Outdated or ill-fitting enterprise resource planning systems can undermine growth in the construction industry. ERP limitations can leave you scrambling to keep up with projects while your business is trying to operate in a chaotic environment.
There are many indicators of when your ERP platform may be struggling to stay apace of operational demands. In part 1 of this series, we discussed a lack of scalability as a key sign that it’s time to consider a new platform. We’re back with part 2, and we’ll be exploring how manual document management processes can slow your workflows to a crawl and create confusion.
Documents and Workflows
Every business has workflows. A workflow is simply the collection of processes that are completed to handle a task. For example, requesting supplies for a project is a fairly simple task, but becomes complex when manual documents get involved. A typical workflow may look like this:
- A project manager begins by looking over work orders and analyzing the necessary supplies relative to available inventories.
- Upon identifying a need for a new order, the project manager submits a request to a supervisor, often the owner or project head in a small organization.
- From there, the leader identifies if the order is truly necessary relative to the scope of the project and, upon approval, sends it to whichever stakeholder is in charge of completing orders.
- With the supply request in tow, the purchasing manager analyzes budget information and reaches out to vendors for quotes on price and delivery.
- Once a final decision is made, the purchase order is completed and sent to accounting, where it often goes through manual filing systems to be logged as part of the project.
- When the goods arrive, the order is set as fulfilled, and new invoice and payment workflows begin.
A workflow as routine as ordering supplies can go through multiple teams, requiring a variety of forms that need to get to the right person at the right time. Even if you give managers more authority, letting them purchase goods at a hardware store and get reimbursed (simplifying the process), you are still dealing with a paper trail into which stakeholders need visibility.
An ERP Focus report explained that enterprise resource planning systems specialize in enabling organizations to establish regular workflows and automatically enact them when needed.
In the case of a purchase request, the forms would be digitized and passed between users within the system once each step has been completed. Vendor and inventory management modules can even be set to automate notifications when supplies are low or when a vendor has an especially good offer on an item you need.
In the simplest terms, the ERP solution provides an avenue for eliminating manual processes and creating transparency, ERP Focus explained. This functionality is especially vital for construction companies trying to keep up with a multitude of simultaneous, complex projects that change frequently.
Using Digital Technologies for Document Management
While our hypothetical example focused on a purchase order, the highlighted workflow could have included analyzing work orders, filing invoices and completing sales contracts with vendors. When all of those documents are filled out and handled manually, the chance for error increases exponentially.
If your ERP system is leaving you chasing down paper records and filing out forms, it’s holding your business back. What’s more, a study from JBKnowledge created in association with the Mechanical Contractors Association of America and the Texas A&M Construction Science Department found that many builders lack the IT budgets and staff they need.
With paper-based workflows holding businesses back and legacy systems requiring manual reconciliation of information, a new approach is required. Cloud-based ERP platforms with ’embedded’ document management capabilities can enable specific workflows that are essential to planning, approving, staffing, running, monitoring and closing out construction projects while eliminating the integration and maintenance burdens on IT resources.
At CMiC, we’ve purpose-built our ERP & Field platform for construction—including fully unified document manage capabilities—so you don’t have to spend time, energy and money trying to make a ‘generic’ ERP fit the way you run your business. In addition, our solution is simple to deploy and to configure to support your unique workflows.
If you’re interested in learning more about how construction-focused ERP & Field technologies can transform your business, stay on the lookout for part 3 of this series. Next week we’ll explore how a truly unified platform can inject transparency, agility and speed to your budget forecasting process.