CRM Project Service: Control Project Costs & Track Billable Time

Project Service for Microsoft Dynamics is an end to end service that provides a single system of engagement for project sales, resourcing, delivery and billing teams.

In earlier posts we've looked at how Project Service tools create new sales quotes and projects, and are used to build a project delivery team.

Once work is underway, project team members will log their activities in the Time Entries screen:

Using the calendar view new time entries can be submitted by individuals who are carrying out project work.

In the screenshot above, time has been logged on 4 client projects for this week totaling 33 hours.

Click the + button to log a new entry which brings up the dialog box:

In this instance I'm logged in CRM as the following user so as a result all time entries will be logged in this name:

In the above example, 1 hour of billable project work has been logged for design work on the HST project.

Each drop down field is interdependent. As a result, the Project Task drop down list reflects each task specific to this project. Upon selecting one of these the relevant role is applied in line with the defined work schedule.

Time entries are initially saved as drafts and so will need to be submitted to Project Manager for authorisation and only at this stage would they be applied to the project record.

In addition to billable project work, time can also be entered for holidays and other absences which ensures that accurate availability detail is shown for each resource.

From the grid display inline edits can be applied before submitting one or more time entries:

Once submitted, Project Managers can access the Project Approvals screen to review each entry.

In addition to Time Entries this view is also used to authorise any expenses incurred in delivering each project.

To steamline the processing of time and expense approvals CRM queues and routing rule functions can be applied.

It's worth noting that CRM users who just need to log time and expense entries will only require a regular CRM Basic user licences (unless they need wider CRM functions that necessitate either a Pro or Enterprise user licence), unlike management users they won't require the separate Project Service add-on licence.

Managing Project Costs

As soon as work commences, Project Managers can track the progress on individual projects to assess what tasks have been completed, check how quickly work is being delivered in line with the agreed schedule, and compare costs.

The screenshot below shows the Project Tracking view for the HST Design Project Record. Using the Gantt chart the project manager can easily see which tasks have been completed, and what still needs to be done:

The record header also provides a summary of the current status by reporting the completion progress % and cost metrics:

More analysis of the delivery performance on this project to date is shown on the Project Tracking screen.

Beginning with the Effort Tracking display, this lists the hours scheduled for each project task and the actual hours consumed:

Using the Progress % column we can see that he project has reached the 3rd phase with work underway to create a landing page. The PPC and Social Media campaign work has yet to commence as these are dependent upon the earlier deliverables being completed.

The right column reports a Schedule Variance to highlight instances where time has been over-delivered, or instances where tasks have been completed ahead of time.

At the top level, the current status on this project shows that 4 hours of additional time has been delivered over and above what was expected. As this is project was sold on fixed price basis this means that it won't be as profitable as expected...

So where has the project team over delivered, and what impact will this have on the total cost?

The initial Project Kick-Off phase was delivered ahead of expectations with less time utilised during the report writing stage than scheduled but there is a clear over-delivery at the PDF Creation stage.

This has resulted in 6 extra hours being consumed during the initial copy-writing and subsequent revision stages.

The financial cost of this overbill is shown on the Cost Tracking view.

Based on the cost prices for the defined project roles that have been defined in Dynamics CRM, the planned cost for this project was £695 but as a result of the extra work delivered at the PDF Creation stage this expense has risen to £767, resulting in a cost variance of £72.

This data is rolled up to the main Project record form and includes a calculation to report performance vs schedule. In this case, due to the extra time consumed in means that performance is now behind schedule.

Project Managers can assign a status for reporting purposes based on the present situation. Because this work is slightly off-track a 'yellow' status has been manually set.

Delivery and Cost progress is also represented by the above charts to report the current % stage of projects 'in progress'.

In this instance our team are well over halfway through delivering the project work.

To support further analysis CRM includes a series of supporting project charts. These include a schedule performance by phase which in this example demonstrates the over-delivery at the PDF creation stage.

Project Managers also have a graphical representation of the performance of each role involved on this project.

As shown below, the Copywriter role is now expected to consume at least £180 cost (the Landing Page Content work is still in progress) but only £108 was budgeted.

The Project Manager can then use this as the basis for speaking to the individual concerned so they can understand the reasons for the variance.

This is just one example to demonstrate how Microsoft Dynamics CRM Project Service enables project teams to log time entries, and how it delivers performance insight to Project Managers so they can provide progress updates to clients, and be alerted if corrective action is required.

Contact Preact if you'd like to find out more about this solution and to arrange a demonstration.