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New features in Polaris

This topic gives an overview of all the new features added to Polaris in the past several months.

Resourcing

PPM

Projects

Billing, Costing & Financials

Timesheet & Expenses

System

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Resourcing


Resourcing improvements

We’ve made the following improvement to our resourcing features in Polaris.

Project manager names available to resource manager

We’ve added the name of the requesting project manager and co-managers below the project name on the resource allocation page. This should help resource managers know who to contact for additional information before making allocations.

Default allocation matches timespan viewed

Previously, the default length of allocations added to the Resource Plan or Quick Allocation pages when using direct allocation was one month. Now, the default added will match the timespan view you have selected from the top of the page, so it’s easier to view the allocation and so it’s less likely to need altering. The only exception is that selecting the Day view will result in a week-long allocation, so you can make use of the drag and resize functionality when updating it.

New data available to project managers

Project managers can now view resource time off (by hovering over a date) and the current date line on the Quick Allocation and Resource Plan pages. You can click each to show more details. These new features should help PMs when making resourcing plans.

 

Actuals on resourcing pages

You can now view actual work hours recorded, below their corresponding allocated hours, on the following resourcing pages in Polaris:

  • The Quick Allocation page
  • The Resource Plan page

These changes provide managers with accessible, up to date information, allowing them to see if projects are likely to overrun their planned deadlines or cost budgets, so they can take action to mitigate losses.

We previewed this feature on Sep 1.

How it works

To show actuals, you’ll need to turn on the Actuals toggle at the top of the page.

With the toggle on, for each resource, the actual hours or percent of allocation that they’ve recorded in their timesheet or via beats for each period display on a bar, located directly beneath the allocation.

Plus, actual and allocated hours and percentages, along with the variation between the two, display if you click an actuals bar.

Please note this requirement for viewing actuals:

Actuals are tracked for time entered against tasks and roles. Therefore, for actuals to display for a task’s hours, the resource entering that time must be allocated to the same role as is used for their task assignment.

You can learn more about this feature at:

 

Improved resourcing summary

We now offer more detailed information in the Resource Allocation Summary chart located on the Resource Management page. If you click a bar, the table that displays now shows a comprehensive summary of time off, allocation, and pending hire data for the selected time period.

These new details can help resource managers quickly gain broad insight into their resourcing status.

Also in this chart:

  • You can now choose to view data as a percentage of the whole (e.g. overalloctions as a percentage of all allocations)
  • The text that displays is now consistent with text in the Resource Availability chart located below it

Direct resource assignment via the Resource Plan page

Project managers with resource management permission can now allocate resources to projects directly from the Resource Plan page. When they click the Allocate Resource link, a list of available resources displays, and they can simply choose a resource by name rather than having to submit a request or use the resource matching page.

Allocate Resource link, displaying a list of available resources

The resource list can be filtered by role, and each resource’s availability percentage displays, to help in the selection process.

This new option is especially useful for smaller companies that don’t want the overhead of using formal resource requests, and for project managers who know exactly who they want to assign to a project, and don’t need to weigh and match criteria.

Also note:

  • We’ve also split the Resource Plan list into a section for allocated resources (on the bottom), and a section for resource requests that aren’t yet fulfilled (at the top), to make planning easier
  • We’ve merged the Resource Plan Grid and Chart views into a single view, retaining the best of both pages, to simplify the resourcing UI

 

New 'edit' ability for project managers with resource manager permissions

Previously in Polaris, project managers with resource manager permissions had to submit a resource request if they wanted to edit an allocation, which was cumbersome.

Now, if you assign an individual both permission sets, they can add, edit, or delete resource allocations for any project they have access to, using the Resourcing > Resource Plan tab. We previewed this change on Jan 19.

This allows them to sidestep the resource request process, and easily make allocation changes.

For more information, refer to Can project managers allocate resources to projects directly?

Quick Allocation in Polaris

We’ve launched Quick Allocation, a new allocation option for resource managers, which we previewed on Jan 19. This feature is primarily aimed at small- to medium-sized organizations for whom the formal back and forth resource request process is onerous.

Quick Allocation allows managers to add and edit allocations directly to resources, without needing a request from a project manager to initiate the change.

Using Quick Allocation, resources can:

  • Add, edit, and delete allocations
  • Easily compare users’ allocations
  • Add projects on the fly, to allocate resources to
  • Sort and filter resources to find who you’re looking for
  • View a resource’s allocations per project

Time off aware allocation

Previously in Polaris, if a resource manager wanted to allocate work to a resource who wasn’t fully available during the allocation period (due to time off, shift schedules, etc), their only option was to overwrite the time off (leading to inaccurate allocations), or manually allocate around it (which was difficult and time-consuming).

Now, we’ve launched a time off aware allocation feature that offers resource managers options for automatically handling availability limitations. They can choose to have the system:

  • Allocate only what fits
  • Re-distribute the allocation hours
  • Allow the allocation to fall outside the requested date range, or
  • Over-allocate the resource

Refer to Handling availability limitation when allocating resources to a project for more information.

Historical role assignment

In Polaris, you can now associate role assignments with effective dates in resource profiles. This allows you to assign roles before they take effect, track role assignment histories, and ensures that the appropriate rate is used in calculations.

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PPM

Requests can now be included in portfolios

In Polaris PPM, we recently launched portfolios, where portfolio managers can manage related projects that share a budget. And not too long ago, we launched our requests feature, where you can manage all of the enhancement requests you gather.

Now, you can associate each request you create with a portfolio. This allows portfolio managers with request manager permissions to easily sort, approve, and prioritize suggestions that relate to their portfolio.

Refer to Working with Portfolios for more information on managing requests in portfolios.

 

Portfolio currencies

On each portfolio’s Summary tab, under the Budget field, you can now assign a currency to that portfolio.

This currency will be used for all sub-portfolios, projects and requests within that portfolio, allowing portfolio managers to easily allocate budgets to to sub-portfolios and projects, and plan portfolio work.

Sub-portfolio filters

We now offer two new filters on each portfolio list page:

  • This Portfolio, which allows portfolio managers to limit their view to a single portfolio, and
  • +Sub-Portfolios, which allows them to include the current portfolio and its sub-portfolios, for planning purposes 



Portfolios

In Polaris PPM, you can now organize your projects within portfolios.

A portfolio is a bucket of projects that typically have a single budget and manager, and often share a single resource team.

As part of this new feature, we’ve added a new portfolio manager role. Users assigned this role can be allowed to view and manage all portfolios in your organization, or just the ones they directly own.

A portfolio can be comprised of a hierarchy of sub-porfolios.

Please note:

  • Programs are still available in Polaris, but they serve a different purpose than portfolios; Programs are like super-projects, with start and end dates and a defined scope, whereas portfolios don’t have start and end dates and are typically used to manage ongoing strategic initiatives
  • A project can only belong to one portfolio
  • In the future, you’ll also be able to include enhancement requests in portfolios, and not just projects

For more information on this new feature, refer to Working with portfolios.

Request histories

We’ve added history tracking to our request evaluation feature in Polaris PPM. You can use this new functionality to see the before and after of any changes made to the request's name, status, description, and requester, at what date/time, and by whom.

The request history doesn't track changes made to scores, review checklists, or attached documents.

Request statuses

To help you keep track of requests you’re considering, we’ve introduced these request statuses: New, Under Review, Approved, and Rejected.

Request scores

Our new scoring feature is designed to help you quantify the value of each request you’re evaluating, so you can more easily compare requests.

You can assign each request a value score, an investment score, and a risk score, and the system will calculate a total score, which is essentially equivalent to the request’s return on investment (ROI). Then, you can compare total scores to decide which requests are worth pursuing.



Review checklist

Project managers need to check that each request meets certain criteria before they can create a project for it. For example, they may need to ensure they have room in their budget, and sufficient resources, before they can proceed with a request. Therefore, we’ve introduced a customizable criteria checklist they can use to ensure requests can be successfully implemented.



Managing enhancement requests in Polaris PPM

Product teams and IT departments don't always have the resources to immediately implement potential product enhancement ideas. They need a method of collecting and storing ideas, while they evaluate them.

We’ve launched a requests processing feature in Polaris PPM, to collect and store potential project ideas that your IT departments and portfolio managers receive from within your organization or from customers.

Managers can now record suggestions, requests, and ideas in the form of ’requests’, then they can evaluate and identify which ideas they want to implement. Once they've prioritized ideas, managers can create projects from the requests and go forward with planning and execution.

You'll need to be assigned the Request Manager permission set to access requests.

Introducing Polaris PPM

We’ve launched a new product in our Polaris suite: Polaris PPM. This product offers our brand new Polaris project management, SmartMatch resourcing, and SmartBeats functionality, tailored for product portfolio management.

Polaris PPM currently offers CapEx and OpEx tracking functionality; We plan to add several new PPM features to the product in the coming weeks and months.



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Projects

Project Audit report

We’ve launched a Project Audit report template in both Replicon and Polaris. Project managers and other permitted users can use this report to view what changes were made to a project, when they were made, and by whom. This report can help you enforce accountability among project managers, or better understand a project’s history of changes.

The report shows changes made to 44 supported project fields, and can be configured to show what action was taken and the original and new field values. It also includes a Modification Summary field, that shows all changes made to that project on a given day.

Refer to Using Polaris reports for more information on working with reports.

Ability to enter time against projects of any active status

You can now enter time against projects that are in Initate, Planning, or Execute status, rather than just ones in Execute status.

This will be the default permission for any new customers going forward.

For existing customers, you can update your settings to allow time entry during those two additional phases. To do this, go to Administration > Project Settings and, from the Allow Time Entry for field, select Initiate, Planning and Execute Stages.

Note that:

  • This is a global setting that applies to all projects in your system
  • Resources can never enter time while a project is in Closeout phase, or if it has been archived

Ability to enter time against projects of any active status

You can now enter time against projects that are in Initate, Planning, or Execute status, rather than just ones in Execute status.

This will be the default permission for any new customers going forward.

For existing customers, you can update your settings to allow time entry during those two additional phases. To do this, go to Administration > Project Settings and, from the Allow Time Entry for field, select Initiate, Planning and Execute Stages.

Note that:

  • This is a global setting that applies to all projects in your system
  • Resources can never enter time while a project is in Closeout phase, or if it has been archived

Project Progress dashboard in Polaris

We’ve launched a Project Progress dashboard on each project landing page in Polaris.

Project managers can use this dashboard to quickly gauge:

  • The variance between your remaining work and remaining budget, so you can quickly tell if you’re on track
  • How much of their hours budget they’ve used to date
  • Hours worked as a percentage of the latest hours at completion estimate

All metrics are up to date, based on the latest project hours and estimates entered via SmartBeats.

For more information, refer to Monitoring project progress and Tracking projects with confidence using Polaris’ Project Progress dashboard.

Roll up Estimates

We’re continuing to make improvements to our Polaris suite. Over the past few weeks, we’ve added the following:

  • The ability to roll up estimates from child to parent tasks, which aids in monitoring task progress

  • Auto-numbering of billing transactions, which saves billing managers from having to number bills manually
  • New bill statuses that allow managers to more easily track bills through their entire life cycle
  • The ability to assign each client a default invoice template, which allows for easy client customization
  • The ability to import bill plans, which simplifies project setup

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Billing, Costing & Financials

One-click recalculation of a month’s revenue

Previously, if a revenue manager was reconciling revenue for a month, they had to refresh each project in their system independently to ensure all revenue line items were included in the calculation. This was cumbersome, and added the risk of line items being accidentally excluded.

Now, clicking the Refresh link on the month’s revenue page will trigger automatic recalculation of recognizable revenue for all projects, saving revenue managers from having to visit each project page.

Each month’s revenue page can be accessed by clicking Financials > Revenue Recognition > Schedule, then selecting a month.

Note, because revenue for all projects is recalculated, the refresh process may take some time. You can move away from this screen and carry out other tasks while the recalculation is in progress.

Refer to Recognizing revenue to learn more.

Ad hoc line item descriptions included on invoices

In Polaris, descriptions of ad hoc (or custom) line items included on a bill now display on the corresponding invoice, so you and your customers can better understand what that billed amount is for. Ad hoc descriptions already appeared on invoices in Replicon.

Role-based costs in Polaris

You can now display your costs based on either user cost rates or cost rates for the roles assigned when users complete work.

This feature is especially useful for services based organizations which often choose role-based costing so managers aren’t biased when assigning resources based on their individual rates.

You can update this setting at Administration > Projects > Project Roles. The display mode you choose will be used for all cost-related data in Polaris, including costing, profit, and report data.

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Timesheets & Expenses

Client representatives can now be allowed to view and approve expenses

In the past, client representatives could only approve timesheet entries related to projects they were assigned to.

Now, they can also approve expenses for their projects.

If you want to allow client approval of expenses, you can choose what items the client rep can view from within the Client Representative permission set they’re assigned. You can allow them to view and approve:

  • All expenses for their projects, or
  • Only billable expenses for their projects

For more information on setting up expense approval by client reps, refer to Allowing a client to approve timesheets and expense sheets.

ZeroTimeTM

Getting employees to complete timesheets is a pain point for many businesses. Employees find filling out their timesheets hits that sweet (sour) spot of being both boring and difficult.

That’s why we’ve been researching ways to make completing timesheets simpler, faster, and easier.

We’re proud to announce that we’ve come up with a solution to the problem of timesheet compliance – we call it ZeroTimeTM.

Here’s how it works:

  • First, you’ll install ‘collectors’ that integrate Replicon or Polaris with applications your employees use, such as Zoom and Google Calendar. We offer nearly two dozen collectors now, with many more coming soon.
  • Then, ZeroTime gathers data about employee activities as they use those third-party apps – like, the duration of a Zoom or Calendar meeting, who it was with, and the meeting description.
    This data appears in ZeroTime as notes that users can then apply to their Time Distribution Grid timesheets. Only the user has access to their gathered data, and they can choose to apply it to their timesheet as they see fit.
  • Over time, ZeroTime learns to associate data gathered from apps with particular clients, tasks, locations, etc., and will automatically apply those labels to the associated work. This means that, over time, users will need to manually update notes less and less.

If you’d like to try out ZeroTime, contact your Customer Success manager or Replicon Support.

For more general information about this feature, refer to:

For help using this feature, refer to:

Better integration of SmartBeats with timesheets

Task owners in Polaris can record their time worked daily, plus work remaining and task completion date estimates, via SmartBeats. SmartBeat work hours are copied to timesheets automatically.

Some Polaris users have found the overlap in SmartBeat and timesheet functionality confusing, plus this overlap sometimes results in data sync errors. So, we’ve made a few changes to better integrate SmartBeats with timesheets.

Changes to SmartBeat entry

Task owners can now record estimates for work remaining and the task’s completion date directly in their timesheets, making it easier for users to record all SmartBeat data.

Note: Resources must be assigned User task estimates permission in their timesheet template before they can record estimates in their timesheet.

Plus, we’ve removed the My SmartBeat tab on the user’s My Work page. Users can continue to record their SmartBeats using the Task section of that page.

This change simplifies the UI for end users and reinforces the idea that beats can only be completed for the current day.

Note: If the timesheet is not open (i.e. generated and not submitted) for the current date, the user will not be able to enter a beat for that day.

Changes to data sync

Previously, data entered in beats synced automatically to timesheets, but didn’t sync from timesheets to beats. Now, sync occurs instantly in both directions. So, if a resource enters beat data in their timesheet, that data will be seen if they access that day’s beat via the My Work > Task page or via the Polaris desktop app.

This change prevents confusion over which data is valid and eliminates sync issues.

Changes to SmartBeat approvals

We’ve removed the SmartBeats page available to project managers from their My Team page.

This page is where project managers reviewed and accepted SmartBeats. Now, no acceptance is required, and any work hours recorded are approved via timesheet approval only.

This change streamlines the approval process and allows you to make use of Polaris’ full approval capabilities when carrying out SmartBeat approvals, including custom approval paths and timesheet editing.

Plus, estimates recorded in beats and timesheets now update budget calculations as soon as they are entered.

Note: If you want to continue approving beats each day, you can set resources up with the ability to submit selected timesheet entries ahead of timesheet submission, and instruct them to submit entries daily.

Modification History timesheet component

Administrators can now enable a new Modification History component in timesheets that shows who, besides the timesheet owner, modified the timesheet. This is particularly useful if you plan to use the new move time utility, so users know who made changes to their timesheet.

You can enable this feature in the Timesheet History section of timesheet templates; you’ll also now use this section to configure the Approval History component, as previewed on Mar 8.

Newly renamed Timesheet History component in timesheet templates

New Submission Failed timesheet status

We’ve finished rolling out the Submission Failed timesheet status in Replicon and Polaris which we previewed on Dec 7 and Mar 9.

This new status is available in configurable timesheets and on timesheet list pages, and displays whenever submission fails due to a validation error or workflow condition. It helps make troubleshooting submission failures easier. 

On the My Replicon, Team, Billing, Costing, and Payroll list pages, the new status is accompanied by a tooltip that explains the error. You can correct the timesheet and attempt to submit it again; the status displays until the timesheet is resubmitted. 

Note that:

  • Users will need to refresh the timesheet page to see the updated status
  • To keep timesheet statuses consistent, timesheets that allow submission of individual entries will now submit successfully even if they include unsubmitted entries
  • Not submitted status still applies to failures due to other causes, like system or permission errors, and in reports and in the Payroll and Time Workbench

 

Updates to population methods

Renamed Overwrite With button

We’ve updated the Overwrite With button in timesheets to be called Quick Fill With, to more accurately reflect the fact that copied entries can be appended to existing entries without replacing them. We previewed this change on Dec 15.

Overwrite With button before and after renaming


Ability to limit which quick fill options are available on timesheets

We’ve added the ability to limit which fill options are available on timesheets. By default, all population methods are available when the user clicks the Quick Fill With button on their timesheets. You can, however, override the default and choose which methods are available for each timesheet template using the Administration > Timesheets > Timesheet Templates page.

Timesheet population methods to assign to Quick Fill With button


Updates to quick fill confirmation messages

When a user elects to quick fill their timesheet, the confirmation message that displays now shows the name of the population method in use. This can be especially helpful if you’re using custom population methods.

Custom timesheet population method displaying relevant confirmation message

Also, for each population method, administrators can now choose how the confirmation message will be phrased, to reflect the method’s configuration using the Administration > Timesheets > Timesheet Population Methods page. Messages can state that the method will ‘overwrite’, ‘update’, or ‘add to’ the existing entries. 

You can find more information on these updates on this help topic: Choosing how timesheets are pre-filled.

Improved task selector

We’ve nearly finished rolling out our updated task selector in the Replicon and Polaris web apps, and in Replicon Mobile; we'll finish rolling it out to the few remaining customers in the coming days.

We previewed this update back on Feb 26, 2021 and again on Jul 2.

Upgrades to the task selector include:

  • An improved search algorithm
  • Improved search performance
  • Better results sorting
  • Advanced filter fields
  • Favorites functionality
  • Display of recent searches
  • Customizable layout of tasks and projects in the timesheet grid
  • Search All capability in Replicon Mobile (was already available in the web apps)

Highlighting of matching search terms in the task selector

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been rolling out our task selector improvements. If you’ve been upgraded, in a few weeks you’ll see a small improvement related to the task selector’s search functionality. Currently, to help you find tasks when typos are present, the search displays all results similar to the term you searched. However, this can make it difficult to find the term that matches exactly.

So, in a few weeks we’ll start highlighting the term that exactly matches what you’ve entered in the search field, in the web version of Replicon and Polaris.

System

User Access Details report

We’ve finished launching our new User Access Details report template in Replicon, that shows a full history of who accessed the Replicon web app or Replicon Mobile and when, and from what IP address.

Settings page for the User Access Details template

 

Configurable decimal/grouping separator

International users who want to use a number format that doesn't correspond to their language setting in Replicon can now choose from one of three number formats:

  • The format that’s the default for the selected language
  • 1,234.56
  • 1.234,56

For example, those who are accustomed to using business software in English, can still choose to use the number format that’s standard for their region.

User’s can select their number format from their Settings menu.

Shift notification

We now offer an email notification that administrators can enable and assign to shift users, that informs users about new shifts, or updates to existing shift assignments.

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