Ask an Expert: Business Strategies
By Dan Lehman
Masonry spoke with Maxwell System's director of product management, Dan Lehman, to find out how software can assist or benefit the back offices of masonry businesses.
Q: What are you seeing regarding business process automation? Are you finding a majority of companies are looking to streamline processes?
A: More contractors are realizing the benefits of automating processes, especially in this tight economy. It was easier to be a profitable contractor years ago without intense concern for optimal productivity, streamlined and automated processes, and exact profit margins. Back then, there was plenty of work to be had, and profit margins were wide to afford a lackluster outcome now and again.
However, today's business owners must be smart, resourceful and tech savvy to get ahead during the industry's challenging economic conditions in whichh every penny counts. To succeed in the increasingly competitive marketplace, contractors need end-to-end visibility to see how jobs perform from start to finish, as well as be able to track costs on a line-item basis for tight control and oversight.
Q: Why is it so important for companies to have a completely integrated solution? Why is a solution that combines estimating, job-cost accounting and project management different than two or three separate programs?
A: The bid needs to be as accurate as possible, and then companies must be able to execute on that bid in the project management and job cost accounting. That's only efficiently feasible using an integrated solution, which allows owners to have end-to-end, real-time visibility of every project and hone business strategy, improve control of cash flow, and keep financials in the black with accurate ROI and true profitability.
By utilizing integrated systems, more contractors are realizing the profit potential in their business and competing for business on a much smarter level — a level with real-time intelligence of material costs, labor rates, estimated versus actual budgets, productivity comparisons of crews, and more. They are able to evolve the way they extract information and analyze knowledge from critical business areas.
Q: What is your advice to contractors looking for a business management software solution?
A: Consider two critical items: the quality of the vendor (and their solutions) and the capability to provide true end-to-end solutions. Only consider technology providers with a long history in construction business management software that are financially stable, have a strong customer base, and offering more than the software package, such as support in upgrades, implementation, training and maintenance. Demand a solution which meets the variety of business functional needs, so that you achieve the level of knowledge, understanding and decision-making analysis that a truly integrated solution delivers. Choosing a single vendor with multiple solutions that integrate seamlessly will further promote your ability to achieve optimal productivity and return on your technology investment.
Also, gather input from all of the different functional areas of the business (estimating, job cost accounting and project management) during vendor selection, and ensure they stay involved as stakeholders throughout implementation. Commitment leads to maximum ROI, so it's wise to have a plan for implementation and time appropriately.
About the Author
Dan Lehman is the Director of Product Management for Maxwell Systems, Inc.