Timesheet Project Web Enabled

Dear Experts:

I've been tasked with reviewing the timesheet process in a 500 person company with a semi-mobile workforce. Vacation/Sick time is accrued monthly on an Exception Basis, and is currently a managed with Excel timesheets emailed each month via Outlook to active employees, who email them back to regional timekeepers. The regional timekeepers update the accruals and drop the timesheets into network folders.

I'm a fairly good VBA developer and I can automate the steps in Excel and Outlook. I've written a routine that rips the data off each timesheet into a master spreadsheet so I can compare the total Vacation/Sick Accruals for the month to the aggregates in the submitted timesheets for the month. But a little voice in my brain keeps saying:

"...this should be on web forms with centralized data storage"

But i don't know other scripting languages. Although if I could do it in say less than two months I'll go for it. So If I were to attempt it...

1. what would be a good approach...PHP for forms and MySql as a back end? Ajax? Javascript?
2. Can I manage the process within the department or would I have to get the networking people involved to host the website and give me an instance of SqlServer or MySql on an enterprise server?

Are there any decent books you could recommend that use a timesheet project as an example?

thank you in advance
DavisroBudget AnalystAsked:
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Ray PaseurCommented:
You don't have to invent this...
Ray PaseurCommented:
See also: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Office_Productivity/Office_Suites/MS_Office/Excel/Q_28670800.html

The recommendation to consider FieldGlass is not meant to be a flip comment.  SAIC uses FieldGlass, and I have personally used FieldGlass.  It works with a minimally intrusive amount of effort (about two minutes a week to file my timesheet with online signature).  And if it's good enough for one of our major defense contractors, it's worth at least considering, perhaps as a baseline, until your requirements are better understood.

Could I do it with "PHP for forms and MySql as a back end?"  Well, yes, I am sure I could, but that doesn't really help you -- I have many years experience in these technologies, and I would not assign a mission-critical system to someone who was new to the scripting languages and application designs.  "Ajax? Javascript?"  Sure, those things are nice, but they are like cruise control when you don't have a car -- they could be added as options after the basic application requirements have been developed.

Quickbooks has timesheet software.  iPhone has timesheet apps.  Wikipedia has a page comparing solutions!  In other words, this is a field that has already been plowed and your best results are likely to exist already -- nobody is going to reinvent this application if there is an off-the-shelf solution, and there are many.  You might consider making up a matrix of requirements and seeing how each of the existing solutions fits into the matrix.  If any of them ticks all the boxes, you have got your answer.  If none of them can meet all of your requirements, you might take the second step to the financial value of each column in your matrix.  This will help you make up the budget that you'll need to get away from the standard solutions.

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DavisroBudget AnalystAuthor Commented:
I completely agree. The last thing i want to do is try and build something that doesn't work.

Right now the requirement is to patch the process until a new system is (eventually) deployed. The economics for nonprofits are different than an entity like SAIC, but i'll look into fieldglass.

Thanks. I appreciate the sound feedback!
Ray PaseurCommented:
Thanks for the points.  I have worked with non-profits and I agree that they are different from for-profit defense contractors.  But one thing is for sure - expenses are to be minimized, no matter what your accounting practices.  Expenses may be discreet and quantifiable via direct payments to vendors or they may be "squishy" because they tie up existing personnel in processes and practices that results in equivalent costs, but are hidden from management view because there is not an invoice -- the cost is buried in payroll.  This is especially true in small non-profits, where a payroll is an "assumed" cost versus a budgeted expenditure that is an "identifiable" cost.

In any case, best of luck with it!
DavisroBudget AnalystAuthor Commented:
Totally agree. Just today I was thinking it would be good to apply a project cost approach to quantify total comp and overhead per hour * hours devoted to the process...just to see what it would show. Not sure if it will lead to different decisions but its worth looking at.

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