For many managers, the collection and processing of timesheets can be a slow and labor intensive work. And employees hate to fill out timesheets – a common universal fact which makes supervisors and managers constantly struggle to adopt an effective and accurate time tracking in the organization. No doubt, they find it frustrating again and again, when they have to nag their staffs to submit timesheets. The consequence is that organizations land up spending considerable human and IT resources alone in performing checks, authentication and reviews to avoid incorrect data slipping through and creating payroll errors. Evidently, organizations need to devise a better solution that supports the way employees prepare and submit timesheets and do not hinder it. A solution that is easy to use and require little or no training at all.

Leveraging Outlook for timesheet collection

In today’s business workplace, most staffs already use Microsoft Outlook extensively – all day, every day for email communications, meetings and contacts. So having a time tracking solution that can easily integrate with Outlook and fits with employees ways of working today, can be just the key to overcoming and solving many of these challenges. And this is one of the main feature of this Microsoft Outlook add-in ‘Team TimeSheet for Outlook‘ that makes it very easy for employees and workers to prepare timesheet and project deliverables in Outlook and publish to a central database.

From the dedicated timesheet form, individual worker can prepare timesheets, tag project metadata and enter other deliverables from the familiar interface of Outlook appointment or task items. Once a timesheet is finalized and ready, it is published to the central database in just a single click. This submission process is seamlessly integrated in your Microsoft Outlook and the whole exercise is transparent to the user.

Leveraging the familiar workflow of Outlook appointments and tasks, this timesheet add-in extends your Outlook as an ideal platform to work, plan on projects and tasks and allows for quick reporting of timesheets, expenses and billing, notes and other intrinsic data to a central database repository.

Streamline timesheet collection and reporting process in the organization

To avoid critical data falling into the cracks leading to information loss and introduce inconsistency in timesheets, expenses or billings, this add-in provides a centrally administered control panel from which projects, tasks, timeline and automated notification emails are deployed to all the members across the organization through Outlook. When member works on project related tasks via Outlook, the timesheet add-in can automatically set the timeline (such as start, due or end date) of the Outlook item with those defined for the particular project.

As timesheets and project deliverables are collected from Outlook items in a standardized structure, there is no separate control process that is required for verifying data format and accuracy, thus saving time, efforts and resources.

Automatic emails notification to workers and managers

Automatic email notification and alerts are essential for keeping team members and managers informed with the progress of the project and tasks. This TimeSheet add-in offers a whole lot of notification options for different reporting events such as when a report is submitted, updated or withdrawn, or when a manager is assigned to the project, or when the audited report is approved or declined etc. Furthermore, these notifications can be fully customized using templates. Automatic emails and alerts are send out directly when a relevant event occurs and the whole exercise is transparent to the users.

Keep Project information fully synchronized among members

One of the challenges of project management is deploying projects and their deliverables at the right time to the right people. This add-in provides real-time transparency to all members to all the projects by keeping all vital project information fully up to date from the central database. On every Outlook startup, the add-in can be set to synchronize the administrator defined projects, tasks, custom fields and other global settings. This is particularly useful to automatically retrieve any new projects/activities or settings that were added or changed by the administrator in due course.

When new projects are added, team members are notified by email automatically informing about the availability of the new projects and their deliverables. Optionally, expired projects can be made unavailable to all members automatically. If members try to submit their timesheets or deliverables on the expired projects, they can be warned and void the reporting.

Control how workers use Outlook for project deliverables

When collecting timesheets and project deliverables from workers, consistency and accuracy of the reported data satisfying the organizational standard is crucial. Administrators can apply certain restrictions in the way the Team TimeSheet functions in Outlook such as,

  • the ability to report project deliverables from the default calendar or task folders only, or from any folder.
  • the ability to update existing published timesheet data.
  • the ability to cancel and withdraw published timesheet.
  • the ability to check for minimum work compliance.
  • the ability to prevent reporting of timesheets for expired project.

Color coding of timesheet items

Color coding an appointment or task item in Microsoft Outlook makes it easy to distinguish between various items on your calendar or task. By color coding your Outlook items, you can scan quickly and tell what types of appointments or tasks you have coming up. It also helps you to distinguish between various work projects at first glance. From the manager add-in, each project can be assigned a unique color code from the supported 25 colors in Outlook. If you enable this option, all the projects with color codes will be added to the ‘Master Category List’ of your Outlook.

Once the projects with color codes are imported to your Outlook, when you tag an Outlook appointment or task item with a project, the corresponding color code would be applied automatically. As this color code is deployed centrally, all members working on projects would have same uniform color coding for the entire team.

In Outlook calendar, appointments tagged with different projects are color coded.

Outlook views especially geared for effective project tracking

Outlook views are a wonderful tool to automatically sort, quickly find information and rapidly re-arrange Outlook items in any folder. Views can also be organized to group and filter items to make a particular feature of your information obvious at first glance. This TimeSheet add-in provides special Outlook views to help you to work with your projects and deliverables in a simpler and sensible way.

Table view of Outlook calendar folder, where all the appointments are grouped by the reported state. Reported timesheets will be group under ‘Yes’ and unreported items under ‘No’ or ‘None’. You can easily differentiate reported items from the unique ID value.

Table view of Calendar folder, where all the appointments are first grouped by project, and then sub-grouped by activity value, to generate a hierarchy tree representation and may prove useful to track and pinpoint a specific project or activity, or to get the number of items belonging to a specific project or activity, or simply just to have a listing that is better organized and summarized.

Offline Support

Supports offline mode with Outlook, allowing coding of time and expenses while away from the office. In leveraging the Microsoft Outlook platform for time and expense reporting, this add-in also offers an ideal billing solution for distributed organizations – companies with multiple locations or employees who travel on a regular basis. Through their Outlook client, team members can work on the time sheets and other deliverables of the projects in Outlook in offline mode wherever they are located. Once the timesheeets and project deliverables are ready, workers can submit time sheets when they are connected to the database server.

Audit Manager to accept or reject timesheets

After a time sheet is submitted, it can be routed to the appropriate supervisor, eliminating delays in the approval process. With Audit Manager module of the add-in, a time sheet can be approved with the click of a button or sent back to the particular member for revision. Additionally, instead of rejecting a report, supervisors and managers can also choose to make amendment to project, task or cost directly and can approve to prevent delays and meet deadlines. Notification emails on approval or rejection are automatically sent out to the concerned member.

Reporting, Charting, and Data Analysis – multi-dimensional OLAP

With the integrated Online Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) tool, managers can analyze submitted timesheets and other project deliverables in multidimensional view to extract critical information and intelligence that will enable better decision in business. The integrated OLAP tool supports the ability to explore large complex data sets and allows displaying in grids, charts and graphs and support most common operations such as pivoting, drill down/slice and dice, filtering etc. It’s simplistic point-and-click interface will ensure managers easily achieve the high-level views of information they require. Additionally, creating reports destined for different management levels is a simple task – and eliminates the manager dependence on IT personnel.

OLAP Grid with a pre-defined report view (Total Cost per Project per Member)

By unifying data analysis needs on a single platform, it provides an unparalleled array of reporting tools for web portals, intranet applications, websites, and other data-rich applications. It also provides more then 30 inbuilt reports geared towards providing out-of-the-box. Managers can also easily create and save their user-defined reports for future references. Any report, chart, grid or graph can be saved to PDF, images, web pages or printed.

OLAP Chart view with customized color code for the Work dimension.

Summary

Compared to a similar system based on Excel or the web, this timesheet add-in provides substantially better range of functionality for time reporting. Leveraging the familiar workflow of Outlook appointments and tasks, it simplifies timesheet creation, submission and tracking for employees, yet offers managers and administrators greater control throughout the time reporting process. With the assurance that team members are reporting through a regulated system such as Outlook, that promotes accurate, consistent time reporting, managers can leverage precise, up-to-date budget and billing reports for project estimation and budgeting. The end result is a reduced administration costs and little or no requirement of specialized skills and user training. Your team members are productive within minutes after installing and setting up the application in their Outlook. Because of this, user adoption is maximized, yet training time and costs are minimized. More importantly, reporting process of work done and expense is streamlined for all employees, resulting in a highly accurate and scalable solution for the organization.

Who should use it?

This timesheet solution is ideal for organizations looking for an enterprise time and billing management solution with Microsoft Outlook integration. Project Managers, will find it easier to distribute projects, timelines and calculate expenses and track budgets for current and past projects. Human Resource Managers can easily calculate work done and payroll for staffs and contractors without using an expensive ERP suite. With summary and OLAP reports, Analysts and Accountants would have access to budget information, accurate to the last number. Freelancers can easily calculate the exact hours and expenses to bill their employers.

To get more info about the tool, you can visit – https://www.assistmyteam.net/TeamTimeSheet/

 

Technology is driving and transforming business every day, but the ultimate goal is all about maximizing knowledge wealth and enhancing human intelligence. And for any organization, this acquired intelligence is the single most valuable asset. When such intelligence is utilized, shared and factored in, innovation and inventions take precedent, spiraling the business and profit level of the company. Therefore, in today’s competitive world, companies take a great deal of efforts to implement an effective knowledge retention and management policy, to prepare and compete for the future. This is where, a knowledge management system or what we popularly refer to as ‘knowledge base’ can make all the differences in aiding productivity and operational skills of the people of the company.

Besides, enabling knowledge retention for future, a knowledge base system can be effectively used for addressing recurring issues reported by your end-users. Consider a scenario, where you and your support team frequently find trying to solve the same issue over and over. Your end-users send you emails on similar issues repeatedly. And if you are already aware of the solution, typically, you will try to compose the solution or if you have vague recollection of it, you would try to navigate to your existing document libraries, past email conversations etc. Just consider how much time and effort you had wasted in trying to find the right information at the moment of need, not to mention the delayed response to the support request. If there was a knowledge base system at place in the organization, you could have shared your knowledge with other team members so that everyone has the same understanding and are communicating the same message when asked about specific issues.

There are many ways of implementing knowledge management systems. One of them is using Microsoft Exchange folders such as Public Folders or shared mailbox folders as KB repositories. In most likelihood, you and your team members are already using Exchange based mailbox accounts in your Outlook, either from on-premise Exchange server or from cloud service such as Microsoft Office 365, which is becoming quite popular for small businesses. And one of the great capabilities of Exchange folder is its collaborative and sharing feature. This makes it very versatile for storing knowledge base articles, which can be shared among the staffs and personals, especially those involve in customer service.

Limitation of Knowledge base folders

Many IT managers resort to using existing emails in Inboxes and other Exchange folders to document best practices and solutions to common problems, in the form of KB articles, because of the easy accessibility and collaborative capability. So, when a support request email is received in Outlook, support staffs would generally go to these folders and browse or search through the tier of KB articles. If a relevant article is found, either the staff would rewrite the solution from scratch into the email, or copy the contents from article item to the email reply, in a crude fashion. Moreover, the frequent switching back and forth between the email and KB folders tends to loosen the focus of the support staff, leaving him/her frustrated. Evidently, organizations and teams that leverage Exchange folders as a knowledge base would need to reinvent the wheel and implement an efficient way of importing folder-based article or document, to outgoing email reply.

Link Folder based KB articles to Emails

To exploit the sharing and collaboration nature of Exchange folders, there should be an easy way to make knowledge base articles from folders accessible and available for insertion into email replies in Outlook without losing any formatting, content, images and attachments etc. And this is one of the main feature of this Microsoft Outlook add-in ‘Team Knowledgebase for Outlook‘. This add-in enables support team to maintain a link between Outlook and KB Folders, in a way that you and other staffs can easily access and use KB articles stored in folders in Outlook without switching back and forth between multiple windows, navigating and searching, copying and pasting contents in crude fashion.

How Does It Work?

From within Outlook, using the administrative add-in for Team Knowledgebase, manager can choose the Exchange folders where KB articles are stored. This configuration would be then available in the Outlook application of each member who installs the User add-in for Team Knowledgebase. Now, you are ready to access any KB articles stored in any of the chosen folder and insert to email replies from the comfort of your Outlook in a click.

Inserting a KB Article to a new email when composing

Your customer writes to you on a recurring issue, for which a KB article was already published in one of your Exchange folders. You compose a new reply in Outlook addressed to your customer. From within the compose window, you can insert a KB article directly by clicking the ‘Insert a KB’ button available in the Team KB toolbar.

Alternatively, you can select the email send by your customer in Outlook Explorer window and directly hit ‘Reply with a KB’ button.

A KB selection box (above) will pop-up where you can search matching KB articles from the chosen Exchange folders and choose that particular KB article to insert it as file attachments (e.g., PDF attachment) or as inline content in the body of the email reply. Notice, KB articles are arranged in a tree, with each folder list representing as the root node, and category and type as child nodes. KB articles are then grouped by their types and categories, making it much easier to find an appropriate one by means of the context of the issue.

To further refine the result, you can search by entering a keyword as filter. And KB articles matching that keyword(s) will be highlighted in red color. For instance, if the keyword was ‘iPod’ as filter, the entries matching ‘iPod’ are highlighted.

You can insert selected KB article in 2 ways to outgoing email:

1) Inserting chosen KB article as PDF, MSG or XPS file attachment to the email reply

Selected KB article can be applied or inserted into the replied email in varied format. You can choose to insert as attachment in the form of a word document (*.doc), Adobe PDF (*.pdf), Email MSG file (*.msg), Microsoft XPS (*.xps) or as single file MHTML (*.mht).

2) Inserting chosen KB article as inline content to the email reply

You can also embed the selected KB article directly into the body of the email reply. Any inline images and formatting are preserved in its original state in the reply also.

Notice the actual KB article item (below), along its formatting and its attachments. They all make it to the inline content that is embedded into the email (above).


Optionally, you can choose if to send the reply containing the inserted KB article directly to the recipient or display the inspector compose window, so that you can add further information such as attachments or tweak the content.

Lastly, you can customize the reply template headers that are used in the email reply from Outlook > Team KB toolbar > My Options > Reply Templates.

Generating new KB Article to Exchange folder from an email

Most often, you might have already written solutions and workarounds to certain issues from your customers through email communications. Such emails in your archive could potentially be a goldmine of knowledge of your organization.


But mining such information at the time of needs can be tedious tasks for workers. They might have vague recollection of it. Another problem is navigating to such existing document libraries and past emails and searching for the right information at the moment of need often takes time and effort, not to mention the delayed response to the support request.

Instead, with Team KB Add-in, you can raise new KB articles from such emails, assign a unique ID, catalog and tag it with metadata such as category, type and other information specific to your business and store it to an appropriate centralized folder where it is available for use by your knowledge workers.

Once KB articles are mined from your archived emails and documents, what you end up is a series of well documented, organized articles that can be easily referenced, searched, catalogued and shared with your support staffs.

Benefits of Knowledge base folders

The good thing about knowledge base folders is the accessibility, not only for the staffs, but also for the end users. Over time, the knowledge base repository would have enough solutions on common problems and issues. You can exploit this wealth of knowledge, by publishing your knowledge base articles to your company’s website. Such that your end-users and customers experiencing technical challenges can self-service the answer to their problem by accessing this web-based knowledge base. This can eliminate unnecessary phone calls and allows your customers to quickly get answers to questions and maximize the use of your knowledge base.

Summary

By maintaining a seamless integration of Outlook to knowledge base folders, this add-in makes it very easy for support staffs to search and locate a knowledge base article relevant to a customer issue from within Outlook and insert it to the outgoing email reply as PDF or MSG file attachment or embed as inline content. All these without requiring switching back and forth between multiple windows and applications, thus helping your support team to reduce service response time, improve staff productivity and eliminate time wasted searching for information across disparate systems such as shared folders and paper documents.

On the cost front, as Team KnowledgeBase leverages your existing Outlook and Exchange folder resources, there is no extra hardware/software cost that you will have to incur in implementing an enterprise-wide knowledge base for your team. As your team members are already familiar with Outlook, there is no requirement for any elaborate training, further lowering the cost. As you have network and Exchange administrators in place, you don’t require dedicated personnel for maintenance. And the bigger advantage, in long-term, is the reduced number of inbound customer support questions, which will reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to support issues. This can reduce the number of support engineers needed, thereby reducing costs to your support desk at the long run.

To get more info about the tool, you can visit – https://www.assistmyteam.net/TeamKnowledgebase/

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