Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What about TimeControl in a 64 bit environment?

With more and more people asking about TimeControl in a 64 bit environment, I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about it.

When people ask whether TimeControl works in a 64 bit environment, we have to take a moment and ask what part. There are several elements of TimeControl to consider.

  • If we're talking about the data itself running on a 64 bit database server, the answer is Yes. TimeControl is happy to connect to a 64 bit database server.

  • If we're talking about the client workstations within Internet Explorer, then the answer is also Yes. The TimeControl ActiveX controls are 32 bit controls but Microsoft loads a 32bit version of Internet Explorer by default in a 64 bit operating system and TimeControl is perfectly happy there.

  • The TimeControl ATS middleware itself does work in a 64 bit environment but the COM Server which provides the menu to the IIS (Internet Information Services) webserver is 32bit only so our instruction to clients is to install the TimeControl Server on a 32bit server operating system.

  • What about a 32bit Virtual Server running in 64 bit hardware? This works just fine for the TimeControl ATS and both VMWare and Virtual PC are very effective in managing TimeControl in this way. If you only have a 64 bit server available, then creating a Virtual Server running Windows 2003 or 2008 on that machine and installing the TimeControl ATS there is a perfectly viable solution.

In TimeControl 6 we've already made allowances to support both 32bit and 64bit servers as we have eliminated the COM Server. This will result in different installations depending on which server you're installing onto.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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:// for the Default ADS Path (the 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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

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 This tool can take files created by TimeControl and move them into the Quickbooks architecture as transations.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why not put in the hours for me?

I get this question all the time. Users who look at the robust TimeControl interface ask why we can't seek out the planned hours from the project scheduling system and populate them into the timesheet. 'We must have access to the planned hours from the task assignments in the project system,' they argue so surely we could make their lives easier by simply putting the hours into TimeControl for them. 'We could go one step further,' they say. We could look at the remaining hours not accounted for by the project system and fill them in with 'Miscellaneous' to make up a 40 hour work-week and complete the timesheet.

'Wouldn't that ease of use increase the overall percentage of compliance of the timesheet and therefore be better?'

It wouldn't.

The problem is not technological. These people are quite right. We do have access to the hours planned in the project management system and automatically populating the timesheet with all the hours would be technically easy to do.

Why not do it then?

Because of what we already know about human behavior. Imaging a timesheet which is pre-populated for you. You need only click 'Ok' to complete the timesheet and send it on its way for approval. It's the end of a long week and the weekend beckons. Do you click 'Ok' or, do you review each line to ensure it's correct? Most people will just click 'Ok'.

Ok, your personnel are diligent people who would never just click Ok. Let's accept that. Now imagine that it's the end of the week and the timesheet system indicates that the plan of the week was to spend 35 hours on that design task and 5 hours on that documentation task. Unfortunately you've just done the opposite. You've spent 35 hours on the documentation task. Won't there be a tremendous temptation to click 'Ok' with a promise to yourself to make it up later? There will.

Here at HMS we know that the most valuable thing TimeControl can deliver is accurate complete information so that management can make better decisions. If all we do is return data that matches expectations, then there's little point in tracking it at all.

So, TimeControl can optionally pre-populate a list of the tasks you were scheduled to work on based on the assignments in a project management system but it won't put in the estimated hours for each day.

Years ago I was in a presentation showing TimeControl to a small group of technology professionals. The Chief Financial Officer was in the room and at one point asked why we didn't automatically complete tasks in the project management system from the TimeControl timesheet. I pointed out that we did, in fact, allow the Estimate to Complete to be entered in TimeControl and that when there was nothing left to complete, the task would be marked as completed in the project management system. The CFO though was insistent. Why didn't the timesheet just figure that out from the hours worked.

"What would you expect to happen," I asked, "in a task with a plan of 40 hours when you'd done 40 hours of work?"

"I'd expect the task to be automatically marked as complete," he answered.

I was stunned. "But what if it's not complete?" I replied.

"I don't understand your answer," the CFO said. "If you've done 40 hours then the task is over."

A senior VP had to take the CFO out to explain that life doesn't always match up to our expectations in a project.

We've remembered that lesson very well at HMS and it's reflected in the TimeControl design. There are all kinds of links between TimeControl and project management tools that give users a tremendous access to data from both the timesheet and the project management environment but we have resisted the most requested feature in the system for over 15 years now. TimeControl will pre-populate a list of what the end user was supposed to work on, but it won't load all the expected hours. End users are responsible to declare what they actually did with their time.