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Refreshing Harvest: Thinking about the Visual Design of an 11-Year-Old App

Did you know that Harvest turned 11 years old this past March? That’s right, Harvest is approaching its teens! We’re proud and thankful that, with your support, we’ve been able to build a useful product that helps businesses both track time and work smarter.

But with that many years behind us, Harvest is starting to show its age—the design of Harvest hasn’t seen a major update in a number of years.

With each new project, we tend to focus on the experience, and not so much on overhauling the visual design. We’re usually content as long as something is clear and easy to use. But if you look closely, you can see that our treatments of type, color, layout, and interactions across different sections vary, sometimes wildly. Inconsistencies have developed as different designers have been responsible for different sections of Harvest.

Inconsistency makes things difficult to use, and while that difficulty can be subtle, it’s not what we want for Harvest.

Time to Refresh

We’ve been thinking about (and bothered by) our aging and inconsistent design for the past few years, and last summer we decided to step back, sit down, and make it a priority. Our goal is simple: to have an updated, unified, and consistent design experience throughout Harvest.

Continue reading…

Hey Harvest, What’ve You Been Up To?

It’s been quiet here on the Harvest blog. Perhaps a bit too quiet…

The thing is, we’ve been heads down on a few big features. You’ll hear more about those later this year.

But every day, we also push out small updates that fly under the radar. This post will cover a few of those features, so you don’t miss out!

Archive People Faster

Our new Team section has been a hit. But unfortunately, archiving someone could take up to five clicks!

We didn’t like that, especially since archiving helps save money. If a contractor completes their work or a teammate moves on, just archive them. Then you can update your Settings to save a few bucks.

Now archiving in the Team section is quicker. Just click a person’s name, then choose Archive from their new Actions menu. Plus, we refreshed your list of Archived Users, so you can restore with just one click.

archive menu

Continue reading…

One Is the Loneliest Number

How PMs who work alone can get feedback from peers

 

The second installment in our series of interviews with project managers brings us to London for a conversation with Holly Davis, an agile project manager at Deeson. She has worked as a PM at White October and has served as a contributor at Every Day DPM. She addresses a problem confronted by many PMs: how to get feedback on your work and grow in your job if you’re the only project manager at your company.

Tell us a little about your role and the work you’ve been part of. What are you most proud of?

I work at Deeson, one of the UK’s longest-established open source agencies. We build innovative, stable, and effective digital properties for a range of high-profile companies and organizations.

My role as an agile project manager involves providing high-level, agile-style leadership to the development team, managing the working environment in which the solution is evolving, and coordinating all aspects of project management at a high level.

In terms of work I’m really proud of, in my previous role at White October I was part of the team that designed and developed Let’s Talk FGM, an iPad app that helps health professionals talk to patients about female genital mutilation. We had a small budget but designed and developed a brilliant tool for social good which even won a London Design Award at the end of last year. It’s hugely rewarding to build something that has the ability to change lives. Continue reading…

Choose Which Days People Work in Forecast

Many of our customers have people on their team who do not work a full 5 days a week. They might hire freelancers, contractors, and other part time workers. For these team members, the Daily Availability heat map did not always get their availability correct. To solve this, we’ve added a new field to select which days of the week someone works.

Forecast - Daily Availability

On Edit Person, below the Capacity setting, you will see a new Availability setting which allows you to select between Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. All of these are defaulted to ON for people on your team, but you can turn specific days OFF (simply by unchecking them). For example, if a contractor only works on Monday and Tuesday, you would shut off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for that contractor.

Forecast - Daily Availability

Setting their Availability to the specific days that a person works allows Forecast to accurately calculate how many hours that person will work on those days. In the above example, you can clearly see that Andrew works 7 hours per day only on Monday and Tuesday. We get this from his Capacity, which is 14 hours per week.

You’ll also be able to see your team’s availability reflected on both the Team Schedule and Projects Schedule. The days that a person does not work will be crossed out, prompting you to not add any time on those days.

Forecast - Daily Availability

Note: This is a purely visual indication. Forecast will not prevent you from assigning time on those days.

If you don’t have any people on your team who work part-time, then nothing should change for you. If you do need to customize the days of the week some people on your team work, this new Availability setting will help keep your assignments and heat map accurate and useful.

If you have any questions about this new feature, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team. Happy scheduling!

Add Expense Reports to Invoices, Automatically


We know you aren’t tracking time for the fun of it. You want critical insight into your projects and the ability to invoice your clients. That’s why Harvest makes it easy to pull the time you track into professional online invoices. But when it comes to invoicing, time is only half the equation. You also need the ability to invoice for any expenses you incur.

That’s where Harvest’s expense tracking comes in. You can record expenses right alongside your time. (If you’ve never checked it out, head to Timesheets > Expenses to give it a spin. Just make sure the Expense Tracking module is turned on under Settings.) The Harvest mobile apps make tracking your expenses as easy as taking a picture. Snap a picture of your receipt, enter the details, and boom—you’re done.

While Harvest has always made it easy to record expenses, there hasn’t always been an easy way to make sure those expenses were transparent to your client. Our latest update changes that.

A picture (of your receipt) is worth a thousand words

Now with the tick of a checkbox you can seamlessly attach an expense report, including pictures of your receipts, to an invoice.

When you create a new invoice, you’ll notice the Expenses section now includes an option to attach your receipts. All you have to do is check that box and voilà, an attachment will appear on your saved invoice that includes all your expense details and images of your receipts.

We think you’ll love this change for a couple reasons:

  • It saves time and takes the manual work out of attaching an expense report.
  • It allows you to see exactly which expenses are associated with an invoice.
  • It promotes transparency with your clients by letting them see the actual receipts you’re invoicing for.

That’s not all, folks

There are a couple more advanced features that should please veteran invoicers. For example, if you forget to check the box while you’re creating your invoice, you can still attach the expense report to a saved invoice.

And what if a team member forgets to attach receipts to their tracked expenses? You could wind up with an expense report without any receipt images. But don’t worry! Just edit those entries and attach the receipts. Then, head back to your invoice, remove the first expense report, and attach a new one. The receipt images will automatically show up in the new report.

To see this feature in action, check out the video above. We hope you’ll give it a try the next time you create an invoice in Harvest. And, as always, if you have any questions, you can drop us a line.

A Gift of Time

Seasons greeting! As the year winds down, I’d like to share some improvements I’ve made to our database this year. You may not have noticed them, but you’ve probably felt them when you run reports or load pages in Harvest. Many Harvest pages should feel much snappier!

Last year we were unhappy with how long it took for several of our reports to retrieve data from the database. We have monster database servers, so we knew hardware wasn’t the issue. But still, we saw large projects could wait on data up to 12 seconds, making page renders and refreshes noticeably slow. This issue grew worse for our customers when we redesigned our Projects section to incorporate more reporting, which ran several slow queries next to management actions.

Over the years we’ve tried several strategies to improve our performance, including caching report information. However, we prefer to show you the most up-to-date data whenever possible, and some projects are so active that the cached data doesn’t last long anyway.

The problems with data retrieval and poor load times boiled down to the way we store and retrieve your reporting data. There was no simple fix, like adding a missing database index or moving to a different technology stack. Instead, we precomputed key project report details and eliminated all SQL JOINs from our report. In the coming months I’ll post more details about these changes to our technical blog, Techtime, so stay tuned to that blog if you’re interested in the nitty gritty details!

Remember that 12-second report I mentioned earlier? With our database improvements it now runs in about 1.5 seconds. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re a manager going through different projects, and each project page can run several queries, that time adds up. Saving 10 seconds for a project manager who checks on only two project reports a day saves them an extra two hours a year! That’s two hours they would have wasted waiting on a spinner for the page to load.

You may not have noticed these improvements to make your reports snappier unless you were paying close attention. But, we consider that a success! One of the key goals of this project has been to make improvements without disrupting you. This means our database maintenance, report verification, and performance rollout have taken significant thought and planning to ensure you could continue to use Harvest without interruption

This was a difficult post to write, because for you, my work has been nearly invisible. There are no new features to use, buttons to press, or reports to run. But, your experience in Harvest is now faster and smoother. Though you may not see a difference, you may feel one. We’re happy you’ll be spending far less time in Harvest, and more time doing the things that matter.

What’s in a Name?

One producer wrestles with the ambiguity of her title.

All sorts of people use Harvest to track their time, but we know Harvest holds a special place in the heart of many project managers. We’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of these PMs and hear about the unique challenges of a job that doesn’t often get a lot of attention. So, we created a column on our blog for PMs to share their biggest challenges and inspire each other with creative ways to tackle them.

Our first contributor is Grace Steite Masri, a senior producer at Your Majesty who has previously worked at Big Spaceship.

grace-steite-masri-min Grace, center, with the Your Majesty team at their Swedish Midsummer celebration.

Tell us a little about your company.

Your Majesty is a digital agency based in Manhattan. Our work is primarily geared toward web design and development, but includes everything from branding and advertising to experiential work. Continue reading…

The Weekly Heat Map Is Back in Forecast

Last month, we launched a way for Forecast’s heat map to show how much of your team’s weekly capacity had been scheduled. While we heard excitement for this new feature, it also replaced a really useful feature that many customers missed: the daily heat map. So shortly after launch, we rolled it back.

Today, we’re excited to reintroduce the weekly heat map, this time alongside the trusty daily heat map. Customers will see a new option on the Team Schedule to select how they would like to view the heat map.

weekly-heat-map-1

  • Daily Availability
    This view shows how many hours per day a person is available or overbooked. This is best used to locate available hours in a week to schedule more specific tasks on a daily basis.Daily Heat Map
  • Weekly Capacity
    This view shows how many hours per week a person is booked. It also shows the percent of these scheduled hours against their total capacity. This is best used if you plan in weekly assignments, or if you’re trying to answer high-level questions about your team’s overall availability and health.Weekly Heat Map

With this improvement, it’s even easier to visually see when your team has availability, who’s over capacity, and when you can start on that exciting new project. We believe these questions are best answered at a high level, and we’re building the solution right into Forecast’s schedule with the new Weekly Capacity heat map.

If you prefer one view over the other, no worries! Forecast will save your preference. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team. Happy scheduling!

Permissions Update: Releasing Team to Project Managers

Update 11-10-2016: Since we published this blog post, we’ve heard significant feedback that expanding project manager permissions in Team has the potential to expose sensitive information many of our customers need to continue to restrict. We’re currently reconsidering our permissions change, and will update this blog post as soon as we have more news. In the meantime, only administrators have access to Team, and our permissions remain unchanged.

Our new Team section has been live for a few weeks. So far, only administrators have been able to see it.

This means project managers are missing out on useful Team info—like the quick and easy glimpse at who’s working on what, when, and how much.

Soon, project managers won’t have to miss out anymore! Within the next couple of weeks, we’ll open Team to project managers.

Permissions Change

When we release Team to project managers, they’ll be able to see some time-related info they currently can’t. Here’re the details.

What will project managers see in their Team section?

Project managers will be able to see this info in their Team section:

  • All the people on projects they manage.
  • All the time tracked by these people (including time on projects the PM does not manage).

What will project managers NOT see in their Team section?

  • Project managers will not see any billable rates or cost rates in Team.
  • They will not see any money-related information in Team, like fee-based budgets, billable amounts, or invoiced amounts.
  • They will not see a person who is not on a project they manage.
  • They will not be able to edit time entries for other people.
  • They will not be able to add, edit, archive, or delete anybody.
  • They will not see anyone’s profile page (it looks like this, and contains the person’s name, email, rates, etc).

A side note: if your project managers can currently see rates, invoices, or fee-based budgets in other parts of Harvest, they’ll still be able to.

How does this differ from what project managers see today?

Currently, project managers can see only time tracked to projects they manage.

For example, T.J. may have worked 1 hour on my project and 60 hours on another manager’s project. I won’t see those 60 hours, because they’re for a project I don’t manage.

With this upcoming change, project managers will be able see the full timesheet for people on projects they manage. This means a PM may see time tracked to projects they don’t manage. But, they’ll only see this time if it’s been tracked by a person on a project they do manage.

Why the change?

We think it’s important for a project manager to get the full story about their team’s work. Take the above example, where T.J. worked 1 hour on my project and 60 on another manager’s project.

Previously, I wouldn’t know that T.J. worked a 61-hour week. And I’d be stumped as to why my project wasn’t done, or maybe frustrated at T.J.’s lack of motivation.

But in reality, maybe T.J. just tracked time to the wrong project! Or, maybe he really is spread too thin and is stressed about his workload. The problem might not be with his work, but with scheduling—which is beyond his control!

Our permissions changes should make these problems obvious and easy to catch. Your team’s time will be more accurate, and you’ll have a better picture of their day-to-day. We think this kind of transparency is going to be hugely beneficial to understanding your team’s work, and catching those time tracking mistakes.

Get in Touch

We believe this upcoming permissions change will make Harvest all the more useful for all you project managers out there! We’ll release this change within a few weeks, to give some time to prepare for it.

If you think this change is going to be problematic for you, or you have any questions, please let us know!

Team Is Here!

team graphs

This week, we begin rolling out our new Team section!

Since our last announcement, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our work. And we can’t wait for you to see it! A few things up front:

  • You don’t need to do anything to get Team. It’ll simply show up in your main navigation within the next few days.
  • Team replaces the People section, under Manage. You’ll have all the same features you’re used to, plus more.
  • Team is only visible to administrators for now.

Why Team?

As we launch, we wanted to give you some insight into why we built Team. There’s an age-old question in time tracking: How do I know my team is tracking, and how do I know they tracked accurately?

Two things need to happen to answer this question.

First, it needs to be easy for your team to enter time. Harvest has a lot of features to help with that: timesheet reminders, Android and iPhone apps, desktop apps, and integrations galore.

But secondly, it should be easy to review timesheets, so you can ensure tracking is happening. And it should be breezy to edit those timesheets, so you can fix mistakes.

Team Has the Answers

This second point is where Harvest used to fall short:

  • It was cumbersome to see who wasn’t tracking time.
  • There wasn’t a clear way to understand if the time your team tracked was enough, too little, or too much.
  • And lastly, editing a teammate’s time could be time consuming!

With Team, you’ll have answers! In your new Team section:

  • You’ll see at a glance who is and isn’t tracking time for the week. This makes it simple to ensure your team’s putting in their hours.
  • You’ll be able to track capacity! That’s the total hours per week a person is available to work. This is key to understanding if someone is tracking enough time or too much (and are in danger of burning out!). Forecast users, you should be familiar with capacity already. We’ll sync your capacity between Forecast and Harvest!
  • And, you can edit a person’s time in the same place where you review it. This’ll make correcting mistakes a snap!

What We’re Excited About

The first time you go to Team, you’ll see an introduction to get acquainted with the new features I mentioned above—capacity and in-line editing.

So for this blog post, I wanted to share how Team has changed my own Harvest experience while managing some of our recent projects. I’ve been using Team internally for the past few weeks, and one of my favorite features is the ability to see who’s over capacity.

capacity overview

While we worked on Team, I noticed the over-capacity graph pop up for our front-end developer, Pez. And it was enough to prompt me to check in with him, just to make sure he wasn’t overwhelmed. Turns out he was fine! But this check-in was something I wouldn’t have easily known to do before. The change in Harvest is small, but the benefit to our team feels really good.

I also love the project breakdown on each person’s page. During our recent Invoices work, these project breakdowns helped me understand what else our developers had on their plates. And knowing this gave me a deeper understanding of their workload (or a clue that they might have been tracking to the wrong project!).

Project breakdown

To the Future

There’s so much we’re excited about, but for now we’ll let Team speak for itself.

We’re also thinking ahead. A few things we’ve been considering for the future: how to filter your team, a tighter integration with Forecast, and how best to share Team with project managers.

For now, we hope you enjoy Team and all it has to offer today! And as always, we’ll be on hand to help you with the transition. If you have any questions or feedback, just get in touch!