Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cascading User Defined Fields

Here's the challenge. On a timesheet you have several user defined fields. Let's take a simple example. We have consultants who do several things but we want them to identify what city they were in when they were doing the work this week. So, I could populate a drop-down list of 10,000 cities but scrolling through it to find Toronto would be quite tedious.

TimeControl now accomplishes this with "Cascading User Defined Fields".

To activate this feature you'll need to have access to the TimeControl Server and follow these steps:
  1. First, create your user defined Text Fields in the timesheet itself. You may want to hide them from others in the User Profiles until you're ready to display them.
  2. Now, under the TC5 directory add a new folder called “CustomWork”
  3. In this folder make a file called “TimesheetUDF.ini”
    Here’s an example of what would be in the file. In this example, timesheet field 2 would depend on the value in timesheet field1, Timesheet field 3 would depend on the value in timesheet field2.

    [DEPENDENCY]
    TSD_FLD2=TSD_FLD1
    TSD_FLD3=TSD_FLD2
  4. In the fields themselves, we then use periods to distinguish the levels.

    So in TSD_FLD1 we might have:
    CANADA
    USA

    TSD_FLD2 might then have:
    CANADA.QC
    CANADA.ON
    CANADA.BC
    USA.NY
    USA.NV
    USA.FL

    TSD_FLD_3 might then include:

    CANADA.QC.MONTREAL
    CANADA.QC.QUEBEC
    CANADA.ON.TORONTO
    CANADA.ON.OTTAWA
    USA.NY.NEWYORK
    USA.NY.BUFFALO
    USA.NV.LASVEGAS
    UAS.FL.MIAMI
  5. You'll need to restart your TimeControl Transaction Server for the new definitions to take effect.

When entering a timesheet now, if you choose "Canada" in field 1, then only QC, ON and BC will appear in field 2. If you then choose "ON" in field 2, then TimeControl would only show "TORONTO" or "OTTAWA" in field 3.

The effect is to reduce what is potentially tens of thousands of choices to a tiny handful and that can make the difference between a complicated timesheet entry and a very simple one

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's a Batch Transfer?

Did you know about Batch Transfers in TimeControl?

Think about this challenge:

You've got all kinds of timesheet data for the month and you are sending it out to your payroll service in an export file. The timesheet system happily creates the file for you and sends it to the pay people.

A week later it turns out you need to make a number of adjustments to the timesheet. You add hours to one thing, remove them from another and now you have a bunch of timesheet data from a previous period that you need to export. How are you going to do that? Do you re-export the whole month? Do you keep track of what changes happened manually? Do you try to find the internal update date and number to see when things were updated?

TimeControl's Batch Transfers were designed for exactly this challenge. Each time an export is defined that includes timesheet hours, there is an option to declare the transfer a "Batch Transfer". When this is done, each time the export is executed, all the timesheet lines that were a part of that transfer are given a number. Then when the export is run again, the user is given the option to export new records or to re-export a previous batch. This is a very important element of functionality. It means that you can request a transfer of all data from the beginning of the fiscal year and only the records which have never been exported before will be put into the transfer transaction file.

This is a function which is critical for transfers to payroll or billing. It prevents double-payments, double paycheques and makes finding and exporting on previous timesheet adjustments much more efficient and much more reliable.

Check out Batch Transfers in the Export Tables function of TimeControl

Thursday, August 6, 2009

TimeControl supports Primavera "Steps"

TimeControl 5.1.2 became available yesterday and along with several improvements came long-awaited support for updating Primavera Steps within the TimeControl Timesheet. As you can see by clicking on the screen at right, there is a new tab called Activity Steps which displays the sub-task level steps and the percent complete for each one. The resource which is designated in Primavera as the 'primary' resource will be able to edit the Step progress. Other resources will be able to see them only. New Steps cannot be added within TimeControl. They must be done within Primavera itself. You can see a quick video of Primavera Steps working within TimeControl 5.1.2 on the TimeControl 5.1.2 Steps Screencast.

Monday, August 3, 2009

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.