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Archive for the ‘Software Solutions’ Category

Posted on: June 17th, 2013
by Chad Evenrud

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Construction Document Management Software: Cost Control vs. Cost Reporting

Getting the most out of your construction document management software is critical when running an effective accounting system.  Technology has been able to automate and generate workflows for the most paper-intensive and time consuming tasks that are common in the construction industry.  However, even with all these convenient advancements, people are still relying on archaic methods that cause them to undergo cost reporting instead of cost control.  In this article, we will review the difference between cost reporting and cost control, and how you can get the most out of your construction software.

Cost Reporting

Your company has just finished a large project and management is ready to review the financial data.  The accounting department prepares the reports and sends them off to the management team.  After review, management notices that they have overspent on multiple commitments and were allowing none-complaint contractors on their site.  This scenario is common in the construction industry.  Documents, reports, data and communication can become convoluted especially when a construction company is undertaking multiple projects.  This is what leads companies to perform cost reporting.

Cost Reporting is when data is presented to management showing their financial standing after all the bills have been paid and the project is complete.  This kind of “reporting” tends to occur when the company administration personnel lack the workflows necessary to effectively enter and retrieve data.        

Cost Control

Cost control is much more proactive than cost reporting.  Errors in accounting, compliance and operations are quickly recognized and are effectively handled.  For example, companies that generate workflows in which purchase orders and subcontracts are entered into the accounting software before issuing the commitments allows management to analyze the data for cost overruns.  This workflow gives “control” to management and helps prevent wasteful losses that are all too common in the construction industry.  Utilizing your construction software is key when practicing proper cost control procedures.  Here are some helpful tips to get your company generating Cost Control workflows.

Creating Effective Workflows:  Workflows stand for “a sequence of connected steps where each step follows without delay or gap and ends just before the subsequent step may begin… The flow being described may refer to a document or product that is being transferred from one step to another.” (1)  The flow in which data is entered and reviewed is what determines if you are using your construction software effectively.  For a workflow to be effective, multiple departments have to be implemented within the software program.  Just because a company spent thousands of dollars on a software program, doesn’t necessarily mean the personnel are using the software to its fullest.  Make sure that your company personnel are willing to learn new software techniques and chance their old habits.      

Retrieving Data/Document Management:  Making sure you can actually retrieve and generate the proper reports is critical when performing cost control.  Finding the right data in your construction software can be like finding a needle in a haystack.  Your accounting system can be filled with a sea of data.  Make sure your software can generate the reports necessary for management to make proactive decisions.  For example, as soon as a PO or a Subcontract is entered into the software, management should be able to generate a report that indicates any bill that has exceeded the original commitment.  Documents should also be readily available to management when dealing with questionable bills.  Having a good ECM system implemented with your accounting software can help your company save time and money when dealing with hundreds of documents.  

Compatibility:  Not all departments use the same software, thus it is important that each software is compatible with one another.  For example, when implementing a new construction document management software, make sure it is compatible with your current accounting system.  Take the time and research which software solutions fits your company needs.  Also, many departments use different software applications, so make sure that your company creates a workflow between those departments.  An example would be the accounting department and the compliance department.  Both could be using separate software applications, but rely on one another for certain processes.  Make sure each department is using their software to its fullest and understands the workflows.

It is important to understand that software is just a tool to help drive efficiency within your company. And like any tool, it is only effective as its user.  That is why it is essential to stay on top of your construction software’s updates, training manuals and training seminars.  If you are having trouble implementing your software, then you should talk with a software consultant who can help increase your company’s knowledge on current technology trends.       

Posted on: May 14th, 2013
by Chad Evenrud

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Construction Document Management Software: Implementing Human Resources

construction document management software.

Over the next several weeks, EWA Software will be recapping the breakout sessions from the 2013 Paperless Environments User conference.  If you are a Paperless Environments pVault user and didn’t get a chance to attend the conference, then these articles will give you a brief recap of the major topics discussed.  This week we will be reviewing the importance of implementing human resources within your construction document management software. 

Why Take Your HR Department Paperless?


Cost Saving:  HR departments are known to be overwhelmed with paper intensive processes ranging from employment applications, staffing plans, pay date changes, request forums and the list goes on and on.  Printing, filing and retrieving are costly processes that require the HR department to invest valuable time to complete these mundane procedures.  By integrating the HR department to your construction document management software, your company will no longer need to invest in printers, copy machines, ink and paper.  Another cost savings benefit is the HR department can take on more tasks without needing to hire additional personnel.

Space Saving:  Going paperless eliminates the need for shelving and filing cabinets to store data in paper form.  These storage facilities take up enormous space in the office, on your desk or in the warehouse for some organizations.  Switching to digital data management systems can free up much needed real estate in your work environment.

Operation Facility:  Accessing data is easy and quick when the information is stored electronically.  Searching through files and folders and going through papers for vital information may take hours of work by a team of people.  However, searching through electronically stored data can be completed in minutes by a single person.  The time saved here can be optimally used by the employee elsewhere where their contribution can make a marked difference to the firm’s bottom line.  Plus, when information is available with ease, processes that follow can be carried out without delay which further enhances the HR department’s efficiency levels.

Ease of Researching:  HR work often involves a good deal of research.  This can become an immensely labor and time intensive task if all the records are in paper form.  Going to paperless and digital makes researching past cases incredibly easy.

AIIM International Standards and Best Practices

Solid Retention Schedules:  All record management initiatives need to start with an understanding of the document’s “lifecycle”. Where is the document’s point of origin, and what is its storage time requirement? HR documents have vastly different retention schedules than many other documents. Resumes are usually only retained for a couple of months, while employee files may be kept for decades. The retention schedule of each document type must be identified prior to any records management initiative. 

Records Management Ownership:  Someone in your organization must take ownership of the records management process. This is typically where the buck stops… It’s critical that someone owns the process and manage the structure and implementation. Implementing a solid solution can help keep your organization on track, but it takes someone owning the process on the front end to ensure all documents are classified, and the retention schedules are adhered to.

Employee Training:  Everyone who has an employee record responsibility (generation, storage or approval) must be aware of the corporate retention policy.  This requires constant training and reinforcement.

Destruction Date Tracking:  HR documents don’t follow linear life cycles like finance documents. While the document creation date is known, the document destruction date is typically the “date of employee termination” + X years. The variable termination date causes confusion and delays in the purging process. From a legal standpoint, records kept too long are as much of a liability as lost records. During legal proceedings, if you have a record, you must produce it even if that record should have been destroyed based upon the corporate retention policy.

Legal Proceedings:  If an organization is aware of legal filings or imminent legal proceedings against it, all records pertaining to such proceedings need to be “frozen” from any purging process.  It is then critical that such records be placed back into the same lifecycle after the legal proceedings or given a new classification and destruction cycle.


HIPAA and E-Discovery Laws are now addressed in pVault 5

·         Document Archiving

·         Document Purging (I-9 Compliant)

·         Document Security (Locking Down Documents on pVault Application Server)


Implementing HR Into pVault 5

·         Come up with Document Types (E.W.A Document Library Available)

·         Setup Document Security- Determine who has access and advanced rights to HR Documents

·         Workflows? With New Department Queues allows Employees to Fill out HR Forms and then Pushed to HR queue for Processing/indexing. Document Routing Module allows companies to create pre-defined rules for routing/approving of HR Documents (Employee Applications, Accident Reports, Time-cards, Time Off Request, etc.

·         Custom Backfills allows for HR/PR Information to be Backfilled from HR or PR system.

·         Third Party Tools like EI Dynamics and SharePoint allows Companies to Automate HR process through WEB based portals. This allows Employees to download their HR Documents though a secure portal eliminating them to ask HR to produce documentation such as W-2’s, Pay Stubs, Direct Deposits and Time-cards.

Posted on: April 29th, 2013
by Chad Evenrud

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Construction Software: Electronic Content Management

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When the average person thinks of the construction industry they imagine bright yellow hardhats, loud hammering noises, white trucks and a whole mess of other sights and sounds.  What the average person doesn’t know is the convoluted and hectic process that occurs on the administration side.  Office administrators are overwhelmed with endless paperwork, collaboration between departments, compliance issues, payroll problems and dealing with stubborn project managers/subcontractors.  The life cycle of documents handled in the office is just as important as the construction project itself.

In response to this dilemma, the industry has turned to technology to help aid their administration personnel with document management, retrieval and collaboration.  Construction software delivers a process known as Electronic Content Management (ECM).  This article will go over the basics of ECM and if you should take the time to invest in an ECM solution. 


What is Electronic Content Management (ECM)? 

Electronic Content Management “is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.” (1)  This includes the entire life cycle of a document and in the construction industry a document life cycle is critical when it comes to bidding, completing, closing, payroll, compliance and auditing.  ECM allows companies to manage all their documents electronically, making it easier to scan, store, retrieve, share and purge documents; eliminating the expensive and time consuming paper processes.   

Why Should Companies Implement Construction Software and ECM? 

Anyone who knows the construction industry understands that in this economy it is an industry with thin net profits, high risk and noteworthy inconsistency.  Which means construction companies must be more productive in both operations and administration departments.  This is where construction software that delivers ECM can help. 

ECM helps bridge the gap between multiple departments and operations.  ECM makes the collaboration process much more efficient, by generating electronic workflows between all departments.  Employees can now store, retrieve, send and view any document with just a click of the mouse button.  This allows employees and departments to be more efficient, allowing your company to grow without increasing overhead.     

Is implementing ECM right for you?

Before implementing construction software that utilizes ECM, it is important to ask yourself is it worth the investment.  Below are a list of questions that you should ask before making the jump to a paperless office.

1)       Is the software compatible with my current construction software?

Before implementing new software, make sure that it has the capability to interact with your current software.  For example, most paperless software solutions will be able to work directly with your accounting system by updating contacts, jobs and vendors.  This will eliminate duplicate entry and other timely tasks.  

2)      What are some of the processes that you would want to automate?

Brainstorm with your administration and operations staff to determine what are some of the most tedious time consuming processes.  Once you have a list, then consult with a software representative to see if their software can generate a workflow to help automate your troublesome processes.

3)      Is your administration and operations personnel eager and willing to undertake change?


You can spend thousands of dollars on the newest and greatest software, however if your personnel is not willing to learn, then you will be wasting your money.  This is a common problem with most construction companies.  You can tell if your team is ready to move to a paperless office by asking them simple questions and listening to their response.  For example, if you hear your employees saying “this is how it has always been done” or “there is nothing wrong with our current process”; if you hear these kind of remarks, then you might want to review your personnel first.

4)      Are you running an office that is half automated and half paper intensive?

It is expensive to run an office that is using software for some processes and paper for the other processes.  This is where ECM can help make your office more efficient and paperless.  Not all construction software interacts with all departments within the company.  For example, a software may be efficient in helping your accounting department, but lacks processes for your HR department.  ECM will allow all departments to scan, store, manage, retrieve and purge documents.

The most important thing to understand about technology is it is meant to help make our world more efficient.  For the construction industry, the burden comes with the large amount of paperwork, compliance procedures, risk management, scheduling, auditing and dealing with questionable vendors.  Construction software allows your company to handle those paper-intensive procedures in a more efficient manner.  Take the time and talk with your company’s personnel and determine if your company will benefit by implementing an ECM solution.           

1) AAIM:  http://www.aiim.org/

Posted on: April 4th, 2013
by Chad Evenrud


Insurance Tracking Software: Should You Require Professional Liability Insurance?


When utilizing insurance tracking software or tracking insurance by other means, the insurance coordinator usually focuses on tracking four major policies, which include: General Liability (GL), Automobile, Workers Compensation and Excess Liability.  These major policies are what is usually tracked and required by most General Contractors.  However there is another piece to the risk management puzzle.

Professional liability insurance can be overlooked and misunderstood by most people.  Here is a quick review of professional liability insurance and why you should be using insurance tracking software to enhance your risk management practices.


What is Professional Liability Insurance?

Professional liability Insurance protects you and your business from claims that might be brought against you if your client has lost money due to your advice or service.  If your services have caused your client to lose money due to not meeting project deadlines, faulty work or any other mishap, then you can be sued for “pure economic lose”.  Once a claim is made then your professional liability insurance will help cover the defense expenses (duty-to-defend) and if needed the damages.

Here is an example:  A General Contractor subcontracts the engineering work on a public swimming pool.  The construction process is finished on time and the pool is ready to be opened for the summer.  However, the engineer’s plans were faulty and now the pool has a problem draining and filtering water.  The client now has to shut down the pool for the summer and loses hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the closing.  The client will sue the General Contractor for economic losses and because there were no bodily, personal or property damages, the General Contractors GL policy will not cover the damages.  This is why it is important for General Contractors to carry professional liability insurance.

There can be some confusion when trying to understand if the claim should be covered under GL or professional liability policy.  In most cases, there will be an endorsement in your GL that has an exclusion of professional liability, thus making the Contractor purchase a separate professional liability policy.  GL will cover losses caused by “bodily injury”, “property damage”, or “personal and advertising injury”.  However, if a project were to cause a client to lose financial earnings due to work done by you or your subcontractors, then you will be liable for the damages.


Should your require subcontractors to carry Professional Liability Insurance?

It would be wise for General Contractors to require their subcontractors to carry professional liability insurance.  Especially if you frequently use the same subcontractor on multiple job sites and you rely on their work.  Also if your subcontracting your work out to engineers or architects.  The main reason you should require this policy is for the fact that a client can sue both the Sub and General Contractor for pure economic losses.  If the subcontractor doesn’t have professional liability insurance and they can’t afford the defense and damages, then the General Contractor will be liable to pay for the damages.


Should you be tracking your subcontractors Professional Liability Insurance?

It is really important that if you require your subcontractors to carry professional liability insurance that you track their policies.  Unlike most General Liability policies, professional liability is a “claims-made” basis, which means that the contractor has to be still insured at the time the claim is made against you.  So if you decided to cancel your professional liability and the client sues your two years later, then you will not be covered.  This is why it is important that you keep track of your subcontractor’s insurance policies.  This can be easily accomplished with insurance tracking software as it can provide custom templates to assist you in your tracking efforts.

Posted on: March 29th, 2013
by Anne Evenrud

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Insurance Tracking: The Importance of Checking the A.M. Best Rating

Excelent to Poor Ratings


A Best’s Financial Strength rating is an independent and unbiased opinion of an insurance company’s financial strength, and it’s ability to match it’s ongoing obligations, now and in the future. Or put another way, it is an opinion regarding the future credit risk and financial capacity to defend their policy holders and/or pay out claims.

The ratings agencies have already done all the research to check the financial stability and soundness of an insurance company. The ratings agencies provide an evaluation based on audited financial statements of insurers, their creditors, contractors, and providers of the insurance company.

There are a number of ratings agencies that issue opinions and letter gradations on insurance companies. Each rating agency has its own rating criteria, and interpretation of a rating. A.M. Best is the most commonly known and used rating agency. Others include Moody’s, Standard & Poors, Weiss, Bloomberg, and Reuters.

It is important to check not only that the insurance certificates provided to the General Contractor have the proper limits, expiration dates, and necessary wording, but that the A.M. Best rating is acceptable. The minimum acceptable ratings are spelled out in the job contracts, and must be captured and verified. A through certificate of insurance tracking program should have this ratings verification feature available right within the software to make the process streamlined and easy. It is important to monitor in changes in carrier’s ratings scores quickly as well, as these can often and frequently change during the ongoing duration of a project.

Ratings companies like Moody’s or A.M. Best provide a simple scale to illustrate how well an insurance company is doing.

The ratings scale includes six “Secure” ratings:
 A++, A+ (Superior)
 A, A- (Excellent)
 B++, B+ (Good)
The scale also includes ten ratings for companies deemed “Vulnerable”:
 B, B- (Fair)
 C++, C+ (Marginal)
 C, C- (Weak)
 D (Poor)
 E (Under Regulatory Supervision)
 F (In Liquidation)
 S (Rating Suspended)

There are many companies that A.M. Best follows but does not issue a Best’s Credit Rating on. These companies are designated as Not Rated (NR).
Lack of a rating does not mean that the company is insolvent or a poor choice of an investment. What lack of rating indicates is that the company was either unwilling to participate in the rating system, or the necessary information was not available at ratings time. No rating could indicate a company is newly purchased or has undergone a restructuring.

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AM Best Ratings Explained