Is remote timecard collection possible?

When it comes to construction companies, I’ve noticed there are not many successful examples of remote timecard collection projects . Here are my thoughts on why there isn’t much ‘observable’ success, and what is necessary to actually implement a successful remote timecard collection strategy.

There are no simple answers as to why there very few examples of successful remote timecard collection projects. Most likely, it is because few companies are willing to bear the expense and effort to make the ‘culture’ changes necessary for such a project to succeed. It requires a company-wide effort, including a motivated management team, to insure success of something as delicate as a new time-keeping system!

Who, What, Where, When?

One of the difficult barriers in dealing with ‘remote timecard collection’ is the physical manner in which said devices will be used. A big hurdle is developing a process the field personnel will utilize. It involves the old who, what, where, when questions:

  1. Who does the recording of the data? Is it the employee, the foreman/supervisor, or an on-site administrator?
  2. What kind of device might succeed in recording the data? A scanner, a biometric device, a barcode reader, a handheld computer?
  3. Where does the recording of time happen? At the point the employee walks onto the site, in the foreman’s truck or job trailer, or at the actual point of where the work is happening?
  4. When does the recording of time happen? Beginning/ending of the shift, each time the ‘Task’ being accomplished changes, or at the end of the shift?

What device to use?

Another barricade to success is determining the technology (type of device) that might be used to collect the timecard data. When looking at the actual timecard collection devices, these questions should be addressed:

  1. Can the pertinent data be collected by the time-card device selected? At a minimum, you need the date worked, employee number, job/project number, task code (phase of work), and the number of hours (regular, overtime, premium).
  2. In what from is the data exported from the device? Can it be e-mailed? Put on a floppy? Sent wireless? Sent via the Internet?
  3. Can the device survive the environment it must work in? Cold, hot, dust, dropped, bumped, lost?
  4. What kind of money is budgeted for each device?

Note: I do think most time-card collection devices will output some kind of file, and even if that file can’t be directly imported into a payroll system, at least the data can be pre-processed and then imported. Actually, this is the area most easily controlled.

A successful example

An example of a successful data collection process involved a client that was motivated and willing to spend the necessary money to succeed. Here’s what made it work:

  1. A biometric device (a handprint device) was used to record employees coming into the job-site and leaving the job-site. Actually, because of the volume of employees, two handprint devices were used so the employees didn’t go berserk waiting in line to get in/out of the job-site.
  2. The time data was stored on a local computer (running the third-party application that monitored the biometric devices) at the job-site trailer then exported from that computer and emailed to ‘accounting’.
  3. The e-mailed data was put through a pre-process (custom code to overcome what the timecard collection output failed to do) step, and finally imported into the payroll system.

The hard questions

Ultimately, the big questions about implementing a timecard collection process centers on whether the relevant data, like the task (phase of work), can be captured, and can the company get the field employees to make that happen?

Finally, remember this–sometimes, the best timecard collection device is the simple paper and pencil.

What is the Discussion Board?

One of the new features on this web-site is the Discussion Board. The Discussion Board, powered by Simple Machines Forum software, is a community forum where you can ask (or answer) questions related to your Maxwell Systems Software.

Because of the ‘sharing’ aspect of the Discussion Board, other people can view the question you ask and they can answer your question. Once a question is asked and answered, other members will be able to benefit from that exchange.

So, if you have a question, or a comment, or a solution, please feel free to contribute to the Discussion Board. The more questions, the better!

Live Help Chat

To offer another avenue of support and to better assist visitors to this site, I’ve installed the Live Help software from Crafty Systems. Essentially, this allows you to start a chat session with me by just clicking on the “Click for LIVE HELP!” icon over to the right. A window will be displayed; there you enter your name, your e-mail address, and your question. Then, click on “Send” to initiate the chat process.

Live Help first screen

Once the chat session has begun, as each of us responds, you will see an ongoing display of our converstaion. I will see whatever you type, and in turn, you will see what I type. Click the “Say” button at the end of each of your reponses. At any time , you can end the chat by clicking on Exit. At that point, you will be afforded the opportunity to receive a transcript of the chat session via email.

Live Help chat screen

So please, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to “Click for LIVE HELP!”. I look forward to hearing from you.

Disaster Recovery

Does your business plan include disaster recovery procedures? The terribly sad loss of life and property caused by Hurricane Katrina will continue to dominate the news for the weeks and months to come, but, on a smaller scale, I wonder how all the small businesses that were affected by Katrina will recover? What happened to all their business records? Will they be able to recover all their computers and the data held on those computers?

This is a good time to re-evaluate your backup and recovery procedures. Begin the process by preparing an assessment of your computers and records what assets are critical for your business to operate?

Next, allocate the resources (money and manpower) to sufficiently protect, recover, and restore, those assets. This could involve purchasing extra backup devices, spare computers, off-site backup storage, and off-site office space to store extra computers and office equipment.

Then, develop your disaster recovery plan. This plan should include details of who is responsible for backups, where those backups are stored, and what should happen in the event a disaster occurs.

Finally, you should test your disaster recovery plan. This includes making sure your off-site assets are working and that your backup media can be restored.

Though you may not experience a hurricane, businesses can be ravaged by fire, flooding, theft, tornados, earthquakes, terrorist attack, loss of electricity, and even computer viruses. Please, set aside some time to prepare and review your disaster recovery processes and if they need to be updated and improved, do it now!

Programmer’s Dream or Nightmare?

It’s probably a good chance (closer to certainty) there will be some kind of change to the Social Security system–how will that affect computerized payroll systems?

If Congress simply expands the FICA cap then no harm, no foul, at least for programmers (maybe not for taxpayers!) But, it’s this next scenario that makes things interesting! What if FICA gets split into different pieces, say a FICA deduction and a deduction into a private savings plan?

That doesn’t sound too complicated, but consider that each person might have the option of ‘contributing’ a different percentage into their private savings plan. That could mean each person has a DIFFERENT FICA deduction rate and limit. And, each person could have a DIFFERENT deduction rate and limit for their private savings plan.

Oh boy, can’t wait to see the new reporting requirements that will accompany this!

What will be the cost to modify computer programs and databases to handle these kinds of changes?

The moral of the story–don’t wait to the last day before considering what changes you need to correctly handle any new requirements.

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This RSS stuff may sound a bit complicated, but it’s really quite easy. On the Tutorial page, you can access a screencast by Alex Barnett that shows you how easy it is to use RSS. More importantly, subscribing to a web-site’s feed means you don’t have to always navigate to that site to get the information you’re looking for. It will save you time and make you more productive. Give it a try! Oh, and make sure you add this site to your reading list!