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Collaborate 2021: Construction Technology Conference, Day 1 Highlights
Trimble Construction One and a New Connected Construction Vision
In case you missed it, day one of Trimble Viewpoint’s Collaborate 2021 conference featured some pretty big industry news, as it also marked the official day one of both the full evolution of Viewpoint into Trimble’s Connected Construction division as Trimble Viewpoint and the introduction of Trimble Construction One.
“I’m thrilled to announce to you today that the journey we began three years ago is coming to fruition,” said Matt Harris, VP and GM of Trimble Construction. “Today, we become even stronger and are delivering even more value to you as Trimble Viewpoint.
The power of Trimble and Viewpoint together will help bring to live our vision of connected workflows that will ultimately help you run your businesses better.”
Trimble President and CEO Rob Painter emphasized the connection between the physical and digital worlds for construction professionals. “The difference at Trimble is that we can do more than just talking about the connection between the physical and digital,” he said. “We actually do it.”
Introducing Trimble Construction One
At its core, Painter noted, Trimble Connected Construction is about eliminating the risk of siloed workflows and leveraging technology to provide every project stakeholder with the data they need to make better business decisions, and ultimately build more efficient, sustainable and profitable projects.
“These benefits begin today, not in the future,” Harris said, “with the introduction of Trimble Construction One.”
Trimble Construction One is a cloud-based, connected construction management technology platform that drives speed, efficiency and accuracy at each phase of the construction project lifecycle. Using Trimble Construction One, contractors can leverage a purpose-built connected construction management platform that helps connect people, projects and processes connect through accurate, timely data to help them better plan, do and manage across the construction organization.
Backed by 40 years of construction-specific innovation from Viewpoint and 40 years of research innovation and development across Trimble, Harris said Trimble Construction One is the evolution of the ViewpointOne suite. “It’s the future of Trimble connected construction, and it’s live today.”
Current ViewpointOne users automatically become Trimble Construction One users — and can now start to realize extended features and benefits across the connected Trimble technology ecosystem.
Watch this video for more on Trimble Construction One:
The Power of Connected Construction
The connected construction theme carried through all of the Collaborate day one sessions.
Lawrence Smith, vice president and general manager for Trimble talked about the Trimble Construction, talked about some of the data connections and workflows we’re already seeing, such estimating, detailing and cost data flowing seamlessly between Trimble’s MEP Estimating solutions and Trimble Construction One.
Rachel Blair-Winkler, vice president and general manager of finance and human capital management for Trimble Viewpoint also noted Trimble Construction One’s streamlined workflows that deliver real-time data and decisions across accounting, finance and compliance, HR management, executive teams, operations and project management, field crews and other project stakeholders.
“The solutions we have with Viewpoint and Trimble will help with connected construction,” said Eric Elfner, director of information technology with contractor CG Schmidt. “It’s the whole office, team and field approach that Viewpoint has talked about for the past number of years.”
Jon Fingland, vice president of product solutions for Trimble, expanded on the Trimble Connected Construction vision and deliverable available today in a separate session. He detailed why leveraging the cloud was so important to Trimble’s “Plan, Do, Manage” strategy and how the real-time connection of data drives the real time workflows that lead to smarter, data-driven decisions. He also touched on three best practices to make connected cloud construction transformations successful in their execution:
Identifying the Objectives — what are the critical business initiatives and how technology can help.
Ready the Organization — are you prepared for transformation? Trimble client Barton Malow, for instance, had a multi-year plan in place that readied their people and unified teams to determine best workflows and needs
Capitalize on Data — define KPIs, what are the business problems you want to solve and the questions you want to answer? What can you do with data to make other decisions?
Fingland gave several real-world examples of clients that have realized the benefits of Trimble’s vast scale of construction technologies through a connected construction environment.
- North Mechanical saw $1 million in cost savings using Trimble Connected Construction by speeding up the design, fabrication and installation of a remote project with challenges in finding skilled labor. Trimble technologies helped the company fabricate 90% of the project off site, using 50% less labor required and 4X faster takeoff
- Bam International developed the museum of the future, which was considered one of the world’s most complex construction projects. Using Trimble Connected Construction, they saw 65% reduction in rework, 50% improvement in productivity and 25% reduction in total energy
And, as LEI Companies, Inc. President and CEO Brandon Berumen noted in the opening keynote, Trimble working with clients every step of the way to ensure success has been vital to the connected construction experience: “Trimble is that partner for us. They have a tremendous cross section of products and solutions that not only fit and work for general contractors, but all of the different stakeholders in the scale and scope of construction,” Berumen said. “Trimble has a very forward-thinking and innovative team that is looking at the best ways to solve these connected construction issues and problems through technology. Trimble is by far the best-positioned to do this.”
In another session, Robert Kruse, director of financial software systems for MDU Construction Services Group detailed his own company’s transformation to the cloud. As a large company with lots of infrastructure and moving parts, Kruse said it can be complicated to operate without digitized, streamlined processes in place. Between the need for real time data and project accountability, and the significant work on the back end for server maintenance, backups, data storage and more, moving to the cloud became essential.
He shared how having a good strategy in place that identifies needs and what you’re trying to solve by moving to the cloud is critical to helping these transformations run smoothly. Some tips he offered other contractors when considering their own cloud moves included:
- Make sure vendors have the best data security standards in place to provide a secure cloud environment (clean SOC 2 Type 2 certifications, verified independently, for instance) and have conversations about how a vendor/partner will properly address data security questions and issues
- Determine your business needs — what do you want to accomplish and can you still customize things you need?
- How strong are the connectivity and bandwidth capabilities for the features you want to leverage?
- Can you access test environments to see how processes and features will work?
- How well can we manage permissions and access to ensure proper compliance needs?
- What are the integration paths with other cloud solutions?
- Who owns the data — can you still pull data down and maintain a local copy?
- Can software meet stringent regulatory and financial requirements?
- How is support and maintenance handled?
- Are there regular upgrades and innovations?
MDU went through its full cloud transformation a little more than a year ago and now has 1,000+ cloud users across 20 different operating companies in 44 states.
“Once our implementation strategy was in place (with Trimble), the actual implementation to turn on the cloud services was able to be handled over a weekend,” Kruse said. “Our users left on a Friday and when they came back Monday, they were on the cloud and there was nothing different for them. Most didn’t know their Spectrum ERP experience had been moved to the cloud. That’s what you want.”
Construction Labor Shortage, HR Management, DEI Issues in Focus
A panel session on retaining employees through empowerment highlighted several of the workforce challenges the construction industry faces today — from an ongoing skilled labor shortage to burdened HR teams amid massive project demands.
The panel noted that retention in the construction industry is largely based on pay, benefits, culture and engagement.
Pay should be competitive, but neither the lowest or the highest. “Find the sweet spot to make it work,” said Brad Babcock, director of human resources for CROELL. He suggested researching wages through reputable platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed and others, and consider referral bonuses for employees that recruit others to come work for the company — something Babcock said CROELL has had huge success with.
Today’s contractors should acknowledge that the workforce is fickle and will leave for a number of reasons. Sharing total compensation packets with employees, including base pay, overtime, benefits, PTO, etc. can go a long way toward retention. As can having solid health benefits and employee contribution plans in place.
Company culture and engagement also mean a lot to employees and new hires alike, and good culture and engagement can mean more than just fun lunches and comfortable workspaces.
“People first is more than just a talking point for us,” said Tony Phillips, vice president of human resources with Mario Sinacola & Sons Excavating. “We have a very diverse workforce, with probably 60% of our workforce being Spanish-speaking. Many have strong ties back to Mexico or Central America. We’ve got to recognize that these people have lives and obligations outside of work. We demonstrate a lot of flexibility. If an employee is out of PTO, but needs to go back home to Mexico to take care of family obligations, we work with them and allow them to take care of their obligations. That people-first focus has really spelled the difference in our company culture.”
Another factor that is changing contractors’ company cultures is heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Trimble Viewpoint Vice President of Talent, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Melissa Uribes and Nehemiah Heye, Trimble Viewpoint’s program manager for talent development, diversity, equity and inclusion gave a join presentation on some of the strides Trimble has made with DEI and best practices other companies can pull from.
The makeup of the construction industry has traditionally been that of white males. But these demographics are changing. A recent Department of Labor study noted that 63% of today’s construction industry is white, but a significant part of that workforce is quickly retiring, which will change the makeup of the industry. By 2023, people who identify as white will represent less than half of the U.S. population under 30 years of age.
The industry today is just 9% female, though there has been a much stronger push in recent years about empowering female construction professionals at all levels.
Many companies understand they need to further diversify their workforces, and while some have DEI programs in place, others may not know where to start or need assistance.
“It can be overwhelming to figure out how to start a new DEI program. Just like any new business initiative, you need to understand your audience,” Uribes said.
“Systemic change doesn’t happen fast. It has to be thoughtful and is usually time-intensive,” Uribes noted.
Trimble did it’s homework by understanding how leaders and employees felt about DEI — where there were biases and where people were excited. The company developed a list of strategies to understand employee sentiment, brought in consultants to do senior leadership listening sessions, undertook a global survey to get baseline feedback on demographics, and put together focus groups to understand opportunities for change. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
She provided a few takeaways when looking at your own DEI programs:
- It’s ok if you’re not an expert at DEI.
- Be willing to take it on with a growth mindset.
- It’s a great time as a leader to share your vulnerability; it’s a learning process for all of us.
- Listen with your heart. Having a personal willingness to share your experience can be really rewarding. As more people are willing to do that, the more they’re bringing their “full” self to the workforce.
- If you’re not slightly uncomfortable, you’re probably not doing it right. Uncomfortableness is totally normal.
Vista, Spectrum and Viewpoint ePayments Highlights
Of course, great technology stories and new feature highlights weren’t just at the top level with Trimble Construction One. Trimble Viewpoint’s Vista and Spectrum ERPs have seen a number of new innovations over the past year. Here’s just a few highlights from some different day one sessions:
- Single Sign-On: Currently, we're rolling out Vista SSO to our cloud customers. Once deployed, you'll be able to migrate all your users to one common identity via the user migration utility.
- Multi-Factor Authentication: This adds a second layer of protection, and it requires users to enter a six-digit verification code when logging in, much like you've seen on many other applications. This will be able to be used against any product that leverages their Viewpoint identity, such as Vista, Team, VA, and HRM onboarding.
- Streamlined Purchase Orders: Users now have the ability to generate separate invoices based off of customer purchase order.
- Job Cost Field Ticket Extensions: A few releases back, field tickets in Vista were introduced. In 2021 R1, can now also tag materials, like they can for labor and equipment. This functionality also works for material entry coming in via accounts payable, a purchase order, or entered directly into job cost.
With Viewpoint Analytics, there is more reporting available through Viewpoint Team allowing users to self-serve reports.
“We also wanted to enhance user experience, namely just drilling down into details from the product dashboard so that within the context of the project, you can understand how you're performing financially,” said Kiran Penaka, product manager, Viewpoint Analytics. “So we added a couple reports, job cost by cost type, and cost type and face codes right on the contract summary widget. So it can grow into that and get to those reports right from the project dashboard, and you can only see that project's data, so the context is safe there.”
- Charge Company Equipment to Work Orders: If you take equipment out to the project site and charge it directly to a related work order.
- Aatrix added to Spectrum: Aatrix provides electronic tax forms and e-filing for Spectrum clients. Users can now print a file copy and electronically file their federal 941 reports.
- Enhanced authentications for SDX: All hosted Spectrum systems/users will now have the opportunity to do standard or enhanced password and authentication protections for access to Spectrum Data Exchange web services.
- Related Party Transactions: For clients with multiple company instances in Spectrum, that record work to each other’s companies, these related vendors or subcontractors can now be set up as “related party transactions” within Spectrum to help streamline workflows.
A session dedicated to improving contractors’ accounts payable processes focused on Viewpoint’s ePayments solution. Powered by Nvoicepay, Viewpoint ePayments lets contractors digitize and streamline their accounts payable processes to pay vendors, suppliers and others through credit card and/or streamlined ACH payments.
Not only do contractors’ accounting staffs save hours of work and reduce significant errors and payment delays, their AP department can be turned into a revenue generator in the form of rebates through credit card applications for payments.
“It’s been huge for us. We’re using it across two of our companies and It’s at least a two-hour time savings for each of those individuals. Just the printing and stuffing of checks is a major time savings alone,” said Carrie Kolb-Greiwe, office manager for Kolb Grading, LLC. “When you add in the rebates we’re now getting too, it’s created quite a difference for us in our organization.”
Stay tuned for our recap of day two of Collaborate 2021 as well!