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Accounting vs Job Costing: Who Does What and What’s the Difference?

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Every morning, you sit down at your computer with the best intentions. With coffee in one hand and your to-do list in the other, you’re feeling geared up and ready for a productive day on the jobsite.

But then the reality of construction chaos intervenes.

The first sting comes from a call with an owner wondering why their project is over budget (again), which is news to you but you don’t want to let on that you don’t have the answers. Luckily you’re good at piecing together just enough information to hold them off for now.

You immediately scramble to get an accountant on the phone, but it’s no use. Kiss lunch goodbye, because now you’re going to have to squeeze in a trip to the office before your next onsite meeting.

This is ridiculous! Why should you have to drive all the way into the office just to log in to your ERP system for answers. Your day seems like it’s completely imploding and then it hits you…

You need your own job costing software made for the field. Why are you working out of accounting?

You’ve been struggling for too long in reactive mode trying to tame the urgent day to day fires created by your accounting-based ERP system. And relying on someone else to get the information you need means your reputation is in the hands of someone else.

But there’s a better way to work.

Create an environment where job costing information and accounting information are separate but integrated. If you do that, you’ll get an accurate, timely view of operations that aids faster, better decision-making and helps you achieve better control over your budget results.

So how do you convince your company to invest in new software? Start by helping them understand your needs.

The Huge Difference Between Office and Field Financials

Knowing the daily battles that accountants and project managers have to fight and win each day can help decide which tools will best help them achieve success.

Here’s what they’re up against…


Accountants work from the office summarizing financial transactions––the operative word being summarize. They’re meant to record and analyze financial transactions after they occur.

  • Deliverables: invoices, expense reports, payroll, quarterly profit and loss statements, audits, trend analysis, and other forecasting.
  • Challenges: maintaining control over data, full visibility into finances, accurate information, double entry, and standardizing input for trendable insights
  • Tools of the Trade: accounting software that integrates with job costing software
  • You might hear them say: “I need more control over the data in my accounting system”.

Project Managers

Job costing is a daily task done in real time out on the jobsite. Your boots on the ground field teams need mobile options for an accurate minute-by-minute picture of where the project stands against the overall estimated project budget.

Without it, project managers aren’t able to spot issues and take corrective action before costs eat into profit margins. So finding out if a project has made or lost money turns into a game of The Price is Right (or terribly, terribly wrong) after closeout.

  • Deliverables: managing coordination of the schedule and budget, making daily financial decisions with financial repercussions, monthly job cost reports, and owner relationships.
  • Challenges: getting real time updates in the field while constantly on the move.
  • Tools of the Trade: job costing software for field financials and project management software for task management and scheduling
  • You might hear them say: “I needed those budget numbers yesterday!”

There’s a right way and a wrong way to push for a new software implementation.

To avoid backlash, get everyone involved in the process and explain how good life can be if you say goodbye to the all-in-one ERP systems of yesteryear.  

  • First things first; change happens in real time and so should financials. By bringing job costing to the field and out of the office, project managers can account for potential costs as they occur. No more hassle of going to and from the office to enter in all of those changes at the end of the day. When project managers no longer have to wait on accounting for up-to-date financial data, they have the tools in hand to manage a dynamic, living budget.
  • Say goodbye to time-consuming job costing reports. Freedom. Experience it for yourself and get back to doing what you were hired to do–– manage the project. With a proper field financials solution that offers custom reports and a configurable budget, project managers can generate the weekly or monthly reports they need with a click of a button, and provide key stakeholders with the insights they need to make informed business decisions.
  • When teams work together, double entry is eliminated. Empowering field teams to input financial data in real time only makes an accountant’s job easier. By integrating the field team’s job costing solution with the office’s accounting software, there is no need for double entry and the risks of inaccurate data input that go along with it. Instead of spending time inputting data, you’ll can focus on balancing budgets.
  • You’ll streamline the job costing process, automate calculations, ensure consistency, reduce errors, and make everything easier and faster for both project managers and accountants. Plus, you’ll tighten cost controls throughout the project, prevent overruns, and build a reliable cost history that can be used to improve estimating.  
  • Make yourself invaluable with data that helps your CFO run a better company.With a single solution that enables project managers to track costs more efficiently and generate job cost reports more quickly, accountants can have the confidence in the data from field to make reliable, data-driven forecasts that their CFO needs.

The Bottom Line

Project management and accounting teams have different needs, so they should have separate but equal software solutions that work best for their specific challenges.

At the moment, there is a shift in the way construction financial software is providing mobile solutions to field and office teams.

In this new world of mobile field financial tools, you are no longer just a project manager with job costing responsibilities;. you are an integral part of your company’s financial solution.

And now that you’re becoming more productive with the help of dedicated job costing software, your job will become less about entering data and more about assisting with high-level decisions. This will empower you to leverage your professional knowledge, not just your willingness to grind.


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