When you need to make the case to integrate other construction applications with your accounting system.
There are hundreds of point solution applications available to contractors and their subs to manage every aspect and function of the business. With construction sites becoming paperless and mobile-friendly, there is no denying that data is king. Almost 50% of construction companies share data manually because applications do not integrate.
Do you have spreadsheet versions floating around your company reporting different numbers? Do you use an accounting system (yes, of course!), as well as other business critical applications for managing and tracking expenses, customers, and employees? Making the case to integrate might be straight-forward. Your executive team can understand the bottlenecks of error-prone double entry, the inefficiencies with workflows, and the issues with data integrity.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The same benefits that make contractors purchase specialized applications, also create a new set of challenges when collaborating internally and communicating with clients. Getting everyone on the same page is key. We know what aggravation looks like, but what about one set of data harmoniously accessed, shared analyzed and reported between all departments-- living in bliss (cue the music). Okay, so data integration bliss may be a stretch, but let's help get you as close to nirvana as possible. Here are some are some common workflow areas to consider to help you paint a masterpiece of how things can be when making your case:
Improve Cross-Team Communication with Clients by integrating your CRM Applications
For example, tension can be alleviated when a big contract is out for signature when accounting has access into the opportunity pipeline in your CRM application. When your collections department can read sales notes before contacting customers a few days late on small dollar invoices-- embarrassing situations will be avoided during the deal cycle. Conversely account managers can be aware of clients that have numerous outstanding invoices before making concessions during deal negotiations.
Simplify the Hiring Process by Integrating Time, Payroll, and Employee Set-up Routines
Many construction companies have complex hiring processes. Numerous manual workflows involving double-entry of employee information are burdensome with each newhire brought onboard. Adding a newhire means getting them set-up for payroll, system log-ins, tools and equipment, insurance, benefits, job assignments, credit card assignments, fuel management entry, and other workflows. With an integration solution, the data can be can entered into one application and populated automatically in others triggering all sorts of business critical workflows. The time saved can either be reallocated to more value-add activity, or realized as a cost savings.
Streamline Expense Management
Leverage the power of travel and expense management systems to enable robust expense management and drive faster allocation and distribution of expenses to the General Ledger / Job Cost. Imagine if you could view all of your financial data in one place, and once expense reports are approved in your expense management application, an integration sends full expense details to your ERP application. Now, accounting is delighted because the integration accelerates financial close times with complete access to integrated expense data. Now, business leaders can make better and more nimble decisions.
Making a plan.
If handled correctly, integrating two or more applications will drive collaboration across the business, increase productivity and deliver a better customer experience. If handled poorly, you may end up with a costly integration project that is irrelevant before it is deployed, an endless consulting engagement, or worse. Here are 5 key questions to ask when planning your company’s integration strategy:
The good news is that there are integration solutions from Ryvit to address the construction industry’s biggest integration pain points. You don't need to be a software engineer or understand how API's work. And, even if you are technical, you don't have to learn all the ins and outs of multiple systems to integrate them. We handle all of that; it is our expertise. We just get the job done and maintain the integration for you.
If you want to learn more, I would like to share how we help other companies like yours to get their construction applications in synch and "talking" to each other. Our Innovator Program is a low-cost way to integrate up to 10 applications with your accounting software. Moreover, we do all the heavy lifting. There is no coding or maintenance burden placed on your team.
Imagine not having to enter data from multiple applications, or even better imagine all of your data accurate in all of your applications at the same time. Click here to learn more
Maureen O’Neill is the Sales Channel Leader at Ryvit and can be contacted at 805-610-3699.
As a construction specialist working in the technology industry, our Construction Technology Architect Adam realizes the potential tech has to transform the construction industry. To help others best understand how technology in construction has evolved, and therefore where it can lead in respect to app integration, business intelligence, and security, he has broken it down into the three stages of triple sight; hindsight, current sight and foresight.
Hindsight is all about learning about and analyzing the past. When it comes to applications and integration in construction, integration was historically limited to main business functions. Accounting, CRM, and some light estimating functions were the only opportunities for integration in the construction space. These integrations were useful for the main operations and increased efficiency and data intelligence.
However, countless other solutions could not be integrated. When it came to creating assemblies and take-offs, field reporting, and productivity capture, it all had to be done by spreadsheets or pen and paper reporting. These core business functions were, at the time, left without the benefits of integration.
In the past, business intelligence was completely reactionary. It was an incredibly labor-intensive process of reporting and analysis realized most often through market research and project close-out reporting. We learned how our mistakes or oversights affected profitability and tried to correct those mistakes in the future without the ability to pivot during project execution.
When it comes to security, we realize it was a different time with different risks. One of the biggest security concerns was human error and user vulnerabilities. The external risks were far fewer simply because of the nature of technology at the time. The tech itself posed a security risk because of the capabilities of the systems and the lifespan of both hardware and infrastructure. The lack of continuity plans were a hindrance on firms as well.
The current sight is all about understanding what is available now and how it can be best utilized to see maximum benefits in your operation. Currently, there are applications available for all aspects of business functions. No longer is it required for an organization to rely on spreadsheets or pen and paper reporting for core functions. Through this, the focus on efficiency is more apparent and more achievable than ever before. This is driven by tighter margins, aggressive schedules, and emerging construction practices.
Currently, integration is thought of in a different way than ever before. It has become a pre-requisite and not a commodity in the application selection process. What does this mean for you? The focus on efficiency in the field is no longer the only profit driver.
In order to offset the “cost of doing construction,” corporate efficiency continues to be a driving factor. Two main focuses in this arena are removing data double entry and curbing multiple sources for reporting data.
We have seen a sizable increase in the use of software solutions in construction when we compare 2014 and 2015. Here is a quick snapshot of the top solutions including CRM, BIM, estimating and takeoff, field capture and reporting, and project management.
As it stands now, business intelligence is obtained through a strategic integration plan. This allows companies to answer two important questions: What are our economic drivers? And how can we improve these in real time? The analysis is much more flexible and can be run per project, phase, vertical, or any other way you need. Custom dashboards exist for individual roles including executives, sales, operations, and accounting.
Looking at the trends in construction today and how far technology has come in this industry, we look at the possibilities of the future. SaaS and hosted platforms for application integration are going to become essential across the board. In the future, we fully expect to see complete automation for project lifecycles in corporate offices from start to close-out. The benefits of these platforms are many but two of the top benefits are a streamlined application portfolio, scalability without additional labor-force, and a reduced TCO for IT infrastructure.
In the realm of business intelligence, the best strategic planners are going to dominate the market as market strategy and prediction will be widespread throughout the industry. SMART schedules with the ability to pivot project execution plans day-to-day or even hour-to-hour will also become essential.
In the near future, security as a service with risk assessment, intrusion detection, and penetration testing will be the norm. A more granular approach will be taken the managed security, data logging and auditing, role-based security settings, and behavior based security
Bringing it all together
Triple sight is something we should all be implementing. Understanding where we have been and where we are going allows you to set yourself up for success. Five action items you can do immediately to get started:
Construction Technology Architect
As an executive, who knows the dysfunctional process hindering your company’s productivity better than you do? If it is someone else, then you may not have to take the lead on this software selection process. You may be able to pass this project off to an operational manager. If the answer, however, is no one knows better than you, you should be involved in this process as much as possible.
Passing this responsibility off to someone who does not know the corporate objectives as intimately as you do can lead to the selection of a software solution that falls short of being just that- a solution. Executives tend to focus more time on tactical and operational challenges. This task may seem a poor use of your time, even. When it comes to selecting software however, view it as your time being spent to improve long term challenges that could arise if the software chosen is not the right solution for your company needs and goals. In the long run, this could save you the money and hassle of finding a new software solution again prematurely. The average lifespan a software implementation is 7 years but that can be cut short when time is not invested by the executive team upfront.
During the process here are some questions to ask:
Each company is unique. The business model, business process, objectives, and areas for improvement differ greatly. A one-size fits all software solution may temporarily patch up your problems, but it will not add long term value. When dealing with a quality solutions provider, they will want to be able to understand the needs of both strategic and operational team members. Working with the solution provider will ensure they offer or build a solution that will fit you team and organization.
Take time to get to know the provider. Learning about the way the provider works and communicates will help you understand if working with them in the future will be possible and pleasant. Find out their previous track record for delivering solutions on time, how experienced their team is, if you will be given support, and if other clients have been satisfied with the solution they provide
Investing your time as an executive in this process will give you peace of mind that the solution you choose will be the right fit for your company. While partaking in the process remember: in the long run, your invested time will save your company money and headaches.
THE BUSINESS IDEAS THAT MAY NEVER GET DONE
The backburner in and of itself is not a bad thing if it is intentionally created to capture all the good ideas flowing from a team of thinking and innovative individuals. But how do you move from vision to reality? Inertia and the status quo are often the most frequent barriers to decision making. How do you increase velocity and get to status “done?”
Using tools like voice memos, Pinterest and Evernote can help you capture and retain the lightbulbs that go off during meetings, in the shower or on long drives into the city. If you record your idea at its inception, you can let it simmer on the backburner, let it become a reduction sauce of all the best ideas floating inside your head while you regularly sift out the less viable or utterly ridiculous ideas you came up with like marketing an international symbol for, “Hey, Buddy, your right blinker is still on after 3 miles.”
Backburner projects can be, like building integrations for your software company —things that are not perceived as actionable right now but could be someday in the future. Maybe it is an idea for adding value for a pivotal client account to increase your stickiness, but for which there is no budget yet. Or maybe it is something you intend to do in a particular project at an unforeseen time in the future.
One of the greatest challenges for an idea guy or gal is overcoming the “it will never work” mentality found in just about every organization. New ideas and good recycled ones, get ignored and dismissed -put on the backburner. Why? Well, often it is a matter of ego if the idea isn’t the brainchild of the executive’s inner sanctum it may not be given merit or be properly funded.
How do you take something from the backburner and inch it forward to completion? How do you get the resources allocated and the attention to change the perception of a backburner idea into a requirement for doing business? There are three very specific steps to take which will catapult your idea into a profitable and noticeable company darling. Follow these steps and you will be your company’s hero.
1. Make it a Project
Any good idea is actually a project; a project with a concrete plan and defined tasks will garner the credibility a good idea needs to be fueled with the resources you need. If you come to the table with just an idea, it won’t get done. Why? Maybe the idea falls outside of your traditional purview of the business so you’re thinking elevating awareness seems like the sensible contribution on your behalf.
However, if you want the idea to have real teeth, you need to do one of two things. Either give the idea away to someone else that can claim its ownership from the beginning, (this is not a bad idea if you are already the king or queen of amazing accomplishments and have 10 or 20 more great ideas you are managing right now). Or, prepare a project plan. (See our project template to get you started on presenting your Golden Goose at the next team meeting).
2. Quantify in dollars why your idea is a great one
Money talks. Get creative at quantifying the results in terms of indirect or incremental revenue or cash flow. Will you keep more customers longer? Will every customer ultimately spend more? Are you increasing efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, market perception? What do those things equate to in terms of dollars made or saved?
3. Make it something your company cannot afford not to do
Prepare the worst case scenarios and stories of a world without your idea. How many employees will leave to work for companies that take the next step? How many customers will defect to competitors that offer this ability? How many dollars will your company lose each day you wait to get started? Now multiply to see the dollars over a month, quarter, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. Can your company truly afford to risk not to respond and allocate the required resources? Make sure the answer is a loud and confident no, to get to your executive team’s YES.
Steve Cody, a weekly columnist for INC.com, wrote about the backburner precept back in 2008 on his blog RepMan. In his observation, companies like Smith-Corona, PanAm, and the auto manufacturers out of Detroit all suffered from what he called the ossified thinking that kills businesses. The best, most successful organizations encourage and challenge their employees to be innovative in their thinking. Consider a company like Virgin Airlines that was imagined to go beyond an ordinary passenger transportation company, while other airlines withered and died on the vine.
Change how you think about those backburner ideas, and change how your company and your customers do business. It might just be the key differentiator from the competition to close more deals, generate more business, and gain more marketshare.