There are lots of fans out there who think that QuickBooks is the best accounts package ever when it comes to reporting. But David Carter found it very hard work to print off even a basic list of expenses and revenue for a job. Can any QuickBooks expert out there put him on the right track, or is all that legendary reporting ability just talk?
Companies who do project-type work need job costing as part of their accounts package. Sage Job Costing does not seem to be highly regarded by AccountingWEB members, and with TAS Books you can only attach a tag code to the invoice as a whole, not to the individual items.
QuickBooks however seems to be ideal since you can analyse any supplier's Bill in much more detail than these other packages. You can analyse each line of the invoice to a 'Customer:Job' field, together with a description memo and the net amount. And if you buy stock items for a job you can record the part numbers, quantities and unit costs as well.
So QuickBooks looks ideal. But one of the elementary requirements of any Job Costing package is that it should be able to print off a list of the individual expenses and charges incurred on a job. This is basic stuff. Unfortunately it seems extremely difficult to get this out of QuickBooks.
Taking a specific example, I was working in QuickBooks Premier 2003, in the demo company Grangeworth Premier Kitchens. The Customer:job was Franklin Guest House, Kitchen. I wanted to print off a list of the costs and revenues incurred so far on this job.
Go into Reports-Jobs and Time. Within this menu there are no less than 11 reports, but none of them give a simple list of transactions. In fact all of them seem to be summary reports.
One of them does have an encouraging name, Job Profitability Detail, but in fact it's not a detail report at all. It's just another summary report, this time by type of expense. It's true you can double-click on to a total and see a list of the transactions that make it up. But even then the list doesn't show the name of the supplier and you have to double click laboriously on to each item to see who the invoice was from.
All I want is a list of all the expenses incurred so far on a job, printed on a bit of paper. Is this really too much to ask? But wait! There's QuickBooks' fabled ability to output a list of any transactions you want into Excel. Maybe I can do it that way?
So, back into the Reports menu, and this time we'll go for Custom Transaction Detail Report. Up comes the Modify screen. This should be a doddle. All I've got to do is to go into Filters, filter on the Customer:Job field and choose Franklin Guest House: Kitchen and Bob's your uncle.
But when I look through the list of Filters, disaster. The Customer:Job field isn't there! You can't analyse the transaction database by job in QuickBooks.
So here I am, idly displaying page after page of the Customer Transaction Detail report on screen and wondering if there is any way of getting this report out. There are plenty of transactions with Franklin's Guest House Kitchen is in the Name field. So let's try running a report with the Filter on the Name field.
Well, we do now have a sort of report, but it's pretty poor. Firstly it's filled with balance sheet stuff - cheque receipts, VAT control amounts, undeposited funds. We don't want this but I suppose I can put a pencil line through it and recalculate the total by hand.
Second, and far worse, is that it doesn't show the name of the supplier. So I've got a big list of expenses all with the name Franklin Guest House on them and no idea who the supplier is.
I've been doing this for nearly an hour now and seem to have got very little return for my pains. If the average punter was trying to get a job detail report out of QuickBooks, they wouldn't have a hope.
Of course I may have missed something obvious, but it looks like we'll have to give QuickBooks the thumbs-down on Job Costing, at least if you want decent reports. But before I do, are there any experts out there who can come to the rescue and point out where I've gone wrong?