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Troy Grissom had a lot to think about when he considered uploading his company's time-tracking system to the cloud.
As CIO of Total Quality Systems Inc. (TQS), a company that provides advanced systems development, enterprise software systems and professional services to the Department of Defense (DoD), Grissom had to find a technology product to improve the way full-time and contract employees log their hours of work. Employee jobs include everything from the procurement, planning and maintenance of thousands of electronic circuits for U.S. Air Force projects, to performing tests that detect major faults in aging F-16 fighter jets.
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To lay the foundation for TQS' future, however, Grissom and his IT team knew that the company's outdated time-tracking system couldn't keep up with the growing demands of the business. The old time-tracking application was written on a Java platform that used Windows 2008 R2 servers. The company used one SQL server for tracking user login data, and another server running remotely that contained data to support employee time-tracking and project data.
To update the system, TQS required employees to fill out spreadsheets with hours worked and tasks performed. Workers would email the data, on Dell desktops and laptops running on Windows 7 and 10 operating systems, to their project managers.
As TQS won more DoD contracts, and more data was added to the system, bottlenecks occurred. Long delay times in providing updates and service releases became more frequent. The problem worried TQS' executives, who were looking for a way to better meet Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) compliance.
As an organization that receives DoD contracts, TQS is audited and must provide accounting and financial information related to the tasks that its 60 employees perform on DoD projects. Grissom said TQS wasn't able to easily pull up accurate records of the employee hours worked on various contracts. That meant Grissom had to look for a new platform that allowed data to be uploaded and accessed easily anywhere and at any time.
"We recognized that we needed a more comprehensive, less labor-intensive way of adequately capturing and managing time for all employees," Grissom said. "When we submit a proposal to the government, for example, it's based on an estimate of the number of labor hours required for the project. Time is the central pillar for how we look at how we do business, and we capture time down to one-tenth of an hour across the board, whether it's for contracts with the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense."
Another problem was that the old time-tracking system couldn't be accessed with mobile phones. Because TQS employees travel to various projects across the U.S., a system that allows workers to access and input data via mobile devices was important for providing information on time spent attending meetings, conferences or training sessions.
"These employees need to be DCAA compliant, which means that they need to complete their timesheets daily -- no later than 10 a.m. the following day," Grissom said. "Previously, when some of our employees were traveling for business, they didn't always have Internet access readily available."
Replicon upgrades TQS to a cloud-based time-tracking system
TQS turned to Replicon Inc., a provider of time asset management technology based in Redwood City, Calif., to meet its business needs. Replicon, which uses Amazon Web Services as its cloud service across multiple data centers and geographies, migrated TQS' time-tracking system data and also ensured that Replicon integrated with TQS' QuickBooks accounting system.
Replicon's cloud-based time asset management application captures project hours and gives insights into project costs; allows users to input information on tasks, project teams and budgets; and tracks multiple projects simultaneously, giving a consolidated view of performance and costs. Additionally, project information is organized and sorted in a way that allows users to quickly access and download information about various aspects of a project.
According to Jose Gaona, VP of product strategy at Replicon, there were two interesting aspects to TQS' cloud-based time-tracking project, which started in September 2015 and took two months to complete.
Jose GaonaVP of product strategy, Replicon
First, because the company had to meet stringent DCAA compliance requirements, Replicon configured its software to support the process that employees already used to capture and comment on time spent working on federal government projects. This information is fed into the company's QuickBooks system for quick payroll processing.
Secondly, because this was TQS' first foray into the cloud, Replicon made sure to discuss security issues with TQS.
"With the Replicon application, we don't retain a lot of personal information on the system, such as social security numbers or credit card details, so while security is important overall, it also doesn't hold a lot of sensitive information," Gaona said. "Having said that, a lot of security is built into our platform and applications. For example, we offer single sign-on and password authentication for users ahead of accessing Replicon."
The foundation for TQS' future
While there were no technical challenges, Gaona said the process from deployment to usage required Replicon's team to handle the testing in the back end to ensure everything ran smoothly before implementation. Replicon also provided training of its time-and-attendance and client-billing applications to TQS' supervisor, administrator and end users.
"We found a big part of the project's success was the tight collaboration during the testing and implementation phases before conducting user training and handing the product over to the customer. This was essential to make sure that we met all their unique requirements," Gaona said.
So far, TQS has been pleased with its new cloud-based system, which now provides:
- DCAA compliance.
- Flexible mobile functionality so people can capture, manage, and optimize their time worked and time off against projects anywhere and anytime.
- Ease of uploading the timesheets into its accounting system and seamless integration with QuickBooks.
- Strong customer service and support, including empowering TQS employees to reach out to Replicon via phone, chat rooms and the Replicon community page.
- A customizable system to meet TQS' specific requirements.
While it's still too early to provide hard numbers on TQS' return on investment (the project ended in November), Grissom said the cloud-based time-tracking system has enhanced visibility and accountability because it instantly shows how much time employees' spent on projects. He also said workers have seen noticeable improvements in their workflow and his company expects to reap more rewards from the system further down the road.
"We've received very positive remarks on the system being very user friendly," Grissom said. "We expect that there will be more benefits as we go along regarding capturing, managing and optimizing time in the way it is meant to be done through a centralized solution."
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