One of the most highly anticipated releases including in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1 was the introduction of Project Service. The demos and introductions that Microsoft have given us glimpses of in the past 2-3 months have been amazing and really exciting. What is there not to be excited about when there is the pre-made solution available to Dynamics CRM users to be able to quote for and manage projects using tools that provide profitability insights, cost benefit analysis of performing a project at quote stage and resource management (including requests and a live skills matrix) within the system right out of the box? 

The challenging thing however, is learning it and being able to use it so you can achieve these things from the system. Also from a pre-sales perspective, consultants want to be able to demo it and being able to show our clients why this is amazing and truly something to get excited about. The size of the solution is huge, having it’s own site map navigation area and well over 30 entities encapsulated within the solution and leveraging already existing entity structures (such as the product catalog system) this is as big as the Sales and Service modules combined that are out of the box.

That said, its very easy to then get intimidated by the solution and the processes that form part of it. This is why I have created an ‘Introduction to’ post initially, with the aim to actually break the solution down so it is not intimidating. I genuinely believe once you get to grips with the concept and the setup entities, using the functionality in practice will be a lot easier to understand.  It will cover some basic information around how to set up all the supporting entities and magic surrounding the solution for you to be able to use the project service capabilities – if you do not do this and just think you want to click  ‘New’ on the Project entity – you will come to a stop very quickly and things will not make sense, and even at risk of not using the solution. Please don’t, read to the end of this post!

If you have not already, set up a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 trial here and once completed, go to the Administrative area of the Office 365 Portal, open the CRM config area, select Solutions, find ‘Trial of Project Service’, read the Terms and Conditions and if you agree, install it. It doesn’t take too  long to appear in your CRM Application as a separate site map group ‘Project Service’.

Adding the Project Management Trial Solution via Office 365

Adding the Project Management Trial Solution via Office 365

Introduction

The Project Service solution is not just about Project Management. The solution embeds itself very well into the out of the box sales process by forming seamlessly into the quotation process by giving the opportunity for other areas of the business, such as project managers, to put a ‘reality figure’ onto how what a sales person is quoting looks in reality and how the company can provide resources to deliver it – reaching well beyond the needs of a financial budget.

Lets first look at it from a conceptual view. I have put together a mini Entity relationship diagram for you to get started below. It does not include everything but for the purpose of this being an introduction, it will definitely be a good start.

A Basic Entity Relationship Diagram of the Project Service Solution

A Basic Entity Relationship Diagram of the Project Service Solution

The solution enables quotes to be able to be conceptually drafted at time of quote – this from a customer service perspective is fantastic as it shows commitment and also that it isn’t just about the money or the sale, but the company has the resources and also the inclination to aim for completion in what the business is trying to achieve and are willing to look at it seriously. In reality, dates may change, perhaps even resources, but from a skills point of view and from the company being able to deliver what it promises, this is clearly demonstrable in this workflow.

From an implementer point of view, it also looks at how likely profit is going to made and how that is distributed by role and time during the project. It could well be that this is used to see if quotes are even worth pursuing – as if they either come close to the customers budget (or over) or alternatively a projected loss is made in them, then that is when risk needs to be looked at – either increasing the cost of the price or reduce the project time and cost based on what the implementer can provide.

In addition to that, there is, what feels like a ‘Service Calendar on Steroids’ which is made up of a Resource Availability Checker (available under Project Service > Resource Availability) and the Resource Utilization checker too – this highlights the capacity on projects. Under ‘Resource Requests’ this is where managers can look for requests made by Project Managers for Resources and approve or reject as required.

Resource Availability

Resource Availability

Resource Utilisation

Resource Utilisation

What are the entities I should start with first? How do I really get started?

Lets breakdown some important entities and I’ll include a brief description as to what they do and influence which will give you some background to the solution and help you in further steps.

  • Resource Roles (Bookable Resource Category) – This is a job role or type such as ‘Architect’, ‘Developer’ or ‘Project Manager’.
  • Role Competency Requirement – This is a Comptency Requirement needed for that Role which is linked to a Skill (Characteristic) and Proficiency (Rating Value)
  • Characteristic – A skill required for a role, multiple can be linked to a role
  • Rating Values and Rating Model – linked to a model, this is based on a rating system for a Characteristic and can be customised as you see fit – for now, keep the default simple one.
  • Resources (Bookable Resource) – A Bookable Resource can be a User, Contact or an Account (and a few more I’m not going to go into in this post). The Resource has related skills (called Bookable Resource Characteristics) and a rating value for each of those.
  • Bookable Resource Characteristic – Linked to a Bookable Resource, this determines the Skill and Proficiency of the resource at that skill
  • Unit Group – Standard group of units e.g. ‘Time’
  • Units – Units of a Unit Group – again this is the same as standard, but for resources this could be Hour as 1, Day as 7 and Week as 7 and they all relate to eachother in the heirarchy as being Day is 7 of Hour, Week is 5 of Day.  (That is how the example below is set up and some of the resource videos)
  • Organisation Unit – An organisation unit is not to be confused with a Business Unit. An Organisation Unit is an entity within your organisation that acts as a chargeable team or business. An organisational unit is linked to Price Lists as a ‘Cost’ price list internally to the business. This is used to work out projections for cost vs sales within projects.
  • Price Lists – These are the same out of the box entity but have been customised to include some extensions. Mainly the context option set being Cost or Sales (Purchase is not active at the moment). Sales is  outward to the client, Cost is inward. (That is how I see it).
  • Role Prices – Price lists have been extended to include what is called ‘Role Prices’ where Roles (see above, Resource Roles)  are linked to a Price list, Unit and Price. Very much like price list items to a certain extent.
  • Accounts – Project Price Lists – Accounts has a new subgrid called ‘Project Price Lists’ and these lists are what is used in the sales process and quoting process for Projects and are added to the Quote as ‘Project Price Lists’ – the Sales  price is what is used to calculate projections to the client and for the  project as a whole.
  • Invoice Frequencies –  As part of the quote and greater project process, you can set up invoice schedules and these are based on how often you wish your customer to recieve an invoice. A fairly standard one is ‘Monthly’ – you simply set the Period, Days of Run and how many per month  – you can then set the occurrence of weekday.  A button within the Quote Line automatically creates invoices based on billable resources against the line and the invoice frequency set.
  • Opportunity – Project Information – The opportunity has a new form called ‘Project Information’ and you will see some difference, most notablely the two subgrids – one for projects and one for products.
  • Quotes – Project Information – similar to the above, the Quote has been reimagined into a new form but this time, there are some huge differences, including if the quote is aimed to be within the customers budget, cost breakdown and some nice  looking charts giving you information of profitability based on the information you have input. This can be used to drive decisions at quote stage.
  • Quote Lines – Opportunities have lines too, but Quote lines are so much more – quote lines go beyond the new opportunity lines to also include further information about expenses, if it’s billable and also more detail (below)
  • Quote Line Detail – The detail for the quote is what starts making the quote itself very interesting. You start putting in resources at this point, where you then get the match up between sales and cost price and if your quote is going to exceed the customers budget, and also if the planned delivery date vs expected dates are also matching up for delivery times.

Okay, so thats enough of a wordy introduction, lets do some simple setup, pretty much what I’ve described above, and we will also go through an Opportunity through to a Quote, adding in line detail so you can see the information being populated.

Getting Started with some Setup

  • Create a Resource Role by Navigating to the Project Service area of the sitemap and click ‘Resource Role’. Click New.
  • Name your field, input additional information if you wish and set the Billing Type to ‘Chargeable’ and Save your record.
Create a new Role (Job Role) - Officially Called Bookable Resource Category

Create a new Role (Job Role) – Officially Called Bookable Resource Category

  • On the Subgrid below called ‘Skills’ which is actually the Characteristic entity click the plus icon and in the ‘Skill’ lookup, click ‘New’. Name it and Save it.
Creating a new Characteristic

Creating a new Characteristic

  • You should now have the Bookable Resource Category or ‘Role’ set up with one Skill.
  • Navigate to the Product Catalog by going to the Sitemap, Settings, Product Catalog and click ‘Unit Groups’
  • Click New and Name it ‘Time’. Now in the associated navigation on the left, click Units and on the Ribbon bar, click ‘Add New Units’
  • Create ‘Hour’ with Quantity 1 – then create two more – Day which has the Base Unit of Hour and is quantity 7 (or your day hours if different) and the same for Week, with the Base Unit Day and the Quantity 5. (for a 5 day working week.)
Creating Hour as a Default Unit under the Unit Group 'Time'

Creating Hour as a Default Unit under the Unit Group ‘Time’

Time Unit Group and Units Config

Time Unit Group and Units Config

 

  • Now lets make an Organisation Unit – go to the Project Service area in the sitemap and click on ‘Organisational Units’ and ‘New’
  • Name your record, set the Currency and save it. That is all we will do for now.
Creating a new Organisational Unit

Creating a new Organisational Unit

 

  • Go back to the Product Catalog Area, lets make our two price lists, one with the context of type ‘Cost’ and one with ‘Sales’.
  • Click ‘New’ on the Price List screen
  • Call it what you wish and change the Context to ‘Cost’ and Save it.
  • On the ‘Role Prices’ subgrid, click the plus icon to make a new record
Creating a New Price List of Context 'Cost'

Creating a New Price List of Context ‘Cost’

  • Complete the record by selecting the Role and the Organisational Unit you made in the previous steps. Unit group and cost should be pre-populated and you simply need to name a price. Save the record. What you are doing here is creating an internal cost price for the role based on time per hour.
Create a new Role Price for the Role and set a Price against it (This is the internal cost)

Create a new Role Price for the Role and set a Price against it (This is the internal cost)

  • Go back to the Price List Screen and select new. Repeat the last few steps and create a new Price list but this time making the context sales and not cost. Do the same and add some Role Costs to the  Price List – the same roles you did in the  previous step. So if you previously did ‘Designer’ also do ‘Designer’ here but this time, increase the cost of it. (You want to make profit!) – You are making an outward price list now to what you want to charge the customer for those skills.
  • Pick an Account to work with and open it. Scroll down to Project Price Lists and click the + icon and complete the record, populating Project Price List with the Sales Price list you made above. This means when you move from an Opportunity to a Quote, this price list is taken as the Sales price list for cost estimates and projections.
The tab 'Project Price Lists' available on the Account form

The tab ‘Project Price Lists’ available on the Account form

So thats all the setup you need to do, lets move onto the next stage and create an Opportunity as if we was speaking to a Customer requiring some of the services the CRMCAT company provides.

Getting Started with the Quote and Project Projection

This section will look at the Opportunity, Quote and as part of this and the Project projection workflow as a getting started introduction. Posts which follow on in the near future will go into more detail about the resourcing and project management functionality.

  • Create a New Opportunity. Populate the Topic, Contact and Account with the Account you made the Project Price List in the above step for.
  • Ensure the Contracting Unit is set to the correct ‘Organisational’ lookup – it defaults to the standard one which is not always correct – it needs to be the one you created in the previous step.
  • Save the record (Change the Revenue to System Calculated if you wish)
New Opportunity being populated

New Opportunity being populated

  • Scrolling down, you will see the two sub-grids, Project-based Lines and Product Based Lines. The difference between them are products are ‘items’ you sell, such as CRM or other products, and  project based items are ‘Services’ you sell as part of a project that a ‘person’ can provide – or it can be the rental of a machine for example. (‘Equipment’ is still a valid resource)
Project based lines and Product Based Lines form part of an Opportunity and a Quote

Project based lines and Product Based Lines form part of an Opportunity and a Quote

  • On the Project Based Line sub-grid, click the + icon and a Quick Create form will open, complete it – Name is arbitrary, Customer Budget is how much the customer has to spend on this item line and Billing Method is if it’s fixed or if it’s variable (Time & Materials).
Adding an Opportunity Line

Adding an Opportunity Line – Set the Budge and the Billing Method

  • Add more lines as you wish and also add a product line too. Please read near the end of the post for some interesting information about changes to product properties.
  • So as it stands, thats the Opportunity done with. The next stage is to create a Quote for it which you can do using the business process flow at the top (which is new and different for Project Service) or use the standard way and click the plus (+) icon in the bottom grid ‘Quotes’ to create a new Quote with all your lines pre filled.
The re-imagined Quote Form for Project Service

The re-imagined Quote Form for Project Service

  • Looking at the Quote, you can see straight away this is very different to the normal quote form. You can see Profitability information at the top left, and some project indicators in the right hand side too. Most of the items have been pre-populated for you, including the Sales Project Price List from the associated Account has been carried over. This is so we can get some prices for the sales cost and do some calculations based on profitability. If you want, you can scroll down and click to refresh some of the charts (there are 4) to look at some visualisations of the data at this point in time.
Comparing Quote to Budget before Quote Line Detail is Added

Comparing Quote to Budget before Quote Line Detail is Added (Straight after conversion to a Quote from an Opportunity)

  • So what now? Lets populate some fields – complete the Requested Delivery Date, Quote Expires On, Payment Terms at the top of the quote
Populating fields on the Quote

Populating fields on the Quote – Requested Delivery Date, Quote Expiry and Payment Terms

  • Lets also add some more information to our project based lines. Open up one of your lines, ideally one that isn’t expenses based. In the Quote Line, there are three fields – Include Time, Include Expense and Include Fee – these relate to the Quote Line Detail which is just below in the subgrid and this determines if this should be calculated within the overall project as chargeable. The line you have open could actually include expenses, time, and fees, but perhaps you only wish to include some of those in the line cost overall.
Quote Line

Quote Line

  • In this example, we’re going to leave things as they are (all Yes by default) and add two Quote Line Detail Lines by clicking the plus icon on the subgrid (+) below. This opens the Quick Create Form.
Entering Quote Line Detail

Entering Quote Line Detail

  • Add in description, transaction class as ‘Time’, Role as the role you set up in the previous step (linked to your two price lists, which is important), start and end date – set these at least a month apart as it affects scheduling, and the quantity is the number of hours you expect this resource is required for.
  • You might be wondering why the unit price and sales amount are read only? This is because they are calculated from the price  lists as detailed above – our ‘Cost’ one associated to our Organisational Unit, and our ‘Sales’ one associated to our Account (which is now associated to our Quote as a ‘Project Price List’)

demo_7

  • The screenshot above is taken using two different roles, one without the price list set up for sales, and one with. You can clearly see the difference –  if the sales price list is not set, the quoted amount is not populated as this is part of the ‘Sales’ amount and the line is sort of obsolete as the cost price isn’t associated to the quote – there is no price to quote the customer basically  – so this is really important.
  • If you want to see more detail, especially when dealing with lots of different roles, you can check out the  ‘Chargeability View’ available via the associated chevron on this screen.
Chargeability View

Chargeability View

 

That’s all we’re going to do for now as an introduction, lets take a step back and look at the result by going back to the Quote and taking a look at the two tabs below:

Profitability Analysis

Profitability Analysis Tab via the Quote

The above section is the ‘Profitability Analysis’ screen which shows the Chargeable Cost vs the Revenue and if the project is actually going to be profitable or not. Good information to have before you go head first into a project. The Charts below is give you a visual breakdown of this based on the work being performed on a monthly basis and per role based on those Quote Line Detail information pieces we added earlier.

Comparison to Customer Budget Tab

Comparison to Customer Budget Tab

The second piece of information we now have is how this weighs in against the customers expectations of budget and schedule. The schedule is based on the expected go live date which we set earlier at the top of the quote and the last date for the resource working on the project via the Quote Line Details. – You can clearly see here where it’s estimated to finish. Secondly, you can see how it stacks up to the customer budget. The Total Amount is based on the Sales Price list & how the resources who are going to execute the delivery of a project are charged out, so they are based on a best view of reality at this point in time based on the information known to those involved, as opposed to somebody estimating based on a slim to educated guess without knowing the resources or time. You can clearly see here the example above exceeds customer budget. The charts provide a good visual backup to this information and, imagine you have lots of lines, you can clearly see where the differentiation’s are within quoted vs customer budget – this gives you some great information on going back to the customer with detail and plans to mitigate this.

Some quick concepts & things to remember

  • The difference between Cost Price and Sales Price – Cost is internal cost, Sales is cost to the customer. This is important due to it being utilised to calculate profitability.
  • Price Lists have been extended to be different types – Cost, Purchase and Sales. Purchase is non-operational at the moment, Cost is the internal cost and Sales is the cost to the customer.
  • Accounts have Project Price lists which is how Sales Costs for Roles are calculated within project quote line items. Alternatively these can be added to a Quote via the downward chevron and added via ‘Project Price Lists’. – if your Quote line items don’t have a Sales Price, this is why!
  • Project Service has extended the product properties functionality to include quantification based on detail entered within the contextual menu when you click ‘Edit’ on the Product Line within the Opportunity

This is certainly not all the Project Service solution by a long shot, but if it a very good start – once you have got to grips with this, the rest of the solution shouldn’t be difficult to understand as you are familiar with the concepts and terminology. The next post will go into more depth about Project Management and Resource Requesting.