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  • Writer's pictureLoren Saunders

Unanet A/E - Project Setup Management with Custom Purchase Orders Automation

Updated: May 8

We’re always looking for ways creative ways to streamline and automate our processes. Sometimes, our asks seem on the verge of impossible. But Loren delivers with something better than we envisioned, every time.

-- Lesa Drysdale, Director of Accounting at ISG

-- 5/08/2024

Recently my favorite client had me build a comprehensive solution to automatically generate purchase orders during project setup and sub consultants tracking activities..

This solution is actually an add on to their already comprehensive Project Setup and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) management module I built for them a few years ago.

Click this image to see the entirety of the setup framework. All data shown is test data. Employee names are redacted.

In this article, I will first explain some of the features of the Project Setup framework I built for them in Unanet A/E.. Then, look at how the Sub Consultants management solution I built works with Purchase Orders in Unanet A/E to make managing these two processes easy. (all data shown in this article is test data not production data)

Credit goes to my client's team for coming up with the initial requirements.

As is often the case, I adjust and modify requirements and functionality as needed to make things more efficient while developing the process initially. This is part of the working relationship I have with my client after years of working together.

Project Setup Components:

Firstly, all projects being set up are managed in a custom interface that shows all projects in process by that user. It has 3 parts:

1. Project List

Some of the features of the Project List item and process are as follows:

a. Projects being set up show on this grid, but only projects for a specific user. If you are a division manager, then projects for your division are shown. b. Clicking on the "Project Path" (project number) will re-open the setup wizard to let you complete it or modify project settings. The setup wizard guides you through setting up required project fields like client, project manager, location, description, billing rate table etc. It also allows for uploading of documents that are then saved with the project. c. When you "submit" the project, the accounting department (aren't they the real boss?) gets a detailed email with a review of project details so they can make sure all the correct boxes are checked before approving the project and making it active and available for time, expense etc.

After submitting, the project no longer appears in the project setup list.

2. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) management:

Here the user can build out the project in an easy to use interface complete with project templates. Some of the features include:

a. The user types in project codes, gives a name, and selects contract type (billing type) from a dropdown. If they leave out Start and End date in a child node then the automation will fill those in for the user from the parent.

b. We added a few buttons to help the user add certain types of project nodes that are used frequently like a reimbursables or fixed fee labor node. These are standard items the client uses in their project set up methodology. There are certain project templates that be loaded as well to save time. These templates come from the standard Unanet A/E project template feature.

c. The "Chk Errors" button checks for errors in their project setup, making sure project codes follow the proper protocol, all nodes have parents, start/end dates, billing types etc.

Note: not all nodes require children. Your project structure can take almost any form.

3. Sub Consultants Management grid.

This last component is the most recent addition. It is a grid to manage Sub Consultant commitments.

Managing Sub Consultants on projects has been a challenge to do properly for some ERP systems. In this case I built a grid just for the sub consultants where amounts and delivery dates can be assigned. You can also select existing vendors from the database, or add new ones directly into this grid. The accounting department is notified of all new vendors so they can collect necessary data for their new vendor process..

Some of the features of this subconsultant management grid:

a. All rows in this grid are added automatically when you use "Y1" in any part of your project path in the WBS manager grid. "Y1" is the code this client uses for consultant services on a project.

b. This component lets the user add a new sub consultant (vendor) directly, or select from an existing vendor from the system with a combination of a simple search and dropdown field.

c. This component generates purchase orders automatically, and generates a link allowing the user to open the Purchase Orders Applet or view the PO report directly from this grid without having to search or choose from a menu.

Lastly, as part of the project submission process, all the purchase orders can be reviewed by accounting and approved from inside the Purchase Orders applet or using a menu item from the Projects Applet.

4. Managing your subs from inside the Projects Applet

This image does not have callouts simply because it has all the same functionality as the one in the Project Setup process above, but resides inside of the Projects applet.

You can continue to manage the Purchase Orders for a project without leaving the projects space.

Features include:

a. Add existing or new Sub Consultants. Accounting is notified when new ones are added so they can complete the Vendor setup process.

b. Separate amount and Markup rules for each PO if needed.

c. One PO is created for the entire project and Vendor for all nodes, each node being a separate item. If a PO has already been issued for a Vendor, then a new PO is created automatically.

d. Approve, hold or issue individual or all POs right from the Projects applet.

A Note about the custom wizard functionality in Unanet A/E.

Unanet A/E provides a wizard functionality which can manage complex data entry processes (like project setup or new employee setup).

In this particular case, I used some clever programming tricks to allow the user to re-open a project in the setup wizard even after it has been saved, but before submission for approval and activation. This allows the user to re-visit any settings and make adjustments before submitting the project to accounting for review. This is a great feature in case the project isn't all the way set up yet and the user needs to go back and edit project details. This keeps the editing process in the controlled data entry space, which ensures data entry completion and reduces errors.

An example image from one of many steps in the wizard is provided below. This is data that is saved so when you re-open the wizard all the relevant fields are already filled out for this project.

If you are interested in this level of automation or would like to speak with my client about their experience with this custom solution. Feel free to reach out by emailing me directly or through the contact form on this site.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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