Excel Add-in for Timesheets

Have you ever wanted to pull your time and expense data into Excel for analysis? Now you can, with the XLST Excel Add-in. (scroll down for a video)

XLST is a new Excel add-in that pulls timesheet and project management data from your Standard Time® timesheet, and puts the results into Excel spreadsheets. It uses Excel formulas to extract timesheet data, and places the results into a single cell. In fact, the XLST functions act exactly like any other Excel function. They take “parameters” from other cells and use that data to get results.

What kinds of results can you get?

You can query the Standard Time database for all the actual work entered by employees. Or, you could query for all the expenses. Or all time off taken by employees. Or the hours available for time off.

Here is a partial list, which might spark your imagination:

  1. XLSTActualWork
  2. XLSTActualSalaryCost
  3. XLSTActualClientCost
  4. XLSTExpenseTotal
  5. XLSTTimeOffHours
  6. XLSTTimeOffAvailable
  7. XLSTScheduledHours
  8. XLSTExceedDailySchedule
  9. XLSTExceedWeeklySchedule
  10. XLSTProjectTaskScheduledHours
  11. XLSTProjectTaskDuration
  12. XLSTProjectTaskActualWork
  13. XLSTProjectTaskPercentComplete
  14. XLSTProjectTaskModified
  15. XLSTPayPeriodStart
  16. XLSTPayPeriodEnd
  17. XLSTEmployeeTimesheetApproved
  18. XLSTEmployeeTimesheetSubmitted
  19. XLSTEmployeeExpensesApproved
  20. XLSTProjectClientRate
  21. XLSTProjectSalaryRate
  22. XLSTEmployeeClientRate
  23. XLSTEmployeeSalaryRate
  24. XLSTCategoryClientRate
  25. XLSTCategorySalaryRate
  26. XLSTProjectManager

Just click in an empty cell and then click the function icon near the formula line. Then choose XLST as the category. You’ll see all the functions listed above. Each one takes different parameters. Many parameters are optional, so you can quickly get results right away.

You must start by downloading Standard Time from the stdtime.com website, and then connecting it to SQL Server. XLST requires SQL Server or SQL Express. Once ST is connected to SQL, then you can download and install XLST.

Watch the video to get started.


How Eversight Vision Uses Standard Time Barcoding

A customer testimony from Eversight Vision!

Watch the video below to learn how Eversight Vision (an eye bank) uses Standard Time® to track the amount of time cornea tissue is being handled by lab technicians. Every second counts!

Essentially, lab techs scan a barcode when cornea tissue is removed from refrigeration, and scan again when returned. The codes record which procedure is performed. They now know how long tissues are out of refrigeration, how long each procedure takes, how long each employee worked on cornea tissues, and which employee “touched” them last. Ahhh! Somebody touched my eye! 🙂

All kidding aside, that’s a lot of great information, just by scanning a barcode label.

This is especially the same process any manufacturing or assembly operation uses. You must measure before you can improve. How long are employees spending on each product? How long are products in each stage? What state is a given product at any time? Where is it? Who handled it last? When will it be finished? Those questions can best be answered by scanning barcode labels and recording time spent on them.

Watch the video and determine if this type of process would benefit you. Then download.


Strategies for serial numbers when barcoding

I don’t know how to get those pesky serial numbers to show up while barcoding! I need to track time to serial numbers on my widgets, but how? Where do the serial numbers show up in your time tracking app? Are they projects or tasks? How do I even start?

Start by watching the video! (scroll down)

Then, consider creating projects for serial numbers you’ll be scanning many times over a long period of time. Or, consider creating tasks for serial numbers you’ll only scan for a few days or weeks. It all depends on what the serial numbers and barcode labels represent.

In the end, you’ll get the same employee hours in the timesheet, and time logs in your reports. You’ll see how many hours each employee spends on your projects and tasks. You’ll see how much time was spent on each product. On each kind of work. On each step of the manufacturing process. All that information makes your process more efficient, and cost effective.

Here’s the basic process you will follow:

  1. Scan an employee name
  2. Scan a task name (representing a serial number on one of your widgets)
  3. The timer will start
  4. Perform the task
  5. Scan username again
  6. Scan the word STOP

That basic exchange collects a lot of information:

  1. How long the employee worked
  2. How long the project took to manufacture, assemble, box, and ship
  3. How long each serial number took
  4. How many times you touched the product
  5. Who touched the product
  6. When they touched the product
  7. How much time you’re spending on each kind of work

Barcode Labels Report

Here’s a quick “report” that prints barcode labels for a selected project and all its tasks. Comment on the video below, and let us know what you think!

We use the word report in quotes because its not really a report. Instead, it’s the barcode labels for any given project. That’s not really a report, right?

But you may find this useful if you’re tracking time in manufacturing or assembly. Start by scanning your employee name. Then scan the project name followed by the task. A timer will start to record your employee jobs.

Scan the word STOP to stop the timer. Now you have time logs with start and stop times. Lots of them! You’ll see scans come into the system in real-time. Now you can use them for all your wonderful reasons. Here are some to consider:

  1. Learn how much time each employee works
  2. Learn how long projects actually take to produce (rather than guessing)
  3. Get actual time for each task of a project
  4. Find out how long each product takes to manufacture and ship
  5. Compare manufacturing time to admin time (what percentage is each)

Quick Questions: Sync Apps with Cloud

You can use your smartphone for tracking time and expenses. The information goes directly to your boss. Well sort of.  🙂

It goes up to the cloud or desktop, depending on how you sync your time and expenses.

Is that better?

The good thing is that your Android or iOS time tracking app syncs with something. It gets data from the phone to your on-premise database.  Just give it a URL to sync with, and any records you enter will automatically be sent.

That means you can track time anywhere. Even in the office. Think about that… you can pull out your phone and track project time, even in a meeting, or in front of your computer. You don’t to touch a keyboard if you don’t want to.

Interview: Customize Client Invoices

Make invoices your own with Standard Time®. Put your company logo, company style in every invoice sent out to clients.

Scroll down to watch the video

Invoice templates in ST at simple RTF documents.  That means you can edit them any way you like.  Open them in your favorite word processor and go to work!  Add your logo, motto, corporate colors and style.  Add anything you like.  When you’re done, save it in the Invoices\Templates folder.  Now you use it in ST.

Place these tags in your document to serve as placeholders for data.

[INV_NUM] Invoice number
[INV_SUBTOTAL] Total, before taxes
[INV_TOTAL] Total, after taxes
[INV_TAX_RATE] Percentage of tax on goods and services
[INV_TAX] Total taxes
[INV_DATE] Date the invoice was produced
[INV_PO] Purchase order number
[INV_TERMS] NET30, or other payment terms
[INV_DUE] Due date
[INV_REP] Representative
[INV_PROJECT] The project this invoice was billed against
[INV_SUBSYSTEM] The subsystem this invoice was billed against
[INV_USER] The user the time and expenses belonged to
[INV_NOTE] Note to display on the invoice
[INV_STARTDATE] Starting date range for time and expenses
[INV_ENDDATE] Ending date for time and expense records
[INV_TASK_DETAIL] A pre-built block that describes all the time logs
[INV_EXPENSE_DETAIL] Pre-built block of expense records
[INV_TAXID] Federal tax id of the consulting firm
[INV_ADDRESS] Address of consulting firm
[INV_CLIENT] Client name and address, displayed anywhere you like
[INV_TASK_TOTAL_ACTUAL] Total hours for all time logs
[INV_TASK_TOTAL_CLIENT] Calculated time log cost to client
[INV_TASK_TOTAL_SALARY] Calculated cost to consulting firm
[INV_EXP_TOTAL_AMOUNT] Total expenses
[INV_EXP_TOTAL_DISTANCE] Total distance for all mileage records
[INV_TASK_] Prefix for any time log field
[INV_EXP_] Prefix for any expense field
[INV_EMBED_RTF:] Prefix for embedding a report into the invoice

Should You Go Cloud?

That is the question…to cloud, or not to cloud?  I recently read an article by Sarah Fister Gale, found here: http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Publications/PMN0312%20cloud.ashx
It is interesting how many people go to the cloud without knowledge of security, back-up, redundancy, and so forth.  There is little doubt that the cloud has many positive attributes.  That is why cloud usage continues to experience robust growth.  However, too often people just assume the cloud is a magical solution with hardly any issues.  Well, that is normally the case…unless you happen to be my brother-in-law.  His company was utilizing a cloud hosted credit card processing service.  And things were great for nearly two years, until the cloud server went down and there was no back-up plan in place.  It took 3 days of hand wringing and lost sales to get back online.  In addition to immediate lost revenue, he lost long term customers.  The article above will certainly give you an idea on specific questions one should ask and a basic outline to help you make a solid choice for your cloud solutions.

Project Portfolio Management

Project portfolios are helpful for grouping work and managing projects individually and as a whole. Many companies start out not utilizing project portfolios. Then, as the company grows projects become unmanageable and the need for project portfolio management becomes clearer. Portfolio management helps companies maintain efficiency and breaks project work load into manageable pieces. It is vital that whatever project management software you utilize, be sure it is scalable to include project portfolios. It is likely you will need it! There is way too much to cover in this short blog. However, a pretty good white paper can be found from Mosaic Project Services at the link below.


Trust Me, I’m a P.M.

An often overlooked step in the project management team is the project/client representative. The person responsible for being the messenger, intermediary between the project team and the client is a critical role. Larger companies pay professionals to strictly fill this role, while smaller companies often let the PM handle that role. This is fine in most cases, unless your PM is not good at customer relations. Customer relations’ professionals spend their entire day thinking of how to build trust, gain confidence, and maintain a relationship. Project managers spend their day doing this on some level within their project team, but it is not their main focus. If you are good at customer relations it will make the project run smoother because the client will have a certain level of trust. If you are not, the project becomes hindered. Why? Because, the client doesn’t have a needed level of trust in you, they begin to question your work. Now the client wants more status meetings. Maybe the client begins to micromanage your project and requires more of the project manager’s time and attention? This can quickly snowball because of one misunderstood statement that breaks a fragile trust. Whoever is communicating with the client, make sure it isn’t General Patton. While he gets the job done, in the project world he would make the job more difficult.

Negotiating and Managing Project Expectations

One of the many factors in project cost overruns is due to setting unreasonable expectations. Whether working as a consultant outside a company or as a project manager within a company, all too often we become “yes” men to secure a deal or please superiors. We may win in the short term by getting the job or by delaying management’s wrath by telling them what they want to hear, but, in the long run, both scenarios are losers. As a consultant you land the gig and wind up with bad word of mouth advertising as being late and over budget. As an internal project manager you develop a reputation of being unreliable and/or overly optimistic. Instead, be real and upfront about duration and costs of expected projects. Give pushback to help set reasonable expectations. Maybe someone else will promise the moon? You should challenge competitors’ unreasonable assertions. You may still wind up losing the deal, but in the long run you will maintain your reputation and eventually land more deals because of it. Short term pain for long term gain is tough in this economy. What is your word worth and where do you go to get your reputation back?