The longest and hardest fought over sessions in a Vision implementation are always project numbering and project structures.
While project numbering is usually defined by a legacy application or legacy filing system (and it’s less of an issue as most people think) I came across some misconceptions on Vision’s Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) and how to use them.
The work breakdown structure in Vision can have up to three tiers:
- Project level
- Phase level
- Task level
Each tier can contain an unlimited amount of sub levels and each sub level is treated almost as a mini project within Vision.
Most users think that there should be only one binding work breakdown structure for all projects across the whole company with all its phases and tasks predefined.
This is usually defined under the assumption that you will use these sub levels for reporting across multiple projects but it usually will interfere with your overall billing capabilities.
My approach is quite different: use Vision’s organizational structures for all of your cross project reporting and use the WBS for billing purposes only!
Let me explain this by giving you an overview of the two capabilities first:
Organizational Structures Explained
Vision always supported organizational structures for financial purposes. The idea is that you set up multiple levels of reporting (up to five in a single company environment, up to four in a multi company environment, the top level is reserved for the legal entities) and then be able to slice and dice with each combination of these org structures.
A typical hierarchy of a multi company org structure would look something like this:
- Level 1: Legal Entity
- Level 2: Countries/Locations
- Level 3: Offices
- Level 4: Departments
- Level 5: Cost Centres
each of these hierarchies can have as many entries as you’d like and you can combine each item from each level to a specific organizational structure but you should be careful to not get carried away with this. The more combinations you have the more internal setup in Vision is involved. I would suggest no more than five or six items per level.
The really nice part about this is the following: even if you have to assign a specific org structure item to a project (or employee) the Vision reporting system still allows you to slice and dice most of the built-in reports by any level and any sub item.
So if you had for instance offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston with Structural Engineering departments in only two of those offices you can still run a report across all projects in Vision and group by Structural Engineering.
The same cannot really be done by using WBS structures only.
Project Structures Explained
The Work Breakdown Structure (or WBS) of a project is less restrictive as the org structure. Vision does not force you to have the same sub level items across all projects. It even doesn’t force you to have the same depth of WBS in all projects. So you could have projects with no phases and tasks mixed with projects that have hundreds of sub level items, Vision treats them all the same.
What is impacted by the WBS are your invoicing capabilities. You can define cost and bill rates per level, fee structures, expense multipliers, billable/non-billable items etc. And Vision will automatically subtotal your invoices for each and every level in your WBS.
So your project structure really comes down to what your client wants to see on the invoice. Depending on your contract you can separate out milestones, travel expenses or any other subtotal requested by the client by defining a phase or task for this.
Should you have the need to split up cost in more detail than the client invoice is expecting then use phases for the client’s subtotals and tasks (that will be rolled up to phases in billing terms) to keep track on your cost and assign the corresponding org structure to these invisible tasks.
This will make your invoicing a lot easier if you set up the project structure specifically for this purpose instead of trying to fit in your billing needs with a company wide fixed structure.
How To Use Them In Combination
Here is where it all comes together: the rigid organizational structure with the more free flowing WBS structure of the project. The important part is that you assign a corresponding org structure for each cost and revenue level you want to report on to a phase or task in the project.
Once you’ve done this you can create internal financial project reports that no longer group your items by WBS1, WBS2 and WBS3 but rather by WBS1 and then by each org level you need detailed info on (office or cost centre for instance).
This way you keep your flexibility for your project invoicing and you predefined structure for your financial invoicing.