Part 1 – Layered Implementation 

The question of why commercial real estate construction contractors and developers should be adopting advanced, user-friendly technologies and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems is easy to answer. Today’s robust platforms provide employees companywide with “anytime, anywhere” information ranging from budgeting detail, permits, invoices and billing statements to change orders, time sheets and blueprints from just about any mobile device or PC.

Studies show the interest is there. According to FMI, 55% of engineering and construction firms reported they were “actively seeking new technology solutions” in 2018, while also using technology to more strategically manage organizational risks in areas like resource allocation, productivity and efficiency, safety, financials, design and information security. Yet Dodge Data & Analytics in its 2019 study Using Technology to Improve Risk Management in Construction, found that 90% of the contractors surveyed “do not specifically budget for innovation,” although nearly all said “they’d like to be able to digitally collect and analyze risk data,” Construction Dive reported.

So why does the industry continue to lag behind others when it comes to moving forward with new tech solutions? Unfortunately, far too many organizations remember the costly, painful implementations of yesterday. Anyone involved in the process will recall the unpleasant and oftentimes traumatic conversion of legacy technologies, and long periods of downtime that accompanied their installation. Add to that the overall reluctance of staff and, quite simply, the pain relieved by the new technology just didn’t stack up to the pain caused by making a switch.

However, times have changed. First, today’s platforms enable a layered approach to implementation, where the end user can be up and running core functionality quickly. Second, the people actually using the product are weighing in during the decision-making process. Let’s take a look at these two key shifts, starting with the implementation itself.

Layering an implementation strategy

Once an all-or-none proposition, moving to a new ERP system today can be done in stages. Almost like a reverse onion, the best plans start with the formation of a platform that addresses the most painful challenges and then proceeds with the staged implementation of features that continually build upon core competencies and enable ongoing innovations in the field or office.

Successful conversions first involve identifying the existing system’s most significant deficiencies and then layering the introduction of components over a three-, six- or nine-month period. The conversion of historical accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP) information from legacy systems to today’s high-end ERP solutions often offers the ideal launch point since the entire process, including training and validations, can normally be achieved in four to six weeks. Other systemic layers can then be built into the solution over the ensuing months.

For example, Acumatica’s Financial Management Suite was developed to help construction practitioners achieve many of these advantages through the provision of secure, instantaneous SaaS solutions offering reporting, dashboards and analytical capabilities. This includes modules that:

  • Collect, analyze and generate pre-designed reports tailored for departmental or individual use through filtering and sorting options at runtime.
  • Accumulate, store and organize vendor information and documents to automate the payment process.
  • Manage the day-to-day operations related to cash transactions, cash balances, funds transfer, and bank account reconciliation.
  • Automate the process of entering timesheets, submitted expense claims, and assigning work.
  • Manage receivables and automate the invoicing of customers and collection of payments.
  • Automatically route and ensure invoice approvals in pre-approved timeframes.
  • Eliminate manual filing errors and misplacement of important records and documents.

Additionally, companies looking to select and implement best-in-class services and applications from different providers in a synchronized manner now can layer data from multiple, integrated applications that can easily share enterprise data, while scaling resources up or down based on growth or changing business needs. This is achieved through the “stacking” of programs for customer resource management, property and job management, estimating, budgeting and valuation, document management capabilities and more.

In Part 2 of this blog we will address the shift in key member buy-in (stay tuned!).