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Understanding project accounting

Many businesses end up exceeding their budget for projects due to the miscommunication between key teams and leadership, resulting in project delays and incompletions. To ensure your project stays not only on track but on budget during its lifecycle, you’ll need to keep track of everything bought and paid for in its duration. By promoting project accounting, your team will accurately account for their time, detail project management efforts, and ensure you hit all your short- and long-term business goals.

What is project accounting?

Project accounting is a financial management practice that tracks the benefits and costs associated with a project. Also known as project cost accounting, this type of bookkeeping allows businesses to assess the future financial impacts of a project, as well as how to plan projects to meet the parameters of your obligation.

A business’s profitability depends on accurate project accounting. As your business grows, project accounting can be a valuable tool for effective project management by offering a detailed view of your project’s progress.

The benefits of project cost accounting

No matter how small your budget, adding project accounting to your process makes a huge impact on your finances both internally and externally. Implementing project accounting into your workflow benefits your business and streamlines your project management endeavours.

Some benefits include:

  • Real-time updates on your project’s process and profitability

  • Improved overall business financial management

  • Visibility into the project budget

  • Improved resource management

  • Valuable insights for future projects

This type of accounting helps you and your team tackle risk management and how to allocate resources efficiently for precise project management overall.

The project accounting process

When starting a project, it’s best to add accounting to the process as soon as possible to make sure you’ll meet all project goals in a timely manner without going over budget. Project accounting can be divided into two different project types: internal and external. Internal projects focus on expenses used for you and your internal teams. While external consist of financials around circumstances like events or services performed for the customer.

Once you’ve decided which to classify your project as, your organisation’s accountants will organise and break down the process into six areas:

  1. Initiation. Decide who’s responsible for each task, as well as when and how to allocate those resources and money for each.

  2. Budget. Confirm that your budget is broken down into categories or groups. Here’s where a tool like a professional services automation (PSA) software can offer opportunities to automate arduous, administrative tasks, and define your initial baseline budget.

  3. Administration. Process and record transactions by tracking financial commitments, billing, invoicing, and generating project profitability reports.

  4. Execution. In this stage of the process, your project managers assign costs, possible revenue, and measurements for financial success for your project. You’ll need these key performance indicators (KPIs) to note where you’ve made progress and adjust accordingly.

  5. Maintenance. Review and manage the data you’ve collected throughout the process to ensure project and task achievements while remedying possible financial inconsistencies.

  6. Analytics. Evaluate the accounting data you’ve received on a regular basis to make accurate decisions for your business and the ability to pivot when necessary.

When reviewing your process, you might decide to choose a particular methodology and find that it doesn’t fit into the scope of your project. You may also see an overlap in how you deal with your financial methodologies through either project accounting or financial accounting.

Project accounting vs. financial accounting

These two types of accounting may seem interchangeable but, in fact, they have two completely different end goals. The differences between project accounting and financial accounting are:

  • Methodology: Financial accounting offers two general methodologies: cost accounting and accrual accounting. In project accounting, it doesn’t really matter which method you choose since it doesn’t affect the process.

  • Timeframe: Standard financial accounting follows monthly transactions while project accounting views every transaction made from the beginning to end of a project’s lifecycle, no matter how long that is.

  • Cost: Financial accounting breaks costs into large, overarching categories like sales ledger. Within project accounting, you’re able to break down expenses in specific parts, assigning a cost to certain project tasks.

  • Considerations: All business expenses are accounted for within general financial accounting but with project accounting, only costs associated with the deliverables of your project matter.

Project accounting is more focused on the transactions related to a certain project while financial accounting takes a bird’s eye view on all the business finances. Now that you’ve determined the differences, you need to know when you should use project accounting.

When do you need project accounting?

Project accounting can be used for a variety of reasons. Several instances when you should think about budgeting your project are:

  • New product or service creation

  • Regular one-off projects

  • Projects that fall outside of your scope

  • Determining how money is allocated and spent across projects

  • Comparative project analyses

When you’re ready to simplify your accounting experience while ensuring accountability for all project payments, you’re ready to add a new operations tool to your process.

Budget and organise expenses with Dynamics 365 Project Operations

As you build your team and organise current and future projects, you’ll need software that’s able to be as flexible and focused as your team. By staying on top of your deliverables and expenses per task, you’ll be able to quickly and easily calculate your revenue. You’re also able to assure every penny for your project has been accounted for and analysed.

With Dynamics 365 Project Operations, your team is able to utilise project costs and streamline operations. With a consolidated view of all your sales and financial data, you’re able to quickly adapt to marketplace changes and refocus organisational goals whenever necessary.