Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Project Server 2010: Timesheet Functionality Simplified

Written by Brian Wiedower. Published in SPTechWeb on March 23, 2011.

In many organizations, SharePoint is used with Project Server 2010, as managers try to get a handle of how projects are running and whether more resources are required.

The use of Timesheets in Project Server 2007 provides the necessary level of resource-assignment progress reporting that project managers and resource managers require to more accurately stay on top of resource utilization and project status. The Timesheet feature introduced in Project Server 2007 enables resources to report on their progress against project tasks, and also report non-project work to give a complete view of a resource’s work week. However, there are several challenges that exist for those using Timesheets that are addressed in Project Server 2010.

One challenge that organizations encounter is that the submission process requires a resource to complete multiple steps to submit his or her task updates. No matter the level of training that’s provided to resources, inevitably a resource will fail to complete all the necessary steps. Timesheet submission reports will show that the resource has submitted his or her timesheet, and a project manager may have updates from many resources, but they may not realize that they are missing updates from that one resource. The omission may not be discovered until after maintenance has been completed on project schedules, if it is discovered at all.

A resolution utilized by many is the CodePlex AutoStatus service. The service detects the submission of a timesheet and performs the import step and remaining steps for the resource, thus removing the requirement for a resource to remember to perform those steps. This solution does require the service to be configured and installed, and it has proven to hit performance issues for organizations with thousands of resources all submitting timesheets on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings.

While the AutoStatus service has been the answer for many to ensure resource progress reporting is completed successfully each week, a scenario that can occur still must be addressed by those using the service. A resource reports progress against a task, and the update is accepted by the Project Manager, but then it is discovered that the update was made to the wrong task. The resource makes the update to his or her Timesheet by removing his or her updates from the originally submitted task and applies them to the correct task. When the timesheet is submitted, the AutoStatus service detects the submission and will complete the submission process as before.

However, the service is typically customized to filter out task updates that have nor progressed for some time to help with the number of approval updates Project Managers receive and have to review, so the hours from the original task are not sent to be processed and will remain in the project schedule. The resource must go to his or her My Tasks page, select the original task from his or her task list, and submit it for processing.

If you are still with me, you can see where the use of Timesheets in Project Server 2007 for progress reporting can be a challenge. Thankfully, in Project Server 2010, this is all simplified and addressed by one configuration option: Single Entry Mode.

For those needing the Timesheet functionality in their progress reporting process, the Single Entry Mode feature invokes the system to perform all the necessary submission steps after a timesheet is submitted by a resource. Additionally, the scenario of zeroing out progress reported to a task incorrectly is handled with no additional work from the resource other than correcting the hours in their timesheet and resubmitting it.

So, this is great news for those organizations moving to or starting up with Project Server 2010 and planning on utilizing the many benefits Timesheet functionality provides.

Brian Wiedower is a consultant with Houston, Texas-based EPC Group.