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Why Go Digital? The Future of Construction Management

The construction industry has traditionally been slow to adopt the technology. Many of its work processes are legacy solutions from decades ago, like spreadsheets and yellow notepads. Today’s workers are stuck in the process of trying to digitize an industry that has been stuck in the analog world for many generations.

However, contractors are beginning to realize that they no longer have a choice when it comes to embracing technology. Now it’s a race to decide who will be the first adopters to bring the industry into the future.

We’ve put together five reasons why construction companies need to go digital today.

Why go digital?

Save time and money

Many contractors run several software systems simultaneously – one for estimating, one for project management, and one for accounting. These systems often don’t talk to each other, and each system becomes its own information silo, creating obstructions to the flow of information. Each software system provides information, but it’s difficult or impossible to share that information with the other systems.

Companies soon develop workarounds like entering data by hand from one system to another or using spreadsheets to provide the information everyone needs. Some software systems allow data sharing through import/export, but it still takes time to capture the data, download it, then upload it to another system.

When workers have to manually enter data, there’s an increasing chance that mistakes will be made. Inaccurate information can lead teams to make wrong decisions that can have a profound effect on the financial success of projects over time.

All-in-one software packages create workflows that allow project teams to share data between departments without resorting to workarounds that can cause errors and lost productivity.

Attract a younger workforce

In order to attract younger workers contractors need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology has to offer. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but there’s a lot of tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech more readily to match the skill sets, education, and training future workers are receiving.

Construction management students are learning project management and documentation using the software. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using Excel and other legacy software. If contractors don’t adopt these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest in new talent.

Integration is key when it comes to estimating and material takeoffs. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create estimates and perform takeoffs. That data then has to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. Younger workers don’t understand why these systems are separated when there are so many options for integrating them.

Harness the power of new technology

New tech, like AI, machine learning, and automation are changing the landscape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than robots and droids. It describes how machines are able to mimic human thinking, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning.

AI is being used to create predictive models based on past project data. These models analyze projects for cost overages, schedule delays, and other potential issues. The software looks for similarities between past projects and current work, and from there it can predict potential problems and bring them to the contractor’s attention.

Machine learning is a subset of AI and uses statistical techniques and calculations to understand project data and gain insights. As more data is added to the machine learning model, the software is able to assimilate the information and refine its predictions in current situations. Contractors are using both machine learning and predictive analysis to assess projects before they start so they know the risks and can proactively manage them from the beginning of the project.

Automation, or the use of technology to perform tasks, is also gaining in popularity in construction. Construction management and accounting software systems use automation to speed up data entry tasks and help prevent errors. For example, automated invoice entry in accounts payable allows workers to pull amounts and codes from commitment records and get notified when budget line items are over their limits. This automation helps ensure data is accurate and cost overruns are detected and managed.

Streamline your operations

With business growth responsibilities and processes are often developed organically. Employees do the best they can, but without a big picture view, they often create processes without knowing why. These processes certainly get the work done, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best way to do something.

The software can provide the overall structure needed to streamline processes that have grown cumbersome over time. With software as your guide, roles and responsibilities can be reorganized based on the most efficient way to perform a process.

Using an all-in-one system also simplifies record-keeping and data retrieval processes. Project records can be stored in the cloud, so now there’s only one place to look for information. Teams don’t have to search in multiple folders and software applications to find the information they need. It’s at the tip of their fingers 24/7.

Manage/control risk

Construction management software can help teams mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it can speed communication and document what’s being done to proactively address issues.

Project management software allows teams to see and address overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show outstanding items as well as who is responsible for those items. The software can also track health checks and other safety-related inspections that are required in today’s world. This daily reporting allows team members to see the status of various items and predict potential problems.

Having a central hub where documents are stored is a must, given the number that is created and distributed during a project. Document storage, version control, and distribution are easily managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are. The same is true for project correspondence. Team members have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. All communication is tracked and documented within the system, and specific items can easily be recalled in minutes.

Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can manage the project budget and costs from the site, without having to request information from the office.

Digital is changing the construction world

While the outside world and other industries transitioned from analog to digital several years ago, construction has always been behind the times. It’s only now that the industry has begun harnessing the power that has been available for decades. Tomorrow’s workers are better prepared for this change and are sure to lead the effort. See how smoothly Jonas Premier can assist you and your team in the process of going digital. Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Trends & Technology

The Truth About True Cloud

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What is the difference between cloud and a hosted environment?

With typical hosting, you’re offloading your servers to a third party hosting company who then looks after server management on your behalf. While at first glance this seems like a positive step in the right direction to reducing your overall IT costs, you’re still limited by the capacity of these servers and the network capacity of the provider. If you need more capacity, the hosting provider may not be able to provide it. If you need a faster server – get ready for a ‘planned migration’ that can potentially leave you and your customers with either heavily degraded service, or worse, no service at all. Requiring more capacity is known in the industry as ‘Scaling’, and with traditional hosting this remains difficult and costly. In addition to issues with Scalability, you’re also putting your full confidence in your hosting provider to take complete backups, ensure that both your backups and live environment are secure, and that the software you are hosting remains available, even during catastrophic failures.

With Cloud Technology, servers typically operate in a virtualized cluster of many machines, all working together to provide you with the resources and capacity you need. Scaling up, then, is simply a quick configuration change. No downtime. No servers to order. No issues with parts being on back-order. Virtually no downtime. With Cloud technology, companies can scale on-demand to the requirements of the business to ensure that the resources you need are available when you need it. And backups are not an afterthought – they’re typically baked into the core of the service. In the case of a hosting provider such as Microsoft Azure, backups are constantly being taken, allowing you access to to-the-minute point-in-time backups from any time in the last 14 days. And catastrophic failures need not be a concern – with a 99.95% guaranteed uptime and failover zones that are provisioned on the opposite location of the main data centre, you can be sure your data remains safe and your software remains available.

What do you mean by ‘true cloud’, then?

 Many software companies, in an attempt to appear modern and up-to-date dedicate their budgets to masquerading the underlying server dependency with Hosting Environment solutions, rather than investing in their customers and the future of their product. Those that approach the problem in this way are looking at the problem from a short term gain perspective, meaning, long term pains. Jonas Premier, on the other hand, was engineered from the ground up using modern technology, leveraging Microsoft Azure, the #1 global provider for cloud hosting. With more than 66% of Fortune 500 companies relying on Microsoft Azure as their cloud service provider, combined with their 99.95% enterprise grade SLA on services, support, and monitoring, you can be sure that your data remains safe, available, and that Premier can scale to even the most demanding businesses.

So, not all Software Solutions that claim to be ‘cloud’ are ‘true cloud’ based solutions?!

Unfortunately, not. Many companies practice deceptive marketing strategies as a short term solution solely to prop up their financials and appear to position themselves in the market in a way that isn’t reflective of their true solution. They spend their resources on this deception, rather than investing in their infrastructure, and thus, their customers.

That can’t be right. I just got a trial, and was able to run the software without installing it!

Most hosted software solutions require you to operate the software using Remote Desktop Technology such as RDP or Citrix. Sometimes, in addition to this, they also require you establish a VPN connection to their network! Typically, all of these solutions are costly, slow and inconvenient. In these situations, they are effectively having you connect to a workstation which already has the software installed, whether that be to run your day to day business, or to provide you with a demo or trial. In today’s world, people demand the convenience of access, speed, high availability, and a low cost. With a true cloud solution such as Jonas Premier, you don’t need to worry about how you will connect to the software, you don’t need to worry about whether it can scale to meet the demands of your growing business, and you don’t need to worry about maintaining servers, backups, or any of the associated IT overhead.

 Where is my data and who does it belong to?

This is a great question. You want to ensure that you are teaming up with a reputable hosting provider as they are responsible for the security and safety of your data. With Jonas Premier, your data always remains your data. You always have access to real-time data on demand which can be queried through the software, or externally from the software. You can even extract your data using your favorite tools such as Microsoft Excel! Backed by Constellation Software Inc (CSU.TO) and hosted on the Microsoft Azure Cloud, you can be confident that your data is safe and secure. In addition, we have escrow agreements in place to ensure that you have access to your data no matter what the future has in store.

 Why are businesses moving to cloud?

The answer is simple. Lower Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO), higher convenience, reduced overall risk, high availability, and access to real-time information from anywhere at any time. Information and reporting are the heart of any organization, and with cloud, it makes it easy for employees to get information from the field into the software to improve cash flow and enhance decision-making capabilities. With over 80% of companies saving money since implementing cloud, it is no surprise that so many companies are making the choice to move to the cloud.

What are the risks with cloud?

Life is fraught with risk, and in this case, the main risk associated with Cloud solutions is internet connectivity and availability. As more and more of the world is looking to the Internet as the universal-backbone-of-things, we’ve seen significant investments in communication technologies, such as fibre to the door, higher speeds, increased cell tower coverage, etc. Today, those internet challenges are quickly becoming a non-issue.

But my server is working great. Why would I want to change?

While traditional servers are still an option, servers have to be maintained and upgraded regularly, which is not only time consuming, but also costly as well. Your business requires IT personnel to manage this and you will incur the costs for backing up your data and storing information. For example, the typical cost to back up data is approximately $80/month for businesses, and most companies’ ultimately back-up to tape, larger in scale and more advanced, but fundamentally the same technology used back in the day of the 8-track tape or audio tapes you might have had in your car to listen to music. Over time, these tapes become unreliable and can be easily damaged. Also, businesses are storing more documents and trying to share them with customers and vendors, which include photos, drawings, and videos. Businesses end up leveraging public online services such as Dropbox. Dropbox is good when you want to share files with your friends, but do you want to make it the information sharing cornerstone of your business? These types of solutions make it increasingly difficult for employees to collaborate and access real-time information.

What about Security? Surely a server solution is more secure than a Cloud Solution.

Most companies have a tendency to believe their servers are safe. And then, something actually happens. Only at this point, with their data lost or stolen and their whole business now at risk, do they quickly realize they lacked the proper infrastructure to protect their most valuable assets. Businesses have had their servers stolen, suffered data corruption, and sometimes lose their data entirely due to natural disasters. Also, many businesses simply do not have the funding to hire and maintain the IT personnel, nor the infrastructure, and when corners get cut you increase the risk of viruses, corruption, or worse. If you partner with a reputable cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure, your data is being protected by one of the top software companies in the world. With Jonas Premier, we have a 14-day point-in-time backup recovery, redundant backups on top of the point-in-time backups, and we leverage multiple data centres within Azure which ensure we have disaster recovery, failover and redundancy capabilities in place. To put it simply, without a proper IT infrastructure in place and a large budget, choosing a server solution is like keeping your money under your mattress. With Jonas Premier, you get to keep your money in the bank, and you can rest easy at night knowing your money is safe.

 

“As a company, we’re not typically in the office all day, every day. Having a cloud-based construction software like Jonas Premier allows us to perform our jobs wherever we may be and fits in well with our business model.”

-Bill Knauss, Land Development & Construction[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Industry Insight Trends & Technology

Document Management – What to Consider

Picture this – endless piles of paper taking over your office and desk space. Sounds familiar?

If so, then it’s probably time to consider looking at an e-document management system. At a time when there are so many tools available to share and organize data there is huge value in deploying a system that ensures your information is accessible, secure, and easy to find for all its stakeholders.

The way you consume information is a personal preference. To many people, reading from a physical document is much more natural, comfortable and convenient than reading from a screen. To others, reading from the screen is more preferential.

Jonas Premier gives you the opportunity to go completely paperless by storing and transferring all your data digitally. We also make it easy to email and print reports. Part of what makes this possible is the integration with various Microsoft office programs:

Outlook – Automate your emails and send reports directly through Premier for quick and easy communication.

Excel – Generate spreadsheets on a platform that you’re already comfortable with, and see information the way you want to see it. Print, save, or email it.

A centralized, easily accessible location for all of your information will enable your entire team to collaborate on projects and reduce the time it takes to perform tasks. No more searching for missing information or sorting through outdated unorganized data. Companies that don’t require a hard copy of their documents are also at a significant cost advantage. There is less time spent on printing and filing which gives your administrative staff more time to accomplish other important tasks.

Premier’s document management system enables your team quick and easy access to the most current versions of their documents while also keeping an accurate historical audit trail. This reduces the risk of looking at stale information. Premier also designates which revision you are currently looking at as well as when it was created.

Although improving your document management system might not be your top priority, it is fairly easy to do and offers great rewards down the road. Go electronic with your documents and make sure your company is operating at its fullest potential!

Check out our other features HERE!

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The Hidden CEO of Constellation Software, Mark Leonard

For the past 19 years, Mark Leonard has been building Constellation Software (CSU.TO) into one of the most successful software companies in Canada, and yet you probably don’t know much about him. He’s managed to avoid the spotlight completely, to the point where it is even difficult to find a picture of him online.  In today’s age of social media and rampant press, it’s actually a pretty incredible feat that he’s accomplished.

Joe Chidley recently wrote an article for The Globe and Mail titled “Constellation Software’s Elusive CEO,” which probably contains the most information about Mark Leonard ever published and made available to the public.

“He is probably the most intensely private individual in IT,” says one long-time associate.

Why the preferred anonymity though? The Globe and Mail unsuccessfully tried to get an interview, and within 30 minutes Mark Leonard replied by email.

“Kind of you to offer,” he replied, “but I discovered when I was in the venture business that interviews aren’t for me. What little I have to say, I generally put in my letters to shareholders. I do occasionally speak with students, but usually in the vain hope that I can distract them from pursuing careers in investment banking and private equity.”

Whether it’s in the public eye or not, there’s no disputing Mark Leonard’s success with Constellation Software. Constellation’s stock has grown at a faster rate than Google or Apple and is continuously growing. Owning companies in 60 different markets and raking in over $1.2 billion (U.S.) in sales in 2013, Constellation Software is definitely a Canadian heavyweight and a company to look out for.

 

Source: Chidley, Joe. “Constellation Software’s elusive CEO.” The Globe and Mail[Toronto] 24 Apr. 2014: n. pag. The Globe and Mail. Web. 15 July 2014.