The Disruptors: Chris Vandersluis

Chris Vandersluis is the president and founder of HMS Software based in Montreal, Canada. HMS was created in 1984 as a company specializing in Project Management and Timesheet systems.

HMS started as a consulting and distribution firm deploying project systems in Canada and creating custom built add-ons to those systems such as timesheets. This brought HMS and Vandersluis to large Canadian clients in the utilities, manufacturing, aerospace and defense industries. In 1994, Vandersluis transformed HMS into a project management software publishing firm with the launch of the TimeControl timesheet system.

TimeControl is a project-based timesheet system known as one of the most flexible and integrate-able timesheets in the world.  It includes links with some of the largest project management systems including Microsoft Project, Oracle Primavera, SharePoint, BrightWork, ARES PRISM, Deltek EPM, VisionOne and InEight’s Hard Dollar.

These technical alliances have brought Vandersluis into many of the firms you recognize for project management today. Vandersluis has decades-long relationships with Microsoft and the Microsoft Project team and Oracle-Primavera. He has taught Advanced Project Management at Montreal’s McGill University and speaks at project management association functions across North America and around the world.

Vandersluis has been a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) since 1986.

Describe your career journey and how you’ve contributed to the success of TimeControl?

I started HMS Software in the mid 1980s, with the goal of providing project and project-tracking software, to mid and large sized companies. Our timing was very fortunate, as many larger firms were starting to adopt internal project systems on personal computers. In 1994, I worked on transforming the company from a service-based business, to a software publisher of project tracking systems, and we’ve never looked back. Our flagship product, TimeControl is one of the world’s most successful project-based timesheet systems.

Working with larger clients has given me the opportunity to speak at project management functions around the world. That’s become more of a virtual experience this year, but that too is not unfamiliar. I have also written for Fortune, Ivey Business Journal, American Management Association, Chief Project Officer magazine and Computing Canada.

Some of our more recognizable clients include Volvo, CAE, General Dynamics, Safran, Kelly Services, EXFO, AMD, General Electric, the City of Montreal, the Government of Quebec and the US Coast Guard.

How do you help clients?

In short, we make organizations more effective. From its inception, HMS has looked to see how project management systems could adapt to internal organization’s processes, rather than making organizations adapt to whatever software we created. This led us to making TimeControl, a multi-function timesheet that can serve multiple purposes simultaneously. TimeControl can serve project management, payroll, HR and finance, all at the same time, and is available both as an in-the-cloud service, and for purchase for on-premise deployment.

Someone in an organization might say “I need a timesheet for payroll to record time and attendance. We need to know when you are here, and when you are not, so we know what to pay you.” Elsewhere in the same organization someone might say, “I need a timesheet for billing and invoicing.” And in yet another part of the same organization someone might say, “We need a timesheet to control project costs. We need to know how much effort and money we are putting into these projects.”

We have found organizations with two, three, four or five timesheets all deployed, and all being used at the same time. While it may be hard in a company to get people to do their timesheet, imagine if the staff are asked to fill in more than one. It’s not awesome.

With TimeControl we can replace multiple timesheets with just one, and that gives us one source of the truth for all those needs.

How is HMS different from competitors?

Flexibility. It’s been our number one differentiator since we were founded. Our services, our products, our online TimeControl subscription service, our after-purchase assistance, our entire offering to clients is based on our ability to adapt, and that makes a massive difference for clients of all sizes.

What’s an example of a particularly big challenge for HMS?

The difference between our modest size and the large size of our clients is a challenge, even though it is so familiar. Where we can see a solution for an organization quickly, it can take time for all the players involved internally to an organization to generate a consensus. The results, when they happen though, are gratifying.

How has HMS adapted to the global shutdown?

Internally, this hasn’t been a large logistical challenge. HMS had prepared for years for our staff to work from home in case of a disaster. To be frank, we were thinking in terms of an office fire or something more local. We’d have never predicted the effects of the pandemic. Thankfully, the plans we made worked just as effectively.

How has the global shutdown affected the business?

For our clients, the shutdown has been a mix where some organizations have been able to adapt quickly, and others are having more of a challenge. That has delayed some implementations and changed others. We’re continuing to adapt every day as conditions change. We’ve noticed that both new and existing clients are more focused on our in-the-cloud subscription service of TimeControl. We had already noticed a trend from on-premise software to our subscription service, but I think the global shutdown has accelerated that interest.

What’s newsy for HMS?

We’re just releasing a minor upgrade for our TimeControl system, with big performance improvements and some security updates, but next month we’ll be releasing a significant upgrade with new functionality on both our online service, and our on-premise software. Right after that, we’ll be making a big announcement of changes in TimeControl, with a new edition of the product that includes additional project management functionality for strategic, operational and tactical users.

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