And when I worked for a software vendor, I sometimes heard this:
- “If you can’t produce it the way we want it, we’ll just have to go in a different direction.”
First, Make No Changes
Some users don’t take the time to learn how a new software system works before they start demanding specialized reports. To overcome this, I’ve established a simple rule for my clients: NO changes will be made to new software until they have lived with the system for at least six months.
Here are the reasons behind that rule:
- Like business planning, investigating new software and what it can do for your company requires a careful assessment of the way your business currently operates and the way you’d like it to operate.
Switching to a new system anticipates change, hopefully in a direction that provides more perpetual control of results (e.g., accurate estimates and take-offs) and less human dependency on processes (e.g., budgeting, job costing, etc.).
If you are considering such a switch, you need to concentrate on operational improvements within your business, not on reporting history. By definition, a report is “after the fact.”
- A new software system should integrate many processes that previously were handled with separate systems, manual procedures and spreadsheets. Instead of replicating past reporting, concentrate on control and the way reporting can improve it. More than likely, your reporting constructs and what’s contained in your reports will change significantly.
As an example, ABC Home Builder’s accounting department always ran an accounts payable audit report before paying trades’ and suppliers’ bills and considers that report a bible for paying bills. Then ABC switched to a new payment approval system that operates on purchase orders and pays bills according to what’s been accomplished (and delivered) in the field. There is no longer a need for that old accounts payable audit report.
It’s important to map out your processes and expected results for everything from budgets to backlog to sales to construction schedules. If you know how your operations have been working, you’re in a position to know how they can work better and how they should work optimally. When things go haywire, troubleshoot by determining what went wrong, what should have gone right and what control (or process) prevented that from happening.
Each level of management (or management team member) has different information needs. For example, in a mid-size home building company, employees want their jobs to be easier and less reactive, management wants better control and the owner wants to gauge profit. It just isn’t possible to “march to the same drummer” unless you look for the common control points for each team member.
Using a system’s standard features and reports helps the builder, the organization and the software vendor maximize what the system can do. As your business grows and changes you’ll eventually need and demand an open database for flexible reporting. But keep in mind this is the end of the destination — not the criteria for the starting gate.
Earlier Articles in This Series
To read, "An Effective Purchase Order System Enhances Efficiency," Part 8 of this series, published on July 21, click here.
- To read, “Know Your Technology Needs Before You Invest,” Part 1 of this series, published April 14, click here.
- To read, “Strategic Planning Software Can Help Focus Your Business Model,” Part 2 of this series, published April 21, click here.
- To read, “Does Your Planning Software Match Your Project's Sophistication?” Part 3 of this series, published May 5, click here.
- To read, “Don't Put the CAD Before Your Product,” Part 4 of this series, published May 26, click here.
- To read, “Manage Prospects and Buyers More Efficiently With Technology,” Part 5 of this series, published June 9, click here.
- To read, "Automate Your Selection and Change Order Processes,” Part 6 of this series, published on June 23, click here.
- To read, “Scheduling Software Can Improve Your Cycle Time,” Part 7 of this series, published on July 7, click here.
Note: Various software products are mentioned throughout the tech talk series. The intent is not to recommend these products as being right for you, but to identify some fairly well-known players and to note a few new ones. My apologies to vendors who are not mentioned — the omission was not intentional.
Bill Allen is president of W.A. Allen Consulting and a member of NAHB’s Business Management & Information Technology Committee. His company, headquartered in Redmond, WA, provides information technology consulting services and process management assistance to the home building industry. Allen can be reached at 425-885-4489 or via e-mail. Or visit the W.A. Allen Consulting Web site.
Want more information about using technology in your business?
NAHB’s Business Management Department offers a variety of online resources to help you run your business better and more profitably. Click Business Management Tools for articles about human resources, financial management, sales, production, technology, customer service and other business-related topics. In addition, visit the NAHB Software Users Network Discussion Forum (SUN) to ask technology consultants and other builders what they think of various software packages and applications.
BuilderBooks.com also offers a variety of publications about computer technology. To view or purchase these publications online, click here.
Subscribe to NAHB’s Business of Building e/Source
NAHB’s Business of Building e/Source is your monthly electronic guide to the hot issues and emerging trends in home building business management. You’ll find practical advice, tricks of the trade and sound business guidance — all delivered monthly, straight to your desktop, in a quick and easy-to-read format. Business of Building e/Source is available free to NAHB members and their employees. To subscribe, click here on the members only side of www.nahb.org.
Be Part of the Technology Solution
- Have questions about the Web?
- Want to learn how to make the best use of technology in your home building or remodeling business?
- Have technology tips to share with your peers?
Join the Information Technology Work Group — a sub group of the Standing Committee on Business Management and Information Technology — to brainstorm articles, booklets, Web content and other tech-related business management resources for NAHB’s members from 3:30-5:00 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, in the Las Vegas Convention Center (location details to come later).
E-mail Marcia Childs or Jill Tunick for information.
University of Housing Offers Courses on Customer Service and Business Management
The NAHB University of Housing offers a course on business management designed to help builders improve their business and profitability. For a list of current offerings, click here.
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