Review of new features for Project Management and Accounting in Dynamics 365 For Operations

Dynamics 365 For Operations is a cloud based SaaS service, which provides rich features and functionalities to manage simple to complex business processes across all major industry verticals, such as Manufacturing, Professional Services, Financial Services, Retail, Distribution and more. It provides very rich features and functionality for project management and accounting for the professional services industry. In today’s post, we will review some of the key new features and enhancements that were released for project management and accounting, in Dynamics 365 for Operations (Update 3 released on NOV 1st 2016).

Let us review and discuss these new features in the order of what I think their significance would be for customers.

Dedicated PowerBI Content Pack for Project Management and Accounting Reports and Dashboards:

The is the biggest enhancement /new feature under Project Management and accounting in Dynamics 365 For Operations. Customers will now get access to preconfigured PowerBI Content pack that comes out of the box and provides key project management and accounting related dashboards and KPIs that are readily available for consumption. This content pack offers the following dashboards and reports. (Note: You can get access to the .pbix PowerBI files via the shared asset library in Life Cycle Services)

Projects Overview Dashboard: Shows overview of projects by customers, budget performance and revenue and provides a bird’s eye overview of the projects so that you can promptly review projects that are either exceeding budget, underperforming in revenue to take actions.

proj-db

Project Cost and Revenue Details Dashboard: These 2 dashboards enables you to view the project cost and revenue trends easily by customer and various other classifications and also shows actual bs budget comparisons.

proj-cost

proj-rev

Earned Value Management: Earned value management(EVM) is one of the key project health and success measuring criteria for professional services firms. Traditionally, in the earlier version of Dynamics AX, there was no dashboards/KPIs available out of the box that shows EVM and associated KPIs such as Cost Performance Index(CPI) or Schedule Performance Index (SPI), even though you could develop or customize reports and dashboards for these. But in Dynamics 365 for Operations, the content pack provides these out of the box enabling organizations to measure EVM and associated KPIs easily for projects. A very welcome addition !! (In one of the upcoming posts, I will dive deep into EVM in D365 For Operations)

evm

Project Hours Details report: This dedicated dashboard page shows the hours/time details for projects and resources. This also allows you to measure resource utilizations in various perspectives.

proj-hours

Manage Estimated Costs, Revenues and Item requirements on WBS Task Details form of a project:

In the earlier releases of the New Dynamics AX (Update 2 and earlier) or even in AX 2012, you could always define the estimated costs and revenues for each task on the WBS for a project. In Dynamics 365 For Operations, you can add estimated costs and revenue lines for Hours, Expenses, Items and Fees on the WBS task under ‘Estimated Costs and Revenue Tab” as you were able to do in earlier versions, But additionally, you can also manage these on the “TASK Details” form. You can also add/setup “Item Requirements” on the WBS Task details form, so that when you save and publish the WBS, Project Item requirements will be automatically created. (It was also possible earlier, but you had to transfer the WBS Item estimates to Item requirements specifically). Small enhancement, but can be very useful!

wbs-details

Option to setup ledger accounts for intercompany cost and revenues based on lending and borrowing entities for projects:

The Intercompany timesheet and intercompany customer invoicing has been one of the very useful features of AX which enables organizations to deploy resources from multiple entities on the project of borrowing entity and automate the intercompany timesheets and invoicing and accounting. In earlier versions, you only setup one Ledger account for Intercompany Cost and One ledger account for intercompany Revenue postings, regardless of the resource borrowing and lending entities. Dynamics 365 For Operations now provides the option to setup multiple ledger accounts for intercompany cost and revenue posting based on the resource lending and borrowing entities respectively.

int-cost-account

int-rev-account

Enhancements to Project resource management:

There are some significant changes and enhancements to the project resource management feature in the Dynamics 365 For Operations release. I am listing some of those which I think are important, but will discuss them in greater detail in one of the future posts.

  • Organization’s Operations resources such as Machines, Tools, Facility etc. can now be added as project resource and can be scheduled on projects. Earlier, only workers (Employees and Contractors) could be designated as project resource.
  • New Resource request workflow enabling a resource allocation manager to control the resource requests from various projects. (It was there in the AX 7 release as Planned resource, but it has be revised up to some extent)
  • Resource role based pricing and cost price visibility based on date of Task and booking.

resource-request

resource-request1

Miscellaneous usability enhancements across various forms:

The following are some of the miscellaneous usability enhancements.

  • WBS Task ID and the Task Name are now visible on the Project Forecasts Transactions forms. This will certainly make it easier to see the forecasts (Labor, Expense, Items, Fee etc.) at each Task level with easy identification of the task, instead of just looking at the Activity ID.

taskidname

  • On the Resource management screens such as Resource Availability, Resource fulfillment, clearing record selections for each date range is now possible and it a whole lot earlier and neat! Certainly a very useful enhancement.

clearresselections

  • Multiple record selections on various forms to take actions is now possible. An example is the price setup form.

multiselect

  • The Project resource availability form’s business logic now considers Employee’s efficiency rate. Earlier the resource availability was based on Competencies and calendar availability, but Efficiency rate might be a good addition. I am not sure yet if I would use/need it that much, it certainly is a good add-on.

res-avail

  • When you select the Project Manager on a project, it is automatically added to the Project Team under the Project Team and Scheduling tab. Make Sense and makes like a little easier 🙂 !!

pm-team-member

  • Timesheet workflow status is Reset if the workflow and Document status are out of Sync. I believe this enhancement is related to cases when the “Approval status” of a timesheet changes, but the corresponding workflow status does not change sue to unexpected intermittent issues. If this happens, my guess is the workflow status will automatically reset to match with the timesheet document/approval status. I was not able to review and test this feature yet.
  • You can now select a funding source specifically on Fee journal lines. This will prove to be a very useful enhancement, especially in cases where there multiple funding parties responsible for a project contract and when booking Fees for the contract, you can select a specific funding source if you want to bill the partially fee to that funding source. (Note: This was indirectly possible in earlier releases where you could do a Project Free Text invoice and select a funding source on the line, which in turn will post a project Fee transaction.

proj-fee-fundsource

Hope this was helpful! Till next time..

Sandeep

Sandeep ChaudhurySandeep Chaudhury is a Dynamics AX enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in functional consulting, Solutions architecture and systems integration, with expertise in the areas of Professional services automation(Project Management and accounting), Financials Management, Services Management, Sales and Marketing, Human resource management, Travel and Expenses Management and Procurement & Sourcing modules of Microsoft dynamics AX ERP. He has experience working with the Dynamics 365, AX 7, AX 2012 R3, AX 2012 R2 and more.

Creating a New Record From Your Outlook Inbox

Using Dynamics CRM, you can quickly and easily create a new record from an email in your Outlook inbox. If you also have IPM project management, that functionality extends to all the IPM record types as well. With a few simple clicks, you can move from your Outlook inbox to creating new records, and then be right back in your email – all with a single sign-on.

Here is an example of how it works:

You receive an email with a question from a client (Alfred). You decide to create a new RFI record to hold the information and to send out inquiries. Right from within the email itself, you can create the new record.

To create the RFI:

1. From within the email, select “Set Regarding” in the menu bar.

2. Choose the type of record.

  • In our example, we’ll choose RFI as our record type.
  • You may see the record type you want in the drop-down list. If this is the first time you’re choosing a specific record.

 

  • Email

3. Select the type record. (For our example, we’re choosing RFI.)

4. To create a new record, select “New.”LOOKUP WINDOW

5. The new RFI form appears on the screen.

  • Fill in as many details as you want, being sure to fill in the required fields at a minimum.New RFI

6. Close the new RFI.

7. The RFI you just created will be highlighted in the Lookup Window. Click Add.

8. The email is now attached to the new RFI record you created. It will appear in the Activity Feed on the record.

ADDITIONAL RFI FUNCTIONALITY OFFERED BY IPM

If you have the IPM software within your Dynamics CRM, you also have access to even more functionality designed to make your job easier and you more productive. When you send out an RFI request (by clicking the “send email” button on the RFI record), IPM creates an email with all of the RFI information included.

Even better, it also includes space in the email for a response and recognizes the response in a return email. If you have the email scraping feature enabled, IPM will pick up the return email and copy the information in the “Response” block to your RFI record in IPM.

RFI Response

EXTEND THIS IDEA TO OTHER ENTITIES

Although we used an RFI in this example, you can add any IPM or CRM record from your Outlook Inbox by using this method. When the lookup window appears, you will have the option to select any entity in use in your system (step 3 above).

It’s not easy being GREEN … in Construction

  It’s not easy being green….-Kermit the Frog

Are your construction and engineering departments working to leverage technology? Many customers today want to maximize the benefits found with GREEN construction, which means contractors need to be able to track subcontractors with GREEN experience and capabilities, specify GREEN standards, and ensure compliance.

Keeping track of all this GREEN information could turn into a job of its own, unless you have IPM, which already includes many of the features you need to optimize GREEN projects. Here are just a few ways you can use IPM to handle GREEN information.

  • SPECIFY GREEN STANDARD TASKS
    • Specify GREEN standards in your scope of work (Standard Tasks).
    • Apply these tasks to every Job / Subcontract to assure you are meeting GREEN standards for your customer.

  • KNOW WHO TO TALK TO WHEN GREEN IS IMPORTANT
    • Track LEED points/certification levels on your Subcontractors and other contacts.
    • Classify your contacts based on any criteria that you define (past performance, GREEN capabilities, availability, etc.)
  • EVALUATE SUBCONTRACTORS
    • Evaluate how much GREEN construction your potential vendors have done previously.
    • Evaluate vendors’ past GREEN construction scores with other contractors.
    • Evaluate how much capacity they have to take on a new GREEN construction project.

  • ENSURE HEALTH, SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE
    • Track employee participation at LEED and other training events.
    • Create plans for achieving GREEN certifications and track progress against those plans.
    • Communicate GREEN compliance with customers.
  • MODIFY YOUR SITE DOCUMENTS TO INCLUDE…
    • Specific site instructions that assure subcontractors will follow detailed GREEN requirements for each job.
    • Documented risks caused by not using GREEN standards in a specific setting.
    • Inspection documentation to ensure that GREEN requirements are being met.
    • Quick and easy documentation of any non-conformance to established GREEN standards, including remediation requests.

Best Practices for AEC Project Estimating and Risk Management

In the highly competitive AEC marketplace, knowing and anticipating a project’s expenses correctly provides a definite advantage when competing for a contract. But, even in the best of circumstances, cost estimating is complicated and there are myriad risks and uncertainties to consider.

Delivering high-quality cost estimates depends heavily on the quality of data, for example, historical databases, comprehensive project plans, and standard work break down structures make it easier to make comparisons to similar projects. In most cases, the better the data, the better the resulting estimate will be. But you should always be on the lookout for common items that significantly increase risk in the planning and budgeting phase of projects, such as:

  • Faulty assumptions
  • Lack of supporting documentation
  • No historical data for similar projects or comparison
  • Out-of-date data
  • Too much “grey area” in terms of the time required for the project
  • Too much emphasis on precision vs. accuracy

These challenges often lead to underestimating project costs, thus resulting in significant losses or project shortcuts to mitigate losses.

With all of the competition out there, service providers have a need for cash revenue quickly, which trumps the requirement of making sure they’ll profit in the long run off their shot-gun estimate. By identifying and overcoming the common estimating and budgeting issues, service providers can bypass the underestimating barriers and increase estimating accuracy in the future.

As a project progresses, it is important to keep a pulse on how the estimate is holding up. It is important to keep abreast of whether there is significant difference between estimated cost to complete and budget for remaining work, whether there are work phases/tasks with no budget left and if there is frequent allocation of contingency reserve for newly identified in-scope effort.

With the best of these circumstances, cost estimating is difficult. It requires both science and judgment. If you need assistance with improving your estimating processes, download our whitepaper, AEC Project Estimating and Risk Management to learn about best practices, or contact us today to help implement the right estimating and planning solutions to keep your projects on track.

Technology-Driven Investments Are Driving Growth for Specialty Contractors

technology-enhancements-for-growing-businessesA growing business has a completely different set of priorities than one satisfied to remain modestly small, or a large enterprise that has already matured into a large, complex corporation with its own inherent challenges.

As your business grows, it takes a lot of “doing it right” to succeed. But of the many areas you’ll need to tackle, you’ll find the technology at the hub. There are four primary areas where you can leverage technology to create the revenue, employee behavior and business logic you need to accelerate growth and bring your company up to the next level:

Changing Service from a Cost Center into a Profit Center

As recently as three or four years ago, it was an intriguing idea that was debated but rarely acted on: that field service departments were seen as cost centers. But something has changed: in 2013, an overwhelming 68% of respondents indicated that they were in fact managing field service as a profit center, and 72% expected these departments not to simply drive new, untapped revenues, but to actually be profitable in the next year.

This new revenue-driving methodology doesn’t require significant changes in your business structure; the same back-office teams, managers and techs, using the same hardware, are simply working by the rules of a new business strategy. To put it simply, we’re talking about a proactive approach to service replacing a reactive one.

And that’s where technology comes in: a tech can only take initiative to proactively recommend to their managers the obvious, appropriate and revenue-generating upsells and spot-checks based on the information they have in their mobile devices.

Mobility means Productivity

First and foremost, paperwork is finally on its way out. Techs don’t need to collect batches of paper from the office each morning, nor do they need to file equivalent piles in the other direction. They can photograph the work done and attach those images and additional notes to the record, and all this completely eliminates the double entry of data, back at the office.

Find Your Center

Every business evolves. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a simple process, even with the best vendors and consultants. But when done right, you discover new avenues of productivity, call center operators see all customer data on one screen, and mechanics in the field have access to Big Data – and hence, the Big Picture.

This means leaving behind your collection of patched-together, disparate legacy systems and all the rest, to be unified into a single system that manages it all centrally.

Reporting and Forecasting

The Reporting module of your system is perhaps the easiest to justify from the perspective of purchase and training costs. With the right reports, you are ready to identify money that you are spending instead of keeping, employees who aren’t pulling their weight, and departments that can be earning more. What’s more, the entire art of budgeting can now be managed with uncanny accuracy as the data you collect guides you clearly to what you need to spend on and what you don’t.

Are you ready to grow your business? Contact us to find out how we can help you or download our whitepaper, Technology-Driven Enhancements to Help Your Growing Business, to learn how other companies with field service operations are growing larger and more profitable.

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