The 2020 Acumatica Summit, held January 26-31, included numerous resources for construction professionals. This year, the number of attendees from the construction industry tripled from 2019. Those who use or have an interest in using Acumatica Construction Edition were invited to a product tour, demo, and tips and tricks workshop, as well as educational opportunities revolving around field operations, accounting and customer journeys.
Finally, an industry panel featured experts discussing critical topics such as the benefits of true cloud access, the importance of user-friendly technology, the use of drones and other connected devices, and new ways to track profitability. The panel was led by Mike Gillum, product specialist for Acumatica Construction Edition, and included:
- Technology-in-construction leader Nikki Alsop of Vaughn Bay Construction.
- Industry leading Innovator Kurt Bangert of Bangert Computer Systems.
- Construction technologist and strategist Ryan Kunisch of Assignar.
- Accounting and tax-update expert Warren Hennigan of Marcum LLP.
- Leader construction financial-management Stuart Binstock of the Construction Financial Management Association.
Audience members walked away with numerous ideas on how to be more efficient, profitable, and reduce risk with these key lessons from the session:
Ease of Use
Not all field personnel are computer experts, and they don’t need to be with user-friendly software. Though in a recent construction industry survey by JBKnowledge, the analysts asked their respondents (85% of whom were born between 1960 and 1995, 28.8% female, 71.2% male) questions about IT strategy and budget, their use of mobile devices and apps, and their workflow strategies. The panel pointed to the need for applications that construction professionals can start using immediately, without a steep learning curve. This process is critical because, with younger contractors, they expect it to be user-friendly and not require extensive training.
The panel addressed the availability of labor tied with economic conditions as being the factor respondents thought would most affect the construction industry in the next three years. Labor shortage encompasses many aspects, but the speaker panel pointed out one important one: how the younger generation is impatient with technology that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. One panelist said, “They want products they can use in the first five minutes of opening.” So, construction companies presenting themselves as having modern tools is key to attracting the younger workforce.
Profitability and Efficiency
The panel recognized that, with profit margins slimmer than ever, construction companies need ways to maximize them. Applications such as Acumatica Construction Edition help by enabling field workers to enter data immediately from anywhere. As a result, project managers have a real-time sense of how each project is doing, enabling them to make smart, profitable decisions.
Profitability, according to the panelists, is also supported by greater efficiency. Technology can assist by analyzing data to help managers understand where workflows can be improved.
The panelists noted that siloed systems lead to inconsistent data and information, which can be an obstacle to good planning. For example, when the accounting system doesn’t connect to the project-management system, double-entry errors can result. Yet accuracy is highly important when managers need to understand key financial, inventory, scheduling and other data. Modern, cloud based construction and accounting software resolves this issue by integrating various system modules as well as connecting systems for multiple companies that work in tandem (such as construction and manufacturing and shipping).
Keeping with the theme that project managers need up-to-the-minute data, the panel noted the importance of customizable graphical dashboards and reports to keep everything organized. With cloud software, users can retrieve the information they need through tables and data, reflecting what’s happening in real time, and can drill down for more granular details on invoicing, inventory, scheduling, revenue, budget and other significant project components.
True Cloud Access
A centralized data-storage feature has become critical for construction-project success. Because of it, user input is instantaneous, preventing data-entry duplications that can cause confusion and lead to faulty decisions. Acumatica Construction Edition is a true cloud-based application, meaning platform updates are available immediately in response to customer requests.
Construction hasn’t always been the most tech-forward industry, but the panelists agreed that’s changing. For example, many projects now use drones to check on multiple jobsites, perform safety inspections, and gather photos and other data. One panelist said that a drone can gather the same soil-composition data in 10 minutes, a process that used to take two weeks to get by other means.
Likewise, connected jobsite cameras are being deployed to keep tabs on busy project sites; robots are transporting materials around jobsites and performing other manual-labor tasks; and artificial intelligence is supporting record keeping by parsing out details (such as purchase description, date, vendor and dollar amount) of transactions conducted by employees. All this data can also be shared with the central Acumatica Construction Edition platform to streamline operations.
To ensure the construction industry continues to thrive, owners and managers should keep an eye on all these significant trends, many of which reflect a need for streamlined data management. The key to continued construction company success will be finding the right tools to effectively employ those critical practices.