Understanding Projects

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Web Suite is a project-centric system that supports an unlimited number of projects. In addition, a project’s scope can be broken down into parts called phases. If desired, you can further refine phases into segments, and these can be broken down into sub-segments. In essence, Web Suite supports up to four levels in a project hierarchy.

 

Each project record has a unique ID, which is linked to a client (who authorizes and pays for the work), and includes agreed-on contract provisions like fee and contract amount. Depending on your needs, a project record might also have a budget, estimate, fee schedule, employees, activities and expenses assigned to it.

 

After winning a project, you need to plan and set up the scope of work to be done. You need to charge time and expenses to it and accordingly bill the client. All these billable and non-billable charges, issues and events occurring over the life of the project affect budgets, job costs, billing, profitability and utilization. The quality of project management depends on timely, complete and accurate capture and processing of time and expenses.

 

When ready to bill, accumulated time and expenses flow to the project billing record. After executing billing decisions, a manager typically reviews and signs off on draft invoices, generates final invoices and then sends them to clients. Project managers can produce reports on-demand. Using reports combined with qualitative information captured in the project journal, project managers learn what went well and what did not. This helps in making the future clients more satisfied and projects more profitable.

 

Project Decisions

Area

Decision

Where to Implement

Project

Assign a project manager, project contact and contract type.

Project-General screen

Project-Billing screen

Create project hierarchy, if needed. Allocate the contract amount to phases.

Project-Details screen

Groups

Identify projects with common attributes for purposes of grouping them.

Project screen: Group

Budgets

Define standard budgets applicable to multiple projects.

Assign employees, vendors, activity codes, and expense codes to budgets by group (rather than as individual items).

Budget screen

 

Assign budgets to projects and phases.

Project-Billing screen

Assign screen

Share a parent or Main project budget with project phases using the ‘% of Total Project’ feature.

Project-Details screen

Set budgeted employees, activities and expenses on a project.

Project-Details screen: Rules

Project Control

Control who (employee) works on what (activity) and incurs what (expense) on a project.

Project-Assign screen or Project Control screen

Filters

Identify projects for filtering the project lists.

Preferences-Filters screen

Billing Rules and Invoice Settings

Adjust or set up special bill and cost rates.

Project-Billing screen

Service Fee Schedule

Expense Fee Schedule

Specify the retainage, if any.

Project-Billing screen

Specify invoice format, number and message for invoices.

Project-Billing screen

Project-Details screen

Global Settings-Billing

Preferences-More

Assign payment terms if different from the client payment terms.

Project-Billing screen

Assign interest and tax rates to the project.

Project-Details screen

Global Settings

Project Documents

Link related files to project records.

Project-General screen: Attachments

 

This section provides an overview of the following project-related concepts and tasks:

 

 

Project Hierarchy

A project can be a single, separate entity or broken down into smaller parts. In the latter case, you would probably bill all the sub-projects together on a joint invoice.

 

When you break down a project into smaller parts, there is always a parent or main project at the top of the hierarchy. Under it, you can add child projects, called phases. Phases can be broken down further into segments and segments broken down into sub-segments. A project hierarchy can have up to four levels below the parent. You can view projects and its phases on the Project screen grid.

 

info.gif For complex needs, you can create a project hierarchy within a project hierarchy.

 

The parent can be a standard project to which you can charge time and expenses, or it can be a ‘Main’ status project (no time and expenses allowed). You can allocate a percentage of the contract amount from the parent project to the child projects. You can assign a different contract type, budget, project manager and items to each project record in the hierarchy.

 

Project ID Structure

A ‘Project ID’ is a shorthand code used throughout Web Suite to identify a project quickly. When you set up a new project, you define the two parts of an ID – Project Code and Phase. Only Project Code is required.

 

A Project ID must often balance multiple information goals. It can include continuity from prior software used in your company and processing requirements. On the other hand, it can be a piece of information defined and required by a client to be on invoices.

 

Defining an intuitive ID structure for projects (and for clients, activities, expenses, etc.) can save hundreds of hours a year across your firm. An ‘intuitive’ ID is one that anyone in your company can understand and relate to just by looking at it. What is intuitive for your firm might not be what is intuitive for another firm.

 

For internal purposes, a key goal is to minimize the effort needed to find and recognize the right project in lists. This is especially important when recording time and expenses. An intuitive ID reduces timekeeper’s resistance to timely capture of hours and expenses. It can also improve accuracy and completeness. Thus, project managers and others gain on-demand access to quality, real-time project information for effective and efficient decision-making.

 

An intuitive ID structure depends entirely on how your employees and managers think of the work they do. Say you are an accounting firm with a client, ABC Corporation. You do their 2014 corporate (Form 1120) tax returns. Which of the following Project IDs would your staff recognize more easily in a list?

 

ABCCorp-Tax1120:2014                       1120-34125:2014

 

The first ID structure is descriptive in nature. It is intuitive for the staff as they think first of the client, then the type of work, and then the year of the tax return. The second ID structure is encoded. It might be the way staff think – first the work being done (the tax return), then they recognize the client number, and finally the tax year.

 

Choosing the right ID structure reduces time and effort spent searching time and expense lists. You can scan a single column rather than bounce your eyes back and forward between columns to verify whether you have the right ID.

 

Web Suite supports whatever structure works for your company. The ID can be letters, numbers and special characters (for example, dash, underscore, space) having a maximum length of 64 characters. If you use a special character that Web Suite does not permit, you will receive a message.

 

Contract Types

It is important for Project Managers to understand contract types and their effect on the billing process. The contract type chosen for a project triggers business-processing rules. Though you can change it any time, it is best to choose the right type while setting up a project. You can do it in consultation with the Billing Manager of the company.

 

Web Suite uses each project record to track information for any of these purposes:

 

For revenue-generating projects, you might choose a contract type such as Fixed (lump sum), Hourly (time and materials), Hourly Not to Exceed, Recurring and Cost Plus. These contracts may or may not have time and expenses, or contract amounts associated with them.

 

Typically, Web Suite computes the default net bill amount based on the total time and expenses relieved with an invoice. It compares all time and expense flowing to a project to the revenue generated to show gross profit. Fixed types require a contract amount though it is a good idea to provide a contract amount for hourly contracts as well. Web Suite uses this information to evaluate time and expenses by comparing the amount spent against the contract amount. In such cases, your time and expense entries display in red. However, nothing will stop you from overbilling a project except if it is a ‘Recurring with Cap’ contract or has a billing schedule.

 

For projects that your firm is trying to ‘win’, set them up as soon as you have the indication of opportunity and set them as ‘Marketing’ type. Web Suite tracks all time and expense, giving you better profitability and management information for setting fees. Tracking of marketing time and expense costs begins when a new or existing client calls. Conversations, budget and estimate preparations, meetings, planning, and bid proposals all affect a project’s profitability. After winning the project, you can carry out your plan through to final close of the project. 

 

Finally, you can use the Overhead type to track internal activities and expenses like education, staff meetings, research, and so on. You could set up one or more research projects for the firm with the objective of improving your services and expanding your professional offerings to customers. An overhead project requires that you set up your company as a ‘client’ and then assign the overhead project to it.

 

You can choose Web Suite’s predefined contract types on the Project-General screen. It includes:

 

 

 

Fixed-Type

Fixed

Hourly Not to Exceed

Percentage

Recurring With Cap

These contracts types are used when you want to bill:

  • Accumulated value of time and expenses up to the contract amount

  • A percentage of the contract amount/settlement amount

  • A milestone achieved

  • A predefined billing schedule or bill amount and frequency up to the contract amount

  • Any amount up to the contract amount

 

 

Hourly-Type

Hourly

Cost + Percentage

Cost + Fixed Fee

These contract types are used when you want to bill:

  • Accumulated value of time and expenses

  • Accumulated direct costs of time and expenses plus profit/fee

  • A percentage of the contract amount

  • A milestone reached

  • A predefined billing schedule

  • Any amount you want to bill

 

Recurring-Type

Recurring

Recurring + Expense

These contracts types are used when you want to bill:

  • A predefined bill amount and frequency

  • Expenses as part of the recurring amount

  • Expenses in addition to the recurring amount

 

Non-Billable

Marketing

Overhead

These contracts types are used when you want to record:

  • All time and expenses incurred before the project starts

  • Non-billable marketing costs

  • Administrative time and expenses

 

Project Status

In Web Suite, you need to choose a status for the project, the most common being ‘Active’. Lists in Web Suite include only active projects and other master records. In addition, you can filter the grid lists and various reports by active projects.

 

You can choose the Status option on the Project-General tab. It includes:

 

Status

Time & Expense

Billing

Payment

Active

P

P

P

Archived

O

O

O

Completed

O

P

P

Hold

O

O

O

Inactive

O

P

P

Main

O

O

O

Cancelled

O

P

P

 

info.gif Web Suite sets the ‘Archived’ status automatically when you archive the project data (using Archive-Restore tool).

Projects currently on hold or inactive can be re-activated later.

Main Project is a parent to a child project (phases, segments and sub-segments). Hence, Web Suite does not allow direct time and expense, billing and payments to it.

 

warning.gif  If you change the status of a Main project to ‘Inactive’, Web Suite asks if you want to change the status of all phases under it.

 

Project Invoice Templates

All the invoices associated with a specific project will have a default invoice template based on its contract type. Web Suite specifies these templates in the Global Settings-Templates screen and applies them to all clients and projects. However, you can assign a different invoice template to a project (usually done for certain demanding clients). For example, most of your clients might like a particular invoice template because it displays detailed memos for each time and expense entry. However, a certain client wants his invoice to display time entries by activity.

 

You can change the default invoice template per project from the Project-Templates screen. See Choosing Invoice Templates.

 

info.gif You can set all your invoice templates to show Goods and Services Tax (GST) at the project or global level. This option is selected by default for all countries other than USA when creating a new database.

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