per employee entered into the vacation bank on the employee table or overtime could be accrued from the timesheet using a banked-overtime rate into a bank of personal time in the employee table which could be used for time off later. There are 4 different types of Accrual rules now possible:

  1. A scheduled rule that is based on static values in the employee tables
  2. A scheduled rule that is based on values in the timesheets being posted
  3. A rule executed during posting that is based on the timesheet values
  4. A scheduled rule that looks at rate-code values

While doing Accruals within TimeControl has been possible in the past, it typically required expertise at the database level and now virtually all of these types of conditions can be managed by the users themselves in the Accruals module. Accruals are easy for an Administrator to create but, like Validation Rules and Workflow, are so potentially powerful, that we haven’t begun to explore the limits of what is possible with them. manage_menu_items_add_2 TimeControl menus now editable
TimeControl has always allowed items in the menu to be secured using User Profiles. Now, TimeControl 6.8 goes so much farther. Administrators are now able to add their own menu items directly to the TimeControl menu using the Menu Editor or move existing items from one tab to another to match their own requirements. Add documents to an expense line item or a timesheet header
Expense_Dialog_ReceiptsTimeControl 6.8 allows multiple files to be uploaded and saved within each expense line item or to the entire timesheet. This will allow scanned or photographed expenses to be saved with the Expense Line or at the timesheet level. There is no limit to the number of documents that can be attached to each expense line or to the Timesheet itself. For those who have their expense approvals managed at the same time as their timesheet, this makes the TimeControl expenses functionality that much more attractive. “Adjust” on PMV is configurable in User Profiles
In TimeControl 6.7, users who have access to the Debit/Credit function will see the “Adjust” link within the Project Management Validation screen. This appeared if the user had access to Debit/Credit. The appearance of this link is now configurable in User Profiles as of TimeControl 6.8. Even if the user has access to Debit/Credit, the Adjust link in the PMV can be hidden using this User Profile option. Clickable dashboardsClickableDashboard
As of TimeControl 6.8, on dashboard elements where appropriate such as the Personal Status view, users are able to click on a link which will bring them directly to the appropriate area or element of TimeControl We’ve added an “Adjust” button to the Posted Timesheet List
TimeControl 6.8 adds the Adjust link that is currently only in the Project Manager Validation screen to the Timesheet list. If a user has access to the Debit/Credit function, they will see the Adjust button on the Timesheet list and clicking on it will automatically create a Debit/Credit record for that timesheet. This makes getting to a Debit/Credit to adjust it in TimeControl that much easier. Hide “Remember Me” and “Keep me Logged in” on login screen
TimeControl 6.8 can now be configured in the TimeControl.ini file to allow the “Remember me” and “Keep me Logged in” checkboxes on the Login screen to be hidden from users. When users logout, return them immediately to login screen
TimeControl 6.8 can now be configured in the TimeControl.ini file to allow the user to bypass the confirmation dialog and return directly to the login screen while logging out. Filter resources during Project Management import
TimeControl 6.8 allows the project manager to set a filter to not transfer certain resources from the project management system. This could allow hiding certain types of resources such as generic resources from being automatically added to the TimeControl Resource Table. Plus, we’ve made performance and minor improvements in a wide range of other modules:Find out more about TimeControl 6.8 at www.timecontrol.com/timesheet/latest or talk to us about your timesheet needs at www.timecontrol.com/contact/contact.php or info@hms.ca.

Our Most Popular Video on our YouTube Channel: TC & SharePoint… But Why?

We took a look at our rather extensive library of YouTube videos and noticed that one in particular is significantly more popular than the rest: the video demonstrating TimeControl’s integration with SharePoint.

Not surprising, when you think about the worldwide popularity of Microsoft SharePoint. With close to 100 million business users, it’s an important and powerful part of day-to-day functioning of so many organizations as their intranet or collaboration platform.

Did you know TimeControl can be installed within your preexisting SharePoint environment? With TimeControl, there is no need to leave the SharePoint platform to fill out your timesheet. Here at HMS our long-standing relationship with Microsoft means we’ve worked alongside SharePoint since its creation. The integration of the 2 means that adding TimeControl as your company’s timesheet will be easy and avoid the headache of an interrupted user experience.

With close to 1000 views, our TimeContol & SharePoint video is worth the informative 13 minute investment of your time.

Check out our TC & SharePoint brochure
For a TC & SharePoint Power-Point PDF printout, click here:
For even more information, go to our complete solutions portal for everything TC & SharePoint
 
In other news…
Don’t forget TimeControl 6.5 is scheduled to release in October! We’re on our way to wrapping up final details as we have already begun testing the code here at HMS. Stay tuned.

Our president will be speaking at the PMI Buffalo Professional Development Day

Chris Vandersluis, the president of HMS, will be speaking in Buffalo Thursday, September 20th as part of PMI’s Professional Development Day. This will be an insightful and valuable opportunity to “Become a Person of Success”. You will have two opportunities to see his talk on the subject of “Improving Resource Capacity” in the afternoon portion of the day. Chris will be discussing how to generate project resource capacity without having to hire by using best timesheet business practice. Join Chris on September 20that the Buffalo Convention Center, at the Convention Center Plaza, in Buffalo, New York.
For more information, visit PMI Buffalo’s website at www.pmibuffalo.org.

Watch Chris’ quick YouTube video where he gives you more details about the PMI Buffalo event.

Grouping Projects for Selection

Blog_Grouping_1Many TimeControl clients group their projects by various categories such as; by client, project  type, billable / non-billable and other criteria.  When an employee needs to select a project from the pick list for inclusion on their timesheet, the common practice is to select the category first then drill down to the projects included under that category. A common example of this is to select by client first then select the project associated with that particular client.

This type of grouping is most typically identified as a user defined field on the Project Table and may be named however required. This field can be used to create a tree-like display on the project select list when inserting a new line item on a timesheet. Grouping_blog_2An example of this would be a company who has a lot of projects that are associated to a specific client. Being able to choose the client first and then the project makes it easier for an employee to select the appropriate project, when completing their timesheet.

The setup of the tree field for the project table is completed on the Administration / System Preferences tab. For the Project tree structure, select the filed you wish to use for grouping by using the dialog box. If you wish, you can choose multiple fields and have a multi-level display.

Once this has been setup the project pick list on the time entry screen will show in a cascade fashion following the user fields. Grouping_blog_3
It is important to note that these are global settings and will affect all users.

Free Solution Portal: Collaborative Project Management

HMS Software has released a new solution area for those who wish to create a collaborative project management environment and who have already adopted SharePoint for their collaboration platform and Microsoft Project desktop as their scheduling tool. This portal contains numerous resources showing how to link TimeControl, Microsoft Project and SharePoint.

clip_image001The combination of SharePoint and Microsoft Project desktop already gives much of the functionality that a collaborative project environment requires. The combination of functionality allows for planning, scheduling, issue tracking, team communications, document management and more. There is, however, a gap when it comes to tracking tasks as they move forward:

Time

HMS Software’s TimeControl is already integrated with both Microsoft Project desktop and SharePoint. TimeControl’s integration with Project dates back to 1995 making it one of the longest standing relationships with Project in the world. TimeControl’s interface can also be provisioned directly into a SharePoint site. The product’s design has catered to this functionality since SharePoint 2002. TimeControl also integrates with Microsoft Project Server for those organizations which eventually graduate to Microsoft’s EPM solution.

This new solution area on the www.timecontrol.com website contains numerous resources that showcases TimeControl working with both SharePoint and Project.

Resources on the website include Webcasts, Factsheets, PowerPoint presentations, a White Paper, screen shots, and links to other online resources. There is even a link to the free TimeControl Hosted Trial site.

The new TimeControl Solution Portal is available for free at: www.timecontrol.com/solutions/projectsharepoint/.

Using TimeControl with project management resource skill scheduling

Using TimeControl with Project Management tools and their skill scheduling, role scheduling and generic resource scheduling capabilities.
It has long been a common feature of enterprise project management tools from Oracle-Primavera, Microsoft and Deltek to allow resource assignments to be planned at a high level in the early stages of a project.

Deltek’s Open Plan calls this skill-scheduling. Microsoft Project/Project Server refers to it as generic resource scheduling and Oracle’s Primavera calls it role-scheduling.

Regardless of the product, the concept is the same. There are a small number of unnamed resource categories that are to be assigned to tasks for some time in the future. The tasks or perhaps the entire project is either not in production or is not soon enough to be ready to name an actual individual to that task yet if no assignment is made, it will be impossible to do forward looking resource capacity planning.

Once a project is ready to go into production or that phase of the project is close enough in time that we know who will be working on those tasks, the skill, generic or role-based entry in the tasks is expected to be replaced with the actual resource code. In many cases this might be the actual named resource who will perform the work but it might also be a category type of resource.

TimeControl’s link to the resource assignments in these project management tools expects to find the category or named resource. We import the assignment information to help populate the resource table then ask that each employee be associated to a resource entry in the project management system through the TimeControl Resource table. This allows the flexibility of going to a named or category resource. When TimeControl sends actual hours and costs back to the tasks it does so at the assignment level. TimeControl first looks for the task. If it doesn’t find it, it stops. If it does find it, it then looks for the assignment that matches the actual resource it’s about to update. If it finds it, it updates that assignment with the actual hours and optionally costs. If it doesn’t find that it polls the resource table in the project management system to find out if that resource exists anywhere. If it doesn’t, it stops. If it does, then depending on the options chosen in the TimeControl transfer, it adds an assignment to that task and updates the hours and costs.

This brings up dozens of possible conditions that TimeControl might find.

  • What if a task was assigned to Joe but Bill did the work? The result will be an unfulfilled assignment in the task for Joe and a completed assignment by Bill.
  • What if a task was assigned to a category or group resource and the employee is part of that group in TimeControl (by associating the group resource code to the employee). The result will be an update of the group assignment.
  • What if the project management user still has an assignment for a skill or generic resource but in TimeControl the resource is an individual? The result will be an unfulfilled assignment for the skill and an additional assignment for the individual.

So, why not carry the ability to move data back to skill categories in the project management tool? For the same reason that each of these tools recommends a best practice of replacing the temporary placeholders of skills with named resources as the project goes into production. The possibility is very real of double-counting resources. Skill scheduling makes perfect sense as a forward looking analytical practice, but in all of these tools, resources can have more than one skill. So, Bob is also an Administrator and an Engineer and a Designer. This might mean that while we think of Bob rather flexibly in forward planning, in day-to-day activities, he can only do one thing in each moment.

Reference Guides for all these products carry the same recommendations: Use skills in your forward planning exercise but replace them with resources before you get the task started. TimeControl follows this same recommendation in its design.

On demand, scheduled, triggered, which is best?

TimeControl includes a number of links to project management tools and a number of different methods of connecting to them.

If using Microsoft Project Standard or Professional, the link is to a desktop tool and that’s always going to be on-demand but what about if you’re linking to Microsoft Project Server, Primavera or Deltek’s Open Plan? Now the link is typically server-to-server and could be scheduled or on-demand. With Project Server, incoming links can also be triggered by the TimeControl “OnPublish” event that is included with the system. Primavera can also be set up to automatically link data to TimeControl when a new project is created. Here’s the best practice that’s most commonly applied:

First for incoming changes in data, this is a link that is meant to keep the TimeControl charge and activity code information up to date with the changes that may exist in the project files. It’s most typical to create the incoming links as scheduled or automatic events. If the link is with Project Server, then the “OnPublish” event module that is part of the installation is perfect for this. If the link is with Open Plan or Primavera then a regular scheduled link moving information on a server-to-server basis is ideal.
How often should the links happen? As often as the project is likely to be updated. For most projects a weekly link will probably be fine. If your week-ending day is Friday, then a link on Thursday night might be appropriate. Some projects are highly dynamic and need to be updated multiple times per week or even multiple times per day. Create as many scheduled events to do this. A scheduled link can be daily or weekly and you can pick the day and/or time when you’d want it to occur.
For project updates that will move timesheet information back to the project management tool, we recommend making most of these links “on-demand” for the project manager. That means that the project manager will pull the data from TimeControl to their project management tool when they are ready for it. You can make the link automatically scheduled of course but we had an image of a project manager working on his project late one night and suddenly “poof” everything changes as the automatic link moves the data in from TimeControl. Most project managers will want to bring in the data when they’re ready to see the project advance.
There may be exceptions of course. Some projects such as regular maintenance projects aren’t really managed the same way and an automatic link to update those files from TimeControl may make more sense. You have the option to do both.
With TimeControl, you get the ability to make your links as automatic or as manual as you wish and each situation can be different.