Improved timesheets functionality in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012
With the release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and the Services industry solution for Dynamics AX, Microsoft has made some significant improvements in the usability of the timesheets module. The goal from an R&D standpoint was to make entering and managing timesheets both easier and faster for your employees, and to maximize the accuracy of the time records. In this blog we’ll highlight some of these new enhancements.
As with previous versions of Dynamics AX, there are multiple interfaces for entering time for your projects. Since the most widely adopted model is through the Enterprise Portal web browser interface, we’ll focus mostly on the enhancements in this interface. The Dynamics AX Enterprise Portal allows users to access self-service functions in Dynamics AX via the popular Microsoft SharePoint collaboration platform, which has quickly become the de facto standard for web portal platforms.
User Interface Design Enhancements
The most obvious area of improvement is around the friendliness and efficiency of the timesheet user interface. With Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft has leveraged the new features found in SharePoint 2010 to radically improve the ease of use and aesthetics of the browser-based timesheets. This allows users to more quickly and easily enter their time, which is a key element to achieving high levels of timesheet compliance. A screenshot of the new SharePoint 2010 interface is shown below.
Time Entry Lookups
Another area of improvement from a usability standpoint is the manner in which you can enter new lines on your timesheets. With Dynamics AX 2012, you can now do in-line lookups of your clients, projects, and activities simply by hitting a drop down within the timesheet line. This reduces the number of clicks and the time required to add new lines on your timesheet.
Many organizations require their employees to add comments on their timesheets, either for the Project Manager to see, or to be used in the billing process. With Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft has consolidated the data entry fields for comments onto a single screen per timesheet line. So if you have a single project event where you need to enter comments for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, you can now click the Comments icon one time, and enter comments for all three of these days at once. Again, the primary benefit here is that you have fewer clicks and therefore less time required to complete your timesheet.
To streamline the entry of lines on your timesheets, Dynamics AX allows users to create a series of “favorites”, which could be popular or recurring projects or activities that you use on an ongoing basis. So if you have a couple of projects that you are working on over a longer period of time, you can simply add those to your favorites list and automatically populate those into your new timesheets without having to manually enter them each time. Customers also use this feature a lot for holidays or other PTO lines that are used on a recurring basis.
In the previous version of Dynamics AX, each user’s list of favorites had to be managed in the back office client of Dynamics AX. Now, in Dynamics AX 2012, users can manage their favorites through the employee web portal instead. This makes this feature much more accessible to your timesheet users.
In addition, Microsoft has added the ability to add lines to your favorites with a single click right from that timesheet line. So if you’re entering a new line on your timesheet, and it’s a recurring event that you want to save into your favorites, you can simply click on the “Add to Favorites” button and it’s immediately added to your favorites – just that simple!
In Dynamics AX, employees can set up delegates, or other people for whom you can enter timesheets on their behalf. As with the Favorites feature, this used to only be accessible from the back office client. In Dynamics AX 2012 however, you can manage your delegates in the employee portal, again making this feature much more accessible to your users.
Weekly Summary View
Some organizations have situations where their users have multiple timesheets that are entered for a single timesheet period. In past versions of Dynamics AX, the submitted timesheets for the current period were somewhat hidden from view. However in Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft has added a “fact box” to the right panel of the timesheet screen that provides a summary view of your hours across all timesheets for that timesheet period. This is helpful for users that have multiple timesheets for the same period and need to make sure that they didn’t enter any duplicate hours. In theory, this should help increase the accuracy of the time entry process.
As you can see, a lot of work has been done in the timesheets module to make entering time faster, easier, and more accurate. The initial reaction we’ve received from clients has been overwhelmingly positive.