Category Archives: Tips

Check out our Timesheet Best Practices Solution Portal

Timesheet Best Practices Solution Portal partial Over the last few weeks here at HMS, we’ve been doing some hard work assembling collateral, questions, answers, and other materials about the best ways to use a timesheet. We’re happy to finally reveal our new solutions portal for everything you need to know about timesheet best practices.

HMS Software employees are often asked for advice on the best practices for timesheet use, and many of these questions are not TimeControl-specific. This is why we’ve created a solutions portal with materials that will help you use timesheeting to its full potential.

We realize that timesheet usage is multi-faceted, so we divided up our efforts. Some timesheet usage recommendations are appropriate to the organization, and others are more focused on the individual. With this in mind, we divided the best practice information based on the end-user’s perspective and their information needs. You’ll notice that the solutions are categorized for use by the organization or the individual. This will make it easier so that you can quickly and easily find the recommended best practices you need.

One of the key new sections included in the best practices portal is the Timesheet Best Practices Q & A page. Ever wondered just how much time is too much to spend on entering your timesheet? Do you question just how much detail is productive in a timesheet? Or, perhaps you’re wondering if it makes sense to track the start and stop times of the day along with the durations for each task. We turned these types of timesheet questions we most often receive over to our technical staff. Their answers to these questions, and their timesheet expertise on these topics and more, are now available and ready to be shared with you.

There are many links, materials and collateral referenced by the Best Practices Solution Portal including white papers on how to increase resource capacity through better timesheet practices, guidance for executives on how a timesheet system can benefit the organization, videos of how to be effective with your timesheet system and even a blank timesheet process template for creating your own timesheet process.

Check out our new Timesheet Best Practices solution portal today! You’ll undoubtedly discover something some new information that can help you to get the most out of your timesheet.

To access the Timesheet Best Practices, visit timecontrol.com/solutions/bestpractices.

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.

Manage your vacations with TimeControl

It’s summer time and the vacation schedules are just about to get underway. Here at HMS we thought it would be a good time to share with you a free guide on how to use TimeControl to better manage vacations in your organization. TimeControl is one of the most recognized timesheet systems for organizations who need a single timesheet interface to fulfill the multiple requirements of payroll, human resources, project management and finance.

vacations webcast 2 We’ve created a free webcast narrated by HMS Software’s President, Chris Vandersluis. It’s only a few minutes long and you can see some key functionality demonstrated that helps organizations manage vacations whether from an end-user or administrator perspective. Included in the webcast are discussions on:

The TimeControl Dashboard
The TimeControl dashboard includes a module by default which shows Vacation, Sick Leave and Personal time banks with indicators of how much time the employee has available in each bank, how much they’ve taken and how much is remaining. Just knowing how much time is left available to them lets employees plan their vacations better.

Managing Banked Time
TimeControl can also control banked time in a number of ways. TimeControl can be configured to accrue vacation as its earned so the bank of time increases each month. You can also track banked overtime if your organization has such a policy and track deposits of overtime into the bank and withdrawals of time off from the bank.

Vacation Approvals with TimeRequest™
TimeControl’s TimeRequest feature let’s the employee request approval for vacation right inside the timesheet itself. Then, once approved, the vacation is automatically inserted into the employee’s future timesheet.

Validation Rules
TimeControl’s Validation Rules let administrators determine what vacation rules are acceptable. You can restrict an employee from taking time that they’re not entitled to or, if you allow it, permitting time to be taken before it’s earned. These business rules have everyone who enters their vacation timesheet already complying with the organization’s policies.

Alternate User Functionality
We’ve thought of supervisors also. After all, managers and supervisors take vacation too! TimeControl’s Alternate User function lets a supervisor delegate their approval responsibilities to someone else while they’re away. (TimeControl still tracks who has actually done the approvals for proper auditing.)

TimeControl Mobile
Finally, if the vacation is going so well that you’d like to keep it going for another week, TimeControl Mobile is a part of every TimeControl implementation. Use your Smartphone to log into TimeControl from wherever you are and add a week’s vacation in your timesheet!

To see the free webcast, visit the TimeControl HR Solutions page at http://www.timecontrol.com/solutions/hr/. The webcast is available in the Webcasts area at the bottom of the page.

Linking TimeControl to LDAP and Active Directory

Some users of TimeControl ask about password policies. Can they set the password to be more complex or can they set passwords to expire after a certain number of days. Other users ask if TimeControl’s passwords can be harmonized with the passwords the users already use to login to their network or their PC.

All of this can be accomplished by switching from TimeControl’s native security to use Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) or Microsoft’s Active Directory. This is controlled in TimeControl’s user table so it does not need to be implemented for every user.

To set up TimeControl to use the Active Directory for authentication, go to the TimeControl ATS Management Console on the TimeControl server.

  1. Expand the TimeControl ATS Server and click on the Parameters folder
  2. Go to the Server Options tab
  3. In the Default Authentication section type LDAP://s2.company.ca for the Default ADS Path (the s2.company.ca represents a DNS name)
  4. Click Apply to save the changes
  5. The ATS must be restarted so that the changes may take effect Logged onto TimeControl with Administrator rights
    Note: This can be done by re-importing the user table which would include a column for the ADS User. Please refer to the Importing Data into TimeControl in the TimeControl RefGuide.pdf
  6. Under Tables Users select the user that will use the ADS Authentication
  7. Select the Timesheet Options and in the User Authentication Mode Section Select Active Directory Services from the Method pull down
  8. In the ADS Server Path type: LDAP://ads server name or IP
  9. In the ADS User type: Domainuser name
  10. Click Apply
  11. Repeat steps 6 through 11 for each user

Note: If the default ADS Path is setup in the TimeControl ATS Management Console then the ADS Server Path is not required, TimeControl will pick the default up from the ATS. If there is no Default ADS PATH set up in the TimeControl ATS Management Console then the User Domain must be filled in.

Integrate TimeControl with QuickBooks

When clients call and ask if we can integrate TimeControl to their finance system, we rarely need to look at the finance system to say yes. TimeControl links to corporate systems in one of two major methods: The most popular is through transaction files that we create from TimeControl and are imported by the finance system on a regular basis or that the finance system creates and we import into TimeControl on a regular basis.
TimeControl can also integrate its data directly with large ERP systems since both TimeControl and these large systems are based on similar database environments.

For those using tools for the midmarket or smaller markets however, it isn’t always so easy. Quickbook users might like the reference to the “IIF Transaction Creator for QuickBooks” which can be found at www.bigredconsulting.com/AboutCreator.htm. This tool can take files created by TimeControl and move them into the Quickbooks architecture as transations.

Getting started with Validation Rules in TimeControl

TimeControl’s business rules engine, the Validation Rules module is one of the most powerful aspects of the timesheet system. There is almost no limit to the number of rules or the type or rules that can be created to test timesheets automatically.

Some examples of validation rules might include:

No more than 24 hours in a single day

Exactly 8 hours per day of regular time for salaried employees

Use the Acme Rates for the Acme projects

No overtime unless a) you’re eligible for overtime and, b) you did at least 40 hours of regular time this week

Each of these rules can be customized to only apply to a select group of employees or to be applicable to everyone and each rule can deliver a message saying that the rule is an error or only a warning. The result is that timesheet data that makes it into TimeControl is already of extremely high quality before anyone even looks at it for approvals! Also, the most common corrections to the timesheet data are done by the people who know the data best; the people who entered it in the first place.

When organizations first see the capabilities of the TimeControl Validation Rules module, it’s common for staff from the Human Resources or Payroll departments to get very excited. They envisage dozens or even hundreds of rules that will mean never having to look at timesheets manually again.

HMS implementers recommend caution over being too enthusiastic when starting with Validation Rules. Imagine a new system where an eager enthusiastic TimeControl Timesheet Administrator creates hundreds of rules for every possible timesheet error he or she can think of. The system is activated and new users try to enter their timesheets. A user receives one warning, corrects the error, then receives another error message, corrects that then gets another. In short order the user gives up on the system declaring it “too hard to use”.

It’s important to remember that one of the most challenging aspects of deploying an enterprise system like a timesheet is compliance and for that reason, we recommend starting with a tiny number of rules. Think about starting with a half dozen or perhaps 10 rules to get started and, after the system has been accepted by the users, gradually add new rules for the most common of repeated errors. The system will gradually become more managed naturally over time and users won’t notice the volume of rules when they’re added gradually as they’ll have learned in previous weeks to avoid the Validation Rules that have already been made a part of the system.

Validation Rules are one of the most powerful aspects of the TimeControl timesheet system and, like anything powerful, must be treated with care and respect.

Managing pay periods which fall in mid-week when using TimeControl

Most organizations expect to have their office staff use a weekly timesheet and indeed, this is why TimeControl is designed with a weekly timesheet structure. Once data is entered into TimeControl and approved, it is saved in a ‘Posted’ format where the structure of the data changes from a 7-day period into a day-by-day format. This allows the data to be used in a much more flexible way for reporting and exporting into various systems.

When the data is posted, it becomes very simple to request a range of dates which exactly match the needs of payroll, billing or Finance for financial reporting. Thiss works well in most cases when the data is accepted into these systems following the close of the business week and the completion of any timesheets which are included in the period.

TimeControl’s “Missing Timesheet Report” and “Missing Timesheet Email Notification” functions are important here to ensure that all timesheets have completed the approval process and are represented in the exported or reported data.

There are, however, occasions when data is so time-critical that the client wishes to report on it right up to the end of the day before even if that occurs in the middle of the week. There are organizations whose payroll requirements oblige them to pay for time up to and including yesterday’s efforts. There are other organizations that have billing that is so time sensitive that it must be sent immediately and include any hours up to and including the day before. For these organizations, TimeControl has created the Posted/Unposted report. It is specifically designed for those situations where data must be pulled from TimeControl in the middle of the week for use in a reporting situation.

The report requests a date range and then provides all the hours within that range of both posted timesheet data and unposted timesheet data from the middle of the current week. The data is listed into a single format so that it can be used in either a report or exported into Excel and then sent to other systems. If, for example a data range were to go from the 1st of September 2008 (a Monday) until the 30th of September 2008 (a Tuesday) and the requirement was to have reports completed for September billing no later than the end of business on October 1st (a Wednesday) then the Posted/Unposted report would take posted data for the weeks of September 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd. This data would have already been collected, approved and posted. The report would also add the unposted data from Monday September 28th and Tuesday September 29th.

Since the data may be taken from a current timesheet which has not been released and therefore has not been subjected to any business rules created in the TimeControl Validation Rule module, it is important to set up a process to ensure that the data is used properly.

If your organization has one of the situations where you will require immediate mid-week access to timesheet data, there are several considerations to put into your process:

Completeness
Since the Missing Timesheet report looks at completed timesheets, it will not be useful to determine if all timesheets have data which is entered into them by the middle of the week. In our example above, the timesheets of September 28th will all be in progress. A report should be included in your process which is run by the TimeControl Administrator of “unposted data” for that date range (in our example, it would be for September 28-29) which lists all pertinent users and the time against that week. If there are missing timesheets, those users will have to be contact to ensure they enter data for this partial period.

Data Integrity
Since time is being reported at mid-week, many of the usual TimeControl tests for data integrity such as Validation Rules have not been applied to the timesheet data yet. This means that there may be errors in the partial timesheet data that is reported that may be caught by a business rule at the end of the week and will need to be corrected. Since the purpose of taking the data mid-week is to send it to another system or use it for external purposes such as payroll or billing or financial reporting, it is important to check for any adjustments after the fact.

This can be done by keeping a copy of the Posted/Unposted report which is used for the export and comparing it to the same report done following the posting process. When the report is run for the same date range after the end of the week, it will obviously be taking data A simple comparison can be done between the two reports to check for any discrepancies (Typically they would be quite rare).

Posted/Unposted process
The following would be the typical steps in a process where the Posted/Unposted process would be required:

  1. Use unposted report to check what users have not entered data for the unposted period this week
  2. Contact those users who have not entered data for the partial week and ensure they have completed any timesheet entries which must be included in this report
  3. Run the Posted/Unposted report for the complete period required
  4. Send the report to the system required (e.g. Payroll, Billing, Finance). Save a copy for reference
  5. Following the completion of this week’s timesheet approval process, run the Posted/Unposted report again for the same period and compare for any discrepancies between reports
  6. Report any discrepancies to the systems required

Did you know… about using TimeControl without Scheduling Software?

A couple of years ago, we did a customer survey of all our TimeControl clients. The results were fascinating and we wanted to share them with you as it might give you, our TimeControl dealers, a different perspective on how you view the TimeControl timesheet business. Just over 1/3 of TimeControl clients responded to the survey giving us a very significant statistical confidence in the numbers that we looked at.

When we first created a timesheet system , it was a customized project for one of our clients. The year was 1983 and the client was Philips. There were far fewer options on the market then of EPM products but we picked a scheduler and then wrote a timesheet which would be used by Finance for managing payroll and HR and by Project Management for variance analysis. What we learned in the design of that timesheet can still be found in TimeControl today.

Given our origins, it is perhaps no surprise then that our thinking of TimeControl was as part of the critical path scheduling process. Our vision was that:
Project managers would do their planning in one of the popular project management tools

They would then assign work to individuals

Those individuals would then do the work and report how much time it took on the TimeControl timesheet

The hours and costs would be transferred back to the schedule which would then be updated and the cycle repeated

You can imagine our surprise then to find out in our survey that 52% of TimeControl clients were not systematically linking TimeControl to any project scheduling tool. Some of those 52% were using a scheduler to populate the TimeControl charge table but not all. For many companies, they viewed TimeControl as their project management tool. For scheduling purists like ourselves, we were shocked. But, when you think about the challenges of the integrated scenario we’d envisioned, the results of the survey started to make sense.

TimeControl is typically deployed to all staff members. That includes those who are purely project personnel, those who have both project and non-project duties and those who have no project duties at all. Project scheduling systems typically look only at the work which is part of a defined schedule. Just to get that project work centralized into one project management tool as part of one centralized project management process is a hurdle many companies never get over.
Yet TimeControl can be providing information to management over where time is being spent regardless of how centralized the project management tools are.

Going back to our survey, 87% of clients were linking TimeControl to some internal corporate system such as Finance, Payroll or Human Resources. The link of TimeControl data to those legacy systems seemed to be a higher priority to our clients than the link to the project scheduling system.

Of the 48% of clients who linked TimeControl to a project scheduling tool, those linking to a project tool, 65% were linking to Microsoft Project, 40% were linking to Primavera, 20% were linking to Deltek and 5% were linking to Project Server. (In the intervening 2 years, we think the Project Server number may have risen somewhat.) And 10% were linking to “other” project management tools. If you’re counting, you can see that adds up to 140%. That’s because some organizations were linking to more than one tool at one time.

Here at HMS these numbers changed our thinking on how we perceive TimeControl. No longer do we just think of TimeControl as an accessory to a project scheduling tool. We tend to think of TimeControl as a tool on its own and this thinking is reflected in some of the comments of our clients. Several clients reported that the selection of project management tools had been influenced by having TimeControl already deployed. “We’re looking for a scheduling tool that will integrate with TimeControl,” reported one. This means, of course, that TimeControl was deployed before the client made a choice over a centralized project management tool and this too makes sense. The deployment time for TimeControl is typically measured in weeks. The deployment time for a centralized enterprise project management system in a mid-sized organization can easily be measured in months. Sometimes it’s easier to start with centralized tracking than with centralized planning.

What does this mean for you, if you’re using TimeControl?

I think a couple of things:

If you’re currently using a project management scheduling tool, you can think of TimeControl as an extension to it or just on its own

You can think of using TimeControl for project personnel or for both project and non-project personnel.

You can think of starting a TimeControl timesheet deployment within an organization before the deployment of a complete EPM system. The deployment of TimeControl is almost always faster than the EPM and can provide a quick win with the client while they work through the much more complex project management processes that must be aligned to make a centralized EPM system work. When the time is right, you can merge the TimeControl deployment and the EPM deployment to provide the completed vision of an integrated EPM.

Let us know at HMS if you have any questions about how TimeControl can be considered beyond the link to an EPM System.

Did you know… about assignments?

For those who may have a lot of experience with project-status timesheets like those found in Microsoft Project Server and Primavera, you might expect that the only hours you can add to your timesheet are to assignments you’ve already been given.

That’s not necessarily true with TimeControl.

By default, TimeControl allows any employee to charge time any project or any task. If you want the system to be more restrictive you can do so by using the Employee Table Project and Charge filters. You can even make a filter that says ‘only show tasks to which I’ve been assigned’ (Ask HMS technical support to provide you this filter if you need it.)
We created TimeControl this way because of the incredibly common occurrence of someone doing time during the week on a task to which they weren’t assigned on Monday morning. Oh, you might want to make things a bit more restrictive. Not showing closed projects or unstarted projects or closed tasks for example, but otherwise, it’s very common for TimeControl systems to allow time to be charged on tasks to which you’re not assigned.

But what happens when the timesheet data goes back to the project management tool?
That’s a very good question. TimeControl allows for this too but it might work differently with each project management tool. When data is sent back to the scheduling system, TimeControl gives the user an option to decide what to do when a task is found but an assignment is not. If the user elects to make an assignment during the transfer, then TimeControl will do so. In Microsoft Project, the assignment’s “Work” field will have the same number of hours as the “Actual Work” that we’re transferring. That is something you may want to check and possibly adjust. In Open Plan and Primavera, the assignment’s assigned hours can be equal to the hours transferred or to zero. Having no value in the expected assignment would be the more accurate answer as the person really didn’t have that assignment to start with. The results of the TimeControl transfer are always displayed in the Link log which can be saved and reviewed later.

This may require implementing a project management process of checking for any new assignments in the project for tasks that are complete and clearing the original assignments of the people who will now not be required to do the work.

The great news about this is that the assignments can be created by TimeControl automatically as part of the transfer process.