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Projects are the true workhorses of PensionPro; they help keep Tasks on track and make sure no data gets missed. However, every single Project is launched from a Project Template, which defines the Project and establishes its Workflow. While this may sound like an unnecessary step for a single Project, a good Project Template can (and will!) be used to launch hundreds of Projects over a number of years. What's more, every Project launched from that Template will be processed in the same way, regardless of the Employee assigned to each Task. This means that Projects will be performed consistently, and can be tracked painlessly. When viewed through this lens, it's easy to see just how powerful a single Project Template can be.
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Table of Contents
- Understanding Projects
- Design Fundamentals
- Key Terminology
- Designing a Template
- Adding New Templates
- Web Collection Requirements
- Frequently Asked Questions
Without an understanding of how Projects work—and why they're used—the concept of Project Templates will seem entirely foreign. PensionPro recommends reviewing the following articles prior to template creation:
- Projects: An Overview – Recommended starting point. Provides a brief, easy-to-read summary of Projects in PensionPro, omitting any technical instructions.
- Launching & Managing Projects – Covers various general Project concepts, including what aspects of the Project can and cannot be changed once the Project is launched.
- Tasks and Workflow – Discusses Tasks, Task Items, and Task Groupings in detail and explains how they are used in the Project Workflow.
When thinking about designing a Project Template, it's not always enough to consider what the Project needs to accomplish now, for a single Plan. A little bit of thoughtfulness in advance will enable a firm to reuse the Template across any number of Plans, over and over again. Even when internal processes are updated, a good Template can simply be edited, rather than re-created from scratch.
The article Overview of Project Template Development discusses best practices associated with Template design, and can assist a firm in identifying processes and developing Templates that can respond to those needs.
There is certain terminology that is specific to Projects and Project Templates. Some of these concepts are integral to understanding how the Template will function, and are worth calling attention to.
Project Templates are predominantly categorized by their Project Type. When a user starts the process of launching a Project, the first action they will take is selecting the Project Type; this will determine what Templates will be available to choose from.
Project Type is a List Value located under Core > Project.
A firm can add to and manage its Project Types as needed to organize its Templates. However, there are a handful of Project Types that exist by default and cannot be edited; PensionPro provides additional functionality specific to these Project Types. These include:
While some Projects will only be performed on an as-needed basis, having other Projects recur on a regular basis—without any additional setup—can be desirable to ensure that nothing is forgotten. This is where Project Frequency comes in. Projects can be assigned one of a number of different Frequencies, which dictates how often the Project is performed. Project Frequency is used in conjunction with Period Start and Period End dates.
For many of these Frequencies, when a Project is completed, the user will be prompted to launch the next iteration of the Project. Annual Projects and Non-Recurring Projects are the exceptions to this rule.
Project Frequencies do not differentiate between weekdays and weekends.
Available Project Frequencies:
Start Date / External Deadline
The Start Date refers to the date the Project becomes active. The Project may be launched at any time, but Tasks will not appear on Dashboards prior to the Start Date. This can be very useful for recurring Projects, which will ask the user to launch the next iteration of the Project upon completion; PensionPro can track that Project in the background, and only present it to Employees when it's time to be worked on.
The External Deadline is the date the Project is expected to be fully completed.
For Non-Recurring Projects, the Start Date and External Deadline can be (optionally) set in the Project Template, or specified when the Project is launched. Templates for Recurring Projects use Offsets to determine these dates, which are discussed later in this section.
Period Start / Period End
Any recurring Project must be assigned a Period to which that Project applies. For example, a Project Template with a Monthly Frequency may be used to launch one Project for the month of July, one for August, and one for September. To avoid confusion, these Projects cannot overlap, even by a single day. The Period Start and Period End dates dictate which dates fall within the scope of that Project.
The Period dates differ from any Start Date or External Deadline the Project has. Say a firm wished to create a Project to send their client a list of important dates for the upcoming Plan Year; this could be an Annual Project. Perhaps one iteration of this Project has a Period Start of January 1st, 2030, and a Period End of December 31st, 2030. However the Project itself might be performed mid-December of 2029—half a month before the Period Start!
In most cases, the Period End date can be specified when the Project is launched. The Period Start will then be determined automatically by a combination of the Period End and the Project Frequency. Sample Period Start and End dates can be found below:
- Annual: Period Start 11/1/2000, Period End 10/31/2001
- Biweekly: Period Start 3/1/2000, Period End 3/14/2000
- Daily: Period Start 7/22/2000, Period End 7/22/2000
- Monthly: Period Start 2/10/2000, Period End 3/9/2000
- Quarterly: Period Start 10/1/2000, Period End 12/31/2000
- Semi-Annual: Period Start 1/1/2000, Period End 6/31/2000
- Semi-Monthly: Period Start 4/16/2000, Period End 4/30/2000
- Period End dates for Semi-Monthly Projects are limited to the 15th or the last day of the month.
- Weekly: Period Start 8/1/2000, Period End 8/7/2000
- Non-Recurring: Does not have a Period Start or End.
Start Date Offset / External Deadline Offset
The Start Date Offset is a value that determines a recurring Project's Start Date. This value is user-defined as a set number of days, months, or years, and can be positive or negative. When the Project is launched, the Start Date Offset references the Period Start, and then sets the Start Date based off of the time period entered for the Offset.
To illustrate this, assume a recurring Project is launched with a Period Start date of 5/15. A Start Date Offset of 3 days would set the Start Date as (and activate the Project on) 5/18. A Start Date Offset of minus 1 month would set the Start Date as 4/15.
The External Deadline Offset functions similarly to the Start Date Offset, but determines the External Deadline for the Project, and is based off of the Period End date.
Designing a Template
Project Templates can be created directly in PensionPro, or imported via Excel. Instructions specific to these methods will be covered later in this article; this section will break down the elements of a Template and discuss Template creation in a manner that can be applied to whichever method is preferred.
The following fields are largely used for reference, and apply to all Projects:
Project Name: This will function as both the name of the Template, and the name of every Project launched from that Template. Project Name must be a unique value. (Required)
Template Description: A short description that can be used to communicate aspects of the Template as desired. For Non-Recurring Projects, the Description will be added to the end of the Project Name.
Project Type: Refer to Key Terminology: Project Type. (Required)
Project Manager: The Employee Plan Role who will oversee the Project. This user is not required to complete any Tasks; instead, the Project will appear on this user's My Projects Dashboard.
Priority Level: Options are Normal and Critical. If Critical is selected, Projects and Tasks on Dashboards and Worktrays will display a Critical icon to indicate that the Project is a priority.
Active: Enabled by default. If disabled, the Template is considered inactive, and cannot be used to launch Projects. Additionally, inactive Templates are hidden from the Project Templates tab by default; to view these Templates, select More > Show Inactive.
These options determine any frequencies and dates that will be applied when a Project is launched:
Project Frequency: Refer to Key Terminology: Project Frequency. (Required)
- When a Project is launched from a Template with a recurring Frequency, the user will be asked to provide the Period End date. PensionPro will then determine the Period Start based off of the Frequency and the Period End. See Key Terminology: Period Start / Period End.
Month End: For Monthly and Quarterly frequencies, enabling this option will automatically set the Period End date to be the final day of the month, regardless of whether that day is the 30th or 31st. Users launching the Project will only be able to specify a month and year for the Period End.
Offset: Refer to Key Terminology: Start Date Offset / External Deadline Offset. The Offset values help to determine the date that the Project becomes active, and the date that the Project is due, based off of the Period Start/Period End dates. Start Date Offset and External Deadline Offset each has two fields:
- Increment: The time unit that is applied to the Offset Amount. Options are Days, Months, or Years. (Required)
- Amount: The number of time units (specified by Offset Increment) that the date is offset by. Can be positive or negative. (Required)
The following options are only applicable to Projects in certain circumstances:
Extensions: Project Templates have the ability to be marked as a Project that can be extended, or as a Project that serves as an extension. This is usually determined by the Project Type. Typically, Projects are neither extensions nor extendable, except in the following situations:
- Annual Administration Projects can be marked as extendable, if desired.
- Extension-type Projects generally extend Annual Administration Projects (i.e., a 5558 Extension).
Web Collection: Some Projects can utilize Web Collection to require Plan Sponsors to view and submit data via PlanSponsorLink. Specific settings are required for Web Collection Projects; refer to the section Web Collection Requirements.
The Project Workflow determines how the Project will be performed, such as what Tasks will need to be completed and who is responsible for them. Before diving into creating a Workflow, it is helpful to have an outline of the process sketched out in advance. A Template will need to specify one or more Task Groupings, each of which must contain one or more Tasks. Each Task may contain as many Task Items as necessary.
Task Groupings: While not as vital to a Project's Workflow as Tasks and Task Items, Task Groupings are still useful for organizing Tasks. For example, Tasks named Eligibility, ADP/ACP testing, and Contribution Calculations could be compiled into a Task Grouping called Compliance. In addition, Tasks flagged as Review Steps rely on Task Groupings to determine what information gets reviewed.
Tasks: Each Task represents one step in the Workflow process. Tasks are assigned to Employees, and appear on relevant Dashboards and Worktrays.
- Time Code: Time Slip entries made from the Project tab will be assigned this Time Code. Refer to the article Using Time Tracking. (Required)
- Role Assignment: When the Task is activated, it will be automatically assigned to the Plan's Employee Role if one is specified. A Task may be left Unassigned; in this case, it must be assigned to a Worktray.
- Status Assignment: When the Task is activated, the Project Status (or Distribution Status) will automatically update to this value, allowing a Status to be tracked over time. Refer to the article Tracking Projects & Distributions.
- Review Step: If selected, all previous Tasks within the Task Grouping will need to be reviewed for completeness and accuracy. Answers for all Task Items in the Grouping will be visible, and the Project can be returned back to a Task that was previously completed.
- Days to Complete: The length of time (in days) allotted to complete the Task. If a Task remains active beyond this time period, it becomes overdue. Weekends are not factored in when the Task Due Date is calculated.
- Worktray: In lieu of assigning a Task directly to an Employee, it can be assigned to a Team Worktray, where it can be completed by any member of that Team. If the Worktray is Unassigned, the Task must be assigned to an Employee Role. Refer to the article Using Worktrays.
- Event: Tasks can be linked to certain Events, and then tracked within Event Management. Refer to the article Using Event Management.
- Category: An additional option for categorizing Tasks for reporting purposes. Task Category is a List Value located under Core > Project.
Task Items: Each Task may optionally be assigned one or more Task Items. While these may simply provide instructions that an Employee can follow to complete a Task, they are at their most useful when designed and configured to capture data.
- Item: Can be a question that an Employee will be asked to input data for, or can be an instruction for the Employee to perform. (Required)
- Data Type: If the Task Item is intended to collect data, this controls the format that the data will take (such as text box, yes/no dropdown, etc.). Refer to the article Adding and Editing Template Data Type List Values. (Required)
- Required: If a Task Item is designated as Required, the Employee will not be able to complete the Task until a value has been entered for the Task Item.
- Project Field: A Project Field can "capture" data that was provided for a Task Item, making the response available for reporting and other purposes. Refer to the article Using Project Fields.
- Show on Project/Plan: If either option is enabled, a Project Field which has been supplied with data can be quickly accessed via the Project Field view of the Plan and/or Project tab.
Adding New Templates
As mentioned previously, Project Templates can be created manually using the PensionPro interface, or can be imported from an Excel workbook file. Creating an Excel Template for import can be faster than navigating the PensionPro interface, but is also more likely to result in errors; as such, Excel Template creation is only recommended for advanced users. Instructions for both methods will be included in this section.
Manual Template Creation
To create a new Project Template within PensionPro:
- From the Navigation Panel, select Maintenance > Templates to open the Project Templates tab.
- Select Add to the top-right of the grid. The Add Template window displays.
- Enter the desired Project details. Refer to the Designing a Template section for information specific to each field.
- Select/deselect Template is Active as desired. Inactive Templates do not display on the Project Templates tab by default, and cannot be used to launch Projects.
- Select Save. PensionPro reverts back to the Project Templates tab.
- Double-click the newly-created Template to open the Template's Summary view.
- Any details added during Template creation can be edited by selecting Edit on the Summary view.
To add a Workflow to the Project Template:
- Open the Project Template and Select the Workflow view.
- By default, the Task Grouping level of the Workflow is displayed. A Project Template must contain at least one Task Grouping.
- Double-clicking a Task Grouping opens the Task level of the Workflow. A Project Template must contain at least one Task.
- Double-clicking a Task opens the Task Item level of the Workflow.
- The remaining steps are similar regardless of the current Workflow level.
- Select Add to the top-right of the view. The relevant Add Task Grouping/Task/Task Item window displays.
- Enter the desired Task Grouping/Task/Task Item details. For descriptions of these fields, refer to the section Designing a Template: Workflow.
- Select Save.
- Task Groupings, Tasks, and Task Items can be rearranged by dragging an item higher or lower in its list.
In addition to being added manually, Project Templates can be created in an Excel workbook file and imported into PensionPro. A blank sample Template has been attached to this article and can be found in the sidebar on the right (or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices).
The Excel workbook file contains two worksheets: Instructions and Template. The Instructions worksheet details each field; do not delete this worksheet, or the import will fail. The Template worksheet contains the entirety of the Project Template; the remainder of this section applies only to the Template worksheet.
For more details on any of the following preferences, refer to the section Designing a Template.
Rows 1 & 2 of the Template worksheet contain Project settings, akin to those on a Template's Summary view. Row 1 acts as a field header and should not be altered; Row 2 is where corresponding values can be entered.
Row 4 onward contains the Project Workflow. This includes Task Groupings, Tasks, and Task Items. Row 4 acts as a field header, although some of these headers are only applicable to one of the above items, as follows:
- Columns A and B apply to all items.
- Columns C, D, E, F, L, M, and N apply to Tasks.
- Columns G, H, I, J, and K apply to Task Items.
The Workflow hierarchy is constructed starting in Row 5. This row will always possess the first Task Grouping. A Project must contain at least one Task Grouping, and each Task Grouping must contain at least one Task. Tasks can contain any number of Task Items.
Workflow items can be rearranged as desired, so long as the Task Grouping > Task > Task Item hierarchy is upheld; however, any layout changes made in Rows 1 through 4 will result in an error during import.
When entering information that references a value within PensionPro (such as Project Type, Time Code, Role Assignment, and Worktray), the entered value must match PensionPro exactly, or it will result in an error during import. The value must also exist in PensionPro prior to attempting the import.
To import a completed Excel workbook Template:
- From the Navigation Panel, select Maintenance > Templates.
- Select More > Project Template Import.
- Use the File Selection box to choose the desired Excel Template.
- The importer asks if missing Project Fields should be automatically added. Select Yes or No.
- If Yes is selected, a List Value entry will be created for any Project Field that is present in the Template but which does not match any existing Project Field List Values.
- Select Next.
- If PensionPro discovers an issue that will prevent a successful import, an error message is displayed above the grid. This message contains an export link. If selected, a copy of the Template will be downloaded; within this copy, all identified errors will be highlighted in red. Hovering over a highlighted cell displays more details about the error.
- Review the Import Details, then select Execute. The Template will be imported.
Copying Existing Templates
In certain situations, it may be easier to tweak an existing Template, rather than creating a new Template from scratch. As with Template creation, copying can be done either within the PensionPro interface, or by downloading an Excel workbook containing the Template. Both options are available under Maintenance > Templates.
To create a copy using the PensionPro interface, hover over the Template to be copied, then select Copy on the right. The Copy Template window appears, and functions similarly to Manual Template Creation. Any established Project Workflow will be copied as well.
An Excel workbook copy of a Project Template can be downloaded by selecting the desired Template, then selecting More > Export. This functionality will work even if the Template was created or edited within PensionPro. Any desired changes can be made to the Excel workbook file, and then imported via the same process as in Importing Templates.
Web Collection Requirements
Projects that utilize Web Collection/Data Collection are common, but there are additional Template requirements that must be put in place before the feature will work properly. These requirements vary depending on the Project Type.
Web Collection is only applicable to the following Project Types:
- Web Data Collection must be enabled within the Project Template.
- Annual Administration Projects must have an Annual frequency.
- The Project Workflow must be established appropriately. See Web Collection Workflow, below.
Web Collection Workflow
For Web Collection-enabled Projects, PensionPro requires that the first Task Grouping be named Data Collection. These Projects will all start the same way: by directing Plan Sponsors to PlanSponsorLink in order to provide any requested data or make any necessary approvals.
Once the Data Collection Task Grouping has been added, it cannot be repositioned or deleted.
The Tasks required within the Data Collection Grouping are specific to the Project Type. The Task names and order must match exactly as follows:
|Annual Administration||General Web Collection||Distribution|
Generally, Task Items are not necessary for Data Collection Tasks, although they may be used to indicate to Employees that a Census Request needs to be sent, or that a particular step will be completed by the Plan Sponsor. The exceptions to this are the Employer Questionnaire and 5500 Questionnaire Annual Administration Tasks; for these, Task Items should be used to create a list of questions, which will be shown to and completed by the Plan Sponsor.
Tasks within the Data Collection Grouping cannot be renamed, repositioned, or deleted. Additionally, new Tasks cannot be added to this Grouping.
Frequently Asked Questions
- I've launched a Template against a number of Plans, but I need to update my Template. Will the changes to the Template affect Projects already launched using the Template? Changes to a Project Template will not affect existing Projects. Projects launched following the update will contain the changes.
- Does deleting a Project Template delete any Projects launched from that Template? No. Launched Projects exist independent of their Templates.
- Can I change the font size or color when adding Questionnaire items to my Data Collection-enabled Project? Yes, simple HTML markup code may be used to style font properties for PSL.
- Text size and color can be adjusted using font tags. For example: <font size="4" color= "red">Text here</font>
- Text can be formatted as bold or italicized using <strong></strong> or <em></em> tags
- I deactivated a Project Template but can no longer find it. Where did it go? In the Project Template tab, select More > Show Inactive.
- I deleted a Project Template. Can it be restored? No; deleting a Project Template is a permanent action.