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Time Tracking in Project Server 2010

Time Tracking in Project Server 2010

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As you might imagine we are all very excited to be able to talk about the new features coming in Project Server 2010. One of the areas where we’ve made huge investments is in Time Tracking where we’ve had a huge amount of feedback from our customers. The feedback has been immensely valuable in helping us deliver a richer experience and I hope that you’ll be as excited by the upcoming features as we are.

Given the size of the investment we’ve made it’s is going to be hard to squeeze a full description into a single blog entry so I’m going to point out the highlights and then we’ll follow up with some more detailed posts over the next few weeks, specifically:

1. Task Statusing and the new Grid (Pat Malatack will do the honors)

2. Timesheets and Single Entry Mode (my next article)

3. Approval Center for integrated approvals (Pat Malatack and Nicolae Rusan)

4. Exchange and Outlook Integration (Chris Boyd)

5. Why Track Time? (my final (planned) article in this series)

We’ll also be posting on the new Administration Blog, with a deep dive into the rich Time Tracking configuration options (my 4th article); and on the Programmability Blog, with two posts: one on extending the UI (Pat’s 3rd) and the other on reading/writing data in single entry mode (my 5th).

As we post each article I’ll update this entry with links so you can quickly navigate around all of the posts

Finally, as ever, if you have time tracking questions feel free to post them in response to our blog entries and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

Overview

I’m going to talk briefly about each of the areas above to give you a taste of what is coming over the next few weeks. Before I start with the new grid I just want to point out that we’ve deliberately minimized the changes we’ve made to our back end api (the Timesheet and Statusing Web Services), so those of you with customizations can relax!

The screenshots below are from a post Beta2 build, so you may notice one or two differences from the Beta – let us know if you can spot them!

Task Statusing and the Grid

One of the areas of feedback was that the move away from Project Server 2003’s ActiveX grid was a good thing (no install on to Team Member’s desktops) but that the replacement grid had some missing functionality. The good news is that we have a spiffy new grid that makes the Team Member experience richer than ever, here is a screen shot:

clip_image001

Figure 1 - Tasks Page

Pat will talk more about this in the next post but first notice the client-like ribbon, we’ve done a lot of work to make the experience more document-centric than in the past, it tested well in the usability labs and I hope you’ll find it easy as well.

Now notice the clean left navigation menu, again we’ve reworked the grouping a little (and this isn’t the final version, we expect the “Business Intelligence” option to move soon) to balance

In the grid itself we’ve brought back the ‘splitter bar’ (so the right “pivot” grid can be pulled over the left grid’s fields) which will really help folks with lots of columns to add to the grid but who have smaller screen resolutions make better use of their real estate.

The left grid is also a lot smarter, with the ability to reorder columns, hide/reveal columns and do custom sorts – and the bonus is that we remember these settings across sessions for each view that you select! There are many other improvements here that I’ll leave to Pat’s post where he’ll really exercise the grid’s capabilities for you.

Timesheets and Single Entry Mode

The first thing you’ll notice is that we’ve moved the old “Timesheet Center” down to “Manage Timesheets”, so when you navigate to the Timesheet page we’ll create/load the timesheet for the period for the current date, allowing you to get in and out with a minimum of clicks.

You’ll be pleased to discover that the Timesheet page has adopted the same grid technology as the Tasks page, so you get all the benefits of efficient use of screen real estate and more. The two grids behave a little differently due to the nature of the data:

- Timesheet shows only late tasks and tasks with work planned in the period;

- Tasks shows all of a Team Member’s tasks plus those tasks where they are the assignment owner.

They also behave differently due to the differences in workflow between task update approval and timesheet approval. Despite these difference we hope that they will behave closely enough for the Team Member to move easily between them.

Here is a screenshot of the Timesheet:

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Figure 2 - Timesheet Page

Notice the Status Bar (the blue bar below the Ribbon) – this is where we tell the team Member what to do next as well as displaying some global state such as the total hours and the period range.

The big functional change is the introduction of “Single Entry Mode” (SEM) – it can be set on or off by the Administrator and governs the integration between timesheet and project task assignment data. When SEM is on the task update data automatically flows into the Timesheet and onto the Project wherever it is edited, until such time as the timesheet is sent for final timesheet manager approval.

If SEM is on, then changes to task assignments are sent for approval to the Task Status Manager, and you can optionally hold back timesheet approval until all task updates are approved.

There is a lot more to talk about that I’ll cover in the Timesheet post.

Approval Center

We reviewed how people did approvals in Project Server 2003 and 2007 and decided that we would make the process faster if we presented all the approvals in a single dialog, this is shown below:

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Figure 3 - Approval Center

Note that there is a Timesheet approval mixed in with task updates. Again we’re using the new grid technology for a familiar look and feel as well as the splitter bar to make the page more scalable. We didn’t get round to integrating Workflow Approvals in this release, and this will be a separate menu option for those using Demand Management workflows.

Pat will take more time to show you around the grid and to show you the history pages in a future post.

Exchange and Outlook Integration

In previous releases we shipped an Outlook add-in that collected timesheet data – this was nice but had limitations including the need to install client-side code as well as functional limitations that meant that Team Members had to head to PWA to do many things.

We’ve now focused on connecting through to Microsoft Exchange™ and for our first revision we’ve targeted basic task assignment updates – using % complete or total work/remaining work – so it’s ideal for customers with basic progress tracking requirements.

The Team Member uses an Exchange client (Outlook or Outlook Web Access) and updates their tasks – any work entered is auto-submitted to the Task Status Manager, making this the simplest of the Time Tracking options.

Using Import or Single Entry Mode the data will arrive in the timesheet where it can be tidied up and then sent for approval.

Chris will talk about this more in an upcoming post.

Why Track Time?

This will be our final post in in the initial series where I’ll take some time to guide you through the reasons for choosing each time tracking method, with the aim of helping you be successful from the get go.

I know that the whole team is excited about sharing the new functionality in public for the first time and we are all looking forward to your feedback on what we did well (and what we may have missed)

Patrick Conlan
Project Development Team, Redmond.

  • Dear Patrick,

    I'm curious whether Project 2010 supports custom timescales?

    (or maybe with custom add-in?)

    Thanks,

    Rudolf

  • Hello Patrick,

    It is more then month when you announced your series of posts - any of them comming soon ?

  • Lukas - The first follow up post has appeared:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/project/archive/2009/12/11/project-2010-exchange-integration.aspx

    and we have others in the pipeline - watch this space!

  • Rudko - Pat Malatack will be posting on Task Statusing soon, and his article will show how the team member can define and then use custom time periods (timescales)to report progress - this is a post-Beta2 feature so nothing to see in the current beta I'm afraid.

  • Thanks a lot.It was quite informative

  • Hi Patrick,

    I have played with MSP2010beta a few weeks and I am very happy with most new features. But:

    We have postponed the implementation of MSP2007 to wait for MSP2010. We were very dissatisfied with timesheets functions in MSP2007 particularly the need to synchronize the task list and timesheets.

    What we expected of Single Entry Mode was that it was single entry in the timesheets or maybe in the task list. But it doesn’t appear that this is how it works :-(

    As I see it this is the situation:

    In Single Entry Mode you must first update the used time on the project / task in the task list and here after, you can fill in timesheets on time used outside projects. And you have to send both the task and the timesheets. Hours on the task doesn’t have to be reentered or imported but it is not Single Entry

    :-(

    The very old system we use today contains timesheets and today we can enter both the project time on task and time not relate to projects in the same timesheets. It is also possible change remaining work, etc. directly from the timesheets. And you only have to send the timesheet once and it is then sent to all projects as task updates and to your timesheet manager. That is what I mean by Single Entry.

    Do I understand the situation correctly? Are there planed changes to Single Entry Mode?

    Sincerely,

    Morten

  • Hi Patrick,

    Pleas forget my question. I have found the problem and now it is working perfect!!

    Sincerely,

    Morten

  • Any update on the rest of the series?

  • Hi Patrick!

    I attended the Ignite Partner Training for Project Server 2010 in Paris, and became very excited with the new functionality introduced!

    When I now starts digging deeper into the new features, my enthusiasm is put to the test.

    To my disappointment the combination of "manually scheduled tasks" and having "Single entry mode" activated, will prevent users from entering hours on the pinned activities. And even if SEM is deactivated, users can not report hours on their tasks (My work --> Tasks) - their only option is to use "Timesheet" which means the plan will not be updated with the progress.

    Am I missing something, or what is the rationale behind this?

  • >>>>

    To my disappointment the combination of "manually scheduled tasks" and having "Single entry mode" activated, will prevent users from entering hours on the pinned activities. And even if SEM is deactivated, users can not report hours on their tasks (My work --> Tasks) - their only option is to use "Timesheet" which means the plan will not be updated with the progress.

    <<<<

    Same problem here.

    What's the solution?

  • can i know how to maintain a tracker server

  • Hi ,

    I have started using MS project 2010 and Project Server 2010.

    I have created a project and delegated activities to people and they are able to update task status and time sheet on Project Web access.

    However as Project Manager , I am able to approve their time sheet , but not able to download my resources previous weeks time sheets under approved by me option in "Approval Center" in History option for time sheets.

    I choose the "Approved by Me" option , but still not able to view their time sheets for downloading to excel for analysis purposes.

    Can you help me with the same.Does my admin needs to define time-sheets or give me special access rights.

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