Common Errors in Converting to New Construction Accounting Software

Napkin Floor PlanA great writer once said, “Beginnings are always messy,” and this is often true in the construction industry. Some of our most trying events happen at the beginning of a new project, which can make the whole project messy from day one. However, with the proper plan, potential pitfalls can usually be avoided.

The same can be said for implementing new construction accounting software. Contractors often hesitate investing in a more efficient system – not because of the cost, but because of the anticipated pain associated with a conversion.

However, many of the errors can be avoided when you apply what you know about running a successful and profitable construction project to converting to a new accounting system. Here are some of the most common errors and how to avoid them:

Error #1: Beginning Without a Plan

Make a PlanApproach this conversion the same way you would approach a construction job – with a solid plan – and tap into the resources of your software provider to develop a logical implementation strategy. They’ve helped hundreds of other clients before you, so allow them to be your trusted partner throughout this process.

Error #2: Not Defining Success

Success is more than simply having the system up and running. Look deeper. What procedures aren’t working with your current accounting software and how can those be improved? Is there too much time wasted in duplicate efforts? Do you want work-in-progress (WIP) reports at the ready? Identify those tangible measurements of success at the onset of this conversion.

Error #3: No Project Manager Assigned

You wouldn’t begin a new job without a project manager (PM) so don’t start a software transition without one. Dedicate a person from your firm as the PM and request a point-person from the accounting software provider, too. Ultimately, those two will be the ones to champion this changeover from start to finish.

Error #4: Doing It the Way It’s Always Been Done

The reason for converting to new accounting software is to increase productivity and profitability, so it is important to review old procedures and make adjustments. Spend the time up front to establish a more standardized and logical coding structure for your jobs, chart of accounts, customers and so forth. Setting up a master job cost code structure, for instance, will allow you to compare data across jobs.

Error #5: Migrating Outdated Information

Before migrating your existing data to the new system, review all your records. Eliminate duplicate vendors, evaluate outstanding items, and archive old employee information. Once your data is clean, develop a procedure for how and when to approach this moving forward – so you avoid this scenario in the future.

Error #6: Not Approaching The Transition in Phases

Converting to a new construction accounting system should be approached in phases, just as you would a job. Map out each phase and timeframe. Using this tactic will keep your staff from feeling overwhelmed as you move forward because you are giving them time to learn the basics before adding more complex functionality.

Error #7: Overlooking Ongoing Training

TrainingYour staff will get the best understanding of how to use the new accounting software from experience, and there will probably be some frustration along the way. Don’t stop after the initial training. Instead, allocate funds for ongoing training – say every three months – for that initial year. Not only will this trouble-shoot any issues, but as your team’s familiarity of the system increases, ongoing training will increase their knowledge base and overall efficiency. Over time, this will enable them to utilize the software to its maximum ability.

The beginning of anything new is always a bit messy, but change is necessary for growth. When you set expectations early on and approach implementation with a solid strategy, you’ll avoid common errors, decrease frustration and be on the path to greater profitability and efficiency for your business.

To learn more about ComputerEase construction accounting software, take a tour to see our full-range of capabilities.

CRMs: Generating More Leads, Sales and Happy Customers for Contractors

HandshakeWho doesn’t want to generate more leads, close more sales and create an environment of happy customers? We all do! Because the life-cycle of any given project can be drawn out over months or years, your goal should be to build solid relationships with your customers. When you keep your customers happy, you can keep projects flowing with repeat business. This is where a CRM comes into play.

What is a CRM?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) allows you to take charge of customer relationships in an organized way. A CRM is a robust database system that enables businesses to organize and automate sales, marketing, customer service and support processes.

There are many ways to manage customer relationships. An Excel spreadsheet is a very simplistic version of a CRM, and perhaps when you first started your business, this is what you used to track customers through the sales process.

But in today’s complicated and competitive environment, contractors need to be highly tuned into their prospects and customers’ needs to generate more leads, win more jobs and yes, keep them happy.

While many construction executives recognize the power behind a CRM system, it has been difficult to find one that actually fits construction-specific needs. Search for “Construction CRM” on Google, and you’ll get dozens (or more) CRM possibilities. But now there is a better way.

Introducing the ComputerEase CRM Module

CRM for ContractorsConstruction management teams no longer have to try to make off-the-shelf CRM solutions work “well enough” for their needs. We recently introduced the ComputerEase CRM module. This is a fully-integrated CRM system that allows you to track, manage and nurture your prospects from the first contact to when they accept your bid … and beyond.

What is unique to our CRM module is that it combines all the features you would expect from a robust CRM system into our existing construction accounting software package. Since the CRM is part of ComputerEase, the double-entry problem is completely eliminated. Once you secure a job, ComputerEase will move the data from the CRM to the rest of the system, including points of contact and any relevant job information.

ComputerEase gives you a deeper picture of estimating, job costing, work-in-progress and other key information you need to make business decisions with confidence. You can also strategically choose to share some of this data with your customers, so they, too, can plan to complete future projects with more efficiency and profitability. This is value that you can offer that many other contractors wouldn’t think to provide, and over time you become an indispensable partner for future construction projects.

This CRM module is truly designed specifically for what construction firms need to generate more leads, sell more jobs and keep their customers happy. Learn more about the ComputerEase CRM module.

Why You’re Running Out of Time to Save Big on Taxes through New Software

Uncle SamSection 179 Deductions and Bonus Depreciation have been used extensively in the construction industry. Both grant your company big savings on taxes as a result of any major equipment purchases you’ve made in the tax year. Accounting and project management software is included in the equipment that qualifies, and it’s been one of the most popular routes that contractors have taken to seize this opportunity.

That opportunity, however, may be coming to an end. With tax law changes looming, this may be your last year to take advantage of historically high savings under Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation laws. That means that if you’ve been putting off purchasing new equipment or upgrading your software system, you’ll want to stop putting it off now! Starting January 1st, some of the major tax advantages of implementing those changes may disappear entirely.

If you want to learn more about Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation, or if you want more tips on what you should be doing to prepare for Year End, you may want to check out our recent construction accounting webinar on the topic, featuring Steve Hausfield, CPA who specializes in construction accounting.

7 Tips for Successful Software Implementation

Many contractors delay purchasing new construction accounting software because of the resulting growing pains, but successful software implementation is similar to a successful project: thoughtful planning coupled with skilled execution results in greater profitability for your company. Since you already know how to build profitable projects, applying basic construction logic to your software implementation lessens the pain so you can move forward with anticipation instead of dread. Keeping the construction process in mind, here are seven tips for a successful software implementation.

1. Define Success Up Front

The project estimate defines success by establishing a budget with an anticipated profit margin before the job contract is even won. Although defining success as it relates to your software implementation isn’t so straightforward, it’s still important to establish guidelines for measuring success. If you don’t define the meaning of success, how will you know if you’ve achieved it?

The easiest way to define a successful software implementation is to identify existing procedures that aren’t working and outline how you will improve them. For example, if you have a labor-intense, spreadsheet-based work-in-progress (WIP) reporting system, one of your definitions of success could be to replace it with an automated process that eliminates duplicate effort and takes only a few seconds to complete. In this case, success is easily measurable.

Invoice approval is another example. If you’re replacing manual invoice routing with an electronic invoice approval system, success might be defined as achieving approval 50 percent faster while eliminating lost or misplaced invoices. This same concept can be applied to all of your procedures, whether they are related to jobs, employees or equipment.

2. Spend Time Up Front Planning Your Coding Structure

Pre-planning is an important part of both a construction project and a software conversion. A new software implementation is the perfect time to establish a more logical and standardized coding structure for your jobs, general ledger, vendors and customers, especially if you are migrating from a legacy system with limited flexibility or a generic accounting program that offers little to no structure.

A standardized coding structure allows you to gain greater business insight through your software’s reporting system. For example, with a departmentalized general ledger structure, you can quickly access specific information on a single department, such as your service department. Standardized codes also let you compare data across all jobs, because account #100 will always signify the same thing, regardless of the project.

3. Clean Up Your Data

You wouldn’t start a new project with old information, so why would you start using new accounting software with old data? Before migrating existing data to your new system, take some time to clean it up by eliminating duplicate vendors, purging old information, evaluating outstanding payables and receivables and getting accurate inventory counts.

This step helps you start with a fresh and timely dataset in your new system. If you have receivables that are outstanding by 120 days or more, ask yourself why they’re present and what you can do to collect the money? If you have outstanding credits with little-used vendors, consider requesting refunds instead of carrying those credits forward. Perhaps it’s time to archive data for employees that haven’t worked for the company in years. For current employees, this allows you to identify whether you have current W-4 forms on file and if any critical licenses or certifications have expired.

4. Create a Schedule with Milestones

Treat your software implementation like a construction project by creating a schedule with specific milestones. Assign a project manager on your end and ask for a designated PM on your software vendor’s side.

To achieve software implementation success, you’re going to need some accountability for the things that must be done. Make the two PMs ultimately responsible for driving the project toward completion on time and within budget.

Let your company’s size and the complexity of your software system dictate the schedule, but try to set a firm go-live date. Like many construction projects, unforeseeable delays happen during software conversions. It’s okay to make adjustments to your schedule. But be aware that, if you keep pushing your deadline further into the future, you risk losing momentum and creating costly delays.

5. Implement Your New Software in Phases

Every construction project is completed in phases. Why should your software implementation be any different?

A phased implementation eases the adoption of new software by allowing your staff to become comfortable with the basics before you add more complex functionality.

Phase 1 builds the foundation. Implement basic functionality that replaces and improves upon the procedures you were doing before. The focus during Phase 1 should be on core accounting, including job cost and payroll.

Phase 2 adds the framework. Implement functionality that your company wasn’t utilizing before, but is vital for improving operations. Processes like inventory management, purchasing, equipment management and custom reporting fall into Phase 2.

Phase 3 adds custom finishes. This is your technology “wish list” that will revolutionize your operations. Electronic document management, remote timesheet entry and a field service system fit into this phase.

6. Establish New and Improved Procedures

Just like you implement new procedures for improving things like job site safety, you should use your software implementation as a way to establish new procedures that improve accounting processes.

Better processes make your accounting staff more efficient and keep important details from slipping through the cracks. Some examples include creating collection policies for past due invoices, scheduling payables to take advantage of vendor discounts and using triggers or alerts for insurance expiration dates or to flag missing employee information.

7. Set a Profitable Training Mindset

It takes time and money for an apprentice to become a journeyman. Likewise, it takes time and money to become proficient in your new software. Instead of viewing training as an expense, look at it as an investment and budget accordingly.

If you neglect training, your new software becomes a disposable tool. With proper training, however, your software becomes an investment that delivers a positive return over time. Achieving a successful accounting software implementation can take up to two full years. The first year is spent rolling out the system and the second year is spent fine-tuning your processes. It’s generally a good idea to allocate a portion of your budget for training at three, six, nine and 12-month intervals. Free resources offered by your vendor can help as well, including newsletters, e-mail updates, a knowledge base, online help, Webinars and conferences.

Mandating Change from the Top Down

Change is vital, but for most people, change isn’t easy. Because of this, the motivation to implement new software needs to come from the top of your organization. Set the expectation that your new tool will not only make your company more profitable, but will also increase efficiency and make your employees’ jobs easier. By being one part dictator and one part motivator – and by following the seven tips outlined above – your software implementation will be a successful endeavor that delivers a high ROI.

How to Evaluate Field-to-Office Software

Field-to-Office Communication

More and more contractors are recognizing the need for a fully integrated business management suite that allows for strong collaboration with owners, subs, suppliers, and field personnel. Without a constant link between your job sites and your office, data can get delayed or even lost in the shuffle. With that in mind, project management and accounting software companies are focusing heavily on providing cloud solutions for contractors. But with so many options, how do you determine what solution is best for your company? There are many factors to consider, but one feature is becoming increasingly important.

So far, most remote applications have relied on the “push-pull” method of synchronizing data. For example, a project manager will enter a change order in the field and the data will be sent back to the home office, where it needs to be manually entered or imported into the accounting system. This method has certainly been more convenient than a lengthy phone call or a trip back to the office, but new technology is beginning to make it obsolete. The future of field-to-office communication is real-time, live interaction.

This is one of the key factors you should look for. Your software provider should have plans to implement this technology in the near future if they haven’t already. If not, you may be using a package that has no motivation to improve in the future. If you want to stay competitive, your goal should be to find software that will evolve based on your needs. Be sure to ask your software provider about real-time collaboration.