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Overcoming Challenges & Hurdles Facing the Modern Construction Firm

Construction firms face a series of challenges and hurdles. From recruiting specialized talent to reducing project risk reach role in a construction company faces a unique set of challenges. The below infographic provokes a series of questions for each critical role within your organization.

Critical questions facing your construction firm

Hear from Your Peers

As Vanessa Redgrave said, “Ask the right questions if you’re to find the right answers.” Learn more about how your construction firm can go to the next level and see how your peers are overcoming the challenges & hurdles of the construction industry.

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Cloud Computing Takes the Preakness: Dominate the Race with SaaS Construction Software

saas construction softwareAs I watched the Preakness on Saturday and cheered as Cloud Computing overtook Classic Empire (don’t you love horse names?), I couldn’t help but compare the similarities between the horse race and the modern-day decision most construction firms are facing. In horse racing, it rarely pays to be reactive as the field is full of highly competitive top thoroughbreds. The same can be said for highly contested construction bidding where firms seek any advantage to edge out their competition. Let’s examine how outdated business software is keeping your firm at the back of the pack while top construction firms are ditching on-premises solutions in favor of SaaS construction software.

SaaS Construction Software vs. On-Premises

Many business owners are making the move over to cloud computing software from traditional on-premises solutions. But why? As technology has improved, SaaS (Software as a Service) products have become the industry standard for data security, functionality, and ease of use. So, what are the big differences between SaaS Construction Software and on-premises software?

 Speed of Implementation | SaaS products utilize a ready-to-deploy platform which has been optimized for quick deployment. Traditional on-premises solutions require the set-up and maintenance of expensive hardware and software.
Cost of Ownership | Typical SaaS deployments provide a lower cost of entry and reduce the internal resources required to keep things running smoothly over the entire shelf life. On-premises solutions typically entail higher entry and operations costs due to ongoing infrastructure upkeep and support.
• Concentrated Security | SaaS platforms are powered by cloud technology such as Amazon Web Services which handles accreditations, data encryptions, hardware security modules and even physical security – a multitude of factors that contribute to securing your business information. On-premises solutions require your on-site administrator to focus their time and training around deploying specialized software and practices to keep your data secure.
• Unlimited Scalability | Growing firms need to stay cognizant of future IT costs. SaaS solutions can scale up or down with little time or effort, without wasting resources. On-premises solutions require additional server hardware to accommodate for increases in users.
• Compliance with Government Standards | Cloud computing platforms go through rigorous third party audit processes. These third-party audit reports confirm that cloud providers uphold a standard to provide reliable security, confidentiality, processing integrity and privacy principles. Users of on-premises solutions handle the control of their data and systems environment. Administrators of on-premises systems are responsible for the validation and compliance with government standards.

World-Class SaaS Construction Software: See it in Action

It’s time your firm started spending more time in the winner’s circle! See how best-in-class SaaS construction software can help you sweep the competition and win the next big project!

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Latest Advancements in Construction ERP Software – Look for Cloud-Based Solutions with App Integration

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is a suite of integrated applications that seamlessly work together to manage ALL aspects of a business. ERP systems integrate purchasing, marketing, sales and operational data. By design, ERP systems are large and complex, and they streamline business data and processes to improve profitability.

Questions to Ask about Construction ERP Software

In the construction industry, an ERP system typically includes applications for job cost accountingpayrollproject managementpurchasing, inventory, reporting and more. In the best-designed construction ERP systems, all the applications “talk” to each other and share data back and forth.

Is it Scalable and Being Improved for the Future?

Finding the right construction ERP software requires research to fully understand how things will work for your specific situation. While many software companies claim to have fully integrated ERP solutions, you need to do your own research and make sure the systems are scalable and can grow with your business. Also, double check to make sure the company is reinvesting in the software so you don’t select a system that gets phased out or is not being properly supported to keep up with industry changes.

Will it Work in the Cloud?

With everything moving to web-based systems, it’s also important to make sure the software was developed specifically for the cloud and is not just being “used” in the cloud. Software developed originally for a desktop environment often does not fully integrate even though it can be set up for remote access. (Some functions and commands and “keys” often don’t work properly when linking to tablets and smartphones.)

Will it Integrate with Apps?

ERP software can be linked behind the scenes to integrate with apps. For example, apps that allow workers to quickly enter field data, time or equipment usage, greatly improve productivity when connected into an overall ERP system. When entered by employees in the field, these items can be immediately posted to the payroll system and charged to the correct jobs. Not all ERP systems easily integrate with apps, so it is important to do your homework.

See What Your Peers are Saying about Spectrum Construction ERP Software

 

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Take the Next Step with with Cloud-Based ERP Solutions for Construction Firms

cloud-based-erp-solutionsFor most business owners, technology has not always been a friend. The collaboration of business computers with phones, tablets and even the network can create a headache for businesses as well as a delay in efficiency and growth. Technology that not only works cohesively together but functions in real-time from anywhere, is a pipe dream for most business owners. The good news is that there is technology and software out there that can do just that. Cloud-based ERP solutions for construction firms are now making it possible for traveling business owners to walk into their hotel and immediately pull all their information in real time off the cloud.

Cloud-Based ERP Solutions for Construction Firms

In the ‘olden times’, circa 2000’s, most online applications used for business were only dabbling in the internet world. Many were only able to function as on-premise software. As the industry has progressed, sophisticated convergent technologies are making technology accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Better technology that supports comprehensive software has been developed, allowing companies to utilize software systems that can do exactly what they need when they need it and wherever they need it.

These cloud-based ERP solutions for construction firms are leading the software industry for businesses because they not only perform functions that are helpful for business owners, they collaborate and simplify each step of the process for each employee.

Do I Need ERP Software?

Yes. The benefits of having technology at your fingertips outweigh the costs in most all situations. Your team is on the same page which makes them work more efficiently. It also gives them more time to do the things they love and less time manually accommodating your current software situation - which likely frustrates and takes energy away from them.

“When organizations successfully engage their customers & employees, they experience a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes compared with an organization with neither engaged employees nor engaged customers.”

State of the American Workplace’ - Gallup

Other than engaged employees, another benefit of ERP is that there isn’t any middleware involved. All of the ERP software modules and applications are created to speak to one another and help you stay ahead of the conversation in all aspects of your business.

Helping Construction Firms with Cloud-Based ERP Solutions

At Strategies Group, we are in the business of helping industry specific businesses set up cloud-based ERP solutions that help them succeed. We have over thirty years of experience helping clients refine key processes, increase sales, improve customer satisfaction and become more profitable. We follow a unique process to discover your business, design a custom software solution, deploy the software and deliver the right results. We’re on your team from the day you start working with us and long after we’re done training you on the new system.

Are you ready to take the next step and learn about Strategies Group? Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help your business.

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On-Premise vs Cloud-Based Solutions

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the idea of using the internet to connect to a shared tool. Instead of working from a local, on-premise server, the cloud utilizes a remote network on the internet and can host an entire company’s pool of resources.

Cloud computing represents one of the most significant shifts in computing and software technology in years. Like all new waves of technology, there is some hesitation from consumers on whether the benefits of the new solution warrant making a change.

Cloud Computing Benefits

Low Cost for Setup and Ongoing Maintenance

With an on-premise software solution, businesses must schedule maintenance and regular updates that could shut the company down for days or longer. With cloud hosting, all the hardware, backups and maintenance can be outsourced to a cloud provider so companies don’t have to manage reliability and IT costs that they would have if they had an in-house IT setup.

No Need for Internal IT Team

Software as a service (SaaS) allows users to subscribe and use software in the cloud. Companies using the cloud no longer need an IT manager because they can utilize the SaaS company they’ve chosen to work with. In most cases, these companies have exceptional customer service.

Less Maintenance to Upgrade System

Cloud applications do the upgrades for you, and you’re immediately switched over. This allows for more frequent updates and is much more convenient.

Fast Setup and Implementation

Cloud computing is especially helpful for growing businesses. It allows owners to scale up quickly without fronting the cost of installing an infrastructure on site. This keeps your team efficient and creates transparency as the software is being implemented.

Easy to Scale Up and Down with Engagement

Typically, when we have a client that has been using an on-premise software and wants to switch, we help them review and update their internal processes so they are more efficient when they move to the cloud. Our team at Strategies Group looks at your business structure and implements process improvements to make your company run more smoothly.

Saves Time, Keeps Margins Low

By operating in the cloud – you are saving time because you don’t have to load software onto each computing device you use. Most software runs in the browser or through an app, so it allows your team to be up to date at all times.

Is the Cloud Secure?

Security is a big concern with cloud computing and this question is something that our team at Strategies Group hears regularly. ‘Is the cloud secure?’ – Yes. It’s as secure, if not more secure, than an on-premise server would be.

The truth of the matter is that any server can be hacked, even a private on-premise structure. The advantage of using a cloud server is that issues are often detected more quickly because there are more customers using the same cloud software. Providers can identify issues quickly and often can work out any kinks because of the large influx of data that they can see.

Are You Ready to Upgrade to the Cloud?

At Strategies Group, our goal is to help your business succeed. When software is combined with the knowledge and expertise of a Strategies Group certified consultant/trainer, your business benefits from having a customized solution that works exactly how you want it to.

We offer a robust set of software solutions. We understand that growing companies need to keep operation costs to a minimum because of thin margins. Transferring your software to the cloud will give you more control and transparency of your IT costs.

Contact Us!

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Thanks to All New Strategies Group Clients for a Great Year

Since partnering with Dexter + Chaney in 2015, we have added many new Strategies Group clients! We are very grateful for the opportunity to assist these companies in their implementation of Spectrum® Construction Software. We look forward to partnering with you in 2017!

New Strategies Group Clients

We wish all of the new Strategies Group clients the best of luck in 2017 and beyond.

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3 Year-End Tax-Saving Tips for Computer Hardware and Software Purchases

Did you know you can deduct the cost of your newly-purchased computer hardware and software? The IRS gives three options that benefit companies purchasing computer hardware and software.

1. Section 179

The IRS through Internal Revenue Code Section 179 has provided that computer hardware and software purchased for the use of business can be deducted as an expense in the year it is placed into service. For the 2016 tax year, a company may deduct up to $500,000 of newly purchased computer hardware or software whether it is new or used. However, the software must not be modified or customized, but must be available to the general public. You must make an election to claim a Section 179 deduction in the year that you take it.

2. Bonus Depreciation

Bonus deprecation, under Internal Revenue Code 168(k), allows a 50% deprecation rate in the first year of use for newly purchased computer hardware or software in the 2016 tax year. Bonus deprecation is available for only new assets placed in service within the tax year. It cannot be applied to used assets, even if they are newly purchased. Unlike Section 179, there is no limit to the amount of bonus deprecation a taxpayer can take in a given tax year.

3. De Minimis Election

Taxpayers may also elect to make an annual de Minimis Safe Harbor election for the year and expense any assets purchased that are less than $2,500 under Internal Revenue Code Section 263(a). Each asset less than $2,500 does not have to be capitalized, but must be deducted as an expense in the year the asset is placed in service. If the taxpayer has an internal policy on the amount of expense that should be taken, then that policy should be followed within the guidelines of the election, but no more than $5,000.  This $2,500 deduction per item does not count towards your Section 179 deduction.

Don’t Forget…

The important thing to remember no matter which option you chose, is to keep a record of your purchases in order to accurately identify the specific computer hardware or software, how much you paid for it, how it was purchased, and when it was placed into service.  The regulations on deprecation change from year to year so it is important to contact your tax advisor when deciding which options are best for you and your company.


About the Author:

Mike is the Senior Manager in charge of the Construction Tax & Department of Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. He has been working with construction and real estate clients since 1997. Mike has served over 250 contractors and developers in both the public and private sectors. His primary areas of concentration include providing audit, review, tax compliance, tax planning and consulting, multi-state taxation, working capital and surety consulting, cash flow management, IRS audit support, construction accounting software consulting and continuity, succession and strategic planning services for the firm’s clients. For more information, please call 1-800-477-7458 or visit www.saltmarshcpa.com.

Ready To Update Your Construction Software?

Learn more about Strategies Group and our construction software solutions by contacting us today.

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A Perfect Storm: How the Surety Cycles Impact Contractors

By Daniel Oaks of Nieslon, Hoover & Company, Inc.

The surety market is a market of cycles. Similar to the insurance market, the surety market has its ups and downs or its hard markets and soft markets. However, the insurance and surety market do not necessarily coincide. As a contractor, it is important to understand these cycles and specifically how surety cycles impact contractors.

Understanding How Different Surety Cycles Impact Contractors

How Surety Market Cycles Work

The surety market cycles consist of hard and soft markets and the time period between transitioning from one to the other – this is no different than the insurance market.

  • As the graph shows, a hard market is characterized by a period of strict underwriting, increased premiums, contracted capacity and increased surety company profitability.
  • Conversely, the soft market is defined by loosened underwriting, decreased premiums, excess capacity and increased surety company competition.

The transition from a hard to soft market is not an overnight sensation and as a result, there are periods of time between cycles where the market indicators may not fully specify a hard or soft market, but fall somewhere in between. Each cycle is entirely unique with no set time frame or indication to move from one to the other. The only certainty is that a hard market will eventually lead to a soft market and vice versa.

Recent Surety Cycles Impact on Contractors

An adjustment in cycles usually begins by an outside event forcing the market to correct. The oil crisis of the 1980’s and the tech bubble in the 1990’s both instigated hard markets. More recently, the 2001 Enron Scandal and 2006 real estate crash, resulting in a recession, both generated hard surety markets. The 2006 hard market was a unique phenomenon for several reasons. The two main reasons are that the surety underwriting results remained profitable and that it was longer than a typical hard market.

In fact, for the past 11 years (and counting) surety results have been extraordinary. Typical hard markets generate an industry-wide net underwriting loss or break even. However, the last hard market (caused by real estate crash and recession), the surety industry maintained profitability, and not just barely, but at unprecedented levels of underwriting profit.

The Current Soft Market

Another major external event or events that influence the surety market is spending, and for the surety market most notably, construction spending. While we are not at the levels of construction spending we saw in 2006, at that time over $900 billion, the market has recovered nicely from the low point in 2010 of only $501 billion to just under $700 billion in 2015 at $698 billion.

Fortunately for most of the readers, this spending is occurring within the Southeast, as a report from the Associated Builders and Contractors reported that the Southeast had an average construction backlog of over 11 months. This outpaces the next highest regional backlog in the Northeast of just about 8.5 months. The benefits to the Southeast are obvious, high employment in construction, increasing margins, therefore increasing bottom lines, and the point of this article, a softening surety market.

As noted the surety industry has experienced unprecedented profitability. This has made the business of surety very attractive and as a result, the surety industry has seen an influx of new entrants into the business of writing surety bonds. In fact, since 2007 there have been 25 new companies enter the surety market. At an average of tens to hundreds of millions in capacity, with the new entrants, billions of newly available capacity dollars are available to be utilized to write bonds.

High profitability, excess capacity and now a growing market have created a perfect storm for a soft surety market. Surety companies are clamoring to write your next bond.

What does this mean for a contractor?

It means that there has never been a better time to obtain surety credit.

The competition in the marketplace currently has driven sureties to become ever increasingly creative and lenient. If you have never had surety credit before or have been declined by a surety before now is the time to consider bonded work or even just pre-qualifying for surety credit, as the time to obtain surety credit has never been easier. With the right surety representation, you will be able to position your company to prepare for harder times.

For the most qualified surety credits, items such as rate, capacity, and indemnity are on the table. If you are not now discussing these issue with your surety agent, I would encourage you to ensure you are represented by an industry professional. Someone who has significant experience in surety and can facilitate the navigation of the current soft market. Because as experience tells us, the only certainty is that our next market will be a hard one and making the right moves now in the soft market can give you and your firm the competitive advantage needed in future cycles.

Learn More

If you would like to speak to a surety expert, please contact Daniel Oaks of Nieslon, Hoover & Associates, Inc. He has over 12 years of surety experience with more than 8 years as an underwriter and manager for top tier surety companies. For several years now he has used that expertise to represent contractors and maximize their surety programs. He can be reached directly at (813) 786-0831 or (850) 733-8868 or email him at doaks@nielsonbonds.com. You can also learn more about Nielson Hoover & Associates, one of the largest surety agencies in the nation, at www.nielsonbonds.com. Or, contact us!

 

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How to Improve Heavy Highway Construction Reporting to Save Time & Money

heavy highway construction reportingHave you ever questioned the importance of heavy highway construction reporting? Think about this - each day, project superintendents for heavy highway projects come in and prepare for a typical day. It’s their job to have a constant pulse on what’s happening. Daily, the superintendent and project managers work with different people to attain the right information to inform their decisions - daily field reports, budget expenditures, safety protocol, etc. It takes only one mistake or mishap in reporting or communication to throw off the entire operation. Without streamlined jobsite reporting, project managers and superintendents put themselves at risk for costly consequences.

The Ripple Effect

For a heavy highway construction project, an unplanned breakdown or maintenance can influence all of the tasks that follow. For example, let’s say the project manager comes in and realizes that his 35,000 lb Rubber Tire Paver is out of commission. This single breakdown impacts the budget, schedule, and even safety protocols.

In most cases, the onsite project manager does what he or she can to ameliorate the problem and verbally redirect everyone to a different task to keep the job moving. This isn’t a rare case, either. Projects all over the United States deal with daily issues, making it more difficult to keep projects moving. Even in Atlanta, where Strategies Group is based, roadwork delays are causing already slow traffic to grind to a halt. That pressure is stressful enough without throwing new problems and delays into a project.

So What’s the Issue?

Project Managers are accustomed to dealing with machinery breakdowns and other unexpected roadblocks in projects. They typically can come up with a game plan pretty quickly on how to solve the issue at hand. Where things get muddled up is when that game plan gets distributed to the team on-site. Everyone hears something different, or not everyone is in the loop. Someone still sends a daily materials report even though we’ve now switched up the material schedule. The lack of transparency in communication is where many projects spiral out of control.

New Heavy Highway Construction Reporting Software, Better Communication

Updating your construction operating software will make a huge difference. There’s no way to avoid it anymore, the risks are too great. The good news is that once you learn the new software, you will have access to tools that improve speed and transparency of information across all of your channels. This opens an entire world where unexpected roadblocks don’t have a huge negative impact on your project but are handled with efficiency to keep the project moving forward.

Spectrum Reporting

spectrum heavy highway construction reportingToday, construction project managers and superintendents have real-time access to heavy highway construction reporting systems that helps them make speedy decisions for a project. Haven’t seen this? Well, you’re missing out.

Construction reporting software allows for mobility and cloud-based project management as well as real-time reporting. Instead of throwing a wrench in a project, an unexpected breakdown can be dealt with in real-time through a smartphone or tablet. The entire team is immediately updated on what’s going on and what the action plan is. It gives everyone the visibility into historic and current data so that they can make the decisions from a bigger picture for the project.

Spectrum Reporting allows for various types of reporting in real time, including:

  • Daily field reports
  • Inspection reports
  • Resource updates
  • Safety reports

Learn More about Spectrum Construction Reporting

Learn More about Spectrum Reporting

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Vision Casting…The Waterfall Effect

One of the hottest terms in leadership these days is “Vision Casting”. While the term itself has been both admired and admonished, the necessity of creating and sharing a cohesive vision in every successful organization is uncontested. When we hear a term like “Vision Casting” we often think about those creative types at Disney or Pixar who think of and develop the likes of Toy Story or we think of the CEO of a multi-billion dollar organization who spends his days thinking strategically about the future of his empire.

The fact is that every Vision cast by a leader no matter how grand or how small, offers the opportunity of other team members to develop their own vision of how they will participate in the overall corporate vision. To get buy-in and create excitement about the corporate vision, team members must be able to see how their departments, jobs, etc. relate to the vision.

An understandable and effectual relationship between the corporate vision and individual department or even functional visions is crucial. If a vision is to be defined as seeing things that don’t exist and imagining the world in which they do, then vision casting is charting a course to that world.

For example, Strategies Group’s corporate vision is straightforward, however achieving that vision is complex and must be inclusive of other departmental vision statements that support the overall vision. Actually, the departmental specific visions help to define our corporate vision. What does it mean to be successful? To be customer centric?

Each department needs to create those definitions and define what the end result looks like for them…a vision of the future of their department. A vision that should first be defined by how this success is felt and experienced by our customer. If our success is not their success, then we have charted a course to nowhere.

To accomplish this, each department must define those objectives for their own portion of the business. For example, success for the sales group is measured incorrectly aligning each client with all the tools necessary to help them manage their business more efficiently and more profitably. A customer care department is measured by the client’s satisfaction with the timeliness and helpfulness of each support request. The consultant’s vision will be to ensure that each tool introduced by our sales team will be used to its maximum efficiency. This combined “corporate” vision creates the world where everyone who interacts with the new technology will have a better work experience and therefore a better life experience because of our relationship.

We often get the vision process backwards. We think about what our company needs to look like in 5 or 10 years and then create a vision that fits that desire. I believe it is truly more genuine and more constructive to imagine what our clients will need to be successful over the next 5 or 10 years and then create a vision to help them get there. At Strategies Group, we have recognized this error in our planning and are in the process of re-imagining success for our clients and therefore for us.

Our first step was to align with vendors we feel agree with our desire to think of client needs both now and in the future and align their product development to that end. By connecting with customer-centric technology partners like Dexter & Chaney, we are beginning to chart a course that looks first at what the customer will need not only today but years from now to be successful.

We will be reaching out more directly to our clients as we develop this vision to ask what they see as their most imperative needs and most pressing challenges of the next five years. We want to know the toughest challenges ahead for our clients both now and in the future to help build a more secure path through the landmines to profitability and success.

Our vision must align with our clients’ vision or we become obsolete and our services unnecessary. In order to truly bring value, one must know what “value” means to their client. That value is always related to our ability and willingness to help the client attain their own vision.

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