Cloud Accounting QuickBooks

QuickBooks Online Projects

Written by Charlie Russell

Intuit has introduced a new feature, QuickBooks Online Projects. This is a lightweight project management feature that is aimed at simpler businesses. The feature was released this week in the US, and last week in Canada and Australia. If you are running a project-oriented business using QuickBooks Online you may find this useful, but it isn’t as full-featured as some addons, like BillQuick. This is Intuit’s first step in this direction — they will be looking for customer feedback as to what features are needed moving forward.

This article was edited on 10/27/2017 and 10/30/2017 to address a particular issue with the program feature.

Installing QuickBooks Online Projects

This feature is disabled by default. To enable it in QuickBooks Online, click your gear icon at the upper right corner and select Account and Settings.

QuickBooks Online Projects

If you are working with QuickBooks Online Accountant, you can enable this for your firm account by clicking the gear icon and selecting Company Settings.

Within your settings, select Advanced settings and scroll down, you will find a new section for Projects. Check the box and click Save. Note that you cannot turn this feature off once you have enabled it.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Once you have enabled this feature you will see a new option in the left navigation menu, Projects.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Working with Projects

You can add a new project by clicking the New project button at the upper right of the Projects list. Each project needs a project name and an assigned customer. The note field is optional.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Once you have created a project you will see it in the project list. Each project has a status, which can be in progress, completed or canceled. You can change the status by using the Options dropdown at the right of the list, or when you view the project.

QuickBooks Online Projects

If you select a project from this list you can edit the project, view project-oriented reports, see a list of transactions that apply to this project, and add new transactions to the project.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Projects are supported in invoices, payment receipts, expenses, estimates, time transactions, bills, and purchase orders. These transactions can be created by either the Add to project button when you are looking at the project, or you can select the project from within a new transaction that you create in the normal way from the Create menu.

QuickBooks Online Projects

For purchase-related transactions you will pick the project from the detail line.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Looking at the project, the Transactions tab shows most, but not all of the transactions for this project. Purchase Orders don’t show here, for example. I hope that this view is expanded to show options for all transactions, and to add filters for transaction type.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Project Reports

In the Overview tab you have several project-oriented reports: Project Profitability, Unbilled Time and Expenses, and Nonbillable Time. These reports don’t exist in the Report center, just in the detailed view of the Project.

Here’s the Project Profitability report.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Here’s the Unbilled Time and Expenses report:

QuickBooks Online Projects

And here’s the Nonbillable Time report:

QuickBooks Online Projects

These are fairly basic reports, and I hope that Intuit will be expanding the options found here.

Sub-Customers and Projects

Projects are similar to sub-customers, and in fact are built upon that same feature. If you look at the Customer list, you will see both sub-customers and projects. In the screen shot below, Dunning Branch Office is a project, the others are sub-customers.

QuickBooks Online Projects

The good points here are that this lets you see all the projects and sub-customers in one list, and it allows you to create new transactions (from the dropdown on the right) easily for both types using the same mechanism. I wish it was easier to tell which was a sub-customer and which was a project in this list.

You also see both sub-customers and projects when you select the customer when adding a transaction like an invoice. In this case it is easy to tell which type it is.

QuickBooks Online Projects

Note that you cannot convert a sub-customer to a project, so if you have existing sub-customers prior to enabling this feature you cannot change them over to projects to take advantage of the new features.

Issues, I Always Have Issues

Intuit’s typical approach to what might be a significant new feature is to release it early, before it is (in my opinion) fully developed. This lets them get new features out quickly so that they can get early feedback from customers. However, that often means that the feature may be lacking what may be important features for some kinds of businesses. They aren’t (yet) trying to make this the ultimate project management program. They leave that kind of complexity up to add-on developers like BillQuick.

I will note that this feature was initially available in QuickBooks Labs, so people have been able to try it out for several months now.

Note that this is not the same as the Work feature in QuickBooks Online Accountant that I talked about earlier this year. Yes, in that feature you create Projects, but these are different Projects than you find in the Project feature. It’s not too confusing as long as you keep in mind that Work projects are in QuickBooks Online Accountant, and Project projects are in QuickBooks Online (which you can access via QuickBooks Online Accountant). At least, I think I have that right? Terminology conflicts like this can be so confusing….

Here are a few issues that I have with the current release:

  • It is important that you are sure that you want to use this feature because you cannot turn it off. It is a permanent switch. However, I’m not sure that I see any drawback to having this on. If you don’t like it, just don’t use it.
  • As mentioned above, you cannot change an existing sub-customer to a project. This is a bit inconvenient for project-oriented businesses that already have been using sub-customers prior to implementing this feature. Converting them would be complicated, I’m sure, but it would have been nice for some users.
  • This feature is not integrated with any Intuit payroll system at this time. I expect that integration to come at some future point.
  • The Transactions tab of the project view doesn’t show all transactions for the project. Purchase orders don’t show, for example. I would like an option to see all transactions here, with filters by type.
  • If you set a project to Completed or Cancelled status you can still post transactions to that project. I’m not happy with this, as there is no warning when you do this. I can see still being able to post transactions to a completed project, but it is harder to argue for posting to a cancelled project. I really would like to see a way to mark a project as final, so that no more transactions can be posted.
  • I wish it was easier to tell which was a sub-customer and which was a project in the Project list.

Differences With QuickBooks Online Accountant

This section was added on 10/27/2017 as further information was uncovered, and was updated on 10/30/2017

Looking at this feature in more detail, there is a difference when working with QuickBooks Online Accountant.

My descriptions above were built on looking at a client file in QuickBooks Online. If you happen to be using QuickBooks Online Accountant and you enable the feature for your firm’s data, you will see some differences.  If you go to the Projects  tab in the Your Books section and add a project, it opens the window that you would use to edit a “Work” project such as I described in my article on QuickBooks Online Accountant Project Management. This window asks for a due date and has a button to add tasks, which are used in that other feature.

Adding a project in the Projects tab works, it adds it to your project list, but it also adds that to your Work dashboard. Obviously Intuit is using the same underlying structure for both features.

This doesn’t cause any corruption in the database, but it might cause some confusion for someone using QuickBooks Online Accountant. If you are an accountant looking at Your Books and looking at Projects, you are going to see something different than your client will see when looking at the same place. Most accountants won’t have a totally separate QuickBooks Online account for their own company, for testing or for training. If you are looking at your own account and using that to describe what you are seeing (such as taking screen shots for documentation, or sharing your screen in a training session), what you see in your own account will be different than what your client will see in their own account.

That is unfortunate, but it is a minor issue as long as you are aware of it.

So, to clarify…

Here is what your Client will see in their own QuickBooks Online account (and you will see if you choose to work with their account) when adding a Project:

QuickBooks Online Project

And here is what the accountant will see when adding a Project in Your Books.

QuickBooks Online Accountant Project

Just a bit of confusion.

Conclusion

All in all, this is a very light implementation of project management, aimed at the simplest of businesses. I did predict that Intuit would be expanding the product to provide better support for project oriented businesses in my article on Intuit’s focus on QuickBooks Online. I believe that this is a first step towards a more comprehensive project management feature.

Will you find this useful as is, or will you wait until there are more features? And what features do you think are essential, that Intuit needs to add?


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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.

27 Comments

  • No, I followed your directions in the article to activate the feature in my own file. Projects between Expenses and Employees, not in Work.
    The first Project I created required a Due date* before it would save.
    I can well believe that it may act differently in different company files.
    Also, I just discovered that when I logged in again, it doesn’t show under Projects, even though it won’t let me create a second Project with the same name. When I try to access in Customers, it says: Something went wrong Please try again later.
    Oh well, perils of early adoption 🙂

    • I would love to see a screen shot of that project window, Wayne.

      Intuit does sometimes do A/B testing on features, I suspect, so perhaps that is what is going on here. Or a bug of some sort. But I don’t see a due date at all in any test company that I have set up.

  • I sent a screen shot to the email on your CCR site.
    Maybe it got crosslinked somehow to the Work section? Might explain why my first Project won’t open again.

    • Yes I think that is what is happening. When I go to Work/Create Project, I get the same screen as when I go to Your Books/Projects/New Project. And yet the Project I created there shows as a sub-Job in Customers, and today I can even open it and run reports.

  • All I can say is that the screen shot that you sent to me is the QuickBooks Online Accountant feature for projects that is accessed (in a properly working system) via the Work tab, or through your client list. Keep in mind that your client list is NOT the same as a customer list in a QuickBooks Online account. The new feature, which I describe here, doesn’t have a due date or a task button as shown in that screen shot.

  • Upon further investigation: I see what you are seeing – the wrong display is showing if you look at the Projects feature in your OWN account in QuickBooks Online Accountant. I was testing with a CLIENT file, a straight QuickBooks Online account.

    You are asked for a due date and there is a task button. THis is the wrong screen. But if you add a project here it DOES show up in the correct place.

  • OK, I believe that either Intuit issued a program update in the past few days, OR there was something odd in my QBOA account (which is entirely possible, considering all the beta testing I do within it), but I’m seeing a slightly different issue now than I did the other day, and I’ve updated the article (again) to reflect that.

    I am seeing the same screen between “Work” and “Projects” when adding/editing a project. The due date, tasks and so forth still appear in Projects, but it matches what I see in Work. This makes sense, because “Work” and “Projects” are pretty much the same thing, and you wouldn’t be using both of them in different ways (I think). But it is a bit confusing when you are trying to show a client how it would work, when you are using your own account to demo something.

    Not a bug, just a momentary bit of confusion.

  • Intuit/Quickbooks blog posting says you *can* merge a sub customer into a ‘project’: make them have the same parent customer, give the old sub customer the same name as the new ‘project’, then accept the merge.

    This feels like the old sub customer function (tracking expenses related to a specific customer’s invoice or invoices) with a new skin. I use the old function in tracking ‘big’ grants or contracts for small nonprofits; I imagine the new function could make that just a bit easier.

    • Ah, thanks, “merging”. Which isn’t always what you want to do. I hate “merging” in QuickBooks Online, since we can’t make a backup that we could roll back to if we don’t like the effect, like we can do in QuickBooks desktop. But that is another story.

  • I have two questions:

    #1. Do you know if it’s possible to get a more detailed project profitability report from the “Project” feature? The report I get just gives me totals, but I would like to see the expenses listed out.

    #2. My invoices aren’t showing on the “Transaction List” even though I tied it to the project when I entered the invoice. Is there something else I have to do as well?

    Thank you!

    • The reports listed here are based on existing reports in the system, just with the filters already set up. You cold, for example, customize the “Profit and Loss Detail” report to show the transactions for just one customer/project.

      As for the second item, it is hard for me to say what is going on without seeing the file. Note that this is a newly released feature and there may be some problems. I was getting some odd errors in this part of the program today when I was reviewing some of the reports.

  • Dear Charlie. Liked your article. But I have a different issue. I have subscribed QBO Plus last week and today attempted to turn on the “Projects” option on the Account and Settings page as you have rightly described above. But guess what? I don’t have the Projects option there. Don’t know what to do next. Please advise.

    • Are you in the USA?

      If you don’t see this, and you are using a national version that supports it, then you should talk to QBO support. Sometimes these things get stuck in some of the server clusters.

  • Hi Charlie…thank you for taking the time to put this article together. I too feel that QBO released this feature without fully developing it as well as training their customer service on it. I am stumped by the fact that no one has mentioned payroll costs associated with this project feature. I think one of the biggest expenses is payroll, and why that’s not included in the project report is just ridiculous! I converted from QBD to QBO and have to say I am faced with nothing but disappointment. I spent several months contemplating and talking to the sales team, who assured me that the 2 main components of the switch were supported by QBO. But, both components are NOT, and so here I am after a month with this conversion and I’m left with a software that does not stand up to what we need as a company. I’ve spent countless hours on the phone and have gotten no where with the help desk…if you can call it that. I’m bitter about this entire situation but need to find a solution. There is nowhere that shows how to set up the payroll side of the project report to show a true account of what was spent on a particular project. This information is a basic function for the project report to provide. Thanks for listening…if you have any ideas, please let me know:)
    Thanks!

    • Sandra, I guess I just have to say that for the most part, Intuit ALWAYS (in my opinion) releases features before they are “complete”. They want to throw out what they think is the minimum, and then get feedback from users as to what is needed. Often they do have plans for further development (as they do with this particular product feature), but reviewers (like me) aren’t allowed to talk about upcoming features if we are told about them.

      I will say that many, many users who convert from QB Desktop up to QB Online end up either frustrated or unhappy. The two products are just so different. There is no continuity of features, the products shouldn’t really share the same name since that builds expectations in users who convert that just won’t be met. QB Online is a good product for certain situations, and it will grow, but any time someone talks about moving from QB Desktop to QB Online, I recommend to them that they spend a lot of time testing it out before they pull the plug on their desktop system.

      • Thank you Charlie…I wish I did spend time testing it out before we switched over. Our file is huge, and so moving back to desktop would require us to rebuild the file, especially now that we’ve been working in QBO for some time, let alone the file corruption issues we were having.

        I’ll have to figure out a way to get the information I need in QBO…the customer service team really hasn’t a clue when called. They have to look things up the same as I do. Not very helpful.

        • There is a wide range of abilities in the support staff at Intuit, for QBO. I think that you may find that you get more out of the product, for your business, if you work with a qualified independent consultant (ProAdvisor). Of course, independent support is only available for a fee, which might be an issue. And sometimes you may find that you have to go to an add-on product to get the features that you need (which also costs more). Finding someone who really knows the product and your business needs can be difficult. However, there are advisors that really know the product and can get QBO to work very well for you.

          • How can I find a ProAdvisor? I’m not crazy about the forums that really don’t have the exact issue I’m dealing with. I’d rather pay someone to help me sort this out and find ways to make QBO work well for us. You’ve been a great help Charlie…thank you!

  • I’ve had some issues with a client that came from QBD moved to QBO and then turned on the projects feature. There is some sort of bug where after the projects are turned on and some transactions are posted using being tagged to a certain project it doesn’t show up in Projects. In fact sometimes all the projects are hidden in the projects tab even though you can still see them under the sales tab or used in a transaction. Intuit has closed the case even though it has not been fixed, basically told me that it can’t or won’t be fixed in the near future. I find that kind of support unacceptible. For the most part I recommend QBO to small businesses.

  • The limitation that we are seeing is that only customer can be billed on a project. They should make the functionality for projects separate from the customer so that expenses and revenue could be allocated to projects in the same way.

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