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Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations: Moving Toward Project Business Automation

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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 sees Project Operations as another validation and move move 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.

PBA is now recognized by Forrester as the new paradigm-shifting category of solutions for project-driven companies.

Download the Project Business Automation Blueprint: The Definitive Guide to PBA and creating a comprehensive business system for your project-based company.

Project Business Automation Blueprint

Adeaca has been working in the PBA space for 12 years, and Microsoft Project Operations is a greatly simplified 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 very 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 a very simple baseline functionality for a small minority of 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.

Adeaca PBA completely reformulates and replaces the Dynamics 365 Project Operations baseline functionality to provide a complete solution for project-driven companies.

Check out this Whitepaper on Dynamics 365 Project Operations – the recent release from Microsoft that is an enhancement and combination of the previous D365 Finance project management and accounting module (PMA) and Project Service Automation (PSA).

This whitepaper provides a high-level overview of the functionality contained in Project Operations and compares it to Adeaca Project Business Automation. Understand exactly what capabilities are included, what you need, and how to get them.

While Project Operations provides the baseline project functionality, Adeaca PBA extends the 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.

Financial Considerations

If your project financial needs are relatively simple and straightforward, directly reflecting the work breakdown structure (WBS) for your project accounting and billing needs, then Project Operations may work for you.

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 that D365PO cannot:

Cost Breakdown Structure – If your project involves 50, 100 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. D365PO does not have a CBS at all.

Month-end Process – If your projects span more than one month, you will need to do periodic reforecasting, budgeting, change control, and financial reporting. This is accomplished through the month-end process, which is entire not supported in D365PO. 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 AnalysisEVA 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. D365PO cannot support EVA at all.

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.

Operational Considerations

Project Operations has a basic work breakdown structure (WBS). It allows you to plan out a simple project timeline and assign resources to tasks within that timeline. It does not have near the functionality included in leading project planning applications such as Microsoft Project or Oracle Primavera P6. As such, it acts as a simplified 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. These capabilities are not present in D365PO.

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, while De365PO cannot.

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. The concept of change management tracking is not supported in D365PO.

Risk Management – Understand the success factors and challenges with a full risk register and issue tracking, complete with gate reviews. This critical tool is not included in D365PO.

Project Models – Only available with Adeaca PBA, the Project ModelerTM creates a streamlined and controlled planning process that enables you to scale and automate best practices from project sales through execution.

Project InsightAdeaca 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. Since D365PO does not integrate all project business functionalities, it cannot provide this level of project and business intelligence.

These capabilities and more represent the types of enhancements that Adeaca PBA brings 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 far beyond what D365. These capabilities 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.
project business requirements template

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.

About the author

Henrik Lerkenfeld

Henrik is Adeaca's Head of Product Development. Henrik has deep roots in Microsoft Dynamics, having been part of the original Axapta ecosystem and Microsoft’s team after it was acquired. His knowledge of project industries and his systematic process design approach is a crucial component of Adeaca’s customers' success.