Term Definition

Project accounting differs from standard accounting in that it is designed to monitor the financial progress of a project rather than the overall progress of organizational elements. With Project Accounting, financial reports are specifically created to track the project process. Utilizing Project Accounting provides Project Managers with the ability to accurately assess and monitor project budgets and ensure that the project is proceeding on budget. Project managers can quickly address any cost overruns and revise budgets if necessary.

Project accounting also differs from standard accounting in the time period that it is reported. Standard accounting reports financial progress for fixed periods of time, for example, quarterly or annually. Projects can last from a few days to a number of years. During this time, there may be numerous budget revisions. The project may also be part of a larger overall project. For example, if an organization were constructing a new building that would be the larger project, however telecommunications could be handled as its own project, and as such with a separate project budget.

Costs and revenues that are allocated to projects may be further subdivided into a work breakdown structure (WBS). In utilizing project accounting, you have the flexibility to report at any such level and can also compare historical as well as current budgets.

Project accounting allows companies to accurately assess the ROI of individual projects and enables true performance measurement. Project managers are able to calculate funding advances and actual versus budgeted cost variances using project accounting. As revenue, costs, activities and labors are accurately tracked and measured, project accounting provides future benefits to the organization. Future quotes and estimates can be fine-tuned based on past project performance. Project accounting can also have an impact on the investment decisions that companies make. As companies seek to invest in new projects with low upfront costs, less risk, and longer-term benefits, the costs and benefit information from a project accounting system provides crucial feedback that improves the quality of such important decisions.

Area of Application
Project Governance 
Project Management

Related Terms
Activity Based Costing
Cost Accounting