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New features in Polaris

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

Resourcing

PPM

Billing, Costing & Financials

Timesheets & Expenses

    System

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    Resourcing

    Ability to assign hours to each task resource

    Previously in Polaris, project managers could assign estimated hours to each task as a whole.

    However, they could not assign hours to each resource assigned to the task.

    This meant Project managers couldn’t choose how to distribute task work among resources, and resources didn’t know how much time they should be dedicating to each task. Plus, Polaris couldn’t calculate the work remaining on a task for each user.

    To remedy these issues, we now allow PMs to assign expected hours for each user assigned to a task.

    As a result, project managers can now distribute hours among assigned resources however they choose, when adding a new task, or in the drawer for any existing task.

    Be sure Project managers have Tasks, Team, and Resource Task Allocations permission to see the new Resource Assignment sections.

    Plus, each resource can now view the hours they’re expected to work on a task in the Work Remaining field in SmartBeats, rather than seeing the estimate for all resources assigned to that task. And, the Estimated at Completion value will now be calculated using that user’s initial work remaining value, making estimates more accurate.

     

    Resource Request and Allocation import template

    We’ve added a new Resource Request and Allocation import template that you can use to add

    • Unfulfilled or fulfilled resource requests
    • Direct allocations

    Open imported requests can be fulfilled as normal using SmartMatch.

    You can also use this import to edit the date range or total hours for existing allocations, and you can merge multiple rows with the same project name, role, resource name, and request status into a single allocation row.

    Note that users must have Data Import permission enabled in one of their permission sets to import requests and allocations.

     

    Show Projects filter on the Quick Allocation page

    To help resource managers more easily find the projects they want to allocate resources to, we’ve added a Show Project filter to the top, right-hand corner of the Quick Allocation page.

    You can choose to show:

    • All projects
    • Unarchived projects only, or
    • You can choose to display projects of a given status

     

    More options when allocating resources directly to projects

    When adding a direct allocation to a project, you can now specify the date range and loading for the allocation, which will automatically set the editable total allocated hours.

    This makes it easier and faster to set up precise direct allocations from the Quick Allocation and Resource Plan pages.

     

    Resource skill overview default report

    We’ve added a Resource Skill Overview default report that’s based on the Resource template, that you can use to find user skill assignments.

    It includes User Name, Skill Name, Skill Rating, and Skill Rating Label fields.

     

    Resource pools

    We’ve just finished rolling out our brand new resource pools feature in Polaris.

    Resource pools are flexible, ad hoc groups of resources, that have many possible uses in resource allocation and tracking.

    For example:

    • You can create resource pools to designate vendor assignments, best worker lists, or post-merger groups for easy filtering and selection during allocation.
    • You could assign all workers with less than 1 year of experience to a resource pool, for ease of assignment, but also to track their work using analytics charts.

    Resource pools are similar to groups, except they’re more flexible and there’s no limit to the number you can create or to how many a resource can be assigned to.

    Once you’ve created and populated a resource pool:

    Project managers can:

    • Include it as criteria in a resource request, meaning SmartMatch will consider resource pool membership when making suggestions.
    • View consolidated data – like skills offered or number of requests pending – for resource pool members in analytics charts

    Resource managers can:

    • Filter and sort resources by resource pool when allocating resources, to find resources belonging to the requested pool
    • Filter the Quick Allocation page by pool, to see what projects resource pool members are working on

    For more information on resource pools, refer to:

    Cost optimized resource allocation

    We recently finished rolling out our cost optimization for resourcing changes, which we previewed on Mar 30.

    These changes help project managers better control the costs of resources, and better understand how each resource impacts their bottom line.

    They also help resource managers more accurately meet PM cost expectations when allocating resources.

    Refer to this help topic for a description of all the changes.

    Time off aware allocation on the Quick Allocation page

    We’re adding our time off aware allocation feature – also known as SmartFit – to the Quick Allocation page in Polaris.

    SmartFit alerts you when you add a resource to a project and the allocation encounters an availability conflict. Then, it presents you with up to four options for automatically handling that conflict for you:

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

    SmartFit functionality is currently available on the resource allocation page for resource managers and on the Resource Plan page for each project, for project managers. Refer to Handling availability limitation when allocating resources to a project for more information.

    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:

     

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    PPM

    Estimates for enhancement requests

    Request managers can now set and compare estimates for enhancement requests.

    Setting estimates can allow you to find the requests that both deliver the highest value and maximize your resource use.

    Polaris calculates the estimate like this:

    project duration you provide x the number of resources you need for each required role x by your system’s default cost rates.

    It is typically the last step in choosing which requests to implement, after first creating a shortlist based initial Value, Investment, and Risk scores.

    Once you’ve set estimates, you can sort them on the Requests page, to determine which projects would provide the most value to your organization.

    Refer to Managing enhancement requests for more information on the request management process.

     

    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.

     

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    Billing, Costing & Financials

    Cost variance displays in the task timeline view

    On the Tasks tab, project managers who have Cost Data > View permission will be able to view the difference between the estimated cost at completion and the original estimate for each task.

    This will help project managers find the tasks that are making them over budget without having to open each task.

     

    Cost variance displays in the Over Budget card

    The Projects > Overview page includes an Over Budget card that shows projects that are projected to end up over budget.

    To give project managers a bit more context, we’ve added how much each project is expected to exceed its cost and hours budgets.

    Remember that cost data is only displayed to project managers who have Cost Data > View permission.

     

    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.

     

    Billing Summary timesheet component

    We’ve added a new optional Billing Summary UI component to Replicon timesheets for customers who use a product that tracks billing.

    You can add this component to timesheets via timesheet templates. The component can be configured to show billing data summarized by client, project, task, billing rate, units, rate, and amount.

    This feature is primarily aimed at project managers when they’re approving timesheets, so they can quickly gauge how much each timesheet will contribute to client invoice amounts.

     

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    Timesheets & Expenses

    AM/PM selector is available in in-out timesheets

    If you use either a simple or complex in/out timesheet, and have your clock format set to the AM/PM format, you now have the option of choosing whether AM or PM apply for each entry on your in/out timesheet.

    The likeliest option – based on your previous entries and the time of day – will still show beside the entry by default, but the other option will show in a drop-down box beneath it.

    This change will allow users to quickly select the correct option, and should help prevent time entry errors.

     

    Advanced search fields in the timesheet task selector are more accessible

    When setting up timesheet templates, you can include advanced filter fields, like Manager or Location, in the timesheet task selector. These fields help users find projects and tasks to record time against.

    However, previously when they appeared on timesheets, these filters were always hidden under an Advanced Search label, making it hard for users to find and use the fields.

    So we’ve updated the task selector, so that if one or two of these fields are enabled, those fields will be visible by default, and no Advanced Search label will display.

    In all other cases (i.e. if 0 or 3+ fields are enabled), task selector functionality remains unchanged.

     

    ZeroTimeTM enhancements

    New collectors

    We added 5 new collectors used to collect data for ZeroTime: One for Microsoft Office 365, which works with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, one for Microsoft Outlook Email, plus, we added browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, that you can use to record time spent on web tasks.

    Unified marketplace

    We've made it easier to find collectors by combining the Company and User collectors tabs within the ZeroTime UI. This means we now offer a single marketplace for all our collector apps.

    And, now to find out details about a collector – including whether it requires a Company or Self level installation -- simply click its block on the Home tab.

    Support for # and @ symbols

    End users can now include hashtag (#) and at (@) symbols to associate terms they enter with timesheet labels, like projects, clients, or locations. Including these symbols can speed up the machine learning process and improve label suggestions.

     

    Improvements to SmartBeats

    We’ve made a few changes to our SmartBeats functionality, as outlined below.

    • We’ve added a new SmartBeats page, where project managers can view SmartBeats

    On the SmartBeats entry form:

    • We’ve updated how the variance displayed for Estimated at Completion is calculated. Previously, the variance shown was the difference between the current estimate and the last beat’s estimate. Now, it’s the difference between the current value and the original task estimate, to provide greater context. This change is described more fully in our Feb 22 preview.
    • We’ve prepopulated the Work Remaining and Estimated Completion Date fields based on the project manager’s estimate, when a user accesses a beat for the first time. This gives the resource more context on the range expected, and promotes update of these fields.
    • We’ve renamed the Submit button to Save, and added a Cancel button

     

    Current Hours in Time Workbench

    We’ve added an Hours (Current) column that can be included in Time Workbench exports. This column shows the current value for any changed entries, versus the Hours column, which shows the difference from the previously exported value (the delta). You can use this new field when exporting to systems that don’t support import of deltas.

    The Hours and Hours (Current) columns should not be used together. If they are, your exported data may be incomplete.

     

    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:

     

    System

    Additional BI extracts

    We recently finished rolling out some additional business intelligence extracts you can use to generate analytics charts using Microsoft Power BI and Tableau.

    There are about 40 extracts in total – refer to our BI extract data model reference document for a full list of the ones available, along with more details about each extract.

     

    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.

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