Editor's note: Continuing our “Going Google Everywhere” series, we’ve invited Stijn Van Vreckem, Founder and Managing Director of XAOP, a small Belgium-based software development company specializing in content integration, to talk about a quick and easy way his company has utilized APIs with Google Apps Premier Edition. XAOP builds software solutions, information integration products and related services for the life sciences industry.
Learn more about other organizations that have gone Google on our community map.
Filling in timesheets is a task that needs to be performed monthly or weekly in most service-oriented organizations. For years, I used to write everything down in my notebook to keep track of things.
Because the XAOP team has grown to seven people in the last year – who are usually working in small teams of two or three developers – it became more and more difficult to manage the billing for different projects. It was time to look for a better, more transparent solution to keep track of everyone's time.
After some internal discussions, we introduced a timesheet process based on Google Calendar. We created a calendar in our Google Apps Premier environment for each billable project we want to track. These calendars are shared with the team members working on the project.
Each team member registers his or her activities by simply putting them on the correct project calendar. As a result, everybody on the team can see who is working on which task in the project. At the end of the month, all invoices are created based on the activities of the project calendar.
Users track their time using project calendars in Google Apps.
Now, generating timesheet reports and invoices for clients is easy. Here’s how it works:
- A background Ruby application connects each Google Calendar with the Google Data API to collect the activities.
- The Ruby application then generates a monthly PDF report of the project calendars.
- These reports provide a detailed overview of the activities for each person in the project.
The main disadvantage is that we need a lot of calendars, so cleanup is sometimes necessary. We also wish we could see who created which event so we could more easily manage larger projects. For example, you can see who created an event via the tooltip when you rollover it with the mouse, but this becomes difficult to read easily when more than 3 users fill in the timeslot on the same calendar. Therefore we implemented a convention on some projects to start the title with a person's initials.
But there are many advantages. We now have a lightweight timesheet application that lets everyone fill in their calendars when they have the time. The Google Calendar user interface is very simple and accessible for everybody. Freelancers or other external people working on XAOP projects can be added to the calendar of the project without complexity. This is a web-based solution that can be used via a PC or a mobile phone.
Today, XAOP team members don’t need to keep track of the projects. They only need to keep their calendars up to date. Invoices are now generated automatically and we can provide transparent reporting on each hour of work.
XAOP recently invested in new mobile phones and our time management solution worked without any changes. Because these HTC devices (Hero and Magic) integrate seamlessly with Google Apps, we can fill in our timesheets from anywhere.
Posted by Serena Satyasai, the Google Apps team
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