5 Minute Read
August 8, 2019
Why are many contractors still relying on disconnected, manual processes and a mix of past-their-prime software programs to run their businesses? It’s a question I hear on a daily basis, and while most contractors know they’re going to have to modernize eventually, there is still resistance to change. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Patty Cheney, a senior consultant here at Viewpoint to discuss this issue.
Patty has been a consultant with Viewpoint for more than seven years now, specializing in accounting and operations, with more than 90 clients in every facet of construction across the United States and Canada. She previously spent 18 years as a business manager for an electrical contractor and 10 years as a controller and CO of a heavy highway contractor.
Here’s a bit of that conversation on the benefits of modernization and how — with a little strategic planning — contractors can transform their operations with much less pain than they might anticipate:
Colin: What do you find is the # 1 challenge companies are faced with?
Patty: I really feel like it’s the fear of change and the lack of initiative to keep legacy employees up to date on software and changing practices in the industry. Many construction companies I go visit, they have their set people that have done the same things for many years, and they don’t really see that they need to change and grow and train on new technologies and processes. The result is working with too many different systems that do not integrate together. This leads to siloed processes and too many steps to get work done. This perpetuates a model of not assessing if a process is still relevant. Many times when new employees are hired their ideas are rejected by individuals who want to do things the way they always did. Companies sometimes fail to see if you don’t grow and learn continually you will be left behind and this is not just or the field employees. A cohesive team where new ideas are championed promotes a team perspective.
Colin: Why are companies/departments so siloed?
Patty: As a whole, I would say companies are more legacy than family-based, where sometimes there is a culture of not stepping on each other’s toes. There is also a culture of each hanging onto their part out of fear of the unknown or repercussions. Lack of management training from the top down persists in the industry. Leaders have to be the ones to drive change perspective. A majority of companies focus only on production without realizing the importance of having accounting and project management skilled personnel as essential not just an extra overhead cost. There is a huge breakdown and competition of accounting and ops and who is more important when a team approach is much more effective. Having an ERP that combines the field, the office and team is critical to bringing employees together to share information and eliminate duplicate work. And when you implement an integrated software solution — like Viewpoint’s — you need to involve everyone, which helps to break down those preestablished silos. Empowering employees to feel what they do matters and getting others to understand the important role of each player is a key factor.
Colin: In the age of tech, how do companies end up so disconnected in their processes?
Patty: Emphasis is on production in the field rather than shoring up the processes in the home office and understanding that the two are intimately connected. Again team, office, and field can work together seamlessly with the right software. Overcoming fear of change and understanding that change is inevitable is big factor. Allowing employees to own their part of the process and encouraging them to participate with buy-in from the top is the critical piece here. Leadership can drive change perspective. Without leaders who drive change it is difficult to get follow through from employees. Employees need to be excited about change and motivated to help themselves. I’ve worked in construction my whole life and there’s a pervasiveness of “if it’s not broke, why fix it?” People are not encouraged to question if a process can be streamlined or even eliminated for a more up to date path. But that’s changing and more and more contractors are moving to cloud-based systems, integrated software and automated workflows to connect the office, team and field. It’s about changing the dynamic and contractors realizing that investing in technologies, people and processes in the same ways they invest in equipment.
Colin: Even in one platform, my team wants to operate differently, how can we solve for this?
Patty: One idea is to put that team in a group that is going to work with and help others. You might have one team or group that wants to embrace new technologies and another that might not. But if you have them working together, eventually the resistant parties will see how much easier processes can be, and they get more familiar with and comfortable with them, and it can help change their perspective. Employees need to feel empowered to find their own information rather than wait on stale reports sent to them. For instance, I consistently try to get individuals to pull their own data or reports. You can view your data in the moment if you embrace technology. Having all teams using one solution is the beginning of creating seamless processes. Leaders are then able to see data from all locations and departments, as it flows through one solution. They’re empowered to make better decisions based on real data and able to help direct teams to be streamlining processes. And it is leadership that is critical to driving these modern processes across teams.
Colin: How long does implementation take? What if my teams are not ready?
Patty: A good implementation can take six months or longer depending on the amount of time team members have to spend on it. You need time to evaluate current processes and decide exactly what you want to achieve with new software. Pick a lead for the implementation and allow that person time to develop an effective game plan and timeline — working with all team members to manage expectations. Most clients have to still do their daily jobs in addition to undertaking a significant technology change. Our Viewpoint project managers and consultants continually work with clients to keep them on task and monitor progress as well. A great way to get people fired up is to post banners and signs around the office and letting people know when Viewpoint professionals will be onsite and allowing them time to work with those professionals. If your teams are not ready or need more time, implementations can be moved or delayed. When working with a team we continually assess with our progress and will point out if there will be a delay. We have a full website — Viewpoint Academy — dedicated to training with articles and videos to help folks learn. Getting teams started on these steps ahead of time can really make a difference.
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