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In conversation: Rhodar

Mo Dawood, IT Manager at Rhodar Limited, talks about how the Summit Managed Timesheets module has bedded down within the company and why he’s now taking things to the next level with a Managed Timesheets mobile app.

Company profile:
Established in 1976, Rhodar is a leading specialist enabling works provider of asbestos removal, demolition and land remediation services, with an annual turnover approaching £50 million. The collective experience and expertise of the company’s 450 employees make Rhodar a natural first choice partner for regeneration schemes and enabling works across the UK, while also meeting the highest industry standards of service and performance.

Rhodar has been using the Summit Managed Timesheets module for more than a year now. How is it working out?
To be honest, it’s just the normal thing we do now. It’s not like anyone thinks of it as something new or difficult; it has just become standard practice.

What does the process involve?
The supervisors on site either email a picture of a paper timesheet for their team to their local regional office or call in to physically drop off a paper timesheet. The admin staff at our eight regional offices input that information into Managed Timesheets. The information then goes through the approval route. Once it’s approved, it goes to Payroll.

I hear that your staff definitely experience ‘that Monday morning feeling’…
Monday mornings are absolutely manic in each of our regional offices. The administrators’ sole focus is timesheets: keying all the information onto the system; chasing up anyone who hasn’t yet handed in a timesheet; and then getting the timesheets approved by the contract managers and labour managers. If one office has loaned labour to another, they might have to chase up the timesheets relating to that as well.

Why the rush?
We have tight deadlines to work to. All the timesheets have to be entered on the system by 2pm on Monday. However, the reality is that it usually drags on until about 4pm, which puts the Payroll Manager under a lot of pressure to make any adjustments, for example for people who are on leave or need a different rate of pay to be applied. Everything needs to be completely sorted by close of play on Tuesday, because the BACS payment has to be sent on Wednesday morning so that everyone can get paid on Friday.

That sounds a very tight timeline…
It is incredibly tight. And when there’s a bank holiday, everything’s thrown out of the window because we effectively lose a day.

How will switching to the Managed Timesheets mobile app make the administrators’ life easier?
We estimate that the mobile timesheets will cut down the administrators’ work by 60% on a Monday. The idea is that the supervisors on site will submit their daily timesheet on their phone, covering all their staff. The people at the office will check the timesheets every day, so that by Monday morning, they will just have timesheets from Friday and any weekend working to check. The administrators will still be responsible for updating the system about people who are on leave, off sick or on a training course.

How will that benefit the business?
We’ve got eight regional offices, each with an administrator whose time on a Monday is currently completely tied up with timesheets. The potential saving is massive – I’m confident that mobile timesheets will really benefit the business.

Apart from reducing Monday morning stress levels, are there any additional drivers for introducing this new mobile technology?
Yes. We wanted to cut down on mistakes caused by things like mis-keying, illegible handwriting on the paper timesheets or someone writing down the wrong job number. The timesheet app is linked to the system, so the person keying in the information selects the job from a list, which then means that the correct costing is automatically applied to the correct job.

We’ll get the data daily, so will have better visibility of the timesheet information. We’ll be able to check the previous day’s timesheets each day, whereas currently we must wait until Monday, when we receive everything from the previous week.

And we’re going paperless on site as much as possible, so this is also just about moving with the times really.

How are the administrators feeling about the switch to the Managed Timesheets mobile app?
They are always really stressed out on a Monday, so they’ve said to me that if the roll-out does all go as planned, it’ll be absolutely brilliant.

Some are a little nervous, though, mainly because they are worried about (a) the guys not submitting their daily timesheets and (b) the timesheet information being incorrect. Technology won’t change either of those things. It’s down to us to implement a new process and manage it, to make sure that it’s followed.

How about the supervisors on site?
They seem to be perfectly okay with it as well. They’ve currently got tablets and we’re just rolling out smartphones for them instead – they’re quite pleased about that! We have already rolled out the RedSky Forms app to some of them and they think it’s a great idea to use their smartphones for timesheets too.

Why are you moving from tablets on site to smartphones?
The tablets are four years old now, so they were due for replacement anyway. After speaking to the guys on site, we discovered that they never take their tablet around with them. They leave it in the cabin or the van – whereas with a phone, they would just keep it in their pocket. Also, they kept forgetting to charge their tablet, because it was 'out of sight, out of mind' – whereas at night, they’ll have their phone charging up, next to their bed. We think a phone will be much more practical and they’ll use it more.

Have you encountered much resistance?
We have had some people complaining that they prefer the larger screen that you get with a tablet, but 90% of the guys have said they prefer using the phone because it’s so much easier all round.

At the moment you’re Beta-testing the Managed Timesheets mobile app – what made Rhodar go down this route?
Our CEO was really keen for us to implement an ERP, which is why we chose RedSky. He’s very enthusiastic about finding new ideas to streamline the business, and about us pushing ahead with new technology, particularly mobile technology. That’s why we put ourselves forward for the Beta-testing.

How did you kick off the Beta-testing process?
We started off by gathering together a user group that would enable us to review the app from a number of different angles, to make sure it included everything we needed it to have. Our user group includes a supervisor on site (who will be inputting the mobile timesheet information); a regional administrator (who currently keys in the timesheet information and will be updating the system regarding annual leave, sick leave, training days and so on); a labour manager (who will approve the timesheets); the Payroll Manager; and myself as IT Manager.

How did the user group influence the configuration of the app?
We wanted to make sure we weren’t over-cluttering the app. At first, we asked RedSky’s Tim Allen to give us all the options that are available in the Managed Timesheet module. But when we viewed them all on the app, it looked far too ‘busy’ and risked confusing the supervisors.

We realised that many of the fields would not normally be filled in by the supervisors – things like whether someone is off sick or on training, and whether they are entitled to receive any uplifts for working away, at the weekend or at night. We removed all those fields, because they are dealt with by the regional offices.

By the time we’d refined the app down to the bare minimum, the supervisors just needed to key in the names of the people working with them on site that day and assign a shift to them. This could be done on the app in a matter of minutes.

Would you recommend the user group approach?
Yes, we wanted to get representatives from everyone involved in the timesheet process so that we could define what should – and should not – be on the app. We also wanted to gain their agreement as to what happens once a timesheet has been submitted. For example, can it be edited by the office? Can it then be approved by the labour manager? It was just a case of following the process right the way through, from beginning to end.

Having decided what you wanted to include in the app, what happened next?
We picked two supervisors: one who was very technologically able (we knew he’d be fine with it); and one who was at the other end of the spectrum and would more than likely struggle with the new app. We thought that this would give us a baseline: a feeling for how difficult people would find it to use the app, and whether or not it was going to be a success. All that the supervisors had to do was select the job number, the date and who was working with them. Thankfully, both of them found the mobile app really easy and quick to use, so it passed the test!

Will you ever be asking the operatives to key in their own timesheet information?
No. The supervisor will key in their own timesheet and those of the people they are working with. We won’t ask the operatives to do their own keying in because they don’t have company devices.

How long did it take to complete the Beta-testing?
Reaching an agreement on the fields we were going to include in the app took us about six weeks, including quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing among user group members. Tim Allen helped us reconfigure the app to how we wanted it to look.

The testing itself didn’t take that long, to be honest – just a couple of weeks. After all, the app only has four fields now: date, job number, name and how many shifts the operative has done. There are not a lot of things you can test on it.

It turned out that we didn’t have any bugs for Tim to fix. The only issue we had was that when the information came back to the office, at first we couldn’t edit it. But that turned out to be a matter of just changing one of the settings, which only took a few minutes to sort out. There were no problems with the app. It just worked.

Are there some fail-safes built in to the system?
Yes, each regional office has a Summit dashboard – and can run a report – that shows which operatives haven’t completed a timesheet or hasn’t got any time showing against them. So they can quickly see who’s missing, which is great.

They’ve also got a dashboard called ‘Timesheet checks’. Anyone who’s got fewer than five shifts showing is highlighted red; and anyone who’s got more than seven shifts showing is highlighted purple. It’s a really neat way of flagging up potential mistakes, which the regional administrators can then investigate.

How far are you now from launching the new Managed Timesheets mobile app?
We’re ready to go, really. We’ve just got to agree on pricing and the number of licences, that sort of thing. Once that’s all sorted, we’ll roll it out.

Will you roll out the app across all eight regional offices at once?
No, we’ll be doing a phased roll-out, office by office, starting with the team in Leeds. It will just be a case of selecting an office for the roll-out and sending the app out to the guys on site. We will then visit the office, to train the administrators and labour managers how to use the app. In turn, they will train the guys on site.

There’s no point in us gathering everyone together to deliver a training session: everyone already has their smartphone and knows how to use it, and some are already using the RedSky Mobile Forms app, so completing a timesheet is not going to be a difficult process for them.

Any final words on the Managed Timesheets mobile app?
It just makes sense to do it!

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