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Monday, January 15, 2001

So I've spent about six hours today entering my time and expenses into the new software they introduced to Intellinex in November. Never once have I made it through this process without some major problem. The software is incredibly poorly designed. First there is a main toolbar which just launches over whatever other applications you are running. It doesn't create a window for itself; it's just a toolbar. From there you can go into the time entry or expense entry windows. When you do, these windows launch with their own toolbars and completely ignore (and bury) the main toolbar even though you will need some functions that can only be accessed on the other one. This alone is enough to make me denounce this software as something that unnecessarily complicates what should be a simple process.

Today though, TimeTrax went to a new level of frustration. After wading through all the entry forms and fighting my usual battles, I finally went to the submission window with a sigh of relief. I right clicked to "complete" the cards. I have no idea why we have to do this step, other than it won't work otherwise. You can always move cards back to open to make changes, but while in complete status, they can't be edited. They must be in complete status to be submitted. Whatever. So I click Send Expenses to the Corporate Network. All seems to be going well, except that instead of all the cards moving from Completed to Sent, they go to Alerts instead. All of them. I open one and get an incredibly cryptic and not particularly useful error: Alert 25: Error in User Defined Field:5. Great. I have no idea which field that is and the program doesn't highlight it so I can know. This is when I called tech support.

Sandra from tech support is nice, but she's just as bewildered as I am. After several times on hold where she runs to coworkers to see if they've ever seen anything like it, she finally comes back and suggests that since we've tried everything else, we should run a 90 day update. I have no idea why it's called a 90 day update because it seems like I have to run it every time I open the program, which is once every 15 days. Here's another big UI complaint: The 90 update button is also a drop down list if you click the very right edge of it. Running the 90 day update does nothing useful. First you must go to the drop down and select Update all lists. Invariably, I accidentally click the button rather than the pull down because I'm too far from the edge. So I finally get that done and close the program (because you have to close and reopen it to get it to recognize the update), and I go back and all the alerts are still there. This time I go into the cards and change something in one of the items to see if it will let me save it. I added a period to the end of a narrative. It saved it and let me complete and submit the expense and went to my sent pile. This was the point when Sandra said, "You know, I wouldn't believe this if I couldn't see it myself." She was viewing my computer through Timbuk 2. I went through each one and changed something trivial. I added buffet to the end of breakfast. I added or took away periods at the end of sentences. I reversed the order of wording in sentences. Every last one submitted just fine even though nothing material had changed about the particular entry.

All of this is just a really long way of building up to the punchline. What I've wondered again and again while using this software is what the company was thinking when they actually spent money on this software. Did they not actually try using it before buying it? So I went to the Elite Information Systems website. They are the creators of TimeTrax. And there it is right there. It says,
"TimeTrax is a high-level entry system. Because of its intuitive design, the system requires minimal user training. By allowing users to enter time while directly connected to the system or in a remote mode, TimeTrax provides a consistent method of time and expense entry for an entire firm. "

I laughed really hard. Intuitive design! Hahahahahahaha! minimal user training! Hahahahahahaha! ahhhh... the joy of marketing materials. On another place on the page, it calls itself "World Class Software." Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! Oh god, my sides ache. I just wish I knew how much they paid for this. That would probably sober me up.


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