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Opinion: How good is QuickBooks at Job Costing?

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7th Jul 2006
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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?

Replies (21)

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By AnonymousUser
29th Aug 2004 11:49

Quickbooks Job Costing
Reports / P&L detail / Filter NAMES / choose job name.

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By carnmores
26th Jul 2004 16:43

Janet
i will have to think and play a bit more, but there is a way, reports/vat/vatdetail and you are nearly there

any good?

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By David Carter
27th Jul 2004 10:55

QuickBooks is pretty good at Job Costing
Chris, Nicholas

Thanks for that. I see how you can put stock through via a sales invoice. Two last questions:

1) Every job costing system I've done we've had a fixed price contract and didn't want to invoice the customer with a detailed breakdown of everything used on the job.

If you don't want to invoice the customer for stock, how do you record the stock then? Perhaps create an internal customer account and send the invoice to that rather than the real customer? But "payment" will be a bit messy.

2) Can you get a WIP valuation of uncompleted jobs?


Chris, to answer your question, QB has much better facilities for capturing detailed info than the other packages. This discussion has shown me how you can get all that data out and the customised transaction report is super, no doubt about it.

But I feel that you have to be fairly sophisticated to get QB to realise its full potential and most users are not. If Intuit beefed up the standard Job Costing reports with a proper Job Detail report and a Work in Progress valuation, that would help.

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By carnmores
26th Jul 2004 16:49

David
go to grangeworth kitchens
hit the invoice button and add an item
for say carolyn lesley

hit save and new and then go back to that invoice and go to the 'journal' on the invoice bar

is this what you are looking for?

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By mallardadvice
26th Jul 2004 12:44

peter tan tan scroll back
Peter, if you scroll back to my previous comment, you will see that by running a P & L report, with colmns set for job, you will get the level of detail that you require.

Similiar listings can be achieved that match "day-book" type listings.

The export to excel is a red herring, you have to format the report in QuickBooks first, as that is what is expoprted.

[email protected]

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By carnmores
26th Jul 2004 14:07

Jamet 2 options
run a p/l report for the period concerned and double click on the total income or go to

report
custom transaction detail

filter transaction type to 'invoice'
filter account to 'account receivable'

hey pesto again
memorise as sales day book!

ARE WE THERE YET?

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By janetevans
26th Jul 2004 16:35

Nicholas Myles Comment 2
Thanks again - yes I have been using the transaction report and filtering on invoice and account for some time. I don't know whether I am being particularly slow but I cannot show Gross VAT and Net for each invoice only the Total. The P+L report only shows Net of course.

Janet

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By David Carter
26th Jul 2004 16:38

So how do you handle stock?
Nicholas,
Now you mention it, how do you handle stock issues to jobs?

When I've done this before, either the stock is ordered specifically for this job, or it is simply issued from stores.

If the stock is specially ordered and invoiced, that's fairly easy as you simply attach Customer:Job to the purchase invoice.

But if it is simply stock taken out of stores, I would expect a "Stock Journal" to issue the stock out of Stock Account and to Cost of Sales against this job. But the Journal Entry screen doesn't to issue stock items. In QB what are the postings when you issue stock to a job?

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By carnmores
26th Jul 2004 14:10

David
please also have a think about stock, if you are suppling from stock, then it is almost impossible to link it to a supplier where more than one supplier supplies the same goods

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By David Carter
26th Jul 2004 11:00

Tut tut, I stand corrected. It was there all the time.
So, it was the Source name.

Thanks everyone for your help. Lots of useful stuff here. For my particular problem the Source name is the answer. Tick on that and up comes the name of our plumber, dear old Arthur Heathcote. Sorry to go on about this, but in principle I never trust ANY summary report until I’ve been able to check the underlying detail and that means knowing who the supplier is.

John, very good point on the No Name column, because this is where all the items which haven’t been coded will be collected.

On the question of using Classes instead, I guess that would work. But the Job record also contains additional fields such Start Date, End Date, and the Job Status field.

Normally, if you run a report on all the jobs where Job Status = Live, this gives you the value of work in progress for the balance sheet (I think). But although QB has a Job Status field, it doesn’t seem to be available in the list of fields available for the report writer. How do you get a WIP valuation report out of QuickBooks?

Nicholas, that was an interesting point you raised about Daybooks. Have to have a think about that.

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By janetevans
23rd Jul 2004 16:48

Nicholas Myles thanks for your reasurrance but...
But how (she wails) does one produce a day book? Try as I might, using the transaction listing, I can't get a simple report that is foolproof!

Thanks

Janet

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By vickbain
22nd Jul 2004 19:45

MYOB
I have used MYOB for a number of years now and find it easy to job track on it - it easily generates job reports. I would recommend checking it out. It is also one of the few programs I have found that is Mac compatible; when is Sage going to release a Mac version??

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By AnonymousUser
23rd Jul 2004 00:48

Quick Books for Contractors
On the Intuit Web-site, there appears to be a Contractors add-on. I am thinking of buying this for a Contracting client. Is this a good idea?

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By mallardadvice
21st Jul 2004 15:43

Job Costing
I think the main problem is with the terminology. For example, in Grangeworth Kitchens, if you run a P & L account, and set the columns to "Customer: Job" you get a P & L per job. This is an excellent check at the end of posting, because the last column is "No Name" so you can check that there aren't any postings unallocated to jobs. There is the usual drill down facility.
If you want a specific job report, after checking for completeness of postings, then just go into Modify on report writer.
Go to the "filters" screen. On that screen, apply filters to "Name". There you have a subscreen that gives the ability to select specific jobs, together with the ability to define date ranges on the main report.
All of these reports are exportable to Excel if you wish to play around further with the information.
To my mind this beats Sage hands down. But like any system, you have to do a certain amount of checking on your input, i.e. checking for "No name" inputs, amd periods.
If I am missing the boat here, or anyone wants any help, then feel free to e mail me on [email protected]

If anyone wants anymore help, then e-mail me.

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By janetevans
23rd Jul 2004 10:49

Quickbooks - while we are on the subject
Although I am a fan of quickbooks for some clients there can be a lot of little difficulties. Although it is advertised as being great for people with no accounting experience a lovely mess can be created that is time consuming for us, and therefore expensive for the client, to solve. We discovered a gremlin in quickbooks VAT reporting last year - and this was after the enhancements that were supposed to clear up all the earlier problems and it took quite a while to identify the problem. Although it is good, there are some really basic reports that would be great to see, eg A really simple Invoices Issued Report showing Gross VAT NET across columns without the split to VAT being on a separate line. The simple reports are often the ones that help clients to understand where they are going wrong. Does anyone else agree?

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By carnmores
21st Jul 2004 12:56

Tut tut
you say

'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'

For example filter out all jobs except carolyn leslie, double click on the net figure, then go to modify dislay and tick source name, if you scroll down the report you will see, hey presto, a supplier!

remember to differentiate bought in goods from manufactured items when looking at your report AND also if you are using stock it will not be 'allocated' to a supplier for obvious reasons

you may also want to look at company reports p/l by job same sort of thing applies and it gives you your job by job report in all the detail you require, very simple

i havent answered any other points on the hubristic grounds that there is probably another easy answer

i admit there are a few quirks but they are nothing like you are suggesting, its a mindset thing!

email me if you wish and try QB 2004 please!!

finally i think that Chris is wrong also, if you enter all rechargeable expenses correctly i have never come across a time when they have not been properly recharged so i dont understand his comments

[email protected]

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By carnmores
23rd Jul 2004 15:23

Janet
i installed QB at a clients and the bookkeeper couldnt get her head around it until she saw a day book.

these are now unnecessary but it very simple to produce such a list if you want it and it is useful for checking the invoice numbering yes!

the VAT quarterly function in QB 2004 is excellent whereas 2003 wasnt great...

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By tom123
21st Jul 2004 14:57

Query on Sage Job Costing
I have been struggling with Sage Job Costing and exactly the same problem.

I cannot seem to get a simple list of sales invoices and purchase invoices / expenses on the same page with a total at the bottom,

Any ideas??

Thanks in advance/

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By AnonymousUser
21st Jul 2004 22:45

Have you tried using Classes?
If you were to use classes as a method of analysis, you are easily able to get a 'per class' profit and loss. This in turn will give you all the main headings you want to drill down to in any area you wish. You can easily export this list to Excel and delete the rows you don't want.
This would show the suppliers you so desperatly want to view. You can choose one or all of the classes, so it is very easy to get the report you need.
I use classes a lot with my clients, as it is a very simple way of job costing. You have an extra box to put data into, but the rewards far outweigh any time spent in the data entry.
Hope this helps. Shelagh Whiteman

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By AnonymousUser
21st Jul 2004 09:42

Yes there are problems
We abandoned QB for project costing because of uncertainty as to whether a particular cost would get picked up by the costing system. There are some screens which allow you to enter a job reference against a cost but when you look at the recharging of the costs to clients they do not appear. Too risky.

This is a shame because QB is in other respects a friendly product to use.

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By carnmores
22nd Jul 2004 09:45

Classes again
i agree that classes are a good idea but there are a couple of limitation and are difficult to use with jobs as well as reports cannot be 3 dimensional

1) you cannot use the costs recharge facility on classes alone, which is one of the main drawbacks, and i have yet to find a way to budget classes and jobs at the same time

2) if you forget to classify something they can be easily excluded, this is a slightly different problem to no job allocation. it is therefore advisable to have a 'house' class so that you have made a positive attempt to classify rather than have it report as unclassified

3) if you have a lot of jobs i think jobs are better than classes and they have the added bonus of being differentiable by status, ie awarded, in progress, finalised billed; you can also change these characteristics so something else for David C to look at!

Nick

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