Timesheets – What are they, what do they do?

<Oyster Bay Merlot, NZ>

Introduction

Timesheets are a completely new area for PS2007.  Okay, so PS2002/3 had a button labelled “Timehseets”, but the main function was task statusing, rather than a true timesheet system.  So, Microsoft have invested a whole lot of time in this functionality, but the Timesheet functionality is therefore a v1.0 release, so expect lots of learning, some issues and some features that are lacking.  There’s a lot to timesheets that could fill a book, so I’m just going to try and give an overview here.  Also, lets just be realistic about timesheets, the technical peice is the easy bit, embedding a timesheet process into any organisation is more difficult.

Timesheets vs Tasks

The 1st thing to understand is that Timesheets are a completely separate process to task updates.  Task updates (or task statusing) updates the task assignment with the relevant details as per the tracking method defined for the project or on the server (% complete, work done and work remaining or hours of work done per period).  Timesheets information is collected so that line managers can verify the hours worked per period, and can include both project work and non project (unverified) work.

Timesheet process

Nobody really likes completing a timesheet (having to complete a timesheet was a contributing factor for me leaving an employer once, long long ago…) so one of the design goals of timesheets is to have the ability to create a timesheet and prepopluate it with a single click.  Imagine it’s Friday afternoon, and you have already completed your task updates (as these have been the drivers for your work during the week), then creating a timesheet pre-populates it with the tasks that you have have either actual work or planned work on this week.

Prerequisites

There are several things that need to be set up before you implement timesheets.  These are all available under Server Settings | Time & Task Management.

Timesheet Periods

Timesheet periods require defining before timesheets can be created – these are created in Server Settings | Time & Task Management | Timesheet Periods.  It’s easy to create a bulk set of periods, but remember to use a prefix or suffix in order to make the timesheet period unique, eg TSCY07 for timesheets in calendar year 07.  Once the timesheet periods are defined then you are able to create timesheets.

It is possible to set timesheet periods to closed, when this is done users can no longer enter time for that period.

Administrative Time

Non-working time or adminstrative tasks (holidays, training, admin time etc) are now part of the timesheet function, administrative projects (as existed in PS2003) no longer exist (unless they are imported as part of a migration).  Administrative time is entered as part of the timesheet, and can be set up to require approval from the line manger as required (eg vacation).  Administrative time, when created, can have a category of working or non working.  If the work type of the administrative time category is non working, then a calendar execption is created for the resource, thereby affecting the capacity of the resource.  This is a very neat feature which doesn’t appear to be documented anywhere! (no doubt someone will point me to some documentation on the web somewhere).

Creating a timesheet

To create a timesheet, select the correct timesheet period (this will normally be the current period).  Clicking on Create Timesheet will create the timesheet with the default settings.  This setting is within the server settings and is either one of the one of

  • Create with default settings – the timesheet will display the Administrative Time categories marked with Always Display and the option selected for Default Timesheet Creation Mode.
  • Create with tasks – the timesheet will display the resource’s current assignments. 
  • Create with projects – the timesheet will display the projects on which the resource has assignments.  No tasks are displayed.
  • Do not autopopulate – the timesheet is blank.

Clicking directly on the Create Timesheet link with create it with the default settings, but it is also possible to select a drop down list to select one of the four options abolve.

I suspect most organisations will set the default setting to be Create with Tasks, and once created the user will be able to modify it to reflect the work they did during the week.  The beauty with Create with Tasks is that it will take the task assignments that you and bring in the actual work, or planned work, and place that work in the relevant day in your timesheet.  Thus, for the majority of cases, a user should only have to add in non-project work (eg administrative time) or unscheduled (or unverified line items) in order to complete the timesheet.

When you have created the timesheet, the user begins to complete the information as required.  Again, organisation processes will determine exactly what is needed.  The important thing to remember here is that users are looking to account for their time in the working week, so we’re looking here to fill in 40 hours (or whatever your standard is).

Here is the a standard timesheet created for Kim Ralls (one of the users in Microsoft’s sample EPM system).  The important thing to note here is that Kim’s planned time from her task assignments has been brought directly into the timesheet.   The example above actually shows that the resource manager in Kim’s organisation (Litware) isn’t really doing their job very well, as Kim has 24 hours of planned work each day.  Kim would obvioulsy modify the timesheet to reflect the actual work that she did.

Kim can also administrative (or non-project) time as described above.

Options

There are various options for filling in a timesheet, they can be found under the Actions menu and whilst completing a timesheet line.  Generally, these all have to be enabled by an administrator within the Server Settings

  • Creating unverified timesheet items – these can be used to enter time into the timesheet that is neither project time or adminstratrive time.
  • Identifying billable/non billable time
  • Identifying overtime/non-overtime time
  • Identifying additional categories of time – e.g., this could be used to categorise External customer time vs Internal custer time

Obviously, these settings have to be set appropriately by the adminstrator and will require maintaining.

Submitting the timesheets

Timesheets are submitted to your timesheet manager, and this field is defined, not by the RBS, but by a specific Timesheet Manager field held against each resource and editable via the resource centre.  If a resource is set as their own timesheet manager, then the system autogenerates the timesheet approval, otherwise the timesheet is submitted to the defined timesheet manager and they have the opportunity to either approve or reject the timesheet.  If they don’t have the perrmissions to approve the timesheet, then the timesheet is marked as acceptable and is routed to the next approver as defined as the timesheet manager of the 1st approver.  If the timesheet manager blank then you will be prompted to enter a user to approve your timesheets; any administrative time will be auto approved. 

Reporting

There are no out of the box reports for timesheets.  There are two options, one is to use Analysis services and create a report that meets your needs, and the other is to develop a report using a tool such as SRS.

Finally, if you don’t want to use timesheets at all, then you need to do two things to make them disappear.

  • Make sure the timehseet manager is blank/null for all resources, this stops the system calculating how many timesheets you need to fill in on the homepage
  • Remove the link to the timesheet from the site map.

I hope this has given you an insight to timesheets, there are various options and features that I haven’t covered in this blog.  Maybe another time….

Enjoy,  Ben.

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