The Challenge: Streamlining for Growth
Established in 2016, BIG Construction is a Chicago-based general contractor and construction management firm specializing in interior buildouts for corporate, institutional, education and healthcare clients. From tech offices to surgery centers, trading firms to educational institutions, BIG’s team does things differently. They pride themselves on a human-centered approach to construction, guiding clients through their project as seamlessly and smoothly as possible. Chris Eby, Principal with BIG Construction responsible for developing and refining the company’s project delivery policies and procedures, points to the importance of streamlined data workflows and communications to meet and exceed customer expectations. He adds, “These are fast-tracked projects that require a considerable amount of preparation in order to meet tight build schedules. Often, our pre-construction activities last longer than the actual construction.” The average lifecycle of a project is 8-16 weeks, depending on the project delivery method, with the square footage ranging from 15,000 square feet to well over 80,000 square feet.
“It’s vital to make sure costs are allocated accurately and appropriately on every project. CMiC is a game changer considering we manage over 100 project assignments every year that all follow the same construction management process.” — Chris Eby, Principal, BIG Construction, LLC
While the company is relatively new, the team leadership is highly experienced. They recognized early on after founding the company that conventional spreadsheet-based methods to manage project details would not drive success. Eby says, “I had worked with other ERP solutions in the past and many are strictly project management focused. However, as a general contractor, most of our tasks are around job costing. We saw considerable value in having cohesive accounting and project management tasks within one platform to save time and create efficiencies across the project lifecycle.” With that in mind, BIG Construction’s leadership team set out to evaluate best-in-class accounting/ERP and project management solutions. “We wanted a cloud-based solution, and cohesive financial and project management capabilities, first and foremost,” confirms Eby. “During our evaluations, we found that CMiC had the best functionality, as well as a foundation for growth. The CMiC platform provides robust capabilities that cover most of the moving parts of a construction project right out of the box without having to customize the software. We chose CMiC because it was the most complete web-based construction management and accounting software solution available on the market.”
The Transition: Unifying Standards
“We were a little concerned about team adoption because the learning curve for any enterprise solution can be rough. But we quickly found that CMiC is flexible. […] Our accounts receivable and accounts payable no longer have to be exported to an external financial system. Once that happened, the need for tedious verifications and cross-checks was eliminated.” — Russ Tweedle, Operations Associate, BIG Construction LLC
By January 2017, the project management module of CMiC was rolled out to the BIG Construction team and the financials modules followed soon after. Russ Tweedle, Operations Associate at BIG Construction, says, “We were a little concerned about team adoption because the learning curve for any enterprise solution can be rough. But we quickly found that CMiC is flexible.” One surprising benefit was that CMiC could help the newly formed company standardize best practices and workflows. Tweedle adds, “We have borrowed from the CMiC playbook to ensure uniformity and reliability. From the financial side, it’s my bible.” As well, Eby notes that every one of BIG Construction’s jobs requires multiple transactions. “It’s vital to make sure costs are allocated accurately and appropriately on every project. CMiC is a game changer considering we manage over 100 project assignments every year that all follow the same construction management process,” he says.
The Benefit: Live Data & Real-Time Decision Making
The value of a unified accounting and project management solution to the project teams became obvious in no time. Looking back to the early days of BIG Construction, the team largely relied on an online accounting system with no direct connection to the project management spreadsheets. Synchronizing the data between them required considerable line-by-line checking and rechecking to make sure project data matched accounting data. That approach was phased out very quickly with the adoption of CMiC’s financial capabilities and digital connection to job costing. Tweedle adds, “Our accounts receivable and accounts payable no longer have to be exported to an external financial system. Once that happened, the need for tedious verifications and cross-checks was eliminated.” Along with reduced overhead to manage job costs, BIG Construction has been able to reduce the time it takes to process client invoices and book financial costs by 50-75%. As well, one of the notable process improvements has been the ability to provide automatically generated client-facing project deliverables. The BIG Construction project managers used to re-format Word and Excel templates, which required 10 minutes per document. Those same documents are produced in seconds. Eby and Tweedle believe that real-time job costing data with detailed back-up makes everyone smarter, and further educates the entire team about true costs, provides better visibility, and holds people accountable. Further, approvals for costs are contained under one ERP and routed directly to corresponding financial accounts. By automating the subcontract review and approval process, the team has real-time oversight on the pre-construction process through one cohesive platform. Eby remarks, “We’ve automated the entire process from pre-qualification to subcontract approval, job costing to billing. Data moves easily from one part of the process to the next. It’s all very smooth.” Tweedle adds that the team has better visibility of job costing and project progress for decision making at the project level. He states, “Our project partners likely don’t realize it, but CMiC has streamlined automated payments, so they’re paid faster.
“I had worked with other ERP solutions in the past and many are strictly project management focused. However, as a general contractor, most of our tasks are around job costing. We saw considerable value in having cohesive accounting and project management tasks within one platform to save time and create efficiencies across the project lifecycle.” — Chris Eby, Principal, BIG Construction, LLC
One of the biggest benefits of the CMiC platform has been communication with the customer. Eby says, “By eliminating cumbersome data transfers and streamlining workflows so data is entered once and then used multiple times, we’ve noticed that our team has more time to dedicate to external partner relationships. We’re also able to dedicate more time to higher level financial transactions and reporting needs.” Looking forward, Eby notes that while they haven’t used the CMiC platform to collaborate with partners yet, he believes it will be valuable down the road as the company continues to take on larger and more complex projects. He further advises others looking to invest in an ERP to be patient, adding, “Don’t expect a perfect solution that is ready tomorrow. Have clear definitions of how the solution should work for you and your business—and you’ll find success. Moving to CMiC was 100% the right decision to help us build a rapidly growing start-up to an industry leader in our market in just a few years.”
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