Hi, my name is Matt, I’m a PM on the Project team and I’m here to talk with you a bit about the improvements that we’ve made to the timesheet experience in the new version of Project Web App. Over the course of the next couple posts I’ll talk about improvements targeted at both end-users, backend administrators, and developers that streamline the timesheet process and provide increased functionality to make you more effective.
In my first post I’d like to chat about the improvements that we’ve made for end-users, the people who actually have to fill out their time card every week or so. Here on the product team we realize that one of the most tedious, and yet common, tasks that many users have to complete using Project Web App (PWA) is filling out their time card. To help ease the pain and make it faster for you to get back to your actual work we’ve made several improvements to the experience in PWA 2013.
One of the first things that timesheets users will notice when you first open PWA is the new navigation interface:
In this case, you can see that we’ve enabled the timesheets tile which shows the number of outstanding timesheets the user has and allows them to navigate to the list of their timesheets. Note that the tile is not enabled by default. This is something that a PWA administrator can easily do by editing the web part on the main page. Also note that we’ve hidden the “Tasks” tile (which is shown by default) for this scenario as we only want users to make use of the timesheets feature for entering status on their assignments. More information on task status configuration can be found at the following link:
Also note that the quick launch navigation on the left side of the page must also be modified to show the timesheets link and hide the tasks link as well:
User Interface Simplification
One of the most common complaints with regards to the timesheet was that the user interface was too complicated and overwhelmed and confused users. We’ve made several improvements in 2013 to help address this.
When you open up a timesheet in PWA 2013 you will immediately notice a few changes:
First, the ribbon is hidden by default. This places the emphasis on the timesheet grid which is where the user spends the majority of their time on this page entering time. The ribbon will automatically appear when the user begins editing their timesheet, but you can also access it in this state by clicking on the tab.
Notice that the status field has been updated as well:
In previous versions the status field was just a simple indicator of the status of the timesheet, but in 2013 we have updated the field to provide more descriptive information about not only the present state of the timesheet, but also the actions available to the user while the timesheet is in that state. This is aimed at making the timesheet experience more intuitive in helping the user decide what to do next.
Now let’s enter some time for the current week. The first time that I click into a cell on the timesheet the ribbon appears:
You notice that the commands in the ribbon have been greatly simplified:
We evaluated the usage rates for all of the commands on the timesheet ribbon and identified the commands that were either required to complete the baseline “submit timesheet scenario” or those that were very commonly used. These commands have been consolidated on the new reduced-surface default timesheet ribbon shown here and enable the user to conduct common actions with a minimum number of clicks while reducing the visual clutter of the timesheet ribbon.
Controls from the ribbon that could relate to a specific line on the timesheet have also been made available on a new context menu when right-clicking on any timesheet line:
Another common complaint we heard in previous versions of PWA was confusion between the save, send, and submit controls. Users were frequently unclear about which control to use when attempting to save and turn in their timecard. To help address this confusion we’ve made some changes to the send control on the new ribbon:
Note here that we’ve categorized actions into two groups, the save action (available directly on the ribbon) and the send actions (including both status updates and turning in the timesheet). This, in conjunction with the status message updates detailed earlier, will help users differentiate between the act of saving their updates versus sending the updates in for approval.
You may also note that we have re-named “submit” to “turn in” as that is more descriptive to the user of the action they are taking when they turn in their timesheet for approval. We’ve also updated the tooltip descriptions to help clarify to the user what each of the menu options does.
Continuing on, let’s imagine that I need to add a line to my timesheet to account for work that I need to pull forward from a future period:
I select “Add Row” and then “Select From Existing Assignments” which brings up the following dialog:
In previous versions the user was required to select projects and subtasks individually and scroll through a potentially long list of assignments. The new “Add Existing Task” dialog features improvements to the task selection experience with a tree control that allows users to drill down into their assignments by project and summary task. Note that they can add specific assignments or the project-level assignment (shown by the “Windows 8 App” task in this case) for top-level reporting.
“Advanced” Timesheet Functions
But you might ask, “Where are all the other controls that used to be on the timesheet ribbon?” That’s a great question. Note that there is a second tab on the ribbon (called “Options”):
Here you will find all the commands that were moved off of the default ribbon. Most of these commands are infrequently used, typically only when initially setting up the timesheet view. Observant readers might note that the Import, Reassign, and Remove controls are duplicated here and on the previously-described context menu.
For customers who feel that the distribution of controls across the ribbon tabs is not ideal for their organization, the ribbon can be customized. Details on ribbon customization can be found at the following address:
Administrative Lines Improvements
Another common complaint we heard from timesheet users was that adding and maintaining administrative lines on the timesheet was a major hassle. We’ve simplified this process in two ways. First, we’ve made it easier to find the line you are looking for by filtering the administrative categories by department. This way, PWA administrators can configure categories to only be available for users who are a member of a particular department like Legal or HR. Many companies we’ve talked with had hundreds of administrative time categories, but only a subset of those categories were actually relevant to individual employees of the company. Using this new functionality you can greatly simplify the experience of adding an administrative time category for timesheet users. I’ll explain how to configure this in my next post where I talk about improvements we’ve made to the administrative and developer experience in 2013.
While filtering the administrative time categories certainly will make adding a line to your timesheet easier, we’ve also done work in 2013 to drastically reduce the number of times that you need to add a line in the first place. Once you’ve added a line to your timesheet it will be carried forward into each new timesheet created for a future period until you remove the line. This will make it easier for users to “add once” and then have the line available as long as they need it.
In previous versions you were only able to group the lines on your timesheet by either the Project Name or the completion status of the line. In PWA 2013 we have enabled grouping by almost any field (custom fields are not supported for grouping) and also made custom grouping available.
Thanks for reading about the improvements we made to Project Web App timesheets for end-users. In my next post I’ll talk about some of the administrator and developer-focused updates we made in this release. Until then please feel free to let us know if you have any questions or feedback. Happy Timesheeting!