Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Project Accounting Ramblings

Okay, so I will admit that it is sometimes a lonely life as a trainer for Microsoft Dynamics GP Project Accounting as there does not seem to be many of us, and I would be hard-pressed to name two clients who use the module in the same fashion. In that fact lies the contradiction of GP Project Accounting, that it is indeed a focused module but it serves a variety of goals. In my time using, implementing, and training on the module, I have learned that thorough discovery is absolutely essential to a successful implementation. The discovery process, in my humble opinion, should include as many pre-purchase "reality" discussions as possible to ensure that the module is indeed a sufficient fit and proper expectations are set.





I do not want to come across as negative about the module, as it meets many requirements and can provide significant productivity gains. However, I think it is important to know the parameters you are working with so that they can be planned for and addressed during the design and development stages of an implementation as opposed to coming to light during training or in a setup session. Some key limitations I have found that can impact the satisfaction with the module:


1. Reporting capabilities: Project comes with a variety of standard reports, however I have found that many companies require some degree of customized reporting. I think this is related to the fact that people approach project accounting differently, and analyze data differently. Also, consider that the project accounting hierarchy of Customer/Contract/Project/Cost Category must, in turn, support the reporting that is required.


2. Milestone billing: Although this is not standard functionality, milestone billing can be accomplished by scheduling the fee amounts for billing. This can be a process adjustment for users, but can work nicely in many situations.


3. General Ledger reporting: In some cases, users want GL reporting by project. Although project does have a trial balance report, be careful about assuming other reports can be created easily that combine GL activity with project information. The links between GL and PA are a bit complicated, so you just need to plan for any GL reporting carefully. If users want FRx style reporting (and the associated flexibility) for projects, it often leads to a discussion regarding adding a segment in the GL for projects (the easiest, albeit not always the most desirable, solution).


4. Cost Category Transaction Usage: Cost categories in project accounting can only be used with one transaction type. This can cause issues when budgeting projects, as you might end up with one cost category TRAVEL-EE (for travel expenses on employee expense reports) and TRAVEL-PM (for travel expenses from outside vendors recording using the purchasing module). So in that case, the budget for travel would have to be divided between the two cost categories. Not an ideal situation for users who plan on using the cost budgeting functionality, but it is something that users do get used to over time. If PS Time and Expense (the Business Portal based time and expense entry tool for employees) is not being used, the issue can be easily addressed by recording both employee expenses and outside vendor purchases using the purchasing module rather than using project's employee expense entry window. However, if you are using PS Time and Expense, the expenses will automatically integrate with employee expense entry not the purchasing module.


5. Budget input and updates: Currently, this is a manual process per project. There is not an import tool, which is a common request. This is particularly true when the users want to interface project accounting with other project management systems. If it is a critical need, you want to accomodate customization/development of a tool in your implementation.




When these items come up in discovery, it is important that plans be made to address them. In some cases this may mean additional costs to the clients in terms of report development and customization, or it may mean a change in business process to better align with the software. In either situation, planning ahead can spare everyone frustration.






Some popular non-traditional project accounting uses include:


1. For law firms, accumulating costs on cases

2. Tracking costs and budgets for internal projects and activities (development, marketing, etc)

3. Tracking internal construction costs for building stores, etc.



Please share your thoughts and experiences with the project accounting, I would love to hear them!

3 comments:

victoriayudin.com said...

Steve,

Excellent topic! Much needed and requested.

Victoria

MiamiCFO said...

Hi Christina,

Do you know where to get some nicer Project reports? Are there any SRS reports for Project available? The reports it ships with are so ugly! I would appreciate any help you can give me.

Thanks,
Jennifer

Christina Phillips said...

Hi Jennifer!

Yes, there are SQL Reports available for Project Accounting with Dynamics GP 10.0, so those are something you might want to take a look at. Also, with the standard GP reports, it does not take too much to clean them up. Someone on your team could take a Report Writer class, or get a bit of training from a consultant, and then they could tackle them. I often tell people to look for the information they need, and not the cosmetics because the appearance is easily fixed :)

Let me know if you have further questions, you can email me direct at christinap@theknastergroup.com.

Take care,
Christina