Construction businesses have to meet urgent needs for new housing, commercial and government facilities, and public infrastructures. Coming out of the pandemic, construction firms face high expectations from clients, increased costs and shortages of critical supplies, and a lack of skilled talent. The right business management software can make it easier for construction companies to run and grow a profitable, efficient, competitive business. In a series of five blog posts, we take a closer look at industry conditions and how a software solution delivered by Sikich can help companies thrive.
In previous posts, we highlighted important construction industry developments and discussed the key capabilities that need to be in a software solution for construction businesses. Below, we show you how Sikich addresses construction technology needs.
Leaving the software jungle
As we discussed in our previous post, the larger ERP systems are not a great fit for most construction companies. They can be too expensive to acquire, implement, and operate. For many users, they can be complicated and overwhelming. Specialized construction software can be great, but it has its limitations when it comes to general business management.
What, then, is the best software strategy for a construction company?
Research indicates that 30 percent of construction firms rely on five or more software applications to handle everyday activities. That no longer has to be what happens in your business. You can instead deploy a solution that meets the lion’s share of your requirements right out-of-the-box and use specialized software tools only when they really make a crucial difference for the business.
How would this work? In the cloud, you combine business management and construction capabilities in one, right-sized technology environment. You build on a foundational, modern ERP system, which powers finance and back-office processes. It enables foundational business management and supports role-specific analytics and insightful decision-making. This ERP is the platform that seamlessly integrates with the construction functionality you need—project management, materials estimating, subcontractor management, and everything else. It should also include a CRM component, so you can manage relationships, contracts, and communications with clients.
Coherent, consolidated construction software foundation
Imagine integrated ERP and construction software as an intuitive, coherent technology environment where users can accomplish everything they need to, without switching applications or rekeying information. Your cloud construction software is standardized and extensible, so it can integrate with other data sources and systems you use, enable data-driven workflows across the company, and support mobile access through apps.
Several cloud-based, powerful ERP and CRM solutions can ground your construction software environment, including Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle NetSuite, and Salesforce. Sikich uses all three of them depending on what’s best for clients. When we work with construction companies, we often implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in integration with Project Pro software, which provides extensive construction capabilities. By now, we have completed successful projects based on this solution for so many clients that we can safely say that deployments are generally smooth and efficient, and the technology works and adapts to your business as promised.
Elevating the software standard
Our integrated solution is called Sikich HEADSTART for Construction because it incorporates our proprietary HEADSTART methodology for deploying ERP software. In simple terms, HEADSTART comprises a complete model of a typical construction business, with hundreds of standardized, preconfigured processes based on best industry practices and our experience in hundreds of construction projects.
The main advantage of HEADSTART is that it helps accelerate projects and ensures that they stay on track with your goals without running into unexpected issues. You can take your construction software into productive use faster, with the best possible alignment of technology and how people in your company work. If you look back to the nine important values that contribute to profitability we mentioned in our earlier post—you can define and track these within HEADSTART for Construction as soon as you go live with the solution.
We should take a closer look at the components of HEADSTART for Construction.
Building on the best of Microsoft Dynamics
Today, roughly two million people worldwide use Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP software. After acquiring several leading ERP solutions early in the new millennium, Microsoft by and by refined and strengthened them, readied them for the cloud, boosted them with advanced analytics, and created a coherent software environment that can serve almost any business.
More than 100,000 organizations around the globe run on Business Central. Optimized for mid-size companies that want to benefit from streamlined processes, Business Central is a great fit for most construction firms. It’s a unified solution that connects people, processes, and information across a company. Business Central supports critical activities and processes—such as finance, project management, sales and service management, supply chain management, other operations, and analytics—on one set of connected data. As soon as a manager updates vendor delivery information, for example, it is reflected in the company’s financial forecasts and project areas. Or, if an account representative and a customer agree on a change in fees and invoicing, the new information is immediately available for financial reporting.
Business Central comes with the scalability, security, robustness, and ease of access you find in the best modern cloud solutions. Microsoft keeps it vital by continuously improving it with scheduled feature updates every six months and many incremental enhancements that can make the lives of users and businesses easier. For your construction company, Sikich can deploy Business Central flexibly—in the cloud, on-premises, or as a hosted solution. If you decide to run Business Central on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, you gain the advantage of Microsoft’s highly secure, redundant data centers with a minimum uptime agreement of 99.9 percent.
Affordable, intuitive, and simple
You can also choose among several Business Central licensing options, and part of Sikich deployment services is helping clients select the software licenses that make both financial and practical sense. Depending on what people in your company need, you can license Business Central Essentials or Premium capabilities. You also can get Team Member licenses for less demanding requirements, or acquire licenses per devices, which several employees can share. In any case, you pay your monthly fees based on your actual licensing consumption.
If your team members are familiar with Microsoft applications like Outlook, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, they will be able to comfortably use Business Central very quickly. They can also continue using their apps more productively, because Business Central provides standard integrations with Microsoft 365. Without leaving your software environment, you can look up financial and project data in Business Central, create a quote, progress report, or invoice for a client, access saved drawings and documents on SharePoint, or schedule and run meetings that draw on supporting data and files from the ERP system. Through an integration of Business Central with Dynamics 365 Sales, you can draw on system data to manage client relationships and accounts within the same software environment, all the way from converting a prospect into a client, through projects, and on to delivery of maintenance or other services.
Delivering business insight
Business Central includes analytics and intelligence capabilities that let you keep tabs on the pulse of your business and move it in the right direction—without becoming or hiring a data scientist. For example, you can make use of ERP system data to predict and forecast cashflow and revenue, or model the implications of business decisions regarding clients and project workloads.
If you want to take business insight to a more strategic level, you can connect Business Central and Microsoft Power BI in the cloud—another standard integration. With Power BI, you can create decision-enabling visualizations, and users in your company can create their own data dashboards and reports. To save clients time and effort, however, Sikich will often record their wish lists, create the custom reports and dashboards they would like, and deliver them ready for use.
Taking the next step
When you decide it’s time to find out how modern business management software and deep industry expertise can help you run a successful, profitable construction business, here are some next steps:
- Contact Sikich for an exploratory conversation.
- See how Sikich solutions and services support construction businesses.
- Read the previous and following posts in this series:
- Starting over: A new beginning for the construction industry
- Designing a solution: What construction companies need from technology
- Enabling profitability: Business insight and construction-specific capabilities in your business software
- Getting it built: working with Sikich to deploy your cloud construction software