Blue Sky Project Tracker
Web-based project tracking software
Blue Sky Project Tracker is a web-based time tracking system. In the web interface employees can enter the time spent on a project, as well as expenses. The data for time spendings can contain additional user data field, such as notes and the type of activity. Statistics can be viewed in graphs and tables and exported to spreadsheet software.
Server platform: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (32 or 64 bit)
Blue Sky Project Tracker is a web-based time tracking system. The advantage of a web-based system is that it frees one from the task of maintaining a large number of client installations for all employees. In a web-based setup, only a web browser is needed on the PCs of the employees, which is usually readily available. In the case of Blue Sky Project Tracker, it is necessary to install the Project Tracker software on exactly one Windows Server (or PC). This is different from some other time tracking solutions where nothing needs to be installed at all, and all software and data resides on a remote server. However, the advantage of installing on a local server is that all project data remains inside of your company. The setup of Project Tracker with a server and multiple clients is schematically shown in the figure at the right.
Project Tracker contains a built-in web server; it does not depend on other software for its web server. Project Tracker runs as one Windows Service in the background. This means that it is available, even when no user is logged in on the server. The web server can use a certificate to provide a secure HTTPS web interface. Although this is not crucial for a local installation, it could become relevant if you would want to allow access to the web interface by someone outside of the corporate firewall. The use of HTTPS makes sure that the data cannot be easily intercepted by third parties.
Most settings of Project Tracker can be configured from the web interface. For some settings or actions, access to the server where Project Tracker is installed, is needed. The Project Tracker Control Panel is a Windows application (not web-based) that is run on the server. In this application, the fundamental settings that effect the operation of the software can be configured, for example the data storage directory. In this application, software upgrades can be performed when they are available. For daily tasks, access to this application is not needed, and the web interface will be sufficient.
In the web interface, employees can enter the time they have spent on a project. This is the primary functionality of the software. After login, the first page that is displayed is the Spending Calendar. This calendar (displayed on the left) gives at-a-glance information about which days have already been filled in, and thereby, where to start entering time.
Clicking on a specific day or week opens the weekly spendings view. This screen (view) allows for both time and expense entry. In this screen the spendings of one week are displayed. When adding a time spending to the system, the user must select the project he has worked on from a list, and input a duration in hours. The data is stored in the database, and the effect is visible immediately. The system allows for a form of data verification. When a full week has been entered by the user, the timesheet can be submitted for approval by the manager. It is possible to exclude data that has not yet been approved by the manager, in reports and statistics.
Filling in timesheets is a task that can be forgotten easily. Project Tracker can be configured to send reminders by email to users who have not yet submitted their timesheet of a week after a number of days have passed.
Different companies have different time tracking needs, and it might be desirable to track additional data. Additional custom data fields can be defined by the administrator. When a new data field is defined, an additional input box will appear in the input screen. The administrator might choose, for example, to define a data field Client, or a data field Notes. Custom data fields can also be defined for expenses. In this case, the administrator could define, for example, a data field called Payment method. Custom data fields can either contain text, numerical values, or items selected from a list. This is decided by the administrator when the data field is created. When a data field consists of items selected from a list, the administrator can define the content of this list. This setup has the advantage that it is impossible for an user to input an invalid value, because one of the items in the list must be chosen.
At the heart of Blue Sky Project Tracker is a hierarchical list of projects and sub projects. The list is not artificially bounded in number. Time spendings are always booked on exactly one project from this hierarchical project list. In this way, it is known how much time has been spent on a particular project. For each project, a detailed description can be entered, and the progress in percentages can be tracked.
A permission system with user groups, and project permissions, allows fine-grained access control. For example, a user or group can be permitted to view a project, to comment on it, to book spendings on it, to update its progression, or to completely manage it.
Statistics and data export
Just as important as data entry, is the ability to export data from the system. Project Tracker has a separate Statistics screen (shown at the right), and a screen to generate a Project Reports (view example). Project Reports show how much time has been spent on all tasks (sub-projects) of a specified project during a time span.
Statistics are available in bar charts and tables, or can be exported to a spreadsheet file format (CSV or Excel). The statistics show, for example, the amount of time that has been spent per week on each of the major projects. This shows a time line of the activity level. Viewing this data as a chart, you can see graphically how the time spendings on a particular project have increased or decreased over time. Sometimes, you are only interested in the project totals. This value is shown at the bottom of the table.
What is possible here for projects is also possible for the custom data fields that are of the list/tree type. For example, if you have defined a data field “Type of activity” with “consulting” and “driving” as possible values, you can query the amount of time that is spent on each of these possible types of activity. If we are only interested in the data of a particular project, we can filter the statistics to show only the data of that project. Similarly, we could filter on a specific Type of activity, if there is such a custom data field. The statistics page can show the amount of time that is spent, or the amount of the expenses, or the combination of these two. If there is a numerical custom data field (such as mileage), this can be selected as the output variable. For example, the software could show how the monthly mileage value has changed over time, or what its total value is per project in a specified time range.
Instead of summarizing data, as is done in the Statistics screen, the complete list of all the individual time and expense entries can also be exported to a spreadsheet file format.
Access to the web interface is secured with a regular login system with user names and passwords. The administrator can define the user accounts manually, or import them for a CSV file. User accounts can be added to groups, for the purpose of making it easier to specify permissions. The Full Version has no license limit on the number of user accounts.
Produced by Starflower Software (2019)