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Benefits of Real-Time Project Cost Tracking for Government Contractors

In our blog article entitled “Batch Versus Real-Time Accounting--Which is Right for You?”, we took a back-office financial accounting system perspective and drew the conclusion that because the SF 1408 references the requirement for “routine posting of books of account”, a batch system that requires posting of transactions to your General Ledger is preferred by DCAA rather than a real-time accounting system where inputs simultaneously update your General Ledger. Another conclusion we put forth is that real-time accounting relies on timely data entry, and if the data are incomplete or inaccurate, this can lead to poor outcomes. For example, timekeepers can mistakenly charge erroneous hours to the wrong task or perhaps not enter hours at all for several days thus making real-time project status reports inaccurate. A client once had this to say to me when we had a discussion about real-time reporting, “It’s no good if the data’s (sic) not good.”

In this article, we will take the perspective of a Project Manager (PM) who is much less inclined to wait until the end of an accounting cycle and would much rather receive daily statuses without relying 100% on the finance and accounting team to review the data, correct any errors and push project status reports at a weekly or bi-weekly interval. By the time that happens, the status reports are already out-of-date.

To address the needs of PMs, SYMPAQ features real-time reports called “Project Views” that can be accessed through SYMPAQ eTX by PMs and other stakeholders. Project Views keeps your project managers up-to-date on the status of their projects and task orders through an online report portal that combines accounting department inputs with timekeeping entries. Project Views are comprised of collaborative “snapshots” that expand into detailed reports on demand with drill-down and drill-through capabilities. Project Views includes two real-time reports that capture time entries as they happen and dynamically update project statuses. These are the Project Revenue Snapshot report that displays cumulative revenue for CPFF, T&M, and Fixed Labor Hour contract types, and the Project Labor Category Snapshot that displays hours and dollars spent by labor category compared to budgeted hours and dollars.

The benefits of real-time project reporting with Project Views are – shall we say - Real.

  • Real-time reporting provides stakeholders and managers with up-to-date information on a given project's progress, allowing them to make informed decisions and take corrective actions. For example, if a task order has a short duration and limited funding, there is no time to wait around for reports that may present data that is a week or longer in arrears.
  • Real-time project reporting enables project team members to monitor their hours and dollars on a daily frequency and to be more accountable for their deliverables. Such transparency allows you to see those who are using more hours than they’re allotted, for instance.
  • Real-time reporting allows issues to be identified and to be addressed quickly, thus reducing the risk of delays and cost overruns.

To conclude, while batch accounting might be best for your finance team who enter, review, and post transactions, PMs have time-sensitive needs. The more real-time data to which that they access, the better they will be able to monitor the health of the tasks that they manage.

 

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