Case Study: Re-engineering a Construction Company with the Cloud
Recently, I have had the opportunity to put together a software selection process for a client who wanted to grow his business and was hamstrung with the limitation he had with the current batch of software that his company was using, or not using but paying for it! He had a mixture of systems that where either part of an acquisition or were purchased by departments that were looking to fill a specific requirement. These investments lead to the process chaos of unintegrated data, duplicate data entry, and laborious reporting efforts necessary for management of the business.
After a full analysis of the business processes, I was able to determine the requirements necessary to create an RFP that would address an overall strategy that would eliminate the multiple software applications and bring them into one solution that would address both internal and external requirements of process. As we evaluating the software opportunities, we determined that several had the ability to do so, and landed on Viewpoint Spectrum and CMIC. One special requirement that we needed was departmental WIP and forecasting and CMIC was able to give us that requirement. While this blog is not an endorsement for CMIC, it was the application that served my client best in our selection process based on the requirements below.
My client is a multi-discipline construction company that includes general construction, HVAC, plumbing, roofing, maintenance/service, electrical, and pools. They provide maintenance for consumer and commercial customers under one roof. The bulk of the business is internal support for maintenance requests, however, they are looking to bid external jobs to increase the revenue for the departments.
Below are the main features and functionality that we were looking for:
Basic ERP Functionality
The company has pushed QuickBooks (QB) to it maximum functionality and has create manual spreadsheets for WIP/Forecast reporting to the departments and ownership. Our goal was to maintain the QB functionality but integrate WIP/Forecasting into the process to eliminate double and triple entry. We found this to be the most challenging feature for the cloud solutions to accomplish either due to their lack of functionality or understanding of departmental WIP/Forecasting. With CMIC, our PM's will be able to provide their WIP/Forecasting adjustments monthly for each department without accounting having to do any prep work with spreadsheets. After these entry are review and posted, department financials and reports can be run. Then with automatic elimination entries, be able to re-process WIP for overall company financial statements.
We wanted our employees and business partners to be able to have access to data and image information through a portal. That required us to go paperless with all ERP processes including credit card, accounts payable, accounts receivable, billing, and reporting. CMIC was able to provide a paperless workflow solution to solve most of these process issues, as well as, a single repository for all image documents (ECM). With their Business Analytics tools we can customize dashboards and reports for both internal and external on-demand reporting.
Another important aspect of our selection was the integration with outside solutions. My client has developed their own work order/dispatch systems that collects credit card transactions and time from the field. We needed those transactions to flow without double entry to the ERP solution. Also, we wanted an API interface instead of standard import/export functionality so we could control the flow of the data to the batch files. We wanted batch functionality to address the auditing and review of field submitted data prior to updating the ERP system. This is significant if you are going to use real-time dashboard reporting. By utilizing batch functionality, we are able to put a final "scrub" on the data before it is presented to management through those dashboards. They are moving towards MBSM (Management By Strategic Metrics) which is the daily collection of data to provide up-to-the-minute dashboard reporting on Key Profit Indicators (KPI's).
CMIC was able to provide API integration, business analytics, and single entry, paperless workflow processing withing one solution which eliminated three applications currently used for these processes. Also, we were able to enhance our workflow solutions to support the move to MBSM.
Cloud Based Project Management
One of our most important goals in the selection of new software was to improve the project management processes of the business. With the move to more outside work, we had to improve the way we handled project management . We were looking for field reporting and processing of information, portal collaboration with internal and external partners, paperless processes, and business analytics. Another important goal was to move every project document to an ECM system for permanent storage and retrieval.
Most of the cloud products we looked at could meet most of our requirements either with built in features and functionality or integrated 3rd party applications. However, we were looking to solve this under one vendor and CMIC was able to do so. However, even though some aspects of the solution were not as robust as other vendors, we felt the overall feature/functionality would suffice for our requirements.
Mobility was another key to our PM strategy. We wanted our field to be able to initiate process in the field then flow those transactions to the main office using paperless workflow, routing/approval, and filing. My client's expansion was not only focused on departmental projects outside the company, but also, geographically. They were seeking and winning jobs outside the home office, including the Virgin Islands, so we wanted to make sure that there were no physical limitations to any process we developed to manage projects. The cloud provided this virtual setup and the application was engineered to offer this functionality.
The Portal will give us what we sought after for external and internal collaboration with our business partners and employees. Effectively, we can invite all parties of the job into the portal and transact business, respond to inquiry, and provide "real-time" dashboard reporting to keep everyone in the loop. Also, the portal is going to be a huge business development asset to win more projects.
We will leverage the CMIC feature/functionality platform to develop standard operation procedures to address project management standards, employee roles and responsibilities, field requirements and documentation, paperless workflow processing, and daily collection/auditing of data to support the MBSM strategy. We plan to replace several products and a slew of spreadsheets and paper forms which will give us the ability to gain more management efficiency and profitability as we grow the company.
Many of the cloud solutions are sold "all inclusive". That means that most of the module offerings are included in the single monthly/annual price. CMIC also provided training for FREE which match one of the other solutions we looked at. Other options of the software we intend to implement are the CRM module for business development, equipment to manage and cost the 100+ trucks in our fleet, inventory management for material, and Bid management.
Workorder processing constitutes a large portion of the transactional volume of the business. My client developed their own dispatch/work order solution which we plan to integrate with CMIC. Using API connectivity, we will be able to automatically create in CMIC without double entry, work order/jobs, customer, vendors, time transactions, credit card AP transactions, and purchase orders. Currently, all these processes are double and triple entered into other applications as they workflow to accounting.
We use an outside H/R system but process payroll internally to get job cost details from the time transactions. Using the API and BI functionality of the system, we will be able to eliminate the double entry of those transactions. Also, we are going to maintain the H/R functionality in APS, but if we choose later down the road to bring it inhouse, we have the module to do so.
All in, our goal is to re-engineer my client's business to develop "best practices" across all company processes to support the aggressive revenue goals they desire. With the implementation of MBSM (Management by Strategic Metrics), we will be able to provide daily dashboards for just about every indicator our managers need to manage the growth, all the while maintaining the auditing and accounting accuracy of the data which accounting desires.