The Timeslips Sage

Timeslips 2011 – First Look

Sage Timeslips 2011 was previewed today at the Sage Insights Conference, and the finalproduct  release dates were announced. Product shipments will begin to customers on June 18, 2010. It was noted at the conference that this is the 25th anniversary of the Timeslips product, quite an achievement in the turbulent world of technology.

This year’s release focuses on four product areas:

  1. Performance improvements, especially in the bill approval process
  2. “de-infestation”, a rather curious term which essentially means that a lot of the “third party” subroutines which have been part of the code base for years have been removed (e.g., the calendar picklist function, graphing, etc.). These changes  will be generally transparent to users, but should lead to performance improvements, and will  pave the way for a more comprehensive re-work of the product to prepare for the emerging 64-bit operating system platforms. The current version will presently run in the “x86” area of a 64-bit server.
  3. Reporting and Billing Engine enhancements, including the addition of more custom fields, additional custom calculations, and overall performance improvements in billing and reporting
  4. New features based on customer surveys and the development “backlog” from previous editions that never made it to the final release.

Some of the more interesting (and requested) new features include the following:

  • Beefed-up slip entry restrictions – where in the past clients could be put on “restriction” so that a warning was generated if charges were entered against that client record, the restriction can now actually prevent the charge from being processed at all (based on user security);
  • Editing of slip descriptions can now be made from the box on the lower left side of the slip listing window, a marked improvement in user workflow;
  • Custom fields for clients, timekeepers, and activities have been increased from 30 per area to 90; these custom fields can be further organized into “types”, and will be displayed on sub-tabs opening from the “Custom” tab on the “master” record. This should open up many new possibilities for integrating data from external applications into the billing system, to be used for reporting filters and sorts;
  • PDF-generated invoices can now be assigned a unique naming scheme based on “tokens” supplemented by user-entered text (e.g., CustNo+date+invoice#)
  • Cash receipts entries can now have a payment “type” (e.g., cash, check, VISA, MC, etc.) associated with the payment, and the user can custom define payment types
  • Timeslips will now allow processing of electronic payments, via the new Sage Payments Solutions service; credit card transactions can be processed directly from the cash receipts screen;
  • New workstation-level configuration settings will permit a user to disable various external “links” (e.g., to TalPro, Outlook, etc.) eliminating the annoying alert message that appears when the user logs in and does not have the external application running

All in all, Sage Timeslips 2011 appears to be a worthwhile product upgrade, which should both add stability and performance enhancements to the product while also introducing some interesting new functionality and configuration opportunities.

Licensed To Bill

Several clients have recently asked me about how the Timeslips licensing works so it seems like a good topic to discuss here.  I will try to explain it as simply and clearly as possible so you can figure out how many licenses you may need as we move into upgrade season.

I like to think of Timeslips licenses like books in a library.  The first time you open Timeslips on your computer is like checking the book out of the library.  Even if you close the book/program you still have it in your possession and no one else can read the book while you have it out, so that license is considered “In Use.”  You can open and close the book/program as many times as you like but that license is yours until you return it to the library – or clear it using the Station Administrator.

The Station Administrator is a separate application that allows you to view how the licenses are being distributed.  You can access Station Administrator from within Timeslips via the Special menu, or from outside of Timeslips via the Timeslips program group on your Windows start menu.

When you open Station Administrator the first screen you see will show you the location of the Timeslips database and any users that are currently logged into that database.  These are the people that are currently reading their books.

Click the Options menu and choose Licenses In Use to see how the licenses are being distributed – who has the books out from the library, whether they are currently reading them or not.  You will see the name of the computer that each license is being used on as well as the Windows User ID.  This is a good reason to give your computers descriptive names and make sure each of your users have a unique Windows login.  If two people share the same computer, but use two different Windows logins, they will use two Timeslips licenses.

There is also a column for Session Type, which identifies whether the user is working via a remote Terminal Services connection.  Unlike local licenses, Terminal Services session licenses are released when the user exits Timeslips.

If no one is currently logged into Timeslips (no one is listed on the first Station Administrator screen), you can clear any or all of the licenses in use, making them available on a first come, first served basis.

In the lower right corner of the Licenses In Use screen you can also see how many licenses you have purchased, how many are in use and how many are available.

You may also notice two radio buttons at the top of this screen labeled Full Licenses and API Licenses.  API licenses are licenses used by other programs that connect to Timeslips, such as Time Matters, Outlook, Amicus, PC Law, Peachtree and Quickbooks.  Timeslips provides 100 API licenses.

All of this licensing information is stored in a file on the server called Timeslip.cfg.  Some people make the mistake of using the CD to install Timeslips on each computer and this puts a separate Timeslips.cfg file on each computer.  Two computers cannot access the same Timeslips database if they are using different Timeslip.cfg files.  The second person that tries to log in will get an error message.

If you do install from the CD, you can tell Timeslips to use the configuration file on the server by using the Station Administrator.  In Station Administrator, click the Options menu and choose Change Install Path.  This will then allow you to browse to the Timeslip.cfg file located on the server.  You should then delete the Timeslip.cfg file on your C drive.

When you use the Setup.exe file in the LoclInst folder on the server to install Timeslips on workstations, each computer automatically uses the Timeslip.cfg file on the server.

Still have questions about Timeslips licensing?  Need to order additional licenses?  Contact one of the experts at TriStar Data Systems.

Timeslips 2011 will be released early this summer.  You can save up to $320 if you pre-order before May 28th.

Timeslips 2011 Upgrade Season Approaches

We expect to participate in beta testing for Timeslips 2011 shortly, and anticipate the announcement of an official release date shortly after the conclusion of that beta test period. While we cannot legally discuss the specifics of the new release (due to our non-disclosure agreement), we expect the new version to be available in late June – early July.

 What does this mean for you?

 If you are using a version of Timeslips earlier than Timeslips 2008, it means that Sage’s “official” support for your version will end shortly after this new release. While we will continue supporting these “obsolete” versions, we are constrained by our inability to obtain the manufacturer’s support for those earlier versions. It may be time to consider an upgrade.

 If you are using Timeslips 2008 or later, you should carefully review the new features for the 2011 version when they become publicly available, and make your upgrade decision based on features. We do not know yet ourselves what new features will make it into the final release of Timesl;ips 2011, but we have heard discussions of enough new “wrinkles” to make this new version pretty interesting.

 If you decide to upgrade, we urge you to consider placing your upgrade order through TriStar. We do very little advertising, receiving the majority of our new business through referrals from the Timeslips website. Our positioning on that website (currently #1 for Pennsylvania) is determined by the Timeslips orders we place with Sage. Your upgrade order will help us maintain that lofty position.

In most cases we are able to match or exceed whatever upgrade pricing Sage is able to offer you directly (as a consequence of our Platinum status). So, by placing your Timeslips upgrade order with Tristar you help us maintain our Platinum status, and we help you to save a little money on your upgrade.

A classic “win-win!”

Give us a call if you would like to discuss your upgrade options.

Paperless Time and Billing Tasks

In this environmentally conscious era, everyone seems to be talking about the paperless office.  Timeslips 2010 now has many features that make it easy to manage your billing process from start to finish without having to print a thing.   Let’s take a look at the “old way” of doing things, with piles of paper, and then look at the features in Timeslips that make it easier than ever to perform the same functions in a paperless environment. 

Time Entry
The old way: Timekeepers fill out paper timesheets and hand them to an assistant to enter into the computer. 

The paperless solution:  Timesheet Slip Entry.

Timekeepers can now enter their time in a traditional timesheet format, instead of having to enter individual slips.  Clients and tasks can be pre-filled so that the timekeepers need only to enter the number of hours worked in the appropriate box.  They can make life even easier by using the timer to keep track of the time as they work. 

 Pre-Bill Worksheets
The old way:  The billing clerk prints out a stack of pre-bill worksheets and then gives them to the boss to review and mark up before the final bills are generated.  

The paperless solution:  Interactive bill preview with drill-down capability

The boss can print the pre-bills to his/her display and click on-screen to drill down and make the changes right in the program. 

 Billing
The old way: Print out the bills.  Stuff them in envelopes.  Stamp the envelopes.  Put them in the mail.  Wait a week for the client to receive the bill and another week (hah!) for them to pay. 

The paperless solution:  Send bills via email

Timeslips allows you to email bills right from within the program, via a connection to Outlook.  The client receives the bill as a PDF file.  You can create an unlimited number of email templates with different message bodies and subject lines.  You can even embed tokens like the invoice number and amount into the message and subject line.     If you prefer, you can also print the bills to PDF files and then email them manually. 

 Reporting/Data Analysis
The old way: Print reports to paper

The paperless solution:  Print reports to display, PDF file, Excel or Word

The added bonus to viewing your reports on screen is that you can click on the data elements to drill down for more detail.  Sending reports to Excel gives you extra functionality and flexibility.  With Timeslips 2010, all reports now have a print to Excel option and you can choose to send the data over in columns, or as it appears in the standard Timeslips report format. 

Cash Receipts
The old way: Open the mail. Enter checks into Timeslips.  Take checks to the bank. 

 The paperless solution:  Unfortunately Timeslips has not yet developed a way to receive payments other than to enter them manually.  However, there are many ways that you can receive payments from clients over the internet or phone without using checks.  We would be willing to bet that, before too much longer (Timeslips 2011?) Timeslips will incorporate a way to import payment transactions from the website, that you can then use to process client payments. 

 So there you have it.  Not only do these solutions save paper, they save time, resources and money.

For more help with configuring Timeslips for a paperless office, contact one of the experts at TriStar Data Systems.

Deciphering Timeslips Interest Calculations

Many of our clients that use the “Finance Charge/Interest”  feature in Timeslips have found it confusing. We have been asked for advice about Timeslips interest calculations on several occasions.  It took me a while to completely understand how it works myself, so I figured it was a good topic to discuss in this space.  The new and improved Billing Assistant in Timeslips 2010 gives a much clearer breakdown of how interest charges are calculated, but I will attempt to clarify it a little further.   

First let’s look at the initial interest setup.  Interest is configured for each client on the Arrangement 2 page, where there are five fields that relate to interest:

Annual Interest Rate.  This is typically set to 18%, which equates to 1.5% per month or .049315% per day.  Despite the fact that you are choosing an annual interest rate here, interest is actually calculated by the day.  This is an important point to remember. 

Type of Interest.  You can choose Simple or Compound.  Simple means that interest is only charged on the original invoice amount.  Compound means that interest is charged on the interest.  Once this is set and an invoice is generated, it cannot be changed for that invoice. 

Charge Interest At.  The choices here are determined by how you’ve configured your aging periods.  Typically this will be 30, 60, 90 and 120 (in days).   Interest will begin calculating after the number of days you select here. 

Grace Period.  This tends to be the most confusing field.  The choices on the dropdown menu are also determined by how you’ve configured your aging periods, but here you can type in a value that’s not on the list.  This number represents how many days NOT to charge interest for.  For example, let’s say you generated a bill on 9/30 and have interest set to charge at 30 days.  A month has gone by and the client has not paid, and now it’s time to generate the October bills on 10/31.  31 days have gone by since the first bill went out on 9/30.  If you have set the grace period to 0, 31 days worth of interest will be charged.  If you set a grace period of 5 days, only 26 days of interest would be charged.  If you set a grace period of 30 days, only one day of interest would be charged.  If you look at the Days Due/Days Per Year calculation in the Billing Assistant you will see that the grace period essentially moves the original invoice date later by the specified number of days.  In this example, with the grace period set to 5 days, it shows the original invoice date as 10/5, even though the bill was actually created on 9/30. 

Last Bill Date.  This field should only be filled in if you are setting up a client that you have already billed outside of Timeslips.  Each time you generate a bill through Timeslips this field will be automatically updated to reflect the date of the last bill.   

 Let’s continue to follow the previous example through a little further, to see how the interest charges would be affected in subsequent months if the client still hadn’t paid anything (not that we ever have these kinds of clients ourselves).   We’ll use compound interest for this example. 

On 9/30 we generated a bill for $1000 in fees. 

On 10/31 we billed another $1000 in fees, but added on $12.82 in interest from the previous bill:

           $1000.00 from 9/30 invoice
x                 26 days overdue (31 actual days minus the 5 day grace period)
 x   0.00049315 daily interest rate
               $12.82

So the total amount of the new bill is $1012.82. 

 On 11/30 the first bill (from 9/30) has now accumulated another 30 days of interest.  The grace period is no longer in play for that invoice so the calculation would be as follows:

          $1000.00 from 9/30 invoice
x                 30 days since the last invoice
x   0.00049315 daily interest rate
             $14.79

The grace period is still in play for the 10/31 invoice since this is the first time we are charging interest on it.  The calculation would be as follows:  Note: If we were using simple interest we would charge interest on only $1000 from the 10/31 invoice and not the $12.82 in interest. 

       $1012.82 from 10/31 invoice
x                 25 days overdue (30 actual days minus the 5 day grace period)
x  0.00049315 daily interest rate
           $12.49

So the total interest charged on 11/30 comes to $27.28.  

 Hopefully this will help you to decide how you want to handle charging interest and how to explain the charges to your clients when they inevitably ask you to explain how you came up with the amounts. 

 Discount pricing is still available for Timeslips 2010 upgrades until the end of the year.  Timeslips versions 2007 and below are no longer supported by Sage software.   And interest charges are a whole lot easier to figure out and manage in Timeslips 2010!

Timeslips Speeds up the Billing Engine

One of the major areas of improvement touted for Timeslips 2010 is the presence of a new and improved billing engine.   That sounds nice, but how much faster could it really be?  I decided to take it for a test drive so I can give potential upgraders some hard data. 

I have a client using Timeslips 2008 that is very frustrated by how long it takes to print bills – typically around two hours just for the printing stage, before approval.  I created a copy of their database and decided to do a comparison.  I no longer have Timeslips 2008 on my system, so I ran the first test in Timeslips 2009.  The only filter I used was slip date, which I limited to the month of June.  There were 2042 open clients so I printed to a PDF file in order to conserve paper.  Bills were generated for 912 clients, and the process took an hour and 45 minutes.  It then took another 3 hours to approve the bills.  I could see why my client was frustrated. 

The next day I took the original Timeslips 2009 database, created before I generated the bills, and converted it to Timeslips 2010.  I then generated the same batch of bills, and it only took 7 minutes.  7 minutes!  That is some improvement.  Kudos to the Sage development team. 

Unfortunately, it still took 3 hours to approve the bills, so there is some further improvement to be done on that side of things.  The billing process has gone from over 5 hours to around 3, though, so that is a pretty significant upgrade. 

Do you feel the need for speed?  TriStar is currently offering significant discounts on Timeslips 2010, so order your upgrade today.