The message above pops up in your in-box. You are at the airport, waiting for your flight to depart…15 minutes until you board. No connectivity at the airport, a 3 hour flight followed by a 2 hour drive home. You haven’t seen your family for a week and the first thing you are going to do when you arrive home is log onto the company server and record time cards???
We have all been there, and as an ERP/EPM Consultant for the better part of 30 years I have seen a variety of scenarios surrounding the challenges of accurately and efficiently recording time. And I have heard all the excuses of why time reporting is late, inaccurate, or non-existent. Working with a contracting firm I was told that the Union Rep indicated that the supervisor could not force his members to submit time cards. Working with a Pharmaceutical Research firm I was told that Scientists should not have to submit time cards. Working with an Advertising firm I was told that forcing the creative staff to record timecards would stifle their creativity. Obviously, these are all manifestations of poorly executed time reporting policies. And given the fact that most Professional Services Organizations are human capital intensive, accurate and timely processing of labor is moreover the driving revenue element of the enterprise.
The earlier mentioned scenario at the airport is all too common as outdated ERP/EPM architecture is pervasive in the Professional Services space and employees, consultants, etc. are confronted with technological constraints when attempting to undertake (what should be) relatively simple tasks. The bottom line is that time entry can be a cryptic and technologically challenging process that is especially difficult given the increasing mobile nature of a PSO workforce. Resolution of the time recording challenge dictates a change in the way employees interact with a time card solution. By making the process intuitive; adoption rate is accelerated and errors are minimized.
Ideally time should be gathered as close to the origin as possible and with minimal delay from the actual time event. This means that a time entry device and methodology should be available without regard to the work locations and or technology limitations. For production workers, this may mean clocking in and out via the use of PC time clocks or scanners. For a blue collar labor force it may mean daily timecards submitted via web from a job trailer. For programmers, scientist, engineers etc. it may mean time cards recorded on their laptop. For off-site (connected) consultants it may mean recording on a hand held device such as an iPad or Android. And for off-site (disconnected) consultants it may mean recording on a handheld device with a delayed synch when connectivity becomes available. This means that a time entry solution supporting only a single entry mode may very well be a severely constraining factor in the time entry process.
In fact, demand for these methods often co-exist in a homogeneous environment with internal staff keying their time directly or submitting timecards to admin and outbound consultants leveraging remote technology. The remote technology is often widely variable based on; client constraints, location, available technology, travel schedules, etc. There are also growing requirements for accountability, traceability, and compliance with time entry. Time entry is increasingly subject to multi-level review and approval. Project Managers demand to review allocations of hours before they post to their respective projects. Billing Managers want to make sure that comments on timecards transfer to invoices without re-keying. DCAA auditors want to see that a modified time entry has a reason attached to the change. Project Managers want to secure team members to specific projects, limited to scheduled activities and/or constrained to active tasks. User definable work flow can route draft time for approval, time approval can be delegated to covering approvers and rejected time routed back to employees for correction. Time card transactions update utilization and realization rates vs. targets and automatically synch with external payroll providers.
These demands are being addressed by many ERP/EPM vendors through the execution of flexible deployment options and integrated workflow. A