I get a lot of questions around Project Numbering in Vision, questions like:
- what are best practices?
- what is a good numbering format?
- what are the limitations?
- how do I create custom auto numbers?
Many of the questions around project numbering don’t have any right or wrong answers but the good news is Vision’s key formats and auto numbering are very flexible and customizable and can usually fit your needs one way or another.
There really are no best practices when it comes to numbering. Many company’s moving to Vision will be very reluctant to change existing numbering whether it is a manual process or coming from a legacy system. Usually Vision can adapt to the need. I generally recommend that if you are going to be implementing for the first time it’s worth taking a look at your numbering to see if there is an opportunity to tweak it. Essentially the best practice is what makes good sense for your company, so I will try to offer some advice.
What makes a good numbering system?
As a general rule I’m not a fan of a numbering system that repeats information that is otherwise accessible, sortable or searchable in the system. An example would be incorporating a client ID into the number. I have see this on a number of occasions and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach – in fact being able to identify the client for a project from its number is a good thing – however it’s very likely that only a select few people in your company will be able to see that ID and be able to associate it to the client name. Imagine it from the perspective of a new employee.
Another common one I see over and over again is a 2 digit segment for the current year. Again this is not necessarily a bad thing, it helps you identify the year in which the project was initiated. But what if your projects run over more than one or even many years? My feeling is that the year is great 5-10 years down the road when you’re looking for information from old projects but doesn’t do much for you in the present. However sometimes it’s the only way to break up your sequential numbering if you have a large number of projects each year.
I like to see a number that incorporates simple, easily identifiable coding to help gain additional project information from the number. Some things I like to see include:
- A preceding “R” or “P” to quickly distinguish between Regular Projects and Promotional Projects if they don’t use unique numbering.
- If your company has distinct departments, disciplines or profit centers, considering using a 1 or 2 digit code in the project number. Always try to make sure it is consistent throughout the organization including matching it with your Vision Org codes where applicable. E.g. 20 = Geotechnical.
- For differentiating specific phases of a project I like to use the delimiter to create sub-numbers such as .01 or P1, etc.
What are the Limitations?
Vision has a very flexible and customizable project numbering system which will almost certainly meet the needs of most companies. Your project number including delimiters can be as long as 30 characters which is likely overkill for most situations. Project Delimiters (basically just a character to break up your numbering) must be a special character such as a period (.), a comma (,) or a hypen (-), etc. Typically companies will standardize on periods or hyphens for the delimiters of which you can have a maximum of 2.
How do I create custom auto-numbers?
There a few ways to go about auto-numbering including writing a custom SQL Stored Procedure. The need for a Stored Procedure to generate an auto-number sequence is likely very low for most companies since the built in Expressions tool can do some pretty complicated auto-numbering. A detailed explanation on how to use the auto-number expressions is likely too long for a blog post so if you have specific questions or issues with using it feel free to e-mail me. In general you can have your auto-numbering insert static alphanumeric characters at specified locations, use other Vision information to generate values such as Org codes or other data from Vision records. Pretty much any Project or custom Project field can be used in some manner to form part of your number.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Vision’s auto-number expressions cannot cross between project charge types. What this means is that your auto-numbers will have to be configured separately for Regular, Promotional and Overhead projects. Sequential numbers will have to be unique for each charge type. If you want one set of sequential numbers regardless of charge type you will have to look to a SQL Stored Procedure. Prior to Vision implementing their auto-numbering system it was very common to go outside the system to use SQL to generate your numbers.
- Auto-numbering can be configured to allow users to override. This can be handy but be very cautious if you do as you can get very mixed results if people can make up their own numbers.
- For sequential numbering sections you have the ability to set your own starting number. This can be useful if you have a need to reserve a block of numbers. For instance you could start at 0100 instead of 0001.
- Make sure you always check the sample number the system generates before saving your settings in a live environment!!
If you have any detailed questions or would like some pointers on how to get the most out of your numbering, drop me a line: [email protected]