July 2014 Newsletter
“How Many Project Processes Can You Share Instantly?”
If you’re thinking cloud, mobile, global – you’re ready to improve your construction company’s information flow between the jobsite and office. A McGraw Hill survey report that 76% of surveyed construction companies claimed better team collaboration and 68% claimed improved productivity* — which is all the validation you need to design a process to share information between business units, team members, and vendors! (*See the article below for more survey results.)
Planning Your Mobility and Information Flow Process
If General Contractors and Specialty Trade Contractors were surveyed about the potential of mobility in the workforce, what do you think they would reveal?
Well, no need to wonder because the McGraw Hill Construction team published “Information Mobility: Improving Team Collaboration Through the Movement of Project Information,” a Smart Market Report that explored the impact of the flow of information in the Construction industry in regards to mobile devices on the jobsite, communication tools, and increased BIM usage.
What business problems will mobility and the cloud solve?
In general, what benefits do GCs and Specialty Trade Contractors (STCs) expect to realize from increased information flow across teams? These factors, listed in order (with “role” percentages in bullets), were ranked “as the most important to encourage the movement of project information:”
- Increased ability to share project documents
- GCs: 59% / STCs: 45%
- Easy access to project info regardless of location/device
- GCs: 54% / STCs: 47%
- Desire to improve productivity
- GCs: 39% / STCs: 54%
- Access to current project information
- GCs: 35% / STCs: 47%
Does it work?
Resoundingly, yes. The study disclosed results from companies that experienced improved information in the last two years:
- Better collaboration among team members
- GCs: 81% / STCs: 70%
- Better productivity
- GCs: 62% / STCs: 77%
- Less reliance on blueprints/specifications
- GCs: 42% / STCs: 31%
- Reduced risk
- GCs: 35% / STCs: 33%
- Lower costs/higher ROI
- GCs: 20% / STCs: 31%
- Share inspection with many people
- GCs: 17% / STCs: 15%
- Shorter project schedules
- GCs: 22% / STCs: 16%
- Better inspectors
- GCs: 4% / STCs: 5%
Where do you start?
Creating an integrated mobile solution with Sage 100 Contractor and Sage 300 CRE is not difficult. Like any business case, you should start with a strategic plan that is scalable, replicable, and has defined goals.
Ledgerwood Associates can help you design a mobile/cloud system based on the PROJECT LIFECYCLE. Talk to us to get your teams talking! Call Tony Merry at 480-423-8300 to begin the conversation.
“10 Tech Moves Every Accountant Should Make This Summer”
Excerpted from Accounting Technology, by Ramesh Rajagopal
In our opinion, Accounting Technology is one of the finer publications targeted to CPAs and accounting consultants, resellers, and technology partners. We found a particularly useful article on managing cloud or web-based applications and the risks they pose to data security and controls. You can read the entire article here, but if you want to jump to the ‘top 10’ list, we’ve reprinted it below (our bolded print):
So what should accounting leaders do to realize the benefits of web apps in light of the data access risks outlined above? Here are some things to consider:
- Dedicated computers for certain jobs: Reserve one computer for nothing else but accessing key financial portals. It’s a bit crude, but if your team is small and you don’t need to grant third-party access, it can reduce the likelihood of an online exploit. At a minimum, encourage your users understand the value of using two browsers, reserving one for business data.
- Basic endpoint security: Install and regularly update anti-virus tools and hard disk encryption software on all company-issued computers. It’s the bare minimum for any finance organization, although it does not address the prevalence of employees and contractors logging into corporate systems from unmanaged and often unsecure personal devices.
- Virtual containers for secure browsing: A more robust solution for larger, distributed teams is to access key accounts from within virtual containers. Think of this as a segregated environment on a computer from which to access important data. With some offerings, the container sits on the user’s computer, which is a little cumbersome, especially as users roam across different devices. But a new class of technology is emerging that virtualizes and secures the browser in the cloud so it can be accessed from any device. If your firm has moved to remote desktops, think about how Web accounts are accessed. If from a general purpose browser within the hosted environment, you’ve done nothing to safeguard data from the risks described above.
- Backup your data: Take your critical data and back it up. Then back up your back up. The risk here goes beyond a stolen computer or a hard drive failure. A class of malicious code known as ransomware is used to encrypt data and extort the victim into paying a ransom to retrieve it.
- Revisit internal processes around credential management: Take a hard look at your IT security and business processes in the area of shift management, credential-sharing and access revocation. You might find that clients welcome a conversation on this area, since they too face risk within their internal user population. There are also technical solutions to consider that can enable both parties to share account access without exposing usernames and passwords.
- Move away from simple logins: Think about two-factor authentication solutions that are practical. Having a separate method for every account quickly becomes a nightmare. But there are ways to implement a common strong authentication and single sign-on framework that can apply across all accounts.
- Insist on user training, and even testing: Put your team through actionable security training, particularly with regard to the latest social engineering exploits. Some organizations have even created test phishing sites to measure employee behavior.
- Enforce device and data access controls: Determine what level of data access you are comfortable allowing when users log in from different machines. Consider solutions that can allow you to contain or restrict company data from reaching unauthorized devices and that can enforce remote data wipe when devices are stolen or go missing.
- Audit your web logs: Business data is commingled with personal browsing. Look at logs of web activity to see where users go and get a picture of suspicious or objectionable content on your network.
- Partner with your clients: Sit with business owners, the IT team with trusted clients and work collaboratively to define responsibilities. Both parties share a role in protecting sensitive data. The best solution will likely be a byproduct of the two perspectives.
Many of the steps outlined above are free or very affordable and can be done quickly. Others might require more planning. But the cost of inaction can be tremendous. Data breaches and regulatory violations can cost millions in penalties and fines, not to mention the loss of customer trust. Start taking simple steps today.
New from Sage – eTakeoff
New to the Sage suite of products this year, comes the award-winning electronic Quantity Takeoff software, “eTakeoff.” Software Advice honored the product as “one of the best designed takeoff User Interfaces on the market.”
Spearheaded by former Sage General Manager, and Timberline President/CEO, Curtis Peltz – this product is designed to increase productivity, accuracy, and share/review takeoff details.
With three tiered product levels, selecting the appropriate solution poses no problem. The ‘Basic’ tool is a FREE viewing, printing and takeoff tool. Estimators can share details, annotations, and issues across the company without incurring any costs to users!
As expected, the ‘Advanced’ edition offers a plethora of properties that allow speed and efficiencies in measuring/scaling, viewing, layers, bid codes, annotations, issue management, FTP integration and more!
For super-users, the Premier version offers all of the above, plus advanced Excel integration, user-definable assemblies, formulas and variables, quantity worksheets, advanced drawing and project management, and advanced measuring tools.
Interested in moving away from paper plans? Call us for a free 15-day trial at 480-423-8300.
Work in Your MS Office Environment – MyCommunicator for Outlook
Ensure your properties and projects run on time and on budget using Microsoft Outlook
Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate MyCommunicator for Outlook, a powerful add-on module to Sage MyAssistant, uses the familiarity and ease of Outlook to directly access, track, and update your Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate data in real time.
While MyAssistant issues automatic alerts, generates reports, and distributes documents, MyCommunicator extends that power. Now you can monitor, assign, and follow up on key activities in Sage 300 Construction without ever leaving your email application.
Leverage the power of Outlook to request information, share important data, manage to-dos, and set reminders. Sage 300 Construction data is embedded directly within your email, providing drill-down access to additional details as needed, so you can proactively make decisions, assign and monitor actionable tasks for employees and vendors, and improve communication both inside and outside your company.
Stay connected and informed—all from within Outlook
Based on the information in your Sage 300 Construction system, MyCommunicator enables you to:
- Initiate and track communications. “Has anything been done to resolve this?”
- Discover a possible delay in schedule. “What information do I still need—and
whom do I need it from?”
- Follow up or resend an original request. “Hope you got my email; I’m resending just to be sure.”
- Resolve issues quickly. “All insurance certificates are up to date.”
Reliable communication and accountability
With MyCommunicator, you can manage all types of important information such as expiring vendor certificates. MyAssistant can be setup to send a personalized email to each vendor with a notice of upcoming expiration, requesting updated proof of insurance. As expiration dates approach, you can receive a list of vendors who have not responded and are nearing expiration. Then, using MyCommunicator, you could initiate additional requests to receive updated information and monitor the activity, updating certificate information such as dates or limits in Sage 300 Construction directly from Outlook.
Easily tackle critical business issues with MyCommunicator
- Vendor compliance. Request, manage, and update all the documents and information you require from subcontractors and material providers, as well as update information in Sage 300 Construction, within Microsoft Outlook.
- Lien releases. Generate your company’s job-specific lien waiver format, send to vendors to be signed, and record as received in Sage 300 Construction from Outlook.
- RFIs. Stay on top of requests for information and log all activity directly updating Sage 300 Construction from Microsoft Outlook.
- Change request vendor pricing. Ensure your employees and vendors are aware of updates for change requests entered in Sage 300 Construction.
- Employee and job checklist. Keep track of all tasks in every stage of the project lifecycle by employee and monitor their progress within Microsoft Outlook.
- Customized workflows. Create the workflows your organization needs using data from Sage 300 Construction, including information in your custom fields.
- Identify potential problems earlier to proactively deal with business or project issues.
- Quickly take advantage of new opportunities.
- Keep properties and projects running smoothly by tracking, assigning, and following up on key activities from within Microsoft® Outlook.
- Streamline workflow processes using one centralized location.
Ensure your data is current
- Update important Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate data directly from Microsoft Outlook.
- Immediately know where you stand on regulatory and compliance requirements.
Talk to us to get your teams communicating! Call Tony Merry at 480-423-8300 to begin the conversation.
Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
Estimating Buyout Webinar
Sage is excited to announce “Buyout for SQL Estimating.”
See how the new Buyout module works allowing you to “buyout” your estimate to different vendors and then create Purchase Orders and Subcontracts for those items.
The construction season is fast approaching!
Join us for this informative presentation and learn how you can gain greater control over your projects, better communication between the field and office and higher confidence from your Surety by creating integrated project cost forecasting that backs up your Work in Progress reporting using Sage Office Connector.
What’s New in Sage 100, Version 19.3?
Just released, the current version of Sage 100 Contractor 2014 is version 19.3! There were several enhancements in this version, but a few that are particularly worth noting are:
- Integration with Sage Payment Solutions – For users that process credit card payments from customers, the program now connects with Sage Payment Solutions to provide seamless processing of credit card payments from customers with a cost-effective merchant card service provider. Sage Payment Solutions can also enhance collections by generating ACH virtual check payments. All customer data is safely stored in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) – an important necessity.
- Expanded State Certified Payroll Reports – For users that must supply certified payroll reports to State Labor Departments, the program’s integration with Aatrix now prepares and, where available, e-files state certified payroll reports in all 49 states that have their own reporting requirement, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Montana and Wyoming.
- Drag and Drop Files and Shortcuts on Your Sage 100 Contractor Desktop – I think this is an underappreciated enhancement that can benefit most users. Are you tired of having to jump out of Sage 100 Contractor to locate and open a spreadsheet, document or folder while working in the program? Now users can drag and drop those files and shortcuts right onto your Sage 100 Contractor desktop and ease that process.
The program help system and your favorite Certified Consultant are available for your assistance with these new features.
Submitted by Walt Mathieson, email@example.com, Ledgerwood Sage 100 Consultant
Month-End Best Practices
Month-end can be a busy time for many accounting departments. The race is on to verify that all entries have been made for the period being closed, to get all other month-end procedures completed, and to produce financial statements and management reports that are accurate and timely. It is important, however, not to take shortcuts or become complacent in some of the routine, but critical, steps that are a part of month-end closing procedures in the Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate world. The following best practices should be performed every month-end to protect your system and ensure the accuracy of your financial reports:
- Establish a closing hierarchy for each module in your system based on how each of the modules interfaces with the other modules (e.g., BL posts to AR, which in turn posts to JC and GL).
- Before closing the month in JC or GL, be sure to post all other modules in turn and review the posting journals.To review only unposted transactions, post once and then post again and review the second posting journal. If unposted transactions exist, make corrections as needed to post the transactions so that all entries are posted throughout the system. Post JC and GL last.
- When you receive the message, “Do you have a current backup,” don’t click Yes unless you do!! Take the extra few moments to use Tool > File Tools to make a Sage backup of the files for the module you are closing. For instance, if you are closing General Ledger, choose Add Files (not Add Folder) in the appropriate screen of the backup process, and then select Master.GLM. You might also want to include Current.glt and New.glt. You don’t need to select History.glt unless you have recently moved transactions to history or did not include this file the last time you did a full folder backup. Your Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate Users Guide includes a handy reference of all of the files to backup for each module.
- Periodically check the integrity of your data to ensure no corrupt records exist. Contact Ledgerwood Associates, your local Sage Business Partner, for assistance with this.
In following these best practices, you can always be sure all transactions are accounted for in the period you are closing and that your financial statements are accurate. And you will always be protected against unexpected failures in your system, your server, or your network that can corrupt your Sage 300 CRE data files.
Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
Good News about Goodwill
Goodwill is that intangible asset that is sometimes seen at the end of the asset section on a company’s balance sheet. It is defined as the excess of the purchase price of a business over the fair value of the tangible and identifiable intangible assets acquired, less liabilities assumed. It is also sometimes known as the “blue sky” or “going concern” value of a business.
Until 2001, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) required goodwill to be amortized (expensed) over a period not to exceed 40 years. In 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued a new standard that ended the methodical amortization of goodwill over a fixed period of years. Instead, it required goodwill to be tested for “impairment”.
Initially, impairment was to be determined by an independent appraisal or valuation performed on at least an annual basis (or if some triggering event occurred). If the current appraised value was less than the carrying value of the net assets, goodwill was considered to be impaired and an impairment loss (expense) was recognized.
While this new requirement was a boon to the business appraisal industry, it was an extremely costly, complicated, and time consuming activity with little, if any, benefit to most non-public companies. Further, the FASB discovered, through the feedback it received, that the end-users of the financial statements, such as banks and sureties, generally disregarded goodwill and goodwill impairment in their analysis of a company’s financial condition and performance.
And so finally, after years of complaints from private companies and their auditors, the FASB announced in January 2014 that a simplified alternative was available to non-public companies. That simplified alternative is essentially a return to the old amortization method. Private companies may now elect to amortize goodwill over a 10-year period (or less if a justification can be made for a shorter period). This applies to newly acquired goodwill, as well as to goodwill in place at the time the new standard is elected.
The new standard applies to annual accounting periods beginning after December 15, 2014; however, early adoption is permitted. If you have goodwill on your books, see your CPA for assistance in determining whether implementation of the modified standard would be beneficial to your company.
Submitted by Rick J. Kratz, CPA, Pittman & Murdough, PLLC, RKratz@pittmanandmurdough.com
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