Get the Full, Behind the Scenes Interview with 2018 Viewpoint Technology Award Winner Hatzel & Buehler
We had our best user conference yet last month! During the conference, we took some time to highlight three of our clients who are on the front lines of innovation. These clients are empowering their entire construction organization by actively using technology to help speed up processes. One of those clients is electrical contractor, Hatzel & Buehler. We wanted to share a little bit more of our interview with Hatzel & Buehler Business Analyst Colleen Ward. She discusses her experience with moving to the cloud-based Viewpoint
(If you want just the highlights, skip to the video)
Viewpoint: For anyone who might not know, can you tell us a little bit more about Hatzel & Buehler?
Ward: The history and background of Hatzel & Buehler is actually quite lengthy. We were founded in 1884. John Hatzel and Joseph Buehler worked with Thomas Edison in New York before creating Hatzel and Buehler. The company has been continuously operating since then. We've been a member of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) since 1901 which makes us the longest continuous member. We are also affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as a union contractor.
Viewpoint: Predominantly, what type of work do you do?
Ward: Hatzel & Buehler is an electrical contractor with expertise in electrical construction, design, service calls, and maintenance. We also have a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bluestone Communications. They are a full-service technology and telecommunications rider that specializes in advanced technology work.
Viewpoint: So, what is your main mission for your clients?
Ward: Our main mission is to provide great service and customer care. I think, you know, with our longevity, our relationships are quite lengthy, and we pride ourselves on that fact. We also have a big focus on safety. We really try to put our employees and their safety first-before the bottom line.
Viewpoint: Excellent. Are there any special challenges in managing your organization?
Ward: Some of the challenges we face include the diversity of where we are. We have an office in downtown Manhattan, right there amongst all the high rises. We also have a Southern Ohio location that services West Virginia and Kentucky. So, we have a very wide range of the areas that we serve all with different challenges. For instance, in New York, there are challenges maneuvering through tight spaces. In some of our Midwestern locations, we have to deal with material, supplies and things like that getting back and forth from the office.
We work on everything from high rise buildings in the cities to enormous commercial plants out in the Midwest. So, we do everything from multi-phase complex design-build projects to a simple service call. All of those have to be managed in the accounting software that can pick up that wide range of multi-year, multi-phase projects.
Viewpoint: That leads me to the next question(s). How is it that you became a Viewpoint/Spectrum client? And prior to Spectrum, what were some of your specific pain points that you had with your existing software and processes?
Ward: Our prior legacy system was actually an older system that we installed in 1981. So, there were many pain points. But we decided in 2014 or '15 that we needed to upgrade our system and we began a really extensive search. We spent about a year and a half searching for the right fit. We wanted to find a partner. We weren't looking for a vendor. We needed someone we could build a relationship with just like we do with our customers. We like to do that with our major providers as well. So, we wanted to find someone that we could create that relationship with.
We spent time internally doing interviews to find exactly what we were looking for and through all that, we even created a vision statement about providing the right tools to the right people at the right time. All of that culminated in deciding that Spectrum was the right fit with the cost centers and the union...with benefit tiers. Again, just the relationship that we would be able to build with the Spectrum family that allowed for an ongoing partnership.
Viewpoint: How are things now that Spectrem and Dexter + Chaney was acquired by Viewpoint last year?
Ward: We're looking forward to the opportunity to grow with Viewpoint acquiring Spectrum. You know, this gives us a broader base of talent to draw from when we're building the product. Since the acquisition, we have met with management and executives at Viewpoint to feel comfortable and understand that this would be going forward.
Viewpoint: So, what is it specifically that appealed to you about Spectrum when you were doing your search?
Ward: When we were looking at different software packages, what we really liked about Spectrum was that it was a complete package. It was the accounting software along with project management. We have Work Orders and Service Tech. The document imaging was available there. So, we were going to be able to put everything in one place, which was something that we didn't have previously.
The cost center security for us was really important. We came out of a system where we were operating in nine different libraries with very siloed information. While we were working away from that, there was still some comfort in security and being able to maintain that as we saw fit and only let that ease up when we were ready.
The union options in Spectrum were fantastic. That was a big part for us. So, we really needed something that could cover everything that they were throwing at us and we could do that with Spectrum.
We also wanted a cloud-based option. So, we immediately went with cloud hosting and we wanted the software to be web-based to allow for our people in the field to have access at all times.
Viewpoint: You noted in the submission to the Viewpoint Technology Awards that Spectrum has opened up access to data within your organization to better connect the office, field and extended project team, eliminating the siloes. Can you elaborate on that a little bit more?
Ward: Yeah, for us, Spectrum really opened up the collaboration between our office and our field and got rid of our siloes. We were literally in a system that had nine siloes. Our old system had nine libraries with distinct information in each of them. So, moving to one vendor and one general ledger master just by default of the software structure, allowed us to remove those siloes and start the people talking.
Also, the old system had a real gatekeeper mentality. It was not a user-friendly interface. You needed to know the menu commands and be able to get to them. So, we really had a gatekeeper mentality where the field staff would document things in emails or spreadsheets and then send them into the office or send their paperwork in an envelope once a week into the office and then the office, admin and accounting staff would enter all the information. We had information lag time and we had, you know, just a handful of people who had access. Then they would have to gather the reports and send them back out to the field in some manner.
With Spectrum, we have trained our project managers to enter their information. There's no more double entry of change requests and committed costs. All those things were entered in one place and then were entered in accounting. There's no more dual entry or dual books. Project managers would say, "Oh, but I've got this coming in inevitably." Well, it doesn't count unless it's in the system and now it's always in the system.
Viewpoint: Great. So, how about working smarter as well? Does Spectrum give you the ability to drill down into data, create reports needed to achieve better business intelligence and pictures of the overall organizational health?
Ward: Yes. Spectrum really allows us to work smarter. The ability to drill into information and get down to the details from the, you know, 30,000-foot view on the job all the way down to images of invoices that was entered is invaluable to us. It was previously a line on a report that we had to look at and then we had to find somebody who could go to the filing cabinet and pull that invoice out to get us the detail that we needed. This was time-consuming and not at all efficient.
And now, everybody is in the system. We have an in-house person who does custom reports, so we are able to create any report that we want, get the data out of Spectrum without any problems. Again, the dual entry, just saving the time on that and not having the lag time in reports is just making our project managers more efficient and our project management run smoothly.
Viewpoint: So, have we sort of alleviated some of the need for those filing systems that you have?
Ward: Yes. A lot of those are empty. Oh my goodness, I think we've figured out that we've eliminated, like, 25 filing cabinets so far. That's just, you know obviously, historical stuff that has to age out before we can really get rid of it.
Viewpoint: Okay. So, if business is moving to the cloud pretty much across all industries now, how important is it for contractors and specialty subs to follow suit or even take the lead on cloud adoption?
Ward: So, it's important for construction and contractors to move to the cloud. It really seems like it is set up for the type of work that we do. We don't sit in offices. On any given day, a project manager’s office or even a foreman's office could be a truck or a laptop on top of a gang box, a field officer trailer or even catching up on paperwork at home. With the cloud, that means that he or she is able to do that from wherever, whether in a Manhattan high rise or out in Kentucky in the middle of a plant floor.
Viewpoint: How is Spectrum helping you streamline HR operations in terms of timekeeping and payroll to employee education, training and retention practices?
Ward: Spectrum has really given us Human Resources. As a union contractor, we are in a funny position where we have 800 employees from the unions and about 170 from non-union. So, we're a very large company with a very small HR demand. Now, with Spectrum, we are able to get all of our safety information in there. We have images of their training and certification. So, if somebody is on-site and needs to see that, it's very easy to pull that information up. That's been a huge help for getting information out to the field.
We've also started looking at the different time keeping options. That’s a huge area we would like to improve this year. We're currently doing it in limited function in work orders. We can use Service Tech and their time comes in that way. So, we'd like to see that happen more and more. However, we're now able to manage vacation schedules and personnel files for 10 offices that are scattered throughout without a bunch of paperwork and with secure information being sent by email or through FedEx.
Viewpoint: Great. You’ve mentioned Service Tech on the service side of your operations. How is that helping productivity and profitability?
Ward: We are using Service Tech for the work order functionality and it is helping us with productivity and profitability. From a productivity standpoint, our technicians record their information, they send the work order, enter it and it's completed. There's no more going back and taking time to record everything again so that it can be sent to the office. We've hopefully eliminated all of the little notebooks that all the foremen were keeping in their pockets with scribbles of their day-to-day activities that they would try to decipher at the end of the week. Now, we're actually recording the information when it happens, which allows them to send information faster.
We can get that service ticket signed in the field on an iPad and we can get that bill out the same day or the next as opposed to the lag time that we had coming through waiting for the paperwork to be signed and come into the office. Then it had to get to somebody's billing desk and they had to enter it all into the system. And now, it's one action that takes care of everything.
Viewpoint: Okay. So, how do you feel Viewpoint is addressing the needs of contractors like yours through our technology investment and development?
Ward: We've been very happy with Viewpoint's technology investment and development. The product keeps advancing. We've seen changes in the year and a half that we've been live. Service Tech has had numerous updates to it. The business intelligence features that are coming out are great. I mean, not just the compliance features that have to come out to keep us up to date, but also just the ability to do additional things has really made us look forward to continuing this partnership. We can’t wait to see where the software is going in the future and how the software will continue to develop. We know we can count on Viewpoint to provide us with up-to-date software. So, in the award, our submission was really about just coming out of the green screen silo area and then coming into the 21st century.
Viewpoint: So, would you recommend Spectrum and Viewpoint to other peers, contractors?
Ward: Yes. We have actually recommended the software to others.
Viewpoint: Okay. Is there anything else that you can think of that you'd like to add?
Ward: We've been very happy with the Spectrum product. We're actually implementing the Spectrum CRM at this point now that we're fully functional. I think that when we talk about our kind of implementation and our go-live functionality, we are talking about a thousand employees on any given week. We work with 20 different locals in 10 different states and we did not miss a single payroll day. We didn't have a single late paycheck. We run payroll six days a week on week ending dates and our go-live Spectrum had us completely prepared and ready to go so that not a single union payroll was missed or late by one single day. So, that was a really big accomplishment with all that had to go into putting that together.
To view the highlights of Hatzel and Buehler’s story, watch the video.