NetSuite’s Project functionality allow services businesses to manage jobs, project tasks, assign resources, bill clients, and track profitability. This series of modules is perfect both for distribution businesses with a services element, or services businesses looking for a strong toolset for management.
NetSuite project includes different types of billing, including billing types for fixed bid – interval (% complete), fixed bid – milestone, or charge based billing. % Complete allows a business to bill for the % complete of a project during a time period. Milestone allows a business to bill when certain project tasks are complete. For more complex billing scenarios, charge-based billing types, allow companies to blend different types of billing on the same project, generate charges, and create a consolidated invoice – for example, if inventory items are invoiced as shipped, but labor is invoiced as % complete.
NetSuite also provides a billing presentment SuiteSolution available at no additional license charge. This solution allows companies to generate invoices separately, but then consolidate onto a single invoice (using an invoice group record to perform the grouping) for presentment purposes.
Billing rates are another function of the project module. NetSuite provides tools to establish billing rates using the underlying service item (a specific item type in NetSuite we need to create and import to use project billing regardless), per-employee rates, or even task specific rates for union jobs or negotiated pricing.
Managers can run project billing reports, include forecast by item summary, which shows projected forecasts and adjusts based on actual work performed and changes to the underlying work schedule.
Within the project’s work breakdown structure, users define project tasks, assign these to resources, and set billing rates and employee costs. The project module also allows users to set a baseline once a project plan is put into place, but before work begins on the project. A baseline allows project managers to uncover discrepancies between expected and actual project outcomes.
For example, the project task start date field changes depending upon the status of the project task. Once time is entered against a task, then the start date becomes the day time is first entered. However, the start date baseline field remains the same. Another start date variance field shows the difference between the actual start date and the baseline start date. See “Project Task Attribute Table” in NetSuite documentation for more information.
Project managers can also define project task dependencies. This allows start dates for subsequent tasks to update based upon the dependency definition. As changes are made to tasks earlier in the work breakdown structure, such as changing the amount of time, or employee availability, or pushing the start date out, then dependent tasks update accordingly.
Another aspect of the project work breakdown structure is setting parent tasks. Child task behavior influences attributes of the parent, for example, the parent’s start date, end date, and % complete. These then roll up again at the project level, allowing a customer to track % complete as actual time is entered against budgeted tasks.
NetSuite offers two types of task resource assignments. In the basic resource assignment, tasks can be assigned to resources that have a capacity available, based upon other tasks that resource is assigned to. The system caps the overall resource capacity at 2080 hours per annum. The native Current Backlog by Resource report, which lists each employee, the number of projects they are on, and total hours remaining.
With resource allocations, a project manager or resource manager assigns a resource allocation record for an employee to a particular task. Although this adds additional overhead to the management of a project, it also provides a greater level of precision for project managers to know which resources are working on a project over a given period of time. The available Resource Allocation Grid SuiteApp is available as an additional bundle in the license which allows users to plot resource allocations on a calendar board style grid.
For basic task resource assignment, the Project Task Manager, which is a separate SuiteApp that can be installed with no additional license charges, allows users to see open project tasks against time.
Additional configuration for the project management module includes setting up resource records, defining generic resources, establishing work calendars, setting up vendor resource records to manage subcontractor assignment.
This planned work feature enables a fixed project plan independent of the actual project plan, allowing a services business to improve future project plans.
Another function of the project work breakdown structure is the Project Schedule, which includes Gantt chart functionality highlighting the critical path. This allows project managers to quickly highlight task dependencies and understand how changes made to the project will impact the overall timeline.
NetSuite’s Project Management out of the box includes the following reports.
Estimated Profitability by Project Report
Unbilled Cost by Customer Report
Project Charges Forecast Report (if charge-based billing is used)
With NetSuite’s job costing function, a business can define project expense types, and create a project cost variance account to book variances to a project cost variance account. Then, during payroll processing, the system offsets this account instead of the employee’s typical expense account. This allows time entries for the job to apply directly against the job, significantly enhancing project profitability and budgeting reporting.
In the event an employee in one subsidiary enters time against a project in a separate subsidiary, the system also posts the intercompany time adjustment to transfer the cost of the resource between the subsidiaries.
This module also supplies project level budgets. The system can automatically calculate the budget as a rollup of all the project task assignments for labor costs. For materials and other expenses (vendor bills for unassigned subcontractor services, for example), a finance user can budget these expenses manually. In addition, the system supplies budget vs actual project reporting for variance reporting.
For example, the system’s “basic” project profitability reports group expenses into labor, expense, or supplier, depending upon the type of transaction that generates the expense. With Advanced Project Profitability reporting, a business can define specific groups of expenses using the underlying general ledger account to report expenses on a project basis.