Rethink Resource Planning: A guide to optimizing construction resource management

In construction, your productivity determines your bottom line. As a result, it becomes easy to fixate your firm’s efforts on time—the most quantifiable measure of productivity—but is this focus coming at the expense of other components of your enterprise? In other words, are you considering the effect of resources—and their management—on your overall productivity?

This eBook is an opportunity to explore how a proactive resource planning tool is the key to addressing both your firm’s—and the construction industry’s—wider productivity challenge. Use this guide to audit your own firm’s resource planning practices by weighing them against the best strategies and latest technologies in resource planning.

Case Study
Moss & Associates

Breakthrough growth created the need for Moss & Associates to scale rapidly: they needed a more ecient system that could scale along with them. Before CMiC, Moss used two separate systems for operations and accounting—information had to be re-keyed, wasting time and money. The firm was looking for total unification of capabilities into a system that could adapt as they grew. They wanted an easy-to-use web-based software platform that could save time. The firm soon met with two CMiC representatives who, according to Moss & Associates’ Sasha Seco, “showed confidence without the bells and whistles.”

CMiC Field Overview Brochure

To learn more about CMiC Field—The Solution That Empowers Your Field Organization with Total Visibility—download the brochure.

End the Chaos: How BI Drives Better Decision-Making Through Construction Visibility

You have a site manager facing a dilemma: A shipment of supplies just arrived damaged, making it impossible to work on the next stage of the project. There are a few options: Order replacements and delay work, change the plans to allow for alternative materials that local suppliers have on hand or adjust project strategies to allow for alternative work to be done while the supply issue is dealt with.

How would your site managers go about deciding which choice is best for this specific project? If you’re like most firms, your decision-maker will spend a couple of minutes thinking about the problem and make the choice based on anecdotal experience. Maybe the site manager knows that the vendor has a tendency to respond quickly to supply problems, for example, and determines that an immediate delay would be short and lead to less disruption.

This kind of instinctual decision-making is workable in small scale, but when you have a portfolio of projects running at once, you need your leaders to be able to make choices based on accurate data. This is where business intelligence tools come into play.

How BI works

It’s important to understand where BI fits within a broader analytics strategy. Big data is often approached as the process of gathering large amounts of structured and unstructured data and finding ways to put that information to use in day-to-day operations. For construction firms, the structured data can be transaction records, vendor performance profiles, and estimated and actual costs. Unstructured information can take the form of plans, equipment handbooks and similar forms of documentation.

As organizations engage with big data, they need to develop strategies to organize that information effectively and communicate it to end users. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system provides the backend database for all of this information to reside, making it accessible to users across teams. BI technologies then take the data within your ERP system and translate it into reports, visualizations and similar user facing formats that let individuals act on the data.

In simplest terms, BI saves users from having to sift through large quantities of information to find out what is relevant by automatically presenting them with what is most important.

Where BI fits in construction

BI enables stakeholders within an organization to quickly access the information they need to inform decision-making in real time. Going back to our hypothetical site manager, that user could leverage BI to:

  • Create a custom report for vendor shipment records and prices to identify which vendor is best suited to provide replacements and pin down the timeline for the day. This can be done in minutes, combining data from across the business.
  • Chart the average cost of supplies to determine if local hardware stores or similar sources could provide a cost-efficient alternative.
  • View big-picture financial details on how the business is performing to identify whether the organization can afford delays, possible overtime work or rush shipment of replacement parts.

With “embedded” BI at her fingertips, the site manager can go beyond making an estimate on the optimal decision based on experience and use real-world data to make the best choice relative to the specific set of circumstances in play at a given moment.

While these benefits are powerful in the field, they’re also extremely beneficial at the home office, where leaders can quickly ascertain business performance, monitor potential impacts to profitability across all projects and perform similar analyses in real time. CMiC makes these capabilities particularly powerful by embedding our BI capabilities into our ERP platform, creating a unified system that provides complete and timely visibility into a full range of actionable insights.

The CMiC BI advantage

Most BI solutions exist as specialized software systems that are designed to integrate with your back end databases and pull data at intervals. In many cases, this leads to limited functionality in terms of both the types of information the BI system can gather and the frequency with which it can do so. CMiC overcomes these limitations by embedding our BI solution into our ERP and field operations platform, allowing for seamless and complete access to real-time data across the enterprise. This results in a variety of benefits, including:

  • Greater adoption and usage of BI capabilities because users don’t have to jump between their ERP and a separate BI tool — BI exists within the ERP.
  • Simpler — and more effective — automation because the ERP can trigger automatic processes when the BI system identifies prescribed data conditions.
  • Better decision-making as BI is built into existing workflows, allowing users to make better- informed choices.

Choosing an ERP with embedding BI takes away the chaos of decisions made based on anecdotal evidence and creates a structured process in which choices stem from real data and established best practices. CMiC makes this possible by making BI “pervasive” — it builds data analytics into everyday processes, ensuring users get the insights they need, where they need them, and when those insights can have the greatest impact on decision-making. It’s a whole new way of thinking about — and using — business intelligence … and it’s only available from CMiC.

5 Signs Your ERP System Doesn’t Have What You Need Part 4: It Lacks Complete Project Visibility

What happens in your organization when a site manager runs into an unexpected condition that wasn’t accounted for in the plan? Perhaps the schematics for existing piping were wrong and the site manager is now contending with an old sewer line where the crew is digging for the foundation. Does your team have the tools needed to quickly communicate the project change, assess options for adjustments and make a decision before work gets too far off schedule? If you’re like most organizations and lack a dedicated construction ERP, you probably don’t.

We’ve been exploring the signs indicating that builders need to make an ERP upgrade, and the example we just discussed highlights our theme for part four in the series: What happens when your existing construction project management systems can’t offer you complete visibility?

Unpacking Visibility Problems in Action

Let’s look back at the scenario we presented in the introduction. When finding unexpected piping at the job site, builders will generally have to complete a few processes before moving forward:

  • Double check site surveys to identify if there was a misinterpretation during planning.
  • Connect with the relevant land managers or municipal officials to identify if they know anything about the piping.
  • Perform tests to identify what the pipes are actually being used for, assuming there isn’t a clear answer during the first two steps.
  • Analyze blueprints and project plans to see if there’s a simple work-around.
  • Connect with other project stakeholders to identify and enact the next steps based on this background work.

All of these tasks require communication with some combination of internal and external project stakeholders. When you’re dealing with either paper-based records or isolated digital designs, you then have to send materials back and forth and move between locations based on where information is stored. Creating a central database for project information can minimize the paperwork that goes into solving this type of problem.

According to Construction Executive, the complex nature of construction projects creates an environment where easy data access and sharing is critical. A shared data environment allows those involved in an initiative to update components of the system and have that data automatically be passed on across the team.

For example, the news source explained that architects and engineers creating 3D models of a building can upload these schematics into a central database, allowing site and project managers to easily access that data in the field. This gives the people involved in putting plans into action all of the background materials that went into the project.

Centralizing information throughout the project simplifies collaboration and ensures everybody involved can easily assess performance and status updates, the report explained. This type of visibility is critical in construction project management, and ERP systems can make it possible.

How ERP Platforms Create Transparency

In its simplest form, an ERP setup will take information that is owned by different parts of the business and make it accessible through a single connected database. This is done without creating excess complexity, because those separate solutions operate as dedicated modules within the platform.

For example, the CMiC ERP solution features a suite of ‘native’ field applications that enable a variety of key functions that site and project managers need when away from the office. These include:

  • Change management tools to ensure information accuracy and make it easier to manage schedules and costs as projects go through disruption.
  • Site management systems that let users enter key information in real time, giving executives immediate visibility into what is happening in the field.
  • Vendor relationship management capabilities that integrate details on subcontractor activities to stabilize the project environment.
  • Communication tools that track updates and notifications from stakeholders across the team.

This represents a few of the key capabilities in our field management platform, but they highlight the ways an ERP solution can drive visibility. Managers in the field use these tools to connect to the office and vice versa. CMiC also offers connectivity through a full mobile-enabled suite, taking convenience and connectivity to another level. If your ERP can’t give you the visibility you need, contact us and we can offer more details on how our solution can help. If you’re still not quite sure it’s time for an upgrade, then be on the lookout for the final part of the series, where we’ll discuss the issue of ineffective change management.

5 Tips to Gain Visibility and Fix Projects Before They Fail

A few years ago, I found myself tasked with leading a complex project with a clear, 15-month plan of action. After only six months, the project was running behind schedule. The main reason: I didn’t have good visibility into how much work was being done outside of the formal meetings. The project ended up a success, but it took more than two years and a complete restructuring of the original processes.

Construction projects are often the same—you set a strong foundation for the effort, but communication gaps along the way cause delays and cost overruns. Poor visibility into operations is often a major culprit in why projects fail to meet budgets and timeframes. There are two bits of good news. First, technology that helps you manage projects better is more accessible—and affordable—than ever. Second, the entire construction industry is grappling with the same challenge.

The Construction Sector’s Great Project Management Dilemma
Any number of hiccups can derail a project: Customers can change their minds on the design, key contractors can get sick and push off work streams on the critical path, weather can slow early outdoor work. These headaches are normal; what makes a difference is a construction firm’s ability to learn about the changes, understand the full set of repercussions, and adapt their approach to maintain forward momentum.

KPMG International found that recent innovation in construction has been exciting, but has also fallen short of its potential. The industry has generally gotten better at operating more efficiently and improving risk management.

Even so, just 25 percent of people responding to the KPMG survey said they think the construction industry has reached acceptable standards for completing projects on time and on budget. Projects that fail to meet timeframe and cost expectations are still way too frequent.

KPMG’s advice boiled down to three ideas:

  1. Take a fresh look at how you govern projects and adjust to changes.
  2. Make time to develop a quality staff at all levels of the organization.
  3. Create a plan to use digital technologies to bring together operations.

This guidance puts the idea of visibility into perspective. Governance creates clear expectations. Well-trained workers are more likely to communicate effectively. Digital technologies make it easier to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page—all the time. Making these adjustments in isolation isn’t enough, KPMG explained. All three are required to create a cohesive, high performance operation.

If you want better visibility into your projects, you need to re-think how you work. Here are five tips to help you do just that:

  1. Make Communication Easy
    Don’t force workers in the field to jump through hoops to update somebody in the office. Use a central ERP system as a dedicated hub so everybody can access key information in real time, simplifying construction management.
  2. Automate Tedious Work
    Sending out new vendor requests, confirming invoices or checking on shipping can all distract your leaders from more important project management tasks. Automating these processes through ERP-based updates and notifications saves time and cuts down on stress.
  3. Enforce Compliance Automatically
    Imagine you set a lumber budget for a building add-on, but prices change. Now you have multiple workers making phone calls to a bunch of stakeholders just to get approval for what amounts to a minor change. With an ERP system, you can set boundaries for spending that allow for a degree of variance, and when you do need to approve something manually, you get a notification and related information in one place.
  4. Create and Communicate Customer Expectations
    People change their minds. They take too long to make important decisions. This uncertainty is normal in construction, so plan for it. Set clear deadlines internally and with customers. Discuss the consequences of missing those deadlines realistically; don’t scare your customers, just make sure they know what a delay will mean. Then, ensure that all of your stakeholders understand the situation and any changes that arise.
  5. Leverage Digital Technologies
    Asking a vendor for a replacement component because a shipment arrives damaged can be a nightmare when you have to manually take a photo and upload it through multiple systems. If your worker can snap a picture with a smartphone, upload the image directly to your ERP software and send it to the vendor, it’s fast and simple. Let technology make your life easier.

Now you may be thinking, “Sure, this sounds great, but I don’t want to deal with a big ‘horizontal’ ERP solution.” That’s what we at CMiC think, too. We’re not alone. CIO magazine reported that mainstream ERP systems might not be a fit for many industries because most of those solutions fail to support specific use cases and process types. The CMiC platform—designed from the bottom up for construction firms—supports the unique workflows, assets and data that you deal with every day.

When I ran a two-year project, I learned that the greatest barrier was understanding what the team was doing at any given time. I wish I could have easily gotten updates and checked in with stakeholders on an ongoing basis. If you want the kind of visibility that can transform your ability to deliver projects profitably every time, contact CMiC today.

 

How High-Tech are Your Firm’s Document Sharing Methods?

The construction industry has been known to lag behind when it comes to tech adoption, and there are still many leaders that remain loyal to old and inefficient workflows. Firms may resist adopting new technology because they don’t see the immediate benefits of a digital transformation or because they want to avoid the risks associated with a large upfront investment. Whatever the reason, they’re missing out on the benefits that intelligent software can bring.

One area of operations that has been transformed by software technology is document sharing. The importance of document sharing has skyrocketed in recent years, as projects grow larger and more complex. Today, construction firms struggle with more documentation and data than ever before at the same time that stakeholders are demanding increased transparency and more frequent communication. This combination makes it essential for construction companies to streamline their document management strategies.

Approval-gathering Bottlenecks

Most construction companies have digitized their operations and rely on some form of digital document sharing. But, just because something is digital doesn’t mean it’s efficient. For example, sharing digital documents via email can be time-consuming and confusing, causing serious approval bottlenecks. Construction leaders receive a never-ending carousel of emails with new tasks of equal importance that demand attention. It only takes one overworked executive with an inbox full of emails to bring operations to a screeching halt. And when stakeholders are forced to sort through a thread of 15 emails to find the information they’re looking for, they can become frustrated and unresponsive.

The alternative to this antiquated form of document sharing is a central database where team members can access, edit and approve documents within a single applicationmaking it easier for executives and stakeholders to give approvals and keep projects on schedule.  

Multiple Document Versions

Version control is one of the most important and difficult aspects of document sharing. Most documents in construction are created collaboratively, and as team members make their additions and changes, many new versions of a single document can be created. Depending on their system for naming, storing and sharing document versions, firms can easily run into issues where team members aren’t sure which information to trust or what project details are the most up-to-date.

Construction ERP software eliminates the hassle of managing multiple document versions. Software like CMiC’s platform allows teams to make and store all changes within a single document. With traditional systems, you never know if changes were purposefully overwritten or simply lost among the many versions of a given document. But with an ERP software built for construction, a history of edits is recorded so that all parties can see exactly what changes have been made. Having a reliable version of all project documents lets project managers and subcontractors do their best work in the field.

Rekeying errors

Rekeying errors can not only cause minor project hiccups and small profit losses but also lead to major disasters. They can happen anytime workers are manually entering data, but there are a few areas where rekeying errors are especially prevalent:

Writing Down Data in the Field

It’s common for subcontractors to write down notes on paper when they’re in the field. Unfortunately, with pen-and-paper record keeping, it’s easy to jot down incorrect information or write illegibly. Something as simple as an in-office worker mistaking a “1” for a “7” can result in ordering insufficient materials or over-purchasing. Entire construction projects can be impacted by simple errors made while taking and interpreting notes from the field.

Copying Data from One Software System to Another

Rekeying errors are common when a firm uses multiple software systems. If for example, a firm has two separate systems for project management and accounting that aren’t properly connected, workers will be forced to manually copy data between applications. This requires massive amounts of manual data input, which can easily lead to incorrect and conflicting data.

The good news is that advanced software tech can virtually eliminate errors caused by rekeying when data is stored in a single-database platform. With a single source of truth, project data is accessible to all applications within the ERP system and documents are auto-populated with relevant, up-to-date project information.

Internal Network Instead of Cloud Database

Traditional data management strategies use an internal network drive to store crucial data. There are some advantages to this system (especially when combined with an advanced single-database platform), but it’s important to consider the alternatives. For many firms, a cloud database is the best option.

Firms with outdated software and an onsite network drive may find it difficult to share data with key players. Here’s why: Team members must log in to the internal network every time they’re looking for data. If employees aren’t in the office, they’ll have to use a remote desktop login or some other workaround to access the documents they need. In contrast, cloud systems make the process of accessing documents faster and easier, especially on the job site.

Is your firm looking for a better way? Learn how to solve your firm’s most common issues with our blog series on ERP Solutions to Common Workflow Challenges.

Choosing the Right Mobile Software for Every Member of the Team

When construction leaders are shopping for new software for their company, they’re not just buying for one department because they’re buying for every department. That means that all team members, from on-site workers to executives, need to be satisfied with this increasingly necessary piece of technology.

When it comes to mobile construction management apps in particular, choosing an app that will improve the day-to-day lives of your team and the firm overall is crucial. And, because the quality of construction apps varies significantly, it’s up to construction leaders to find a solution that improves upon every aspect of construction management.

Some standalone mobile apps may be inexpensive and easy to implement, but because their functionality is limited and not deployed as part of a standalone solution to manage all aspects of a firm’s project delivery operations, they must be integrated into a larger system of multiple applications. Bridging together several mobile applications can prevent real-time data from getting to the right people and this can make the lives of key players much more difficult. To make sure that a mobile solution is right for your team, it’s important to look at the app from their perspective, considering every team member when assessing your options.

One way to make the lives of all your employees easier is to invest in a complete construction ERP software platform that also includes mobile functionality. Let’s explore how key team members will benefit from choosing a single database solution.

Subcontractor

Even when you pick a great subcontractor with the proper qualifications and a reputation for success, mistakes still happen in the field. Your electrician may have several worksites to visit in a single day and as a result, arrives overworked and behind schedule. An advanced mobile solution can maximize your subcontractors’ efficiency and make the most of their time — on and off the job site. Here’s how:

  1. Reducing Paperwork: Replacing paperwork with a mobile platform eliminates the need for subcontractors to collect and sort through countless documents. With access to your firm’s ERP platform, there’s no need to collect physical documents, schedules or blueprints from the office in between jobs. Less paperwork means they have more time to focus on getting the job done.
  2. Eliminating Confusion: Avoid costly errors that arise when your accountants try to read the scribbles a carpenter has left for them. A “1” that looks like a “7” can create serious confusion down the line.
  3. Mobilizing your Schedule: Offer subcontractors mobile schedules and checklists all within a single platform. Make it easy for workers in the field to check-in to the job site and mark tasks as completed through their smartphone. They’ll always know the next task at hand, and stakeholders will know exactly when each task is complete.
  4. Standardize Reports: Collect standard reports through a mobile app to keep track of the work.

Project Manager

Project managers deal with many moving parts every day, especially in large firms. They plan budgets, negotiate estimates, create schedules and report back to the client. Seasoned project managers spend years perfecting their management style, but no strategy can replace the efficiency of a unified mobile platform. Here’s how mobile ERP software improves construction project management:     

  1. Oversee Operations from Anywhere: When mobile apps are part of a single database solution, project managers can manage construction teams from anywhere. Applications like CMiC Field, download project information locally onto the mobiles device, allowing PMs to monitor, track and modify essential project data. Any changes made or new information added will be automatically synched with the database. And, if there’s no internet connection, offline changes are saved and synched with the database when the device is back online.  
  2. Receive Photos from the Jobsite: When something goes wrong on the job site, project managers want to know about it. Advanced mobile tools allow for problems to be reported in real time. Workers can easily send pictures so that project managers and stakeholders can see the challenges for themselves.  
  3. Customize Reports: Stakeholders must be informed and may need to approve of certain details before operations can continue. To avoid potential bottlenecks, mobile solutions offer tools to automatically populate reports in a variety of formats. CMiC’s platform, for example, is built with a workflow engine to quickly distribute data and gather approvals, with notifications to keep things moving forward.

Looking for more project management wisdom? Check out our blog on the 5 Traits of Successful Project Managers.

Executive

Some executives are more concerned than others when it comes to the nitty-gritty details, but all executives need to be kept in the loop. Mobile technology makes it possible to provide the most up-to-date snapshots so that executives can quickly get all the information they need. Even high-level executives can benefit greatly from knowing that day-to-day operations are going off without a hitch. And if issues are coming up, they can see who’s accountable and isolate the problem.

  1. Computerized Reporting: With all communications happening inside a single mobile platform, it becomes easy for executives to assess project status at a moment’s notice. You can know instantly when things are behind schedule or over budget.  
  2. Store Everything: Store the details of your firm’s mobile interactions, including communications and document versions. Advanced software will even track which changes and approvals were made as a document is passed around. That way you can keep everyone accountable and protect yourself in the event of a legal dispute.
  3. Trust the Data: With CMiC Field in particular, data is always extremely reliable and up to date. That’s because CMiC single database system never copies and distributes numerous versions of the same document. What you see will always be a reliable “master” version with markups and a full document history attached.

Owner

Project owners have the most to lose and are often the least involved in the project — especially when a firm is using legacy software. ERP systems with mobile apps built in allow owners to check in on day-to-day operations quickly and easily.

  1. Stay in the Loop: Owners are often too busy to keep tabs on every detail of their project. Mobile software makes it easy for PMs to send out reports (in a variety of formats) with the click of a button — all based on real-time data.  
  2. Eliminate Human Error: People make mistakes, but a trusted construction firm with smart mobile ERP can significantly reduce human error when it comes to data entry and data management. Intelligent platforms like CMiC’s ERP software automatically pull data from the relevant documents and auto-populate new forms so that the numbers are always correct.  
  3. Quickly Fill Change Orders: A solid mobile platform makes it easy to change directions on a dime. When a client makes a change, owners can easily get in touch project managers so that the change is implemented ASAP.

If you want to learn more about how ERP mobile technology can transform operations, 3 Ways Top Contractors Lose Clients—And How Mobile Can Help is a must-read!