Although Dynamics SL has incredible multi-company and distribution features, SL’s project accounting feature depth seems to continue to be the way that Microsoft positions this product.

Why is that?

Below are 6 reasons why Microsoft likes Dynamics SL in this project-centric space for consulting firms, construction firms and just about any other type of firm that lives or dies by the success of their projects.

1. Projects are woven into the design of most modules.   You can make a journal entry to a project with the project and task fields prominently displayed in the Journal Entry data grid just as you can in any of the data entry screens in Dynamics SL.  You can issue inventory to a project, you can buy inventory for a project, you can enter a timecard or expense report to a project.  Most screens want to know which projects your transactions relate to including the payroll module.

2. There are a lot of project accounting modules-not just “Project Controller”.  Many accounting systems have project accounting modules but not many have multiple modules that push the depth of functionality to a greater level.  Dynamics SL has a Project Allocator module that allows you to have transactions automatically created for you (such as markups and journal entries) simply by configuring the module.  Flexible Billings (mentioned below) allows you to format your invoices simply so that each client can have a format that conforms to how that client would like to get billed. 

Time and Expense includes 75 users as part of the module’s license.  Utilization allows you to measure who is busy and who needs to be.  There is a Project Budgeting module that allows you to track multiple iterations of a project’s budget rather than just the current project budget.  The Communicator module allows you to turn on alerts such as “this project is at 80% of its contract value” as well as many other intuitive warnings and helpful information to a project sponsor or Project Manager. 

The Project Contracts module allows you to pay vendors once you’ve been paid to help conserve cash and manage revenue recognition components of projects as well.

If you are interested in downloading a front and back databasheet on any of these project accounting modules, you can do so at this link for Dynamics SL Project Accounting modules.

3. Integration with Microsoft Project and Project Server  Dynamics SL is the only Microsoft ERP product that allows you to enter time in the ERP system and have that time update projects in Microsoft Project.  Tasks assigned in Project can default into a user’s timecard in Dynamics SL.  An MS Project user can see the actual and budget information from within Project-not having the inconvenience or expense of having to go into the ERP product to fetch budget/actual/variance information about a project.

4. Web-enabled components in Business Portal  With all of the debate over cloud computing, Microsoft likes having a product that has a product written in VB.net and that has components that can run in a browser.  Dynamics SL not only allows time and expenses to be entered via Business Portal, it also allows for the approvals of draft invoices, time and expenses.  There is a Query function and project-centric views available relating to Estimate at Complete computations.

5. Billing Flexibility  Many clients that are project-centric deal with clients that want their larger invoices broken out “just so”.  With a module that focuses on enhancing your ability to format invoices specifically to the whims of large clients-pleasing these large clients gets easier.

6. Integration with strong Distribution modules We have a successful client in Chanhassen, MN that sells check-out register hardware to large retailers such as Target.  They need the ability to track consigned inventory for multiple sites, serialized inventory and configurable order types.  They not only sell the hardware to capture the bar codes on the products moving through the checkout line-they install the hardware and manage the project of making sure the implementation is successful and that the users are trained.  Many project accounting systems have weak distribution modules-not Dynamics SL. 

Dynamics SL can even create the project and task for you on the fly when entering a new sales order that is project related but for which no project has been set up yet. 

Profit from sales orders that relate to projects is easy to tie together. If a project has considerable revenues and costs relating to product-those can be part of the analysis on the financial impact that project has to your business.

So obviously I like Dynamics SL, but there must be weaknesses.  There are relatively few, but I would say that more recently we have been asked to show our Project Scheduling module.  …but there isn’t one.  We have worked with a firm out of Canada called Tenrox who has strong scheduling capabilities but since they tend to need to do the whole project piece this defeats the purpose of having strong project modules in the base solution. 

Recently we’ve run across a product we like and were able to try for free.  It’s called Clarizen and has nice web services to tie back into Dynamics SL.  We are evaluating it and its looking very good.  They also just got 32 million in Venture Capital money so we know we are not the only ones noticing them.

I hope this information has been useful to those of you that run project-centric businesses and would like to stay on the Microsoft platform due to your use of Windows Server, Sharepoint, Outlook, Exchange, Word, and Excel.