Dynamics 365 Project Operations is a new Dynamics application to be made generally available in October of 2020. It is an enhancement and separation of the existing project management and accounting modules inside Dynamics 365 Finance as well as Project Service Automation (PSA).
The Move to Project Business Automation
Adeaca welcomes this significant advancement because it means that Project Operations is moving toward what we call Project Business Automation (PBA). PBA is a category of software solutions designed specifically for project-based organizations (i.e. Project Business) that integrates all core project business processes into one, end-to-end system. The premise of the category is to eliminate the silos of applications and data that Project Businesses typically use in favor of one platform that incorporates key Project Business functions, including:
The key point about PBA is that all these areas are integrated in one system that gives companies access to accurate, real-time data that facilitate faster decision making and the acceleration and automation of processes that is not possible when managed in separate applications.
Download the Project Business Automation Blueprint: The Definitive Guide to PBA and creating a comprehensive business system for your project-based company.
Adeaca has been working in the PBA space for 12 years, and we believe Microsoft Project Operations is a great addition to the effort. Project Businesses represent a vast array of different types of companies that come from various industries and in all sizes. Likewise, the business system needs of Project Businesses vary just as much, with large degrees of complexity and sophistication that shape their requirements. They key similarity though, is that they all need a comprehensive business system.
Adeaca PBA and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations cater to these different needs. This article is an attempt to clarify what level of PBA solution is right for you.
In line with Microsoft’s business applications Go-To-Market strategy, Project Operations is meant to provide a horizontal platform and baseline functionality for project-driven organizations, while relying on the partner ecosystem to refine and improve those capabilities as required for particular industries or business needs. That is where Adeaca Project Business Automation comes in.
Adeaca Project Business Automation is Built on Project Operations
It is our mission is to make enterprise software work for Project Business. Adeaca Project Business Automation (PBA) solution transforms Dynamics 365 Finance into a comprehensive business system for project business across many project industries.
Currently, Adeaca PBA is built on top of the project module inside Dynamics 365 Finance. When Project Operations is released later this year, it will serve as the foundation to Adeaca PBA and we plan to take advantage of the expanded platform in future versions.
Previously, we authored an extensive whitepaper on how Adeaca Project Business Automation extends the capabilities of the project management and accounting module in Dynamics 365 Finance. We are currently updating this whitepaper and will release a new version closer to the public release of Project Operations.
While Project Operations provides the baseline project functionality, Adeaca PBA extends that platform for significantly broader and deeper Project Business requirements.
Following, we discuss some of the financial and operational components of your business to help you decide if Project Operations will serve your company’s needs right out-of-the-box or whether you may want to look at Adeaca PBA to take it to the next level.
If your project financial needs are relatively straightforward, directly reflecting the work breakdown structure (WBS) for your project accounting and billing needs, then Project Operations may work for you out-of-the-box.
However, if you need to manage the financial side of your projects under tight budget control and change management separate from your WBS, you will need to find ways to supplement Project Operations.
As projects grow in complexity and duration, the more you will need a sophisticated financial structure to manage your projects. The following are examples how Adeaca PBA delivers this project financial sophistication:
Cost Breakdown Structure – If your project involves hundreds or thousands of tasks, it will grow to a point where it becomes impractical to manage the project financials based on the schedule (WBS). At this point you need to employ a cost breakdown structure (CBS) parallel to your WBS. The CBS will enable you to manage costs at an appropriate account/GL level or category and create meaningful, real-time financial analysis directly connected to the WBS.
Month-end Process – If your projects span multiple months or even years, you will need to do periodic reforecasting, budgeting, change control, and financial reporting. This is accomplished through the month-end process. Reforecasting is based on updated Estimate at Completion (EAC) and is critically important to understand how your project is performing and where it will end up. This process also generates historical data from which you can conduct trend analysis. This analysis is crucial to identifying variances early so you can take mitigating actions faster.
Earned Value Analysis – EVA is a central component to Project Business, used as a common analysis tool to measure project performance during execution. Computed from the CBS, EVA provides companies with a fundamental understanding if a project is currently on time and on budget, and thereby indicating if it will come in over or under budget and ahead of or behind schedule at project close.
Adeaca PBA provides these types of project financial capabilities and more out-of-the-box. Moreover, the project financials are seamlessly integrated with the operational and scheduling side of your projects in real time, giving you instant access to critical business information.
Project Operations has a basic work breakdown structure (WBS). It allows you to plan out a project timeline and assign resources to tasks within that timeline. Although it does not have all the functionality included in leading project planning applications such as Microsoft Project or Oracle Primavera P6, it is a respectable and streamlined task scheduling tool. If your projects are relatively uncomplicated and/or are short in duration, Project Operations may be a good fit.
However, as project complexity increases, the need for more sophisticated capabilities may be warranted. The project plan is a living entity that you have to execute against and change over time. Adeaca PBA brings the capabilities of the leading planning applications (i.e. Oracle Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project) inside the ERP for seamless operational and financial integration. In many situations, the capabilities of Adeaca PBA far exceeds these advanced planning tools. The following are just some of the ways that Adeaca PBA delivers these next-level operational components to your Project Business.
Complex Task Networks – Some operational project components are central to any sophisticated project scheduling tool, including baseline tracking, critical path and free float, flexible scheduling directions (forward and backward), date constraints, and multifaceted task dependencies.
Extended Resource Management – In addition to labor, if you want to manage the allocation of materials and equipment in your project plan and the associated delivery, inventory, capacity, and utilization of those resources, Adeaca PBA offers these extended capabilities.
Change Management – All project plans evolve over time. You need a method to propose, shape, approve, and track those change orders in a standardized process.
Risk Management – Understand the success factors and challenges with a full risk register and issue tracking, complete with gate reviews.
Project Models – With Adeaca PBA Project ModelerTM you can create a streamlined and controlled planning process that enables you to scale and automate best practices from project sales through execution.
Project Insight – Adeaca PBA’s Sensor Points™ are used across financial and operational disciplines to automatically monitor project events, flagging deviations and trends. The sensor point system provides a real-time in-depth view of potential problem areas without having to manually data mine the project.
These capabilities and more represent the types of enhancements that Adeaca PBA brings to Project Operations for those companies who need this level of sophistication in managing their Project Business. Adeaca PBA provides strong project governance and real-time project controls that enable Project Businesses with advanced operational needs to manage their entire business in one system.
Don’t Accept the Status Quo
Most Project Businesses run their companies through a landscape of disparate applications. Most do not even look for a comprehensive business system because most solution vendors cannot provide it. Project Businesses also fall into the trap of “this is the way we have always done it.”
We encourage you to ask for more. Don’t accept the status quo. If you demand more, vendors will be forced to provide it.
Don’t buy an ERP or business system if it doesn’t support your whole business. That is the whole point of an ERP. If it only covers a small portion of your needs but you still need to support the bulk of your processes with ancillary apps, tools, and spreadsheets, it is not really an ERP. It is a glorified accounting system.
Download the Project Business Requirements Template. Get 400+ criteria like the above that you can use immediately to evaluate any ERP/business system for its Project Business capabilities and find the right system for your company.
If your goal is to eliminate the need for those spreadsheets and ancillary applications and be able to manage your Project Business in one comprehensive business system, you are looking for Project Business Automation, and Adeaca PBA may be right for you.