Category Archives: timecontrol

Timesheet approvals can matter… a lot!

When looking at a timesheet used for a single purpose such as time and attendance, then timesheet approvals are straightforward.  Who is responsible for this employee’s attendance?  Were they working?  Were they on vacation or sick leave?  Ok, approved!

With remote work now much more common, there are more questions for time and attendance that can make approvals a bit more complex but the process is the same.  Approvals for one purpose timesheets is essentially a one-dimensional matrix.

But, how do you handle approvals for a timesheet that was deployed for multiple purposes?  That can be more complex.  When you have a multi-purpose timesheet like TimeControl, it turns out that everyone would like a seat at the approvals table.  The more purposes in use for the same timesheet data, the more dimensions to the timesheet approval matrix.

Let’s imagine a couple of scenarios

Timesheets used for Payroll plus Project Management updates

This was the first two-dimensional matrix that we ever confronted with TimeControl.  Project Managers needed to approve work before it is accepted into the project management system.  That might include hours of course but also non-labor resource usage, estimates to complete a task or indications that a task is done.  A project manager might need updates weekly or even more frequently if in an industrial environment.

The Payroll Department isn’t interested in what was done at all. They need to know if the employee was working or not and if not, whether that was part of an entitlement like vacation or sick leave time or if it was an unpaid absence.  The updates to Payroll might only need to happen every other week or twice a month or on some other schedule.

TimeControl’s approval design accommodates this perfectly with the overall timesheet approval happening at the organizational level with whoever is responsible for that employee’s attendance and then, once the timesheet totals are settled, at a line-by-line level for the project manager.  It’s part of the Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals™ which we created in the 1990s.

Timesheets used for Project Management updates, Billing and Capitalization

Ok, let’s take something with three dimensions.  Now we still need projects to be updated and we still need project managers to look at things line by line but we need other line-by-line approvals.   Here the total amount for the timesheet could be locked in by an organizational approver or automatically as part of TimeControl Workflow.  Then project managers would approve items line-by-line in the Project Manager Validation screen in TimeControl.

A billing manager could see something very similar in the Line Item Approval screen and approve or reject lines for invoicing from there.  Then an automated transfer from TimeControl to Invoicing would include only those items marked as approved to invoice.

A similar exercise could be done by Finance for use in Capitalizing some work.  Depending on the situation, some work could be invoiced and still capitalized.  Some work might not be invoiced and still be capitalizable.  The numbers are important particularly for Sarbanes-Oxley compliant firms as the numbers are auditable so having a trace of who approved these timesheet hours for Capitalization is important.

Timesheets used for Human Resources plus R&D tax credits

Let’s take a look at a different two-dimensional approval process.  Here the HR department really needs to see who took time off and whether that time was an approved absence, whether that was part of an entitlement like vacation or sick leave that needs to be reflected in the bank of vacation or sick leave for that employee and what balance is left for those banks for the employee in the future.  Here an organizational person who is responsible for the employee’s attendance and approved absences will review the timesheet and sign off on the totals.  This process could be sped up using TimeControl’s Workflow functionality to automatically approve timesheet totals under certain conditions.  For example, if the timesheet already has the expected total of 40 hours and there are no exceptions like sick leave or time off then the timesheet totals could get automatic approval right away.  That leaves only the timesheets with exceptions to be reviewed.

Tasks eligible for R&D credits have to be approved line-by-line so that can be done in TimeControl’s Line-Item-Approval function.  The accepted tasks end up in the R&D tax return for credits and rejected tasks are not considered for this purpose.  This is usually distinct from project approvals or billing approvals as someone in Finance will have to be responsible for this portion of the tax return.

TimeControl’s remarkable approval functionality has been tested in countless scenarios and is so flexible that even if additional dimensions to the approval challenge arrive later, you can add these onto the process without having to restart.

TimeControl technical staff are experienced not just in TimeControl’s functionality but also in how to create a working process for different elements of the organization at the same time.  That kind of skill and experience isn’t as common as you might think.

You can find out more about TimeControl’s approval functionality at TimeControl.com/use-cases/matrix-approvals. On that page you’ll find a number of different resources including the white paper “Creating your Approval Process in TimeControl” which covers more elements of the timesheet approval challenge.

Moving Data in and out of TimeControl Online is a snap

TimeControl is available both for installation on premise and for subscription in the cloud.  We often get questions about integrating data from clients who are considering moving from an on premise environment to our TimeControl Online service.  There’s a few things in this area that are important to know:

Imports and Exports

One of the easiest and most popular ways to move data between TimeControl and other corporate systems is to use the TimeControl import and export links.  This functionality has been enhanced numerous times over the years and it works just as well in an on premise installation as in the cloud.  TimeControl can consume a file for import (such as updated employees from new hires) on demand at any time.  The file can be in Excel or CSV formats and you can use a pre-existing template to move the data in from your PC or wherever you access it at any time.  If you want to schedule such imports, you can have the file be consumed directly from the TimeControl server.  If you are on premise, this could possibly be in a shared network directory.  If you are on premise or in the cloud, you can use encrypted secure FTP transfer protocols to locate the file and import it then send an email announcing if the file was imported successfully or if intervention is needed.

The same logic applies to data you wish to take from TimeControl and send elsewhere such as project invoicing details.  You can have an export on demand at any time and save the data to your PC or anywhere you have access.  You can also schedule the export to occur overnight or any kind of regular basis and if you are using TimeControl on premise, that might be a shared network location.  If you are using the TimeControl Online service in the cloud, you could use encrypted secure FTP to transfer it to the FTP location of your choosing.  This code is identical in both TimeControl Online and TimeControl on premise.

Links to Project Management

If you are using one of the many TimeControl links with popular project management systems, then you’ll find that most of these links work as they always did regardless of whether you are using TimeControl on premise or TimeControl Online.  Links between TimeControl and a client-based project management system like Microsoft Project for the Desktop or Primavera Professional require an on-demand transfer because the project file you are interacting with is always at the project manager’s disposal.  Their authentication into Microsoft Project or Primavera Professional has the link become active and data can be sent back and forth.  In the case of Primavera Professional that means using a database to database link.  In the case of Microsoft Project, it means going through the Microsoft Project desktop license to move the data.

 

If you are using the TimeControl Online service in the cloud, then there are several links where you have to choose the appropriate link to make sure that scheduled interfaces work properly.  For a link between TimeControl and Project Server, you’ll need to use the Project Server link that goes through the Project Server web service.  For a link between TimeControl Online Oracle Primavera’s EPPM, you have the choice of using a direct database-to-database link but that won’t be appropriate for most clients without making very specific security changes on your Primavera’s database server.  The best link to use there will be the Web Services link that uses Primavera’s web service to move data in and out of the system.

Links via API

TimeControl’s ultimate integration is its bi-directional full service RESTful API.  This programmable interface allows direct access to push data into TimeControl or pull data out for almost every table in the system.  The API makes sure that requests through it won’t violate TimeControl’s referential integrity or any of the other database-based or configuration based rules but the API’s power is extensive.  Not every client wants to put in the effort to write integration at the API level.  Those that don’t are already going to be happy with scheduled imports and exports.  Those who need to go further will appreciate how extensively the API has been designed.

Of course HMS is also ready to help create integrations by using combinations of these techniques as well as others.  Feel free to contact us at TimeControl.com/contact if we can be of any help.

TimeControl and your email are good friends

Whether you are using TimeControl Online in the cloud, or TimeControl on premise, email functionality can play an important part in making your TimeControl as effective as possible.  Let’s take a look at a couple of elements of TimeControl that you might not have considered:

Missing Timesheet Notification  and the new Missing Crew Timesheet Notification

One of the most popular requests for new clients of TimeControl is having TimeControl send an automated notification for any timesheets that are missing or overdue.  This functionality has now been extended to Crew Timesheets also.  It does a lot more than just send an email.  You can configure numerous scheduled emails, each with a different message and define if this will go to everyone who’s timesheet is absent or send it even if the timesheet is created but has no hours or even if the timesheet is complete but hasn’t been approved yet.  This makes for some remarkable configurations that help reduce absent timesheets and the time spent chasing them and at the same time helps to increase data quality by making sure people are doing their timesheets when expected.  From an Administration standpoint, it means ensuring that all the data is in before exports or reports are completed.  That can be a big deal!

Notice when releasing a timesheet for approval or rejecting it

When a user releases their timesheet, they get an option to send an email to their supervisor advising them the timesheet is complete.  That’s probably not so popular when the timesheet is first done but it’s hugely popular when a timesheet has been rejected and now is being resubmitted.  Going in the other direction, if a timesheet is rejected, the supervisor has an option to send an email to the user advising them that the timesheet is back in draft mode in their control and how to go about fixing it.  Without that email notification and the associated TimeControl notification function, users wouldn’t be able to easily determine if their timesheet is complete or back in their inbox.

TimeControl Workflow notification or request to intervene

If you TimeControl Workflow, you already know how powerful it is.  The Workflow engine looks at timesheets whenever they change hands and evaluates them for any element that can be found in the data.  It’s popular for changing the approval flow based on whether there’s overtime or excessive unbillable time.  It can also be used when this timesheet will push the actual expenditures on a project beyond their budget and if it does, it can email whoever you choose.  The project manager might be a good selection there.  This can help give early warnings to project and resource managers about a potential problem in the project before it gets too significant, allowing them to intervene if necessary.

Administrator Notices on events within TimeControl

TimeControl has numerous schedulable functions that can run in the background including imports, exports, links in or out with project management systems, timesheet posting, automated reports and more.  For each scheduled event, an administrator can be notified automatically by TimeControl when the event runs and if it is successful or not.  This is a big deal when something doesn’t go as expected in overnight processing and intervention is needed.

TimeRequest Approved vacation time

When a TimeRequest is sent or rejected, just like the timesheet, the user can opt to send an email advising the recipient that their attention is needed.  But, when a TimeRequest is approved, TimeControl also allows the supervisor to attach a calendar event to the email so the person taking vacation can just click on the file and add it to their calendar in programs like Google Calendars and Outlook.

Line Item Approval notification

TimeControl’s approval architecture is too long to explain here (for more information on it, see the white paper Creating your Approvals Process in TimeControl on the White Papers area of our website at: https://www.timecontrol.com/resources/whitepapers).  Let’s talk about just one function in the approvals area though and that’s the Line Item Approval.  This function allows approval or rejection of any line item in a timesheet to which a project manager or account manager has access.  Then, once rejected, TimeControl can optionally send emails to any users who’s timesheets were affected so they can make adjustments as needed.

Scheduled reports via Email

TimeControl’s reporting has been one of its strengths since the very first version back in 1994.  All TimeControl reports can be presented as a printable view but they can also be saved as PDF, Excel, HTML or a range of other formats.  If you elect to use Scheduled Reports, you can send a report by email directly to anyone who might need it.  Since reports can be associated to filters, this can be a powerful way to create exception reports.  An executive might only receive the exception report for example if some threshold had been exceeded.  Once it’s configured, that all happens behind the scenes.  Oh, and if the report is so large it won’t fit in an email, TimeControl will encrypt it and just send a link to the file in the email.  What could be better than that?

Alternate Email notifications

Sometimes we can have an alternate user be responsible for emails or we can have a situation where one person who is in the approval release path for a user will do most of the entry and should receive all of the email.  No worries.  TimeControl allows you to select that the alternate user or anyone along the approval path is the person to receive emails.

No matter what elements of TimeControl’s email functionality you take advantage of, it’s all designed to make the organization more efficient.

The many links between TimeControl and Microsoft Office 365 including Excel

We often don’t talk about all the ways TimeControl can touch Microsoft technology because there are so many and every organization might be different in how it wants to leverage Microsoft’s technology with their centralized timesheet system.

TimeControl has a pre-defined link to the Microsoft Project products including Project on the Desktop, Project Server, Project Online and Project for the Web.  TimeControl can be displayed inside a Teams tab.  TimeControl can be displayed within SharePoint or even link directly with SharePoint lists, pulling task information from a task list and even pushing back actuals.  TimeControl reports can be saved in Word read-able format orin images for consumption by PowerPoint.

But let’s just focus for a moment on Excel.

Whether you are thinking of Excel on your Desktop or Excel in Office 365, TimeControl has numerous ways to integrate that technology.  Here are just a few:

Importing and Exporting data between TimeControl and Office 365 Excel

TimeControl includes complete support for transferring data to and from Excel files.  If you maintain some data now in Excel, then moving that into TimeControl is a matter of moments.  If you use Excel for analysis of data, then sending TimeControl’s source data to Excel is very simple.  You can even schedule exports to Excel or imports from Excel to happen automatically on a schedule you define.

Importing legacy timesheets from Excel to TimeControl is already included

TimeControl includes import functionality for timesheet data itself so, if you have an existing timesheet system in Excel you can transfer that data into TimeControl.  Our Excel Solutions Portal even has a template for you to download and use so you don’t have to create it yourself.

Integrating Excel Services dashboards into TimeControl

Some people like using Excel’s server-based charting capabilities to create analysis of timesheet or project management data.  TimeControl supports displaying Excel views in the dashboard.  Need an Excel pivot report in your TimeControl dashboard?  No problem. Need an Excel traffic light on the TimeControl dashboard?  No problem.

Displaying TimeControl Reports in Excel

Every TimeControl report including those created in our TimeControl Report Designer or with the TimeControl Drill Down Analyzer can be saved as Excel files so you can do more extensive analysis and reporting in the tools you are familiar with.

Migrating from Excel to TimeControl or TimeControl Online is so simple

When new TimeControl systems are established, they are almost always provisioned for the first time from Excel files.  Even if you are not using an Excel timesheet, Excel is an easy tool for bringing data into one place, manipulating if need be then uploading it into the controlled environment of TimeControl.

For more information on linking to Excel or Microsoft Office Excel 365 or migrating from an  Excel-based timesheet system see our TimeControl/Excel Solutions Portal or speak to one of our TimeControl experts at HMS Software at info@hms.ca.

TimeControl Mobile App includes both labor and non-labor field data collection

If you are a TimeControl Industrial user then you are no doubt familiar with how the free TimeControl Mobile app adapts to whether it is connected to TimeControl or TimeControl Industrial.  For TimeControl Industrial users of the free TimeControl Mobile App, additional features such as Crew timesheet entry appear but TimeControl Mobile App can do much more.

TimeControl Mobile supports not only the data collection of timesheets in the field by using the Crew timesheet.  It also allows non-labor entries.  This makes the app an ideal field data collection tool.  Labor is entered on the Crew timesheet but there is also an icon for Material entries in which any non-labor entries can be made.  Just as in TimeControl Industrial on the web interface, you can enter here materials consumption, equipment usage and even production values right from the field.

With the combination of these and other features, the TimeControl Mobile App delivers a LEMS (Labor, Equipment, Materials) collection system.  The Mobile app can also collect and attach pictures of the site, receipts for material delivery or other attachments that then become part of the centralized record.  Multi-faceted approvals are also handled in the field or back at the office.

This makes the TimeControl Mobile App a powerful field data collection tool and it’s all controlled right in the hand of a supervisor, foreman, team leader or clerk.  Collecting the data  right where the work is taking place leads to a much higher data quality and speeds all parts of the project progress workflow.

Once the data is released for approval, TimeControl’s powerful approval mechanisms ensure it meets the organization’s standards for data and that the people who need to approve the work get to do so whether that is through the Mobile App or back in the office on a computer web browser.  Either way, getting the data ready to update the project management system, the payroll system and the invoicing system happens much, much faster.

The TimeControl Mobile App is free and connects to TimeControl, TimeControl Online, TimeControl Industrial and TimeControl Industrial Online.  There is no fee for downloading or using the app.  The only requirement is that it be connected to an active TimeControl User License on the main system.

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.

Oracle and HMS Software renew their technical partnership through 2021

Oracle and HMS Software extend their technical alliance for a 24th consecutive year.

We are pleased to continue our long standing relationship with Oracle.  It began back in 1997 and has become an enduring example of how technical companies can combine their efforts to deliver better products and services to their mutual clients.

HMS and Oracle partner across multiple fronts. HMS Software’s TimeControl timesheet system supports Oracle databases, we also integrate with numerous Oracle Applications including Oracle-Primavera EPPM and Primavera Pro.

Some of the many TimeControl’s value-added benefits when linking with Oracle-Primavera include:

  • Support for multiple rates per employee
  • Automated business rule validations
  • Automated workflow
  • Auditable timesheet records suitable for Finance, HR, Invoicing or Payroll
  • Missing timesheet notification
  • Simultaneous support for multiple versions of Primavera
  • The free TimeControl Mobile App for smartphones and tablets supporting both iOS and Android
  • Matrix timesheet approvals with HMS’s unique Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals™
  • With TimeControl Industrial, the Crew Timesheet and Materials and Equipment field data collection

You can read our Press Release on this latest extension to the HMS Software / Oracle partnership.  For more information on how Oracle and HMS Technologies work together, visit the Oracle/TimeControl Portal at: Oracle.TimeControl.com or contact HMS at info@hms.ca for more information.

 

The benefits of alternates

Since the earliest days of TimeControl we have had a request for people to stand in for another user for a host of different reasons.  Perhaps a supervisor is absent on a Friday when they needed to be doing approvals or perhaps a person will be out of the office and away from the Internet and needs to call in to have their timesheet completed in their absence.  “Do we need to share our passwords to deal with this?” was a common question.

When we considered how to address this problem, we had to consider also the base principles of TimeControl being an auditable system.

The end result is the Alternate Users function.  This functionality allows a user to declare other users as their delegates.

When you log into TimeControl, you will be presented with a screen that appears only if you have been declared as an Alternate User for that person.  You will be asked if you’d like to log in as yourself or as the alternate.

When you elect to log in as the Alternate, at the top of the screen you’ll see that you are logged in as the delegate but you’ll see your user name too.

That’s because TimeControl will keep track of who is really in the system as you make changes and edits.  As an Alternate you will now see TimeControl exactly as that user, rather than yourself.  You’ll see only the menu functions they see. You’ll see only the data they have access to.  Even changing a personal preference will be changing their personal preference.  If you make additions or changes to key data.  TimeControl will log those changes as though it was the alternate but it will also attach your own user name so that in an auditing situation, it will be apparent who actually made the change, approved the data or added new entries.

If you are listed as the Alternate for multiple users, at the top of the screen under your login name, you’ll see a down arrow and a new option that allows you to switch between any of the alternate users without having to log out and relog in again.

While an Administrator can create alternates for users in the User Table, A user can define for themselves who they wish to have as an alternate in their Account information.

A user can define one or multiple alternates.  For each alternate they can define when that person’s access to their account will automatically expire and they can also ask that emails from TimeControl that would normally go to the user, be redirected to the delegated user.  Throughout the entire Alternate User environment, TimeControl security and auditability are maintained.

Alternate user functionality has been with TimeControl for a very long time and it’s a way of keeping the organization entering and editing data effectively when some people will be away from their post.

 

HMS and Microsoft have extended our long standing alliance

TimeControl within Microsoft Teams
TimeControl within Microsoft Teams

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

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

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

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

That will continue.

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

Table Validations have a huge impact on data quality

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

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

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

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

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

New TimeControl White Paper on Change Management

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

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

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

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