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Introduction to Technology for the Emerging Contractor

In order to compete in today’s business environment, the small to mid-size contractor can no longer rely on the technology of 20 years ago. Failure to identify and upgrade outdated technology could ultimately cost your company a low bid on a competitive project or a lucrative credit on your tax return. While most people agree that change can be daunting, implementing new technology does not have to be a painful process. By strategically identifying the Companies critical needs and introducing technology in small, achievable steps, any contractor can catch up in the ever-changing world of technology.

The first critical upgrade that most Companies identify in their evaluation of technology is payroll management. By using apps on a mobile device, such as smartphones and tablets, we now have the ability to connect to our office from the field and be able to send data with a push of a button. Companies use this technology to their advantage by implementing electronic timesheets that the workforce can use in the field to enter their time. If fully integrated, the data will populate into the payroll and ERP (enterprise resource planning) business suite, allowing for faster reporting on productivity, job costing and payroll processing. This also allows supervisors and project managers the ability to review the weekly sheets for approval before submitting to the payroll department for processing. Adding apps such as TSheets to an already existing QuickBooks file has become an excellent option for most small to mid-size contractors, as the costs of manual payroll processing far exceed the costs of implementation.

Why Should We Stay Updated

Along with the ability to send data like time sheets back to the office, devices like smartphones and tablets also have the ability to receive documents that are located in the office through a paperless office solution. Generally installed directly into the ERP business suite, a paperless office solution allows the user to attach documents such as invoices, notes, pictures, CAD drawings, permits, and licenses, etc. to a transaction, client or job so that the workforce in the field has the ability to quickly review it. Paperless office solutions also allow employees out in the field to quickly take a picture or scan a document, attach it to a project or client account and make it instantly accessible to the office staff. Products like Sage Paperless Construction (for SAGE 100 and SAGE 300 users) and SmartVault (for QuickBooks users) are relatively inexpensive and have a small learning curve for your staff.

Another simple implementation to move your company into the age of technology is GPS Tracking. Companies that manage a large fleet of equipment consider this essential for tracking and maintaining efficiency as equipment moves from job to job. GPS Tracking relies on satellites to transport data back to the office, which the equipment manager uses to obtain equipment location, condition, usage, etc. This information is critical for downtime, repair and maintenance needs, and job planning. GPS Tracking can also identify equipment that may be located in your shop and are unavailable due to repairs. ERP business suites like Sage and NetSuite offer additional modules, such as GPS Tracking, for an additional cost. Add-on modules are generally the best option because they are inexpensive and fully integrated to the ERP business suite. Third party GPS Tracking applications are also available for software packages that do not include this option, such as QuickBooks.

With all of these new methods of recording and collecting data, an executive can lose focus of what data is meaningful to them in running their business. Executive dashboards that focus on KPI’s (key performance indicators) is essential to an executive who is looking to avoid data overload. Identifying the key pieces of data and metrics critical to running the business must stand out from the rest, and a properly designed dashboard in Power BI, which is included in Microsoft’s Office 365, can achieve that goal. That is not to say that the rest of the data collected is useless. At some point, all data can find a purpose; but as any business owner will tell you, there are generally four or five key pieces of data that really address the company’s success and stability.

While we have identified a few specific software solutions, companies such as WithumSmith+Brown have experts that specialize in modifying and updating ERP and CRM software and can help assist in the process. By learning a little more about your setup and needs, they can identify additional upgrades, prepare detailed action plans that can take into considerations time and cost restraints and help assist in the management of the project.

Conclusion

Implementing new technology in small steps improves employee morale, avoids the high up-front costs necessary to implement and train, and minimizes the disruption and confusion that change can bring to a business. By tackling these smaller changes first, you will begin to see the benefit that technology can offer to a growing business, and as such, help open your mind to the possibilities that are out there. The transformation is inevitable, but take it all in small steps and you will find success.

Construction Services

 

Author: Stephen Antenucci, CPA | santenucci@withum.com

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