In this article, you will learn why it is time that construction financial management moves to the cloud. From real-time data to real business applications, making the move to a true cloud solution outweighs any negative side effects.
The Silver Lining
If there is one silver lining for contractors that will come of the Coronavirus crisis it will be the light shining on the need to harden construction businesses against these kinds of events in the future. Now that we have all been awakened to the fact that a pandemic can reach our shores and affect us in ways we could not imagine only a few short weeks ago, as business owners we are wise to act on our new knowledge.
Before COVID-19, few contractors were thinking of or had a plan for a remote work scenario. Now, we are all either doing it or at the least thinking of it. If you are working remotely, it is likely via a stop-gap solution like remote-controlling your office computer from home. This can work in an emergency, but certainly not for the long-term. Additionally, stop-gap solutions do not address the entirety of the needs your company has, like issuing payments and providing management reports.
Top Reasons To Move Your Construction Financial Management To The Cloud
However, a crisis like this is not the only reason that moving your financial management software to the cloud makes good sense. There is a confluence of events that are worthy of attention and action. Here are a few:
- All of the most commonly used construction financial management systems were first developed in the early to mid-1990s. Now, a completely different era of technology exists, and legacy systems have reached the limit of their development
- All of these same products rely on many “third party” or white-labeled add-ons to function in today’s world. This creates multiple logins, dissimilar user interfaces, and opportunities for support calls (read cost and downtime)
- All legacy systems have a licensing model that is per user, which limits deployment and prevents staff that could use these systems from having access without incurring additional expense
- Few (none?) of them have native dashboarding capabilities
- All rely on the outdated model of an on-premise server or a “rented” server in the cloud, adding significant IT infrastructure costs
I could add more to this list, such as the lack of effective deployment of mobile technologies, but the reasons listed should start you thinking – isn’t there something better? There is …
The Last Technological Event In Construction: The Advent Of Windows
Before we get into talking about what is better, a bit of background is necessary. The last time there was any significant technological event that created a sea-change in how contractors operated the management of their finances was the advent of the Windows operating system. Windows came in the early ’90s, 30 years ago. Since then, the systems developed in that era have served contractors well. They have been upgraded, added-to, and massaged in different ways over the years.
However, fundamentally, they are at their core the same and cannot outrun the pace of technology as a whole. The Windows platform was a game-changing event, don’t get me wrong. Contractors could do more, get better information, and perform accounting functions more quickly than in the prior green-screen world. These improvements made the investment worthwhile, and frankly, the return on the investment has been incredibly good. After all, what other purchases made in the 1990s are you still using on a daily basis?
The New Technological Sea-Change Is Here
Now comes not just one sea-change event, but two, one technological and the other environmental. First, we have the Coronavirus, an environmental event with consequences that few of us would have expected. It has shaken vibrant businesses to their core, put others under, and left nearly all of us scrambling to find ways to work from home effectively and keep our people productive and our customers not only happy but functioning.
The old legacy systems were never designed to operate in this environment, and it shows. The technological event is the arrival of cloud-based ERP systems for construction. Cloud construction ERP is a much bigger game-changer for contractors than Windows was 30 years ago.
This new generation of construction ERP has all the things that the old legacy systems do not. To give you a few examples:
- They are built on new technology, which frees you from maintaining or paying someone else to maintain an IT infrastructure
- They are accessible from a browser on any device, making a seamless transition to remote work
- Dashboards are built-in, plus they have single sign-on and two-factor authentication
- In the case of Acumatica Construction Edition, there are no user or seat-based license fees. This will change how you deploy software and has a broad range of applications that are a part of a single platform and not developed somewhere else.
These abilities will change the way you think about software deployment and the uses you put it to.
To understand the impact that cloud construction ERP systems will have, think about these things:
- Your current legacy system was designed in an era when applications like project management were not even thought of
- Back then, the internet was a newborn, we were using dial-up modems to send email
- The smartphone was still 15 years away
As advanced as legacy systems were at the time, they are very far behind when it comes to the modern era. In the 1990s they were revolutionary, but today the limitations of that time are not serving us as they once did. Unfortunately, there is no magic that can transform a legacy system into a modern cloud ERP system, no matter what some software publishers might like us to think.
Get Ready (Excited) For Cloud Construction ERP
Now comes cloud ERP for construction … so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that you get a platform designed with all the modern tech natively incorporated, With Acumatica Construction Edition you are released from seat-based licensing and have your entire business covered on a single platform with open APIs for integrating other core software systems. You get productivity gains, dashboards, and you effectively harden a significant part of your business against events none of us can control. We are all thinking about how to run our businesses more effectively, be more efficient, and trim expenses while expanding our opportunities. I would be safe in saying that we are all more focused.
Stop Accepting The Status Quo
While the COVID-19 virus is forcing us to focus on things that were relatively invisible only a few weeks ago, the fact is the need for a modern cloud ERP for construction was there before COVID.
Because your staff has learned to navigate the challenges of on-premise software and take those tasks as just part of the job of operating your accounting system, the shortcomings have become normalized. “It’s just the way it works” comes to mind. Maintaining your own network and servers and backups are accepted because “that’s the way we have always done it.” Many also hire outside managed IT services to remove the burden from internal staff, seeing it as a more cost-effective way to keep the internal network and attached workstations operating while freeing up staff time to do the work they are charged with.
The result of all of this becomes normalized as well, simply accepting these normals as a cost of doing business. Pretty soon, everything gets expensive and unnoticed; accepted because you need it. As these costs and methods of operating have become a normal part of operating your business, they fade into the background. Since legacy software continues to work and produce the results that you have always gotten, your attention naturally is applied in areas of seemingly greater urgency. I am here to tell you: there is a better way.
The Advantages Of True-Cloud Construction ERP
If you are thinking about the items I have mentioned above, you likely have a good idea of where many of the advantages a Cloud Construction ERP like Acumatica Construction Edition offer. Here are a few highlights
- The need for internal IT and network infrastructure is eliminated
- The need for managed IT services is eliminated
- Backups are automatically made in the cloud and stored remotely
- The need to perform software updates is eliminated
- Freedom from user-based or seat-based licensing
- Unique dashboards for every position in your company on desktop and mobile
- Collaboration is inherent
- Elimination of several dissimilar applications and their related costs
- Reduced training requirements
- Modern interfaces with banking, expense reporting, document signing, and more
- Built-in CRM to manage and make your sales pipeline visible
- Configurable approvals and notifications across the system
- All system functions can be performed in a mobile environment
- Built-in project forecasting
These are just a few of the advantages.
The ROI Of Moving To A True-Cloud Construction ERP
The icing on the cake is that when you add up the true cost of maintaining a legacy software system, it is often quite a bit more costly than a modern construction ERP. However, direct cost comparisons are a short-sighted way to look at the actual value a true-cloud solution brings to your company. A direct cost comparison leaves out the value that modern tech delivers, along with intangibles such as how your technology stack is useful in recruiting top talent and giving your customers and employees assurance that your company is a leader in the industry – not antiquated.
What do you do with this information? The place where I would start is to become educated on what a cloud ERP can do for you, how it can affect your operations, and how it will impact your bottom line. Most importantly, how you would deploy software differently if it were mobile and there was no added cost for broad deployment?
I would consider the remaining life span of your current software and whether it makes sense to ride it out to the end. I would think about the fact that new technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are already being built into Acumatica Construction Edition and that those technologies will further enhance the competitive advantage that cloud ERP for construction has.
Not All Cloud Software Is Created Equal
There are some landmines in the marketplace today. Being in the cloud is a hot topic and generates a substantial amount of interest. Therefore, software vendors want their products to be seen as “in the cloud” and leading the marketplace. But beware. Cloud systems do not get created overnight and they are expensive to develop. Cloud systems are new to the construction industry and because they are so expensive to build, there is a very short list of true-cloud solutions.
The landmines to avoid are the companies boasting a cloud solution when in reality, it is their legacy software hosted remotely and charged for on a subscription basis. Just because the software is accessible via the internet and is charged for monthly, does not make it a true-cloud ERP. Nor do these systems move your company forward relative to what you use today. Here are a few things you want to look for in a true cloud ERP, one of them you may find counter-intuitive:
- All that is required to run the software is any browser, any device, and an internet connection
- All functions are available on a mobile device through a native app
- There is no long list of customers to reference that have been on the platform for years
- There is an open API for interfacing other modern, mobile software applications
- There is no seat-based pricing
- The user interface is consistent across all applications
- There is at least some artificial intelligence already built into the system
- There is solid security, including two-factor authentication
If any of these are missing, you want to peel that onion a bit further.
COVID may be bringing some of the shortcomings of legacy software systems into sharper focus, but the reality is that finding the right construction cloud ERP should be on your radar and in your plans in any case. The advantages are compelling and the cost savings are real:
- Legacy construction accounting software is costly to operate
- Legacy systems are expensive to expand and deploy
- On-premise technology is at the end of its life cycle
- True cloud is the now and definitely the future
- Wider deployment of your software is an advantage
- Direct cost savings are likely
- True cloud ROI is significant
- Watch for “Fake-Cloud” offerings
- Hosted on-premise solutions are a band-aid stopgap
If you are ready to start the conversation, send me an email below, or connect with me, Kurt Bangert, on LinkedIn.