Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations

By Robert Houdeshell
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  1. Chapter 1: Introducing Project Operations

About this book

Dynamics 365 Project Operations is a game-changing solution set for project-driven businesses that allows you to deliver commercially successful projects in a timely and cost-effective manner, keeping the project teams productive and collaborative. With this book, you'll find out how you can bring more value to the business by winning new projects and driving exponential revenue growth.

Starting with the key principles of Project Operations, you'll understand how it improves project planning and execution. You’ll then learn how to successfully deploy Project Operations along with different integration strategies and get to grips with the best approach for sales through project opportunities, project contracts, and pricing workflow implementation. This book will guide you through setting up direct staffing and centralized staffing models and enable you to manage project changes confidently by getting hands-on with project timeline management, pricing management, resource assignments, and modifications. In the final chapters, you'll find out how to use Project Operations effectively for project accounting and finance.

By the end of this book, you’ll have gained the confidence to deliver profitable projects in a well-connected organization through efficient decision-making and successful customer-client relationships.

Publication date:
May 2021
Publisher
Packt
Pages
298
ISBN
9781801072076

 

Chapter 1: Introducing Project Operations

Microsoft Project Operations begins a new generation of project management capabilities combined with the power of the Microsoft 365 platform! Many years ago, Microsoft entered the office solution category and now Microsoft 365 dominates all other solutions. Project Operations is designed to provide you with the tools to expand your customer base by providing a connected environment from sales through delivery through planning to financial reporting and profitability.

Project Operations optimizes an already-proficient organization by providing optimized resource utilization and project economics. It allows you to amplify communication across project teams, collaborate externally and internally, and act upon up-to-date insights in a project. Furthermore, Project Operations simplifies time tracking and expense management while at the same time evolving with a modern and adaptable platform.

In this chapter, you will understand the key principles of the Project Operations solution and how it works. This chapter will help you to understand the key principles and concepts of the project business industry. People with the titles of project manager, practice manager or portfolio managers and consultants alike will understand the value of the solution and how it will improve project planning, execution, and accounting. Understanding where we intend to be is the first key to success. This chapter will define the success criteria of the Project Operations solution.

In this chapter, you will learn about the following concepts:

  • Key principles and concepts for project managers, project leaders, or business consultants so that you know how you, personally, fit into the solution for your clients
  • Project businesses at a glance to get to know how your company fits into similar industries
  • The value of the Microsoft Project Operations solution so you can determine how this solution benefits your company, you (personally), and your industry peers
  • Key performance results of implementing a Project Operations solution benefitting the firm by knowing your key performance statistics
  • The overall solution value of a connected organization so you can connect internally and externally
  • How to achieve more profitable projects in Project Operations so your firm benefits from the hard work performed
  • Better decision making through better tools so you can spend the most time on the most beneficial activities
  • Better customer/client relationships through communication, collaboration, and information so that you can enjoy the journey with your clients
 

Key principles and concepts for project managers

Congratulations! Imagine you have just become the project manager of that great new project your firm has won! You have worked hard to get this project and you want nothing but the best delivery of your solution for the client. You may be the program or practice manager who worked with the project manager to win the business and this is one of your many customers or clients (depending on your terminology). The chief operations officer may be looking at your portfolio as a part of a larger segment of business and thus looking at this new project as a part of a firm's overall services portfolio.

Project Operations pulls together the sales and delivery teams to provide a solution in which both sales and delivery can work. From the selling cycle, project contracts are created, which tie directly to the milestones that will be billed. Further along in the process, invoices are created, which drives revenue recognition in the accounting system.

Now, how do you deliver effectively for the clients that you have worked so hard to bring on board and keep happy? Now the project must be fulfilled to meet the expectations of the client. A hundred thoughts go through your mind. How do I turn an estimating worksheet into a project plan? How do I get the right people with the right skills on my project? What other projects am I competing with internally for the right talent? How can I manage all these moving parts?

Many project managers and others have lost many hours of sleep pondering these questions and trying to figure out how to deliver on the success promised to their client. Our goal with this book is to introduce you to a solution called Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations that will be the tool you can use to relieve your mind and get more rest! The goal of this book is to identify the key principles and concepts for you as a program or project manager or business executive in charge of the profit and loss (P&L) of an entire firm.

 

Project businesses at a glance

First off, what does a project business do for their clients? Well, that answer is wide and varied. In fact, using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, if you searched on project business categories, you will find a significant variation of business types within almost the same classification. One of my favorite examples from history has been how some firms classify AEC as Architects, Engineers, and Construction. Although classified together, architects, engineers, and construction firms have about as much in common as bakers, butchers, and farmers. They have some things in common but not common business processes. Thus, for the purpose of this book, let's identify the common thread within a project business. Project businesses deliver skilled and certified services by people to achieve a project's purpose.

The following is a representation of the common business sectors or industries included in the project business sector:

Figure 1.1 – The Project Business sector

Figure 1.1 – The Project Business sector

Within the Microsoft world, we have consultants who are skilled (read experienced) and certified (having achieved Microsoft certification) on services (implementation and training) to set up and implement software for their clients.

Other examples are management consultants who provide business strategy and tactics to grow and build the performance of businesses as a result of a merger or acquisition or simply to grow the business. Information technology (IT) implementation firms may specialize in setting up cloud computing solutions for their clients. Furthermore, some Point of Sale (POS) or security solution companies may have massive hardware configurations they prepare for their clients to be deployed at a retail establishment that requires purchasing inventory, combining it with project business and onsite deployment.

These are only a few examples of what project business is. Let's also determine what project business is not. Project business is not personal services, automotive services, health services, or private services. These do not fit into the category of project business primarily because they do not have the project orientation that requires a level of management not readily available.

Some outliers that fit into the overall services category but may or may not fit into this category of project business include legal services, educational services, and membership organizations. If these businesses need to manage projects along with costing or pricing information they could benefit from Project Operations.

So, what is this Project Orientation that is so important to identify whether an industry is a project business or not? Well, it begins with the basics of a project itself. From the earliest moment of human history, we have been working on projects. From the Pyramids to the Great Temple to the Great Wall, projects have been the backbone of great achievements! I sometimes have mused about the project plan for the Great Pyramid… how many laborers of stonecutters would I need to cut a certain amount of stones to achieve the result of not just an architectural monolith but also an engineering achievement!? Oh, and to add pressure, it has to be done with relatively simple tools and within the lifetime of the Pharaoh! Now, talk about some pressure!

The Egyptians were some of the earliest recorded project managers and with the results of their projects, I would say they have achieved a lot, to their credit. They would have had to be concerned with the overall project (a pyramid), the timeline to get the project done, the labor, and the organization thereof. The resulting pyramid project also had concerns over materials and environmental concerns, emphasizing their achievements. Their projects took on a life of their own, very much like our projects, and a ton of support systems to achieve their desired results. There were support workers building roads and equipment, baking bread, and generally supporting the direct labor to the pyramid.

This is like a commercial construction project as constructed today. Commercial construction projects have very much the same concerns of the timeline, labor, and materials. Let's see what a Gantt chart of a commercial construction project looks like:

Figure 1.2 – A commercial construction Gantt chart example

Figure 1.2 – A commercial construction Gantt chart example

Therefore, dear readers, this is a challenge for you as you have won this new project and built an additional business for your practice and your firm. I can imagine in that first project, someone was very passionate about their idea and project plan that they were selling to the client. This is not that different from you. You have a passion for what you are doing or you would not be successful and reading this book. Let's capture that passion and turn it into the burning heart that delivers upon your success.

If you are like most of the project management world, you are probably well immersed in the Microsoft world and use many of their products in your day-to-day life. One of the first applications you will interface with in your day is your calendar and your email. You will likely begin your morning (if you are honest with me) by looking at your smartphone and seeing what meetings you have on your calendar for the day or looking at emails that were delivered overnight. The infrastructure that supports this is what Microsoft calls its Microsoft 365 framework. We will go deeper in the next chapter into the overall infrastructure. However, just like you do not really think much of your electricity supplier when you turn on the lights, you really do not think much of Microsoft when you turn on your phone and see that someone put a 7:30 a.m. meeting on your calendar!

Once you have had a cup of coffee (or two), you will bravely fire up your laptop, surface, iPad, or Mac to begin the work of your day. You will likely open Microsoft Outlook for your email, calendar, contacts, and other functions. During the day, you will use many of the Microsoft Office 365 solutions, such as Microsoft Teams for meetings, files, collaboration, and messaging. Further, you might use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, and maybe Microsoft Project to manage project plans.

Disclaimer:

There is no judgment in how you manage projects today. I just mentioned Microsoft Project and some of you may be playing in your mind the most erudite of thinking. Oh, yes, I should be using Microsoft Project but because of whatever limitations I cannot use Microsoft Project. Hey, there is no judgment here! I have managed many projects in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and many other tools, so do not feel any need to level up to Microsoft Project before you read on! This is a safe place for all of us who are working hard!

Now that we have that out of the way, let's turn our attention to how we can grow through our project management capabilities. We know that we grow from level to level (or level up) throughout life. Where we are today is not where we will be tomorrow and we will grow from level to level as we progress in our careers. Thus, we should look at ways that we can grow quickly throughout the discipline of project management. We do know that to achieve more for our clients, we must focus on delivery processes and repeatability of success to continue to succeed from project to project. It is here that we do need to interject with some structure and tools to achieve the business objectives your firm has.

The value statement of Project Operations is to provide the overall framework together for you and your firm to connect your various systems and processes together to grow from one level of maturity to another. This is the value of Microsoft Project Operations.

 

The value of the Microsoft Project Operations solution

Looking at projects in a more modern way takes a modern solution approach. Furthermore, it requires collaboration, communication, and flexibility in the project delivery to be successful in tomorrow's world. In order to work best together, we need to have more modern tools and capabilities. This is the value of Project Operations.

The following screenshot shows what a project plan in Microsoft Project Operations looks like:

Figure 1.3 – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations

Figure 1.3 – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Operations

Like Neo in the movie The Matrix from 1999, you are about to swallow the red pill. The red pill represents an awakening that could be difficult and painful. Your world will be totally changed with the red pill and you will see the truth in the success you can have in your career with the right tools in place. You can take the blue pill if you want and go back to the cold comfort of believing that you have all your projects under control and you are delivering profitability to your firm. The choice is yours, Neo!

Welcome to the project awakening! Now that you are here, let's talk about some of the facts of the projects you have been managing. You have been doing a great job over the years and that is why you have been promoted so many times. However, the underlying understanding of your purpose is something that may be missing. Your purpose for the delivery of projects on time, on budget, and meeting your client's needs has been to meet and exceed the performance expectations of your firm.

With the tools you have used, you have achieved much success. However, you are now on the verge of realizing your full potential by connecting with your firm's purpose. Let's get that out of the way first. In a most capitalistic circumstance, your firm may be engaged to make a profit from every project, every time to a profit margin that is prescribed by the firm. In other firms, the purpose may be to provide the highest quality services and solutions to the clients within a given industry or solution segment. In other firms, you may be directly connected to the welfare of your customers and your ability to deliver will directly impact the success of real people and their lives and livelihoods.

Let's now connect this with the tools we use to gain more success and align more tightly with the end-to-end processes in your firm. Microsoft Project Operations is an end-to-end solution built upon the Microsoft Dataverse utilizing Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE) for project sales, resource management, planning, scheduling, time and expense entry, billing, and project accounting functionality in one solution. The end-to-end integrated environment combines the power and functionality of the CE Project Operations solution with the accounting power of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.

Embedded into the Microsoft 365 framework, Project Operations provides an all-encompassing solution to the project professional's daily life! The reason this is important is that when a solution is designed to work together in your daily life and support the end-to-end processes of a project, it provides the infrastructure needed to succeed.

Imagine, if you will, your home. Would you tolerate different settings on your faucets in different rooms? Hot on the right, cold on the left in one room while the opposite is true in another? How about your light switches? What if, randomly, they were different in different rooms? More so, what if your kitchen was wired for 230 volts while the rest of the home was 110/120 volts and had different plug configurations? Sounds like a mess, does it not?

Technologically, this is what businesses tolerate every day when they use one solution for the sales team, one for project task management, one for billing, and yet another for accounting. Yes, you can produce a best of breed integrated environment but the results are highly dependent upon the technical skills to pull this solution together. Furthermore, the solution is only as good as its weakest link and will break (not may break, will break) at the most inopportune time! These solutions proliferate through businesses today. Small armies of technologists support these solutions to keep them running and even at the best of their performance, they simply ensure an end-to-end transaction works through the system without error.

Building the right solution for tomorrow's project manager requires decades of innovation combined with the latest technological foundation. The entire solution must work seamlessly together while continuing to improve as workforces change, technology improves, and technical capabilities increase at exponential rates. Let's check how an end-to-end solution with Microsoft 365 works.

 

Understanding an end-to-end solution with Microsoft Dynamics 365

In a connected world, the project selling begins in a connected solution with the rest of the ecosystem. The people selling projects are typically business development managers seeking to sell new projects to new clients. These can also be partner-level players in a firm who are both landing or winning new accounts for the firm and/or keeping existing accounts active and happy with the firm's results.

In the following sections, we will be reviewing the components of Project Operations and how they apply to the different functions within a project business.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

The project seller works to bring business into the firm and works in the overall Project Operations solution, which includes account management, contact management, and entering and processing opportunities and quotes, which become the projects that you deliver against. The project seller is concerned with receiving leads in the system from the marketing team and qualifying them against the firm's known sales methodology. The sales methodology will determine how to qualify or make sure that the lead is worth the time to pursue business with. This will involve having contacts with the lead's main contact person or potentially a team of people who are asking you to pursue business with them. The kind of information shared at this beginning step in the process is critical to have throughout the entirety of the project delivery. Expectations set at the beginning of the sales cycle will be the same or more than what you are expected to deliver in the project delivery cycle.

The project business development life cycle includes the following:

  1. Business strategy planning to create a sales methodology
  2. Leads, which are the first marketing engagement with a prospective client
  3. Opportunity, which is the first, fully qualified sales entity
  4. A quote, which represents a proposal to a prospective client
  5. A contract or project contract, which is a client's order to confirm the project contract terms
  6. A transaction, which is the actual transactions produced through the project life cycle
  7. An invoice, which is the billing produced as a result of our work
  8. Profit and loss reporting, showing our firm's profitability

The expectations grow as the sale progresses through the lead qualification process and the potential sale is collaborated on with other team members. Once a project seller has qualified the lead, meaning that the lead truly intends to buy a service that your firm provides and has the budget, authority, and intention within a given timeframe to do so, it becomes an opportunity. Note that this qualification process may take days, weeks, or even months to process. Therefore, capturing all the information from the beginning is important as the project seller will be working on many leads and opportunities at one time. This will be critical to the success of the client relationship and communication that happens on an ongoing basis after this point.

When an opportunity is created, existing information persists and is visible from within the account, contact, and opportunity workplaces. The account is simply the business demographic and main information of the potential buyer. The contact or contacts related to the account are the people who you have been working with throughout the lead qualification process. In some scenarios, you may be working with one, a fully empowered buyer who has the ability to make decisions and see them through to completion. In other scenarios, you may be working with a committee of people who will make these decisions. Either way, being able to track their known preferences, buying habits, and other information will greatly increase your selling success.

The opportunity is where selling methodologies meet project methodologies. Selling a project is different from selling a product. A product has known specifications, quantities, and delivery methods. Project selling involves a team of people to be successful. The project seller will frequently pull in project estimators, delivery leaders, and others to build out a project plan that will be presented to the potential client. This involves a lot of different dynamics that combine to win business.

First and foremost is the currency of credibility. Every great project begins with building the credibility of the firm and its delivery teams. This begins with the firm's solid understanding of the project and being able to estimate the work that comes in at a budgetary number that the client has allocated funds. The better the estimation, the greater the credibility of the firm from the outset. Estimate too high and you lose credibility. Estimate too low and you lose your profit. This may seem counter-intuitive, but a potential client needs to know that you know their business, their project, and the complexity of the work involved.

This will directly impact and provide input for the quality of work delivered. The better we know the size, scope, requirements, and timeline of the project, the better we can schedule through the schedule board in Project Operations.

This is where Microsoft Project Operations comes in to solve this problem by providing all these frontend processes in a connected environment with the estimation of the project. Over the many years of a project firm's success, you will have learned what works for your clients and what does not work as well. Which kinds of projects like this have succeeded, and do they have templates that can be used and reused as a basis to begin? In Project Operations, we are continuing to build the data around the project being sold.

Work breakdown structure

In a project seller world, the estimates will be worked through many different versions before a draft version to move forward is agreed upon. At this point, the project estimates will become a draft work breakdown structure (WBS) that will be summarized and presented to the potential client. The level of detail presented and the level of detail tracked in the estimates are usually different. The client presentation is more a summary level and can easily be translated to hours, rates, and project pricing.

The following shows a traditional Gantt chart view of a project plan in Microsoft Project. Whether a Gantt chart, board view, or a timeline, the associated WBS (represented numerically with the hierarchy of relationship) is important for building out the necessary tasks and their relationships:

Figure 1.4 – A sample WBS

Figure 1.4 – A sample WBS

A solid WBS structure is a fundamental element of the project management methodology a firm chooses to use. Some firms choose to have very structured WBS numbering wherein a leading number of 1.x can mean an analysis phase, 2.x a design phase, and the numbering progresses from there.

Now that we have successfully sold the project and have a signed contract from the client, we need to onboard the project into the firm's delivery team. Let's check in the next section how to do this.

Statement of work

The statement of work (SOW) is the key document that we see across many project business firms. It guides and drives the work to be performed and outlines the remuneration expected from the client for this work. A SOW can be of different types: fixed fee, time and materials, milestone billing, retainers, and not-to-exceed contract types:

Figure 1.5 – Sample SOW

Figure 1.5 – Sample SOW

Having the WBS properly structured is a key element of project success. It provides the project team with the ability to show summary level estimates that integrate into the SOW while simultaneously becoming a task-level plan that the team can succeed with.

The SOW budgets that are presented to the client are a factor in estimating a project's work effort or labor, the duration or time, the types of roles to be used, and the overall sequencing from one task to another. This may also include skillsets and desired resources. This is a common WBS that can perform all these requirements and more.

Project Operations' impact on profitability

In the Project Operations environment, the opportunity becomes a natural extension of the project selling. As we have been using Project Operations functionality all along, we have a consistent process flow from sales to project delivery, to planning to financial reporting and profitability.

Receiving this at project delivery means first off reviewing the WBS with the SOW and the project team roles outlined. Since we are using the Microsoft Dynamics 365 framework, integrated document management carries you right to the SOW. The SOW aligns with the summary of the WBS and you have a proposed team of people that may be explicitly stated by name or may be more implicitly stated by role or function. Either way, you have what you need to begin!

Now it is time to plan further and staff your project! Will the project kick off when it was projected? Are there any variations to the kick-off date that will adjust your project plan's start date or maybe the start date of the tasks? Because you have dependencies built into the tasks of the plan, no worries! All of your successive dates change and your plan is still intact. With the new dates, you have the roles of people that you know you need to work on the project. Their hours, duration, and plans are totally visible to you, which means that you are able to view a team member's availability through the schedule board in Project Operations as follows:

Figure 1.6 – The schedule board

Figure 1.6 – The schedule board

The project may have begun with specific team members who were soft-booked onto the project to begin with. At this point, it is a good time to hard book them and commit their time to the project. This is a must to protect your project's resourcing so that others in the system will not be able to overbook your resources/team members.

While managing the WBS, you have the flexibility to manage the project in a traditional Gantt chart view while simultaneously viewing data as timeline and board views. This is important to be able to support today's agile project management. This is conducted through the embedded Microsoft Project for the Web functionality, which provides the most valuable functions of what many people have worked with previously, Microsoft Project. Integrated into the financial and project components of Project Operations, this solution pulls together and is the glue of the entire system.

Within the project management functionality, you will continue to collaborate with sales around any client expectations and this is all native to the Microsoft 365 framework. Your team can collaborate together with Microsoft Teams and OneDrive. As the project manager, you can see very clearly into the project schedule, potential overcommitments, and other schedule pitfalls.

You can also see the project's financial health of budget versus actual, project sales estimates, project labor cost estimates (with permission), and overall project status. Communicating the project delivery success is done natively through dashboards and views of data within Project Operations.

Team member time and expense entry

As a team member, I want to enter my timesheet and get on with my weekend! I want it to be quick, accurate, complete, and not rejected by the project manager. My managers do not want to remind me to enter my time and I do not need to spend weekend time on my timesheet.

For the project manager, saving time and improving accuracy are the most important factors to their success. The project needs to be managed and delivered accurately and that means being able to keep your fingers on the pulse of the project's success. Furthermore, keeping the project inputs (team members' time and expenses) accurate will improve the overall financial benefits of the project. In a time and materials contract, team members' time descriptions generally flow through to the project invoice. The project invoice is the most important client document to be generated on a regular basis. It needs to be accurate and timely generated. If inaccurate, you risk the client rejecting the invoice. If not timely, the firm's cash flow is reduced. Therefore, how you manage the billing interactions with the finance and accounting team will determine your project's financial health and performance.

For a project manager, approving, rejecting, and exception handling time entries and expenses is critical for the project's revenue. Not only will missed time cause missing revenue, but mishandled time will also cause further complications downstream in project accounting.

Your team members will log their time through the time and expense entry functionality. Time and expense entry is critical to billing and revenue recognition. Your team members can input a time entry through their Outlook calendar or through a simple-to-use weekly view of time in the Project Operations team member app. This makes their life simple as they can input time during the week and not bunch it all up at the end of the week. Across a team of 1,000 team members, if you save 15 minutes each and you bill out $200 per hour, the savings over a 52-week time frame is $2,600,000! This is baseline math as there are other productivities gained in time and expense entry beyond this example.

Project accounting and ERP functionality

With each project, there are a number of contract types that can be used to execute the project. This is where the project accounting and ERP functionality fit in. The project accounting and billing capabilities of Microsoft Project Operations supports the most common contract types in a project business. Contract types and are legally binding contractual obligations of performance and financial remuneration.

Project Operations billing modules tie all of your accurate work and timely approvals into project billings that are accurate and delivered electronically to your client's customers. On the finance and accounting side of the solution, the receivables management functionality allows a streamlined experience tailored to the project accountant's needs. Project profitability reporting gives the firm a project-by-project view of profitability rolling up into the practice and the firm's profitability.

A simple contract type can be a fixed fee contract where the firm charges a fixed amount of money to generally perform a fixed amount of work. Time and materials contracts are generally billed as hours performed against a contract/project. In a time and materials contract, for every hour worked, a rate is applied and those hours are billed. Time and materials may also include services, materials, or products bought to perform the work and typically direct expenses onto the project.

There are variations of each of these, including milestone billing, percent complete, time and materials to work in progress (WIP), and not to exceed types of variations. These are all really important to determine upfront as the contract type feeds directly into the Project Operations project billings functionality.

Furthermore, later in the project, changes invariably come into play, causing yet other accounting and project operational changes to apply to the projects.

All of these financial implications must be tracked in an accounting system according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and for some industries other requirements such as ASC606/IFRS15 revenue recognition requirements. Thus, having a combined, end-to-end solution, provides user-friendly frontend processes for sales and project operations while providing a robust, audit trail-enabled accounting and finance solution to support the project accounting needs.

Supporting the organization are the project financials and other financial reports that show project profitability, practice profitability, and overall firm financial health. These reports are critical to the success of the firm and their ability to react to market conditions.

 

Data analysis and presentation

There are several key performance results of implementing a Project Operations solution. Most notably, the firm will begin benefitting from the process, organization, and overall data generated from the Project Operations system, which will guide you through decisions based upon your key performance statistics.

The information processed through Project Operations is only as valuable as the ability to make sense of it later in the business. Therefore, encircling all this functionality are Customer Insights, dashboards, and Power BI capabilities to have visibility into customer satisfaction as well as overall practice and firm health:

Figure 1.7 – Sample dashboard showing KPIs on a project

Figure 1.7 – Sample dashboard showing KPIs on a project

Power BI is part of the Microsoft Power Platform, which will provide you with the information you need to manage projects successfully. Having information is only one element, though. Acting upon it is another and that is where the power of the Microsoft Power Platform comes into play. Critical components of the Power Platform that play most well with the Project Operations system are Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Apps development.

Power Automate is used to perform a number of automation tasks revolving around the Project Operations solution. Power Automate has connectors and templates for a large number of Microsoft and non-Microsoft solutions. Power Automate can be used to perform workflow approvals, data integrations, automation of tasks, and much more.

Combined with Power Apps, you can have the power of decisions, approvals, and workflows in the palm of your hand. All power apps are built with a Unified Interface design, which works equally well on a laptop, tablet, or phone.

The Power BI platform allows you to take the information generated through the entire solution and puts it into the right data presentation form factor to give you the information you need to make better decisions.

 

Bottom-line benefits for the company

The overall solution value of a connected organization derived from Project Operations automates the mundane and accentuates the already great components of a robust project management solution. Gone are the days of reminding team members to input their time, manually generating invoices, or physically moving data from one system to another. Back to the house analogy, this is really the smart home version of project management and operations functionality.

As the chief operating officer, practice manager, firm partner, or other vested interest in the success of the firm after implementing Project Operations, you should expect a number of things to benefit the overall firm. First is that you should expect the firm to grow through this experience and be able to move up by one or two levels in your project management maturity. Typically, firms start off at level 1 by performing very entrepreneurially in their style and systems. This is how they succeed! As the firm grows, structure and policy replace ad hoc systems to bring the firm into some compliance. Growing from level 1 through to level 5, where you are able to not just collaborate but really benefit from collaborating across the firm brings value to every aspect of the business. With this, you win more business, more consistently and more profitably.

Gone are the days of having revenue leakage, missing targets, and deadlines, or having low-productivity solutions in place. Leadership, client relations, team members, delivery, and finance and operations are all aligned and working together toward the firm's goals. Furthermore, each of these areas is working together to drive the business strategically.

Bid-to-win ratios improve as core utilization rises and project profitability increases, which flow directly to the bottom-line Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA). The firm is able to deliver on projects with a level of optimization, which makes the firm an attractive place for the best talent, thus producing the further healthy growth of the firm. Utilizing the Project Operations system should provide the firm with bigger, predictably deliverable projects that add to the bottom line.

A solution such as Project Operations should bring value to the topline, operational, utilization, and bottom line with value concentrating in the areas most lacking today in your firm, meaning that if you are struggling today with winning new projects, focusing on the frontend, customer engagement processes will likely result in more business upfront that can be delivered through your delivery teams. Frequently, we see that the focus moves from one end of the project implementation process to another as we grow within the solution. Today, you are fixing sales. Tomorrow, operations… thus you can see the continuous growth opportunities this will uncover for the firm.

The remainder of this book is designed to lay out for you the plan to begin taking advantage of Project Operations in your firm or business. We are going to cover the Microsoft framework in the next chapter and then get into the setup and configuration of the system. This will not replace the technical expertise of certified individuals but will complement strong implementation methodologies in Microsoft Project Operations.

 

Summary

We have learned through this chapter that Project Operations is a solution built to make end-to-end processes for project managers a solution set, not just a toolset. The project business industry is built around delivering projects in a timely and cost-effective manner for their clients. The value of the Project Operations solution is that it is built upon the Microsoft Dynamics 365 framework, making the Project Operations solution an end-to-end, user-friendly system.

The functionality begins in the frontend with the CRM/sales functionality to support sales professionals who are building their project opportunities into SOWs. When provided to the delivery team, the SOW provides the contractual framework to engage in and work to completion of the project. While working on the project, team members can easily and effectively enter their time and expenses. Upon approval, this information integrates into the Finance and Operations project accounting functionality to perform billing, revenue recognition, and costing.

Underlying all this are the benefits to the firm, which are recognized through the financial improvements to the firm and visualized through the tools in Project Operations dashboards, Customer Insights, and Power BI.

As we proceed through the next chapter, we will dig deeper into the underlying technology that will be used to deploy Project Operations. This includes a deep dive into the Microsoft 365 framework, the Power Platform, and Dynamics 365 CE.

 

Questions

  1. What separates a project business from other types of companies and organizations?
  2. What does CRM stand for and how it is important to the project business?
  3. What is a sales methodology?
  4. What does WBS stand for and why it is important?
  5. What is a statement of work and how is it used in a project business?
  6. Bonus question: In the movie The Matrix, which pill (red or blue) does Neo take that opens his eyes to a whole new world of potential?

About the Author

  • Robert Houdeshell

    Robert Houdeshell has over 24 years of project operations experience, with deep knowledge of the end-to-end processes that professional services firms utilize to deliver their projects.

    Since 2004, Robert has worked with Microsoft Project Server and online versions that were integrating projects and ERP systems before there was a CRM-based PSA solution. In 2013, Robert's years of CRM, project, and ERP/accounting experience came together in the first end to-end professional services automation solution of its kind. Built upon the Microsoft Dynamics technologies, this cloud solution was deployed in enterprise and mid-market companies. Therefore, when Project Services was released by Microsoft in 2016, he quickly saw the value of the solution we now call Project Operations.

    Robert has worked with the Microsoft Project Operations solution since its beginning and has deployed the solution across multiple enterprise organizations, including a large multi-national Silicon Valley firm and a large Microsoft cloud solution partner. Robert has practical experience in enterprise and mid-size firms, helping them benefit from solution modernization. Excited about Project Operations, Robert passionately writes about his practical experience, offering solution observations and guidance for his readers to enjoy and benefit from.

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