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The Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals

Timesheets all seem to look the same when you just take a glance but where many timesheets differ is in how they handle the timesheet approval process. One of the most challenging situations is to have two or more competing interests in approving the same data: An organizational approval that must take into account requirements for payroll, attendance, human resources or others and a project management approval.

A timesheet that must support a Matrix Organization must have an approval process designed with both axes of the matrix in mind. Matrix Organizations have different competing interests by design The organizational axis includes the department hierarchy ending up at the individual employee. This represents who does the work. The project axis includes all possible work including projects, non-project activities and anythign else that employees do with their time. This represents what employees can work on. When we create an approval process there are two sides to what kinds of perspective might be looking for the approvals:TimeContro-Matrix-Approvals-Process

Organizational Axis Project Axis
Ensuring there is a complete timesheet Project rate codes
Time and Attendance Billable vs. non-billable time
Human Resources tracking Adjustments of mis-allocated hours
Vacation, Sick Leave and Personal time tracking Compare Actual hours vs. Budget hours
Payroll rules Approval of Task progress
Wage vs. Salary approvals
Overtime approval
Ensuring auditable records

When an organization needs to support both sides of the matrix with a single timesheet, the most likely scenario is to choose multiple timesheets. It may come as a surprise, but many otherwise well structured organizations impose more than one timesheet on its employees. One timesheet is used to handle entitlements like vacation time or sick leave. Another timesheet is used to handle payroll. These timesheets are incompatible with the needs of the project management department so they choose another timesheet completely to use for updating their corporate project or portfolio management system. No employee wakes up in the morning eager to do their timesheet but some must do not one but multiple timesheets in order to complete their week.

Aside from the obvious cost to the organization of having multiple systems for a similar function, there is also potentially a huge cost or risk for organizations whose timesheet data must be audited. Organizations who must comply with Research and Development Tax Credits, Sarbanes-Oxley, DCAA / Homeland Security requirements, European Work rules or more are expected to have auditable timesheet records. But what happens when timesheet #1 doesn’t balance against timesheet #2? The audit carries a risk of adjustment or even failure.

HMS Software confronted this challenge with our very first mandate in 1983. We were asked to create a timesheet for use in a large multi-national organization. The timesheet would be “owned” by the Chief Financial Officer who would use it for the company’s payroll. However, it would be “operated” by the Project Management Office. Resolving the resulting conflicted requirements became the kernel of the product that would be eventually released as TimeControl. The “Matrix Approval Process for Labor Actuals?” is a trademarked term by HMS Software (Heuristic Management Software Inc.)

For those who must institute a solution to timesheeting in a matrix environment, we invite you to look at some of the collateral below. A webcast and associated PowerPoint presentation and a corresponding white paper will give you some insight into how a single timesheet can be many things to many different people within an organization.