The biggest challenge to delivering projects on time and on budget is…

The key to efficient project management in construction is people. So wrote Philip Greer, a product manager at Trimble Buildings in a recent article in Construction Business Owner. Good project managers tend to run good teams which produce good results.

With many, long-tenured professionals retiring, the measure of a good project manager has changed — not so much in the ability to get work done, but in the way the work gets done. Today, Greer says, its more about real-time transparency. So talent shortages notwithstanding, technology — the ability to track projects/time/materials/people increasingly is key. But, according to the 2015 Global Construction Project Owner’s Survey released by the accounting firm KPMG, only half of the owners surveyed are using project management information systems, and nearly one-third of those say their systems do not integrate “with their accounting and procurement software.”

What’s that about?

Knowledge is power and profitability

Imagine you could access every aspect of every project’s lifecycle — from bid, costing, and estimate to execution, oversight, and invoice. As a business owner or advisor, the ability to have transparency and visibility of what is going on at a job site (or company-wide) at any given time can be very powerful information.

Are you making money and are your teams and material where they should be when they should be? Imagine, says Greer, that you could have real-time access to data so that you and your managers would know whether:

  • The workers assigned to each site showed up? And if they did, how long did they work?
  • Did they have the materials they needed?
  • – Is the project on schedule?

Teams working with clipboard headcounts and calculators are insufficiently efficient. Running an estimating or purchasing function on spreadsheets is no better. With so many contractors and subcontractors already running their bookkeeping functions on QuickBooks or other software or cloud-based packages, selecting the right business management and project management technology would seem to be a logical extension of good business practices.

Not any technology; the right technology

Although he was speaking specifically about project management technology, the issues Greer raises transcend all business management technology. Too often, he says, companies buy a specific technology to resolve a specific problem, “without considering other value the system may have for your business operations.”

The acquisition of different systems for different purposes can create information silos. Does your accounting package integrate with your bidding system, or purchasing system, or project management needs? “The goal,” Greer says, “is for the technologies to be compatible with one another…[systems] should support other software applications while still providing timely and detailed data on deliverables and personnel” and materials and…

Greer believes that technology…”offers a gateway for instituting best practices…[delivering] complete transparency into hours, job assignments, credentials and productivity to…ensure the project stays on schedule and on budget.”

Project Management with Knowify

So how do you get there? Do your research. Knowify, for one, can help. We’re already helping contractors integrate their business management needs with their accounting systems from an easy-to-use interface accessible from any device — in the field and in the office. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

More control over emails

Dear Knowify Community,
We pushed a small release earlier today with a few widely requested improvements.
Release Notes:
1. We’ve made it much easier to select from among your contacts when creating proposal, change order, invoice, and service ticket emails.You will also have much more control over the formatting of proposal and change order emails in the new interface. Send proposals and change orders out for signature
2. You can now (optionally) enter specific dollar values to invoice for your line items when creating AIA-style applications for payment. More flexibility with AIA billing
3. You can now revert change orders back to the draft state if you accidentally make them “active”. This is also true for jobs: you can revert closed jobs back to live, if needed. We would encourage you to close out old jobs – it can speed up your Knowify experience, especially if you have many open but inactive jobs. Undo errors when dealing with change orders
4. Change order approved-on dates can now be set manually.
5. We have improved the foreman’s view so that all your jobs are sorted by name and you can search among them. This will simplify the process of entering time for all your resources, especially if you do not use our scheduling features. Easy time tracking from the office
We have another small release planned for a few weeks from now that will address reporting and performance enhancements in certain modules.
Happy Thanksgiving!
The Knowify Team

If you only add payroll services, you are missing the boat

A recent article in Accounting Today looked at how some accounting firms are adding payroll services to bring added value to their clients while also distinguishing themselves from their competition. The article also noted that as “the market for customizable payroll solutions is expanding,” some firms are even spinning off entire practices just to meet client payroll-related needs.

What the article fails to mention is that accounting firms that limit their offerings to payroll alone, leave money on the table and the door open to a savvier competitor who’s also providing clients with business management systems.

Really…leaving money on the table?

Yes, by thinking small. Think BIG picture instead.

Are you just accountants, running numbers, filing taxes, doing audits? Or are you (as an increasing number of firms are) consultants, advising clients on how to run and grow their businesses faster, smarter, and cost-efficiently.

If you’re the latter, then you know that managing client payrolls yourself, or recommending an outsourced provider or software solution alone doesn’t cut it. When you know your clients are already stretched in the day-to-day management of their businesses, when they are busy selling, bidding, executing, managing people and projects, invoicing, and collecting again and again and again…setting them up with a payroll solution is like giving them a paper umbrella to face a tsunami. It’s a band-aid solution to a more serious problem — business mismanagement.

Be a hero

Discussing how to help clients, who issue paper checks to pay employees and vendors, type invoices, lick stamps, and run operations on Post-its, scraps of paper or spreadsheets, requires a longer conversation. Cutting to the chase, there are plenty of excellent accounting packages you can introduce them to, so shame on you if you haven’t done so already.

But let’s say you have introduced them to QuickBooks or some equivalent bookkeeping solution, why stop there? Accountants who teach clients to really manage their businesses improve their own client retention. Switching a business owner from spreadsheets to an accounting package is just the beginning.

Automate client businesses, not just their payroll

Increasingly, accounting firms are looking to help, for example, their building trades clients (really, all clients) move beyond conventional payroll or other business accounting software to equally affordable, easy-to-use, cloud-based or desktop systems to manage most of their typical (and repeating) business management processes.

Knowify Dashboard

This is a win/win for all parties.

Client businesses run more smoothly. And you spend less time sorting through bags of receipts, or stacks of timecards and more time advising clients on best practices/management strategies.

Invite clients into the 21st century

Show them you care. As you did long ago with accounting software, show them how to replace the spreadsheet and whiteboard with something better. Expose them to the right tools. Help them see that they can efficiently and cost-effectively, and profitably manage and grow their businesses from any smart device — whether they are in the office or in the field.

Be that advisor. Knowify, for one, can help you help them. We’re already doing it. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Ask us about how we’ve helped accountants like you help their clients get a better handle on their business . Or…you can let them keep running their businesses on spreadsheets.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

How much time is your team wasting in the field?

A recent blog by Al Levi in Plumbing Perspective asked what contractors could do to stop timewasters from eating into a company’s profitability? Levi’s response was to take the time to invest in sound management practices. Work with your people rather than spy on your people. We agree.

Like us, he advocated engaging management. Rather than training cameras on your teams, inside the office and out, pay attention to your people. People, wrote Levi, “actually like when you pay attention,” so long as it’s not just to criticize or complain.

Levi recommended encouraging interaction between managers and their direct reports. It’s not to spy, but to be in touch with what’s going on, “lending support when necessary, seeing how time is being spent, and trying to catch them doing something good and making a big deal about it.” Creating a positive environment. We agree again!

Treat your people like grownups

Levi advocates treating your people like grownups. We say, go a step further and give your grownups the right grown up tools.

He cited an example of employees loading up for a job early, and then moving up the block to the coffee shop rather than heading straight to the jobsite. He said, I could have run down the block screaming, “Hey! I’m watching you. Why aren’t you working?” But instead, he gave them the opportunity to manage their own schedule, saying: “You can stop for coffee…but you need to be at the jobsite or first service call within 30 minutes of the start of the day.” That way, he said, they managed their time so long as they called in their arrival within the correct timeframe. We say, don’t call…click!

Just give ’em the right tools

Being profitable is all about having the right people, the right tools, the right materials, in the right place, at the right time. Right?

Rather than make your teams call in, use the right technology. Replace the whiteboard: create and maintain your schedules in online and accessible from any smart device so that everyone can see what needs to be worked on while they are in the field.

And as your teams deliver materials or work on work orders, they can punch in time and reimbursements right from the field. Knowify, for one, makes it possible via our mobile app. As your people put in time, Knowify tracks how you are performing (and profiting) on each job compared to your budgets and estimated costs.

So what can you do to help your business from going down the tubes due to time-wasters in the office and in the field?

Be a good boss, of course. Hire great manager, of course. Motivate workers…it goes without saying.

Make sure you have the right technology

As the contracting business evolves in all sectors, those who survive and thrive are contractors who pay attention to running their businesses…who monitor jobs and profitability…who keep the lines of communication open between  their GCs, subs, field teams, and clients.

You still need to have the processes and procedures in place to run your business. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Ask us about how we’ve helped other contractors like you get a handle on their business . Or…you could keep running your business on Excel spreadsheets.

Knowify. Built for the real contracting world.

What does 3D printing really mean for your business?

An article in a recent issue of Plumbing Perspective talked about the impact 3D printers could have on the construction industry. Most of the opportunities mentioned related to large-scale construction — building the shell of a house, store, apartment, etc., in a single day without an on-site workforce. Imagine that? Robot sprayers guided by 3D “printing” instructions. Overtime pay…forget about it

But what does that mean for you and your business? If you’re a residential contractor or commercial/residential subcontractor, probably not much…now. But soon. Because, as the article points out, one of the big questions for the building trades will be how functional components like plumbing, heating, HVAC, and electrical systems will be integrated into the 3D printing ecosystem.

So, where are the people?

Not on your payroll…

…For HVAC folks, the article posits that a robot sprayer would create the housing for the HVAC systems that would then be installed by real people in the trades. For plumbers, it is possible that the 3D Contour Crafting process could build utility conduits inside the walls making plumbing automation a reality. Hmmmm.  3D printing could develop a modular approach to automate communication line wiring that could be robotically fed and connected. But let’s not stop there. Sensors and other devices can be implanted into 3D printed walls. Insulation and finish work (get ready plastering professionals) could be executed through specially-designed Contour Crafting nozzles. A painting mechanism would “paint” each wall like an inkjet printer, printing wall paper or other patterns directly onto the target surface. Even tiling could be automated.

3D construction printers cannot run a business

Cheap robotics or low-cost 3D construction printing are meaningless to a business managed on Excel spreadsheets. Firing people and hiring robots alone will not make you profitable. You still have to cost jobs, allocate resources, track purchasing and…bill in a timely manner.

Make sure you have the right technology

 As the contracting business evolves in all sectors, those who survive and thrive are contractors who pay attention to running their businesses…who monitor jobs and profitability…who keep the lines of communication open between their GCs, subs, and clients. (No matter how many robots you hire, you’ll still need people…for now!)

You still need to have the processes and procedures in place to run your business. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Ask me about how we’ve helped other contractors like you get a handle on their business. Or…you could keep running your business on Excel spreadsheets.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

Knowify Featured @ Plumber Magazine

What does the recent stock market volatility mean for construction spending?

If you’ve been looking at the recent volatility in the stock market – which has been all over the news – you might worry that tough times are on the horizon.

Cyclicality is one of the hallmarks of the construction business. If you’ve been around a while, you know that keeping an eye out for coming slowdowns is an important part of maintaining a healthy, and profitable business. So…does the drop in the S&P500 mean that the US economy (and the construction business) is about to follow suit?

It’s always hard to predict anything with certainty about the US macro-economy, but the data points that have the strongest connection to future construction activity say that it’s not quite time to worry (yet).

sotckvolatility

As reported:

  1. Building permits for work not yet started were up 7.5% year-over-year in July;
  2. Mortgage financing remains widely available, and – critically – interest rates are low (around 4% on national indices) and remaining steady;
  3. The tough economic news coming out of China, the epicenter of the recent worldwide market turmoil, may actually benefit American builders;
  4. Critical materials like steel or copper wiring should continue to get cheaper as the world’s top consumer (China, by an enormous margin) sees its consumption decline from truly astronomical levels; and
  5. Big institutional US investors are increasingly turning to “safer” cash flow yielding domestic assets like commercial property to protect their clients from the risk we’re seeing in global equity markets.

What does that mean for contractors?

Could be good news. As long as interest rates stay where they are, and financing remains available, construction activity will have a tailwind behind it.

Low interest rates increase property values, make HELOC-funded renovations more affordable, and income-yielding investments like rental properties and commercial buildings more attractive. If interest rates begin to rise, this tailwind could swiftly turn into a headwind. Be prepared. Be efficient. Be profitable.

So, don’t freeze like a deer in the headlights. Regardless of what happens in the market, those who survive and thrive during times of turmoil are the contractors who pay attention to running their businesses…who monitor jobs and profitability…Who keep the lines of communication open between their GCs, subs, and clients.

Information is power. During an uptick or a downturn, make sure you have the processes and procedures in place to run your business. If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Ask me about how we’ve helped other contractors like you get a handle on their business Bull Market or Bear Market. Or…you could keep running your business on Excel spreadsheets.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

Submit your bids to GCs correctly-formatted, faster

A General Contractor invites you to bid on a job. Now what?

How do you cost out the work and submit it within the confines of that GC’s specifications? And what do you have to do once you win the bid to actually manage the project?

Is your first instinct to turn to your trusty spreadsheet and calculator? Lots of contractors run their bid/submit/PO processes that way. QuickBooks® and Excel are great tools, but they can only take you so far.

What if you could manage all of the painful administrative work associated with your contract jobs faster and more accurately?

With Knowify, you click on Contract Jobs and quickly cost out a job to produce a bid based on estimated costs. Knowify’s bidding tools automatically output a bid form (and yes, custom templates are available) ready to submit to the GC.

Subcontractor proposal for a GC job

Win the bid?

Click on Knowify’s Purchasing Module and create purchase orders for materials and send those POs directly to your vendor right through the system. Then schedule your crews in the resource scheduler. It’s easy!

Track time

Knowify’s On-site Foreman Module tracks worker time – or, if you prefer, lets each worker Check in / Checkout on their mobile phone for fully automated timekeeping. Your office reviews time reports in real time — as they come in — so you can quickly process, approve, or reject as appropriate.

Are you making money?

Knowify’s Project Plan Module automatically tracks each job’s progress against budgets as time and purchases come in. You get a real-time look at each project’s performance!

Change orders

Knowify makes it quick and easy to create a change order and then send it out for e-signature directly through the system.

Invoicing is easier, faster

Whether you bill at the end of a project or choose progress billing, Knowify compiles the information and lets you submit using standard invoicing or AIA-style applications for payment.

If you have any questions or wish to share your feedback, you can find us at support@knowify.com.

Or…you could keep running your business on Excel.

Knowify. Built for the real world.

Now is the right time to invest in business efficiency

It’s probably fair to say that happy days are here again for contractors. Total construction spending was up over 8% year-over-year as of May 2015, the more recent month for which data are available, with strong gains in both residential and non residential construction. We know from the many different types of contracting businesses we work with – from flooring and plumbing subs to homebuilders to handymen and more – that just about everyone is busy right now. And busy means less competitive bidding means profitable jobs.

http://eyeonhousing.org/

This is all well and good; and trust me: no one wants the construction industry to be strong more than we do. But here’s the funny paradox of bountiful times: most of the seeds for future trouble are being sewn now. When lots of money is being made, less attention is paid to process efficiency. Worse, no spare capacity and tight schedules can results in slips in quality, leading to trouble with partners and clients.

We know that the idea of taking time to work on improving your processes now – when time is precious and more easily turned into profit – may sound crazy. But it’s a really powerful way to invest in the long term health of your business. Even with the present opportunity costs, we believe that implementing solutions that will make you a more efficient company will deliver a positive ROI, albeit smaller now than when construction work is less profitable; but the goodwill you earn from clients for, say, your professionalism with your paperless change order management and on-time billing, will bear big fruit in leaner times when bidding gets more competitive. More importantly, these same process improvements will allow you to run leaner, with vastly improved business intelligence, when the cycle turns and conditions aren’t as strong. It could mean the difference between making money and not making money, and over the long term having better processes will undoubtedly give you a leg up on your competitors, and enable you to grow your business with less administrative oversight or hassle.

We acknowledge that the opportunity cost for focusing on the administrative side of your business right now is probably high. But process administrative and process improvements are critical investments that will bear tremendous long-term fruit for any business, and especially in businesses with the cyclical swings experienced by contractors.

Estimating and Scheduling with Knowify 2.3.0

Our new version is out and it comes with BIG improvements! With this update, we’re getting closer to fulfilling our promise of bringing job cost estimation, project management, scheduling, and real time actual vs. budget performance together in one place.

Estimating and Scheduling with Knowify

Release Notes:

  1. It is now possible to do job cost estimation with job roles (ie, “this task will require 100 man hrs of Foreman time”).
  2. The term ‘Milestone’ has been replaced in the project plan; we now refer to ‘Phases’ (this is merely a change in name).
  3. You no longer have to schedule job phases or tasks during project plan creation. When you’re ready to build your plan schedule – for example, after your bid is accepted – click “Enable Scheduling” at the top right of the project plan interface.
  4. Scheduling at the resource level (person or equipment) can be handled directly through the project plan now.
  5. Additional (unscheduled) resources can be added to the list in Foreman’s view for timekeeping.
  6. Purchasing has been added to the mobile app (should be available on GooglePlay tomorrow, Apple AppStore within 10 business days).
  7. We have added significant additional infrastructure to the “Rates” section of the admin panel. We recommend that you check that section right away and make any updates you feel are necessary. We expect to push an update reintroducing overtime calculations in Knowify numbers soon.