How small is too small for construction software?
Posts covering best practices, trends, and insights.
Many companies are continuing to use generic accounting software such as QuickBooks and Sage 50 (Simply Accounting) for their construction and Oil & Gas services operations. These systems are a good starting point for many start-ups, but they can only handle very basic project costing and don’t offer any project management functionality. Even with the many third party add-on project solutions you are missing critical integration and project management components. With these generic systems you are running your projects like driving using only the rear-view mirror. You are always looking back at revenue and costs that can be months old. Service/Project management is the backbone of every contractor’s business. You must have a single accounting/project management system that’s capable of meeting all your crucial specific needs to be effective.
Is there too much back-and-forth miscommunication between your project team members? Is project and services reporting always available with timely information about your projects? Generic software simply can’t handle these issues without developing spreadsheets; or using third party applications which require manual double entry to handle the weaknesses.
Sage 100 Contractor is an easy to use construction-specific accounting solution that can perform all of your advanced construction accounting requirements as well as manage your operations. Sage 100 Contractor can give you the confidence you need to run your business, and your projects effectively and accurately. Why continue to use generic systems when there are specific construction and service solutions available? Your best option, which will likely improve profitability, might be to throw out your current generic software and move to something built specifically for your industry.
How many hours do we all spend looking for documents that we desperately need? How many countless dollars have we wasted on administration maintaining paper-based document systems? Document Management technology can solve many of these problems and save significant administration costs. Paperless office might seem difficult and a time-consuming task to move over to electronic format; the reality is that the value paperless provides in terms of time and cost savings far outweighs the initial costs and implementation time associated with changing procedures.
For construction businesses, you would gain control over your project documents with an easy way to store, retrieve, and route documents electronically throughout your business. You can automate your project routing and approval workflow processes to the correct individuals to improve communications on all jobs. Think of a document system where you can access all your project documents anytime, anywhere; including contracts, certificates of insurance, drawings, invoices and more. Think of the time and energy that you will be saving.
All businesses have documents, the way they store and retrieve these documents can be the difference between dominating their industry or falling short on customer service and ultimately letting work walk out the door. These same document management systems can link to your all your accounting transactions, such as purchasing and sales. You can manage invoices and other critical documents with efficiency and confidence.
We may not be able to completely get away from paper, but it is in our best interest to reduce the paper as much as possible. Both economically and environmentally.
Project Managers - Master of your Domain
Take charge of your projects, don’t let the projects take charge of you. Project management software can put you in command of your projects so that you can intercept problems before they become issues. View hot lists of critical outstanding project tasks. Stay in constant communication with team members with automatic schedule notices sent at set intervals. Monitor the status of all subcontracts including changes, invoices, and balances remaining. Check material status reports to ensure crews have what they need to keep jobs moving forward. Imagine a world where you can have a dashboard to see everything that is happening on not just one, but all your projects.
You may have certain portions of your project management somewhat automated with scheduling or estimating software solutions. If they are not integrated they are costing you valuable time, money and projects are more likely to fail. We had a recent customer that had automated some of their project management with a scheduling software. It looked nice and you could drop and drag jobs and view the related work required. However, the solution required that they reenter information into 3 separate systems. The net result was that their great, good looking, separate systems were costing this company over $75,000 a year in additional manpower, wasted time and the project managers felt completely out of control. They couldn’t go to one location to see everything that was going on, they had wrong information at times because someone had forgot to reenter or had entered the wrong numbers.
The good news is that there are cost effective solutions out there that can put you in control and help you master your domain. The Sage 100 contractor is one of those types of integrated solutions. http://www.asyma.com/sage-100-contractor-master-builder
Take a look, I think it will greatly help you master your project domain.
Better Estimates in half the time.
As a small construction company, you will likely start out using a spreadsheet to create Quotes and Estimates for your jobs. Spreadsheets work OK for those small, simple jobs but become difficult to work with as the detail and complexity of the job increase.
If the jobs you bid on are complex to begin with, a spreadsheet might actually be slowing you down or causing un-necessary loss of potential revenue because of error and inaccuracy.
A spreadsheet is a great way of displaying data in columns and rows and even doing some pretty amazing calculations but is it the best tool for the job. Think of it like using the handle of a screw driver to pound in a nail. You can do the job, but you’ll go through a lot of screw drivers and it will take you a lot longer to get the job done. You might even risk injury. When you want to pound nails, you use a hammer. It gets the job done quickly and efficiently compared to the screw driver or you can take it to the next level and use a nail gun.
The point is, a screw driver isn’t an effective hammer and a spreadsheet isn’t an effective estimating tool.
What is a good estimating tool?
A good estimating tool will
- allow you create a list of all items you use in your jobs, along with their costs and allows you to add these items quickly to your worksheet
- allow you to group your job into phases
- allow you to group items together as an assembly and add the assembly to the worksheet
- allow you to create stored calculations to simplify the process of determining the amount of material used
- allow multiple views of your estimate
- allow you to create templates for common tasks and job components that can be reused as needed
- breakdown costs into a work breakdown structure (WBS) to import into your job cost application
- break out cost by labor, material, equipment, subcontract and other categories
- allow you to create purchase orders, subcontract orders, and budgets etc. from you estimate
- will integrate with your accounting and job costing to reduce duplication of effort when entering information
- will allow you to quickly recalculate the entire estimate as prices and quantities change
Sage Estimating is a great example of a top notch estimating application which will reduce the time it takes to create an estimate by 50% or more over using a spreadsheet. The application has many industry databases which simplify setup and get you started building better estimates quickly. It is also flexible enough for you to design your own customized system to meet your companies’ specific needs.
Sage Estimating integrates with Sage 100 Contractor and Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate. These systems share information so that you enter it once and use it in all applications.
Your estimate becomes part of the permanent record for your job and can be used in your accounting and job costing to create budgets and work schedules and compare actuals to estimates. The work breakdown structure of your estimate becomes the cost codes of your job and are further broken down by categories like labor, equipment and material. With the cost codes in place you can use this same information to schedule when material will arrive on site and schedule work for both employees and subs.
Once the job is done you can compare your actual's with the estimate to determine what changes need to be made to improve your estimating for the next job. This way your estimates get better over time and you win more and better work and can insure it is profitable.
Dismiss the doubt in your construction business
Not knowing where you are at is one of the most worrisome situations that anyone can find themselves in. This is particularly true in construction business where you begin to doubt yourself.
How much cash do you really have in the bank? How far along is that big project? Are all the project change orders billed?
There are construction accounting and project management solutions out there that can easily answer these questions. These systems can give you newfound confidence in your numbers and help you sleep at night. It is tough enough running a business in today’s business environment without compounding the problems from a lack of information.
Current technology allows business owners and managers to perform all project management and accounting tasks with ease; from deposits and disbursements to journal transactions and more efficiently and effectivity. One such system that can handle these tasks is the Sage 100 Contractor solution. It is easy to use and built for the construction industry.
Take a look and then ask yourself; do you really know where you are at with your construction business? http://www.asyma.com/sage-100-contractor-master-builder
With the current technology you can rest assured that change orders are getting properly billed and your data is secure with user access controls. These systems will help you worry less about your business and dismiss the doubt about where you are at.
Manage your service technicians with ease
When your service technicians are in the right place at the right time and have access to correct information, customers are happy. There are solutions available for both small and large businesses that makes it easy to manage your service operations effectively, efficiently and profitably. These solutions work well for many areas; whether you’re taking a work order, managing a contract, tracking a warranty, or generating an invoice. These service solutions effectively use technology to provide complete mobile service management capabilities, integrate with inventory/accounting and help you turn service calls into predictable cash flow. You will always know where you stand on work orders and schedule changes out in the field.
So why are many businesses not using these systems? They have manual work orders with multiple data entry points. Often the multiple data entry results in errors, delayed billing and worst of all; lost or unbilled services. We must understand that change can be difficult, but not changing can be disastrous.
I was at a ski hill recently and rode up a chair lift with an electrical technician that works in the oil & gas service industry. He was younger (Mid-thirties) and had a crew working under him. He was expressing how backward the company he worked for was, just about everything was manually done with paper. He knew there are automated systems available, was frustrated on a daily basis and mentioned he would likely look for a different job as soon as the economy in Alberta improved.
If you think as an owner or management that you don’t have to change your service operations to utilize technology available and integrate the field and back end operations, I think you are sadly mistaken. You may find yourself without qualified technicians and spending more money on manual administration than on production. Take a look at some of the options available and ask yourself if there is a better way to handle service.
Technology, if used and setup correctly can be the difference between night and day for any business.
Today's construction service problems are yesterdays solutions
It has been said many times that today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions. We developed the manual service work order, field tickets, daily activity reports and related spreadsheets to solve a service data collection problem from the past. Today however, these legacy systems are a major problem that is slowing effective service production and very likely holding your company back.
We have new employees who are tech savvy and simply will not put up with old manual processes. Who doesn’t have a smart phone now a day? They look at these old systems and think we must be crazy. The technology exists today to effectively manage service operations and reduce the time to invoice.
These systems enable service technicians to complete their work in less time by providing the real-time information they need in the field on any tablet or mobile device. They also reduce administrative time by integrating with your back-office accounting solution. They improve communication between office staff and field technicians by capturing details like time, materials used, notes and work order status in real time. I think that we owe it to ourselves to quit putting up with old, slow, inaccurate legacy systems and seriously look to improve our service production. Your employees and your pocket book will be happier.
Remember, it doesn’t stop there. Organizations that are good about solving today’s challenges will often create new and bigger challenges in the future. Just because we move forward to todays technology doesn’t mean we are done. Yesterday’s solution will again be todays problems. We must continue to move forward and look for improvement.
Is poor project communication killing your business?
The single biggest problem in construction project management is communication with everyone involved in the project. This is compounded by the fact as stated by George Bernard Shaw that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
Therefore, anything that we can do to improve real communication will greatly enhance and improve our project management. So why in today’s fast-paced, construction environment, doesn’t everyone on a project have access to up-to-the-minute information from a convenient and easy-to-use online source? Why would project managers continue to struggle to communicate with everyone the old way when cloud-based information is easily available anytime, anywhere. This type of sharing saves time, reduces errors, improves collaboration among team members, reduces confusion for everyone involved, and keeps all parties well-informed. The new technology for accounting project software allows everyone to communicate better, get timely, convenient, access to all types of contract and project-related documents, photos, files, and more. They allow everyone on a project—including the project managers, project team, architects, and subcontractors—to find, share and track all project documents and transactions from the office or worksite.
The technology is available to greatly improve communication on all projects and reduce the illusion as well. So why aren’t we all using it? Take a look at what these easy to use project management systems can do to assist with communications and help keep us competitive Click Here