July 2016 Newsletter
Halfway through 2016 — will it be a “bumper crop” year for the economy?
- The “Brexit” — how will this affect you, mate? We have opinions from a pragmatist and an optimist – you decide.
- Sage Mobility Tour 2016 is coming to Arizona and Colorado!
- Your chance to weigh in on your company’s adoption & policies: The 2016 JBKnowledge Technology Survey is open!
- A very MAJOR upgrade in Sage 100 Contractor — SQL now available!
- Tired of paper everywhere? Ready for Enterprise Content Management system MADE for Sage 300 CRE? Free Timberscan webinar.
- Epic Sage 100 CON | Sage 300 CRE | Sage Estimating Tips and Tricks.
Will the Brexit Break the Economy?
The ‘twitterverse’ is blowing up with 140-character manifestos on the #Brexit (@BrexitWatch), with everyone from the PM of Britain launching a “scathing attack” on the opposition leader, to Bloomberg predicting a recession (below), to NPR pondering the impact on nuclear fusion!
Meanwhile, in the US, you probably watched the market volatility and worried about your 401k; and ultimately, you may be wondering the lingering effect on your construction business.
Let’s see how both sides are filling the glass!
Our favorite construction Chief Economist from ConstructConnect, Alex Carrick, penned a thoughtful analysis, “The One Word Problem with Brexit.” Mr. Carrick teased the title until the end (spoiler alert), summarizing “inefficiencies” in the nation’s economic model, predicting “unfortunate consequences.”
Mr. Carrick likens a nation’s economy to a business practice, as follows:
Whenever there’s an element within a nation’s economy that is inordinately protected, be it workers or business owners, there will be unfortunate consequences.
The issue I worry about also rears up when a nation increases tariffs or initiates a trade war through currency manipulation.
It also comes into play when a country chooses to stay out of trade agreements signed by its competitors. The effective result is to maintain tariff barriers.
It might even be said to account for the failures experienced by centrally planned economies.
Whenever businesses operate behind some form of protective screen, the inevitable long-term result is inefficiencies.
Once that happens, export sales will begin to falter.
A better-positioned foreign goods-producer or service-provider will step in to seize the opportunity and take business away.
Domestic capital expenditures will begin to fall off.
Jobs that once seemed secure will disappear.
For once, I hope our Canadian colleague is incorrect, despite his claim to owning a warm economic heart in the midst of cold hard realities! (For the record, I do believe in his warm-fuzziness.)
Closer to home, (as far as software goes), Sage’s British CEO, Stephen Kelly, seized the moment to rally SMBs toward confidence. His article, “Carpe Diem: A rallying cry for Britain – Nation of Entrepreneurs” admonished his countrymen from “talking Britain down.” Mr. Kelly declares his public interest love:
I love ideas like Rohan Silva’s – calling for The Government to issue a Statement of Intent ‘Power-ahead Budget’ that asserts that Britain is bold, and dares to dream with a reducing corporation tax to 10%, slashing the archaic Business Rates.
…personally, I would have loved to see a Government (for National Unity) bring together talents from all parties – from Sadiq Khan, Chuka Umuna, Gisela Stuart and Andrea Leadsom to respond to the decision of the people and carefully but boldly navigate the way forward. After all, I served the country as the COO of the Coalition Government and saw how effectively politicians of different colours could work brilliantly together when they were united in the public interest.
As the head of a global company, Stephen Kelly is reassuring his clients, employees, and countrymen that business will go on as usual, “No matter what happens in politics today, next week, or next month, virtually all our great British businesses will continue to operate without missing a heartbeat. They will still be feeding their families and friends tonight. They will still show up to deliver their craft with pride.
Personally, I “love” the message of hope, and certainly the nod of recognition Kelly shows for the backbone of British business. In a time of uncertainty, Kelly pledges to listen to SMBs and “use his influence” to deliver answers.
Housing Market Boon?
Construction Dive says that while uncertainty may cause hesitation in the home buying market, driving lower home prices – eventually. In fact, a slow down may be a GOOD thing in the current condition of high home prices and low inventory.
The “boon” from the Brexit is potentially for the mortgage refinancing industry, “which is poised for an expected glut of applications due to low interest rates. Overall, Redfin said, real estate market fundamentals haven’t changed in the U.S. because of Brexit, so Americans shouldn’t let the U.K.’s decision affect their homebuying plans.” Construction Dive continues:
“Brexit comes at a time when much of the U.S. real estate market is characterized by record high home prices and low inventory. Any dip in prices, or at least a slowdown in price growth, would be a relief to those homebuyers finding it difficult to come up with a down payment, particularly first-timers who are facing limited starter-home inventory in addition to steep price tags.”
Most financial analysts concur that the Fed didn’t raise interest rates due to the uncertainty around the Brexit impact. Some say that British money could migrate to America out of UK bonds and into US treasuries (Detroit Free Press).
The Detroit Free Press reported that Detroit-based mortgage company Quicken Loans “says it saw a 30 percent increase in traffic to its Rocket Mortgage site as news of the Brexit and its impact on U.S. treasury bonds reached U.S. consumers.” More from the Freep on Quicken Loans increase:
While the equity markets were down, interest rates dipped to a three-year low today on the Brexit news,” said Regis Hadiaris, Rocket Mortgage Product Lead. “The first place people typically go when they hear news like this is online. That’s exactly what we were seeing today with our Rocket Mortgage activity. People want to check rates quickly and easily and then lock in fast before they edge back up. Speed is really the key when these kinds of rate shifts happen.
And Bob’s Your Uncle?
Pundits are predicting that it could take anywhere from two years to a decade for Britain to fully exit the EU. There’s a bit of a loophole in Article 50 of the EU rule book, which requires a two year dissolution — BUT with a unanimous vote of all the EU, negotiations could be extended past that window.
So while the changes take place across the pond, the “inefficiencies” may linger (or trigger similar exits) for a long time to come.
Recommended reading (and sources cited):
2016 Sage Service Operations Mobility Tour
For Sage 100 Contractor and Sage 300 CRE
Join LAI and Sage executives to see how Sage Service Operations will help you:
- Respond sooner while simplifying dispatching and scheduling
- Improve communication between office staff and field technicians
- Enter work order details in the field, saving time and money
- Maximize sales opportunities through on-the-spot quote generation
- Increase close rates and improve customer loyalty with quick personal service
August 9th, 8:30 AM – 11:00 AM | LAI Headquarters – Scottsdale, AZ
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August 10th, 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM | Office Evolution – Littleton, CO
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2016 Construction Technology Survey
The 5th Annual 2016 Construction Technology Survey is Live!
In 2015, over 2,000 builders provided valuable insights into how their companies are using cloud, mobile, BIM, drone and wearable technology; staffing IT departments; and integrating data throughout the construction process.
Take the 10 minute survey on how your company employs technology and receive a copy of the resulting report. Survey closes on July 18th!
SQL for Sage 100
V20- What Should I Do?
by Pam Schulz
This is much more than the “usual” update — in fact it is one of the biggest program updates I have seen in my 23 years working with this software. Because of its significance it is worth spending a little extra time planning your upgrade. First, a few basic “thoughts.”
Why would I want this upgrade?
The new SQL version is a major advance. The old structure was “old” — there are new tools available, and this upgrade is taking advantage of the more modern technology. Just a few perks:
- Better performance; more reliable (transactions will post more reliably)
- Enhanced security
- SQL report designer
- Ability to schedule maintenance tasks (like backups)
Even with these major changes the “learning curve” for the day to day processes will be minimal. While there are some very cool “additional features”— (such as the ability to add a vendor name to the AP invoice lookup window instead of just seeing the vendor number- yeah!); most of the procedures, steps, and screens you now use will still be there and look much the same as they now do.
You can install v20 “side-by-side” with your current v19 version- this will allow time to see, learn, and test data and reports prior to a “final” conversion.
How do I get the upgrade?
Sage is “phasing” the upgrades in order to ensure that support and consultant resources are available to assist. “Groups” of clients are receiving the notice each month. If you have received a notice you can use the information in that notice to download your software. If you have NOT received a notice, but want to upgrade now, contact our office — there are procedures for getting your company involved earlier than the random selection.
Stay Tuned – For Part Two
Next month, I will share a strategy for planning the upgrade plus System Requirements and more recommendations.
The program changes are exciting! Sage has provided excellent tools and documentation, and LAI has trained Consultant and Support resources to make the conversion go smoothly. Plan it, and ENJOY!
Tired of paper – everywhere?
Free Timberscan Webinar – August 10 at 11:00 AM
Timberscan is the ONLY Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System (ECM) designed specifically for Sage 300 CRE (formerly Timberline)!
Join us for a live webinar and learn how you can automate and simplify your A/P approval process. Here’s what other construction companies are saying about Timberscan:
“We love TimberScan! The main reason we purchased TimberScan was the accessibility of invoices to everyone. From the project managers to the President everyone is experiencing increased efficiencies with the ability to quickly see scanned images. Our COO can monitor outstanding invoices and it’s a fantastic management tool. And at the end of the month, we know who’s holding us up. The purchase has paid for itself in 2 to 3 months.”
This session will show you how your company can benefit from a highly automated paper-free approval system that is easy to use and designed specifically for Timberline.
Do you know someone who’s looking?
We are getting busy! And in order to serve you best, we need to add to our team. Research shows that the majority of successful hiring comes via networking — so we are asking if you know someone who is looking to join a casual, flexible, and BUSY company, please send them our way.
Thanks for helping us to grow and continue to serve YOU!
Follow LAI on Social Media for immediate construction and technology news!
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Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
1099 Preparation for Year End
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Employee W-2 Preparation and Audit
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GL vs. Job Costs Reconciliation
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FOCUS for Easier Project Management
Submitted by Pam Schulz, Certified Sage 100 Consultant
One of the great things about storing all of your information in one place is that it is all in one place. One of the bad things about storing all of your information in one place is that it is all in one place.
How can you help your Project Management Team FIND information in Sage 100 Contractor more effectively? Let’s explore a few features that will make all of that valuable information EASY TO USE!
Job Level Security
If you have worked with Sage 100 Contractor for a number of years, and it has been awhile since you set up security, you may not know about this one. A few years ago, Job Level Security was added to your program. If you set up a user as being subject to Job Level Security, this user will only see “records” in the program that pertain to jobs that they have been granted Job Level Security Access to. They can greatly reduce the number of records that a user must view in order to see what they want. It’s not “just” about security — this feature will make everything easier to access since fewer records need to be searched.
HOW TO MAKE THIS WORK:
- At menu option 7-3-2 (Security>User List); in the far right hand column- enter a “Y” for the users that need to be subject to job level security.
- At menu option 3-5 (Accounts Receivable/Job Setup): choose the employees that will have access to this job:
THE NET EFFECT:
Employees who are not subject to Job Level Security will continue to see all records for all jobs in lookup windows. Employees who ARE subject to Job Level Security will see only records pertaining to jobs that they have been granted access to.
The Project Work Center – (Menu option 6-12)
Think of a “one-stop” shop for all the records related to a particular job- without having to view records for any other job. The menu that you see on the main screen is “duplicated” (you can customize it), but using the menu will focus on record for one job at a time. There is also a section for the “Project Hot List”- a useful way to keep “urgent” records at the forefront for your attention.
HOW TO MAKE THIS WORK:
This one is easy — just look at it!
- The Project Work Center is more of a “view” than a “do”. The data is already being compiled through your use of other modules.
- You CAN “customize the menu” (each user does this), and use the Hot List (see below) to denote important items.
It is easier to find records since all of the menu options are automatically “filtered” by the chosen job. Reports are automatically selected for the job as well, saving little bits of time and energy with each step.
The Dashboard is not just for accountants anymore! Now each user can have a customized dashboard, and there are a number of Project Management icons available.
HOW TO MAKE THIS WORK:
Each user can now have their “own” dashboard. Once you grant the proper security, it is easy for the user to customize their setup.
- Grant Dashboard Security. Logged in as Supervisor, Open the Dashboard. At the top of the screen, under “options”, press “Set Dashboard Security.” You select which security groups can have access to a dashboard.
- Grant Menu Security. Press “Enable Content.” For each of the tabs, you will see a blue “Security” button. Here you select which groups can have access to the types of information in that Tab. For example, most Project Managers would have access only to the “Project Tab and their group would not have access to the other menus.
- From here, each user can add their own content and customize their dashboard.
HINT- I find it useful to actually log in as a user and TEST what they can actually see and not see- just to be safe! If you think about it you do not set up security very often and it is worth the extra minute to make sure you didn’t grant access to confidential information.
It’s easy to see and use dashboard; chosen by each user.
The customizable desktop is another way to create easy access to menu options or reports that are used frequently.
HOW TO MAKE THIS WORK:
Once again, an option that is customizable by the user. No setup is required- the user simply “modifies” their desktop.
What can be done:
- Use one or more activity center (tabs at the top) and even hide those that are not wanted.
- Drag favorite menu options onto the desktop tab (s).
- Send favorite report selections to the desktop.
- Move, rename, and draw lines or boxes around the desktop icons.
Your favorite options and reports are easier to find.
The Hot List
“Hot List” items that need further attention. The Hot List can be run for a particular Job, as well as for a “supervisor” or “Type of Record.” So, Joe Smith could easily see all of his Hot-listed Change Orders across all of his jobs.
HOW TO MAKE THIS WORK:
Most screens that could contain job pertinent information have a box labeled “Hot List.” Simply checking and unchecking that box determines if the record will be visible in the Hot List.
Simply view the Hot List at menu option 6-11-9 (Document Control>Project Hot List) OR in the Project Work Center as discussed above.
By using these tools, your stored information is much easier to access, and, therefore, much more likely to be useful. And the best part? No extra work is really needed- you are simply making your stored information easier to find…
Learn more about Sage 100 Contractor here. Or, call Ledgerwood Associates at 877-918-8301 today and we’ll match your needs to the best solution.
The Font is Too Small on the GL Year-to-Date Ledger
Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
When Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate is first installed and configured, certain setup decisions are made for each application so that the software is optimally configured for use in your organization. Some of the seemingly insignificant features, however, are left at the default settings either by choice or because they are simply overlooked in pre-implementation setup conversations. One of these often-neglected settings is the orientation for the General Ledger Year-to-date Ledger.
The Year-to-date Ledger is a go-to report for most CFOs, controllers, accounting managers, and other accounting personnel in most companies. The report provides the details of transactions posted to General Ledger during the current fiscal year or other range of full months specified at the time the report is printed. For each GL account in the system, or specified by selection on the Ranges button, the report displays the accounting date of the transaction, the journal number (if journals are used), the two reference fields, the transaction description, the balance at the beginning of each month presented in the report, separate columns for debits and credits, and the balance at the end of month. It also provides grand totals for the debit and credit columns that are useful in such tasks as making sure the general ledger is in balance, checking net income and against financial statement designs to verify accuracy, and so on.
With the number of columns present in the Year-to-date Ledger, a common complaint from users is that the font is small and sometimes difficult to read when the settings related to this report are left at default in GL Settings. An authorized user can modify these settings through GL > GL Settings > Ledger Settings. Look for the Page Orientation choices and select Landscape instead of Portrait. As with many of the in-product reports, the Year-to-date-Ledger uses a scalable font that will increase in size automatically to fit the size of the paper. And yes, you guessed it – you can make the font even larger when set to landscape orientation and then printed on 11 X 14 paper (a nice trick for those of us who are little, ahem, mature and eyesight challenged).
While you’re in the Ledger Settings window, don’t be afraid to explore the other settings related to how the Year-to-date-Ledger prints and processes. There is a handy Help button at the bottom of the window if you’d like more information about the selections. And, as always, if you need any assistance with your GL settings or any other aspect of your Sage 300 CRE software, don’t hesitate to contact Ledgerwood Associates.
If you need helping installing an update or upgrade, one of our skilled consultants at Ledgerwood Associates would be happy to assist you. Call us at 480-423-8300, and ask for Carolyn!
Follow These Rules for Vehicles
Submitted by Bryan Eto, CPA
Many business owners fail to follow the strict tax rules for substantiating vehicle expenses. But if your business is audited, the IRS will most likely ask for mileage logs if you deducted vehicle expenses — and it tends to be especially critical of the amount deducted if you’re self employed or you employ relatives. While the basics seem simple, there are numerous exceptions.
Taxpayers can deduct actual vehicle expenses, including depreciation, gas, maintenance, insurance and other vehicle operating costs. Or they can use the standard mileage method, which allows a deduction based on the standard rate for each mile the vehicle is driven for business purposes. For example, the standard mileage rate is 57.5 cents per mile in 2015 and 54 cents in 2016. If you drove 1,000 miles for business purposes in 2016, you could deduct $540 under the standard mileage method.
Regardless of the method used, the recordkeeping requirements for mileage are the same. They’re also the same whether you’re the only employee who uses a vehicle, you employ others who use company vehicles, or an employee uses his or her own vehicle and is reimbursed by the company.
Vehicle logs must provide the following information for each business trip:
- Business purpose,
- Start odometer reading,
- Stop odometer reading, and
Employees who use their own vehicles must provide these details to their employer. If an employer reimburses an employee without the required documentation, the reimbursement is taxable income. If an employee uses a company vehicle, the IRS considers any usage that’s unaccounted for as personal use and the value of unaccounted usage should be included in the employee’s income for the employer to secure a deduction.
The IRS requires “contemporaneous” recordkeeping for mileage. That means a recording at or near the time of the trip. You can record the mileage at the time of the trip and enter the business purpose at the end of the week. But waiting much longer could raise suspicion about the validity of the vehicle log and potentially jeopardize your entire vehicle deduction.
The tax agency requires varying levels of detail, depending on the circumstances. For example, you might be able to list only the customer’s name if you visit someone regularly to demonstrate new products, provide service and take orders. But cold calls to prospective customers may require a more detailed write-up in your vehicle log. A single entry may be enough for visits to several customers in the same day, but you may need to log any detours taken for personal reasons, such as personal errands or lunch with your spouse.
In some cases you may be able to avoid recordkeeping if your company maintains a formal policy forbidding employees from using company vehicles for personal reasons. However, the exception has numerous rules and restrictions. For instance, the policy must be written and meet six conditions, and the exception applies to only employees who aren’t “control” employees, such as:
- Employees who are appointed by the board or shareholders or an elected officer whose pay is $100,000 or more,
- Employees who earn at least $205,000 annually, and
- Employees who own a 1% or more share of equity, capital or profits in the business.
Exceptions to the Rules
We’ve used the term “vehicle,” because the recordkeeping rules apply to more than just cars. Technically, every vehicle is subject to the rules. But the IRS permits specific exceptions for the following vehicles that are unlikely to have more than a minimum amount of personal use:
- Delivery trucks with seating only for the driver or only for the driver plus a folding jump seat,
- Buses with a 20-person minimum seating capacity,
- Special purpose farm vehicles, and
- Any vehicle designed to carry cargo with a loaded gross vehicle weight over 14,000 pounds.
Not listed above are more obvious exceptions, such as cement mixers, combines and bucket trucks. In addition, the IRS permits exceptions for trucks or vans that have been specially modified so that they aren’t likely to be used more than a de minimis amount for personal purposes. An example is a van that has only a front bench for seating, has permanent shelving that fills most of the cargo area, constantly carries equipment and has been custom painted with the company’s name and logo.
Complying with the IRS mileage recordkeeping rules can be tedious, especially for workers who drive significant distances for business purposes. Here are some ways you can simplify the process:
Mileage logs don’t have to be kept in a written diary or day planner — you can download an app to your tablet or cell phone to track mileage. These apps typically allow you to take a picture of the odometer for the beginning and ending mileage. If you allow this method, require workers to back up their electronic mileage logs regularly to prevent loss of mileage records. Alternatively, you might use GPS tracking of company vehicles to help document mileage.
Apply sampling methods
The IRS allows taxpayers to use the mileage for regular routes — for example, if you visit the same customers on a fixed weekly schedule — and extrapolate the sample mileage over the entire tax year. This can save time, but you’ll have to show that the sample is valid. And if the route changes midyear, you’ll have to show how you updated the sample.
The easiest way to simplify recordkeeping for vehicle expenses is to use the standard mileage rate, rather than tracking actual expenses. Doing so eliminates the need to save gas receipts and maintenance records. But the downside is that this method tends to understate expenses, particularly if you drive an expensive gas guzzler or pay above-average insurance premiums. If a vehicle’s business use is high but its total use is low, actual fixed costs — such as insurance and depreciation — are likely to be higher on a per-mile basis than with the standard mileage rate.
Vehicle expenses can quickly add up for businesses — as well as for individuals who are tracking mileage for itemized medical or charitable deductions, or supplemental business activities such as managing investments in local businesses or rental properties. But as easily as they add up, so too can vehicle deductions vanish in an IRS inquiry.
The key to preserving your deductions is maintaining up-to-date mileage records. Too often, taxpayers assume they can put together a mileage log the night before the IRS visits. That rarely works. For example, the IRS questioned a situation in which the taxpayer used the same pen over a two-year period. In another case, the IRS noticed that the taxpayer claimed to be at the post office and an hour later was at a client 110 miles away. In cases where there are more than a few discrepancies, the IRS often denies all vehicle expense deductions, claiming the mileage log wasn’t credible. On top of losing your deduction, you also might face penalties and interest for underpaying your tax liability.
When it comes to the recordkeeping requirements for vehicles, the IRS rarely allows exceptions for its strict rules. Don’t assume you qualify for an exception, check with you tax adviser first. He or she can help you navigate the complicated vehicle recordkeeping rules with confidence.
Time to take 5D BIM to the Next Level
Submitted by Walt Davis, Field Engineer – Estimating Market Manager, Sage. Originally posted on the Sage blog Sponge Bob Square Rants on 5/12/2016.
Building information modeling (BIM) offers many benefits to the AEC industry. In my last post, “Three reasons why estimators are adopting BIM,” I pinpointed specifically how 5D BIM can be used by estimators to provide valuable cost saving strategies and greater project cost predictability.
Yet BIM, in many ways, is still in its infancy when it comes to estimating. Estimators operating within a BIM-based environment today particularly are running into challenges with take-off and specifications.
Missing take-off information
A main usability factor is a BIM project model doesn’t include all the information estimators need. A 3D model, for instance, may contain a pipe schematic with lengths, but estimators still need to refer to 2D drawings to take off the hangers. Or floor coverings may not exist in the model, but can be found on the 2D drawings. As a result, estimators may have to use multiple, unconnected 2D and 3D takeoff systems, complicating the process and increasing the chances for error.
Some 2D takeoff tools are available inside 3D BIM software. However, it’s generally acknowledged that these tools currently don’t provide the same level of capabilities estimators require for 2D production estimating work. Plus, the majority of takeoffs is still 2D and that’s not expected to change any time soon. Consequently, estimators are looking for ways to work concurrently with both 2D and 3D content during the takeoff process.
Scarcity of specs
Another estimating concern with 3D models is the lack of specifications. From a design perspective—particularly for independent architects—there may be little value to putting specs into the model. In fact, it may not be possible to build a model containing all the job specifications without impacting model size and performance. Designers may attempt to resolve this issue by creating links in the model to external specification documents. However, these links, which must be maintained by different stakeholders, can easily break as specifications change throughout the project.
Both these situations are currently limiting full adoption of BIM by estimating teams. As a technology provider, we, at Sage, have heard these concerns loud and clear and are developing ways to address estimator’s needs related to BIM. In my next post, I will share how Sage, Autodesk and eTakeoff are partnering to eliminate time-consuming workarounds and make it easier for construction teams to derive the full estimating benefits of 5D BIM.
Want more info on BIM ? Click the button below to set up a Sage Estimating Demo from Tony!