Date posted: 25/06/2018

A day in the life of a Project Accountant

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As a project accountant, Gina Hadiutomo is adept at keeping several plates spinning as she manages all the financial information related to projects and tracking expenses at Lendlease. But what's in it for her?

"Project accounting involves the management of a project's financial information," Gina says.

"My day-to-day activities include ensuring costs and revenues are accurately reported for all projects at the end of the month, assisting the business with project set-up, accounting and system related queries, and engaging in various project based analytic initiatives."

Although she loves the financial aspects of the job, her favourite part is the analytical side, because it requires both creative and critical thinking when responding to non-routine requests from internal stakeholders.

Project accounting - as distinct from business-as-usual activity - has emerged as a field of its own, supporting project delivery, contributing to decision-making and helping to demonstrate value. The accountant's involvement is typically linked to the life cycle of a project and the nature of the sector, from technology to entertainment to infrastructure, for example.

"It could involve analysing projects to determine how different cost components are tracking against their forecasts, or analysing spending on certain types of costs across a wider portfolio of projects," she says.

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"Different projects across different business sectors each have their unique set of challenges, which keeps the job interesting."

Gina is particularly motivated by the opportunity to deepen her understanding of the company's activities and frequently has the chance to build relationships through interaction with stakeholders across the company.

Her role also involves both small and big-picture thinking - she handles everything from the granular detail of a single project to the management of a portfolio of projects.

Starting out at London-based firm EY as an auditor, Gina had the opportunity to learn about businesses at an operational level first.

Keen to gain further experience and new perspectives from outside traditional financial accounting, she jumped at the chance to join the company as a project accountant.

"The project accounting role allows me to engage with a number of key project stakeholders and better appreciate the financial metrics of a project," she explains.

"Project accounting allows me to participate in various initiatives and to support continuous improvement initiatives."
Gina Hadiutomo CA

"This exposes me to the operational aspects of each project, which is the main difference to being an accountant at a group level where the focus tends to be weighted more to technical accounting."

Project accounting is a new way of working for accountants, allowing a deeper understanding of each individual project's successes and failures. A project accountant is attached to specific projects or a portfolio of projects rather than the company as a whole, helping companies understand the context of their daily financials and react more rapidly to changing circumstances.

Being a project accountant has also afforded Gina the opportunity to rub shoulders with everyone from the project administration personnel and commercial managers to finance analysts, managers and controllers.

"The most exciting project I've worked on was developing a dashboard to report on how each region is performing across various financial and operational aspects," she says.

"Some examples of what we report in the dashboard are projects with an unbilled revenue position, the value of project accruals and outstanding supplier bank guarantees per project."

"We always identify any significant movement from the previous period. We investigate these variances by region, and drill down to determine which projects are driving this. In building the dashboard, I continually liaised with different teams to understand how the processes within the different functions worked. The dashboard was developed with traffic light indicators for easy interpretation; and clear definitions of why and how we are measuring the relevant metrics."

"Through this project, I had the opportunity to not only build relationships with different process owners and finance personnel across various regions; I was given the chance to present it to the wider project reporting team and to various finance managers."

Gina Hadiutomo
Gina Hadiutomo CA

Sometimes challenges crop up that force Gina to think on her feet - for example, unexpected construction delays could cause costs to lag against the forecast, in which case Gina would spend time with the business's finance team or the individual project team to investigate the reason behind the variances.

"In terms of skills, you need attention to detail and the ability to effectively communicate with a range of stakeholders," Gina reveals.

"In addition to providing them support on single projects and at a portfolio level, you need to be able to tailor the communications to what matters most to them."

The job of a project accountant is also evolving with the times, and Gina has had the opportunity to be at the forefront of industry-altering technological innovation such as robotics.

"Project accounting allows me to participate in various initiatives and to support continuous improvement initiatives," she explains.

"The main driver for the robotics automation initiative is giving project accountants or process owners more time to focus on engaging with the business and adding value by removing some of the repetitive, mundane aspects of their role."

Gina found that completing the CA Program differentiated her from her peers and offered further opportunities for professional development within the finance sector.

"The journey has enhanced my technical knowledge and critical thinking through real life company case studies," she says.

"Not to mention the networking events and various CA organised topical discussion seminars which are incredibly useful in staying current with accounting developments."