The Ultimate Guide to Project Accounting

for Architecture, Engineering, Consulting & Media Firms

This guide contains what you need to know to get started with Project Accounting if you are an Architecture, Engineering, Construction, Media, Professional Services, Consulting, or other buisness that works primarily in project delivery.

I. Introduction to Project Accounting


A. What is Project Accounting?

Project accounting is a specialized branch of accounting that focuses on tracking and managing the financial aspects of individual projects within a company. Unlike traditional accounting, which looks at the overall financial health of a business, project accounting delves into the financial details of specific projects. It involves monitoring project costs, revenue, and profitability, as well as analyzing financial data to make informed decisions. Project accounting provides businesses, especially architectural and engineering firms, with a clearer understanding of the financial performance of each project and helps in identifying potential issues, ensuring projects stay within budget, and maximizing profitability.

In project accounting, each project is treated as a separate entity, with its own budget, expenses, and revenue. It allows businesses to allocate costs specifically to each project, including direct labor, materials, subcontractor expenses, and overheads. By closely tracking and managing project costs, project accounting enables businesses to identify areas of inefficiency, make necessary adjustments, and optimize resource allocation. This level of detailed financial analysis provides greater transparency and accountability, allowing businesses to better evaluate the profitability and viability of their projects. Overall, project accounting plays a crucial role in ensuring financial control, making informed decisions, and maximizing the success of architectural and engineering projects.

B. Why project accounting is important for engineering, construction, and architectural firms

II. Project Accounting Basics

A. Types of project accounting

There are different types of project accounting methods that businesses can utilize based on their specific needs and requirements. One commonly used method is the job costing approach, where costs and revenues are tracked and allocated to each individual project. This method allows businesses to monitor project expenses and profitability on a per-project basis. Another approach is activity-based costing, which focuses on assigning costs based on the activities involved in a project. This method provides a more detailed understanding of the resources and costs associated with specific project activities. Additionally, there is the percentage of completion method, often used in long-term projects, where revenue and costs are recognized based on the project's progress towards completion. Each type of project accounting offers distinct advantages and can be tailored to suit the unique needs of architectural and engineering firms.

B. Key components of project accounting

Project accounting encompasses several key components that are essential for effectively managing the financial aspects of projects. One of the key components is budgeting, which involves creating a detailed plan outlining the estimated costs and revenue for a project. This allows businesses to set financial targets and allocate resources accordingly. Another crucial component is cost tracking, which involves monitoring and recording all project-related expenses to ensure they stay within the approved budget. Revenue recognition is also a critical component, as it involves recognizing and recording the income generated from the project based on the project's progress or milestones. Additionally, project accounting involves financial reporting, which includes generating reports that provide an overview of the project's financial performance, allowing for better decision-making and evaluation of profitability. Lastly, project accounting also encompasses risk management, where businesses assess and mitigate financial risks associated with the project, ensuring that potential financial challenges are identified and addressed proactively. These key components collectively contribute to successful project accounting and enable architectural and engineering firms to effectively manage their projects' finances.

C. How to set up a project accounting system


III. Project Budgeting and Cost Management


A. How to create a project budget

B. Best practices for managing project costs

C. How to track and report project cost

IV. Project Billing and Invoicing

A. Best practices for creating project invoices

B. How to manage project billing and payments

C. How to handle disputes and late payments


V. Project Financial Reporting and Analysis


A. How to create financial reports for projects

B. How to analyze project financial data

C. How to use financial data to make informed business decisions

VI. Project Accounting Software

A. Common Accounting Software Packages

B. Specialized Project Accounting Packages

C. Supplemental Apps


Your path to the summit starts now with knowing your score

With Summit Business Advisors project-based businesses have real-time visibility into their performance and can make data-driven decisions that drive results.

✓ Profit First

✓ Utilization rate, and

✓ Net revenue per employee