The phrase, “A single source of truth” is a common business idiom that has been used to describe many different scenarios. In the software world, one could argue it relates to the increasingly discussed topic of ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning. The simple version when searching for a definition of an ERP is that it is a modular software system designed to integrate multiple business process applications into a unified system.
As companies increasingly rely on a variety of cloud-based applications to tackle different business processes, wrangling these flexible-yet-disparate solutions into a single dashboard becomes important for streamlining operations. It also helps frame the conversation around what a company truly needs from a technology standpoint, as ERPs address the overarching need of every business user, while individual applications (accounting, project management, field reporting, etc.) respond to specific task-oriented demands.
ERPs can provide that single source of truth to bring cross-departmental unity to a construction company’s technology operations. Sharing data, breaking down silos, and making unique technology applications hum from a central database can yield significant time savings and greater collaboration across a business with multiple departments and geographies.
Oftentimes, in the days before a business decides it needs an ERP solution, it relies on insufficient platforms that don’t provide the horsepower it needs to gain the deep integration of different business processes across the entire team. In the construction environment, this poses a very real threat to the success of the project when you consider how many activities originate in the field and then must be transferred to other personnel and departments. In fact, some construction companies still rely on hand-written field notes that must be physically brought to the home office and recorded in order to be shared with the team.
This lack of synergy when it comes to information sharing can change the tenor of a project in the blink of an eye. An owner who feels his team is uninformed; an architect that loses confidence her construction management peers are acknowledging her concerns; an electrical engineer that notes safety issues that are seemingly ignored. The word collaboration may seem overused, but it’s essential for any construction project to succeed, especially large builds with multiple partners and stakeholders.
While there may be comfort in the hand-written note that is then transferred to an official document in the home office, the process is slow and error-prone. ERP software allows forward-thinking construction companies to take full advantage of the birth of new mobile-based field reporting tools that make real-time updates possible, as data can be instantly shared and accessed by all members of the team via a robust ERP. That kind of connectivity simply isn’t possible with the paper-based reports of old.
In addition to the ability to cut down on mistakes due to inaccurate or duplicitous reporting, users of ERP systems often report positive gains from a profitability standpoint. This is typically attributed to the greater clarity they experience once an ERP has been deployed, which makes it easier to push out invoices and monitor which bills remain outstanding. In addition, simply cutting down on the number of personnel involved in a given process also represents a positive impact to the bottom line, as ERPs remove some of the overhead burdens from manual processes that do little to improve profitability.
In addition, simply having real-time access to cost data and project info ensures your project managers can spot opportunities to expedite key processes for improved profitability or navigate around possible challenges before they become costly time burdens. With the ability to more closely monitor operational performance, managers and field leaders can glean the insights necessary to stay ahead of potential shifts on the jobsite.
Understanding the ROI of ERPs requires not looking at it solely as an investment that should yield an immediate pay-off; it’s more nuanced than that, as the successful deployment will eliminate costly practices that consume resources and have a tendency to produce unreliable information. The value of streamlining an organization’s software tools is that it will pay dividends now and down the road.
In an era where technology changes faster than the weather, scalability of major software investments is key. This is yet another benefit of ERPs, as it scales seamlessly to adapt to the changing needs of the project team – meaning the structure of the platform will likely look different two years from now as demands increase.
By having a software partner that can also lead the training efforts of bringing your staff up to speed, it’s easier to form an appreciation for what an ERP platform can deliver to a given organization. In working with an ERP specialist like United Solutions to provide demos and the necessary training, construction teams can gain an intimate understanding of how seriously the company needs to consider an ERP deployment.
For more information, contact us today for a quote or free software demonstration.
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