October 2016 Newsletter
- Are there holes in your business software solutions? Fill ’em up with these ‘optimizers’!
- New! Mobile for SUBCONTRACTORS (finally!) – FREE WEBINAR
- Is technology your next landlord? How will Property Management change?
- Getting “real” about Sage 100 V20 / SQL upgrade
- More Tips and Tricks for Sage 300 CRE | Sage Estimating | Construction Accounting
LAI’s Business Optimization Updates for 2016
by Joanie Hollabaugh
Who’s moving filling my cheese?
Looking forward to preparing for Year End (as most of us do in October), I pivoted my perspective and looked BACK at what new technology products/resources Ledgerwood has added to our collection in 2016. As in, what should YOU know about in order to make Year End and 2017 more productive, efficient, profitable, etc.?
Most of you associate Ledgerwood with Sage software, which is good – it means our branding is working. What many of you DON’T know is how many affiliate solutions we offer. As Tony puts it – we sell really, REALLY good Swiss cheese, but there can be holes in it (regarding your business needs). So, we help you fill those holes. In the really, REALLY good Swiss cheese!
In 2016, we’ve entered into some really great partnerships with companies that help to fill the gaps in your core Sage software solutions. And we’d also like to mention that Sage is also modernizing legacy products and diversifying with development partners to stay relevant.
Software additions that improve your current investment:
New Cloud Hosting Provider for Sage 100 CON and Sage 300 CRE
To make a long story short — our previous provider has moved their attention farther from application hosting and more towards hardware and services, which is their cheese-moving prerogative.
In order to continue offering cloud hosting services, Tony researched and found a company that he is thrilled about – Swizznet (we introduced them in the June newsletter). If your business is ready to move to the cloud, Swizznet is best in breed for hardware and software, onboarding, support.
The business advantages to moving to the cloud are obvious:
- Significant savings on on-site servers, FTEs, hosting, etc.
- 24/7 accessibility for total business collaboration
- Speed, security, and risk management
Swizznet has been one of our most successful partnerships in the ease and cost for conversion. If you want referrals – just ask Tony!
Convert to SQL for Sage 100 Contractor
This is a bit of a mixed bag of good/bad news. The good news is that SQL is a Microsoft product which plays well with other programs. It should make your software run better, faster, smarter, etc. You will like that a LOT!
The bad news is that you probably shouldn’t do this conversion yourself unless your IT skills are formidable. Our consultant, Pam Schulz, gave a ton of great advice on preparing for it, along with system requirements and recommendations.
Also, Sage won’t be supporting older versions after 2017, so there is a little urgency. The consolation is that you can run the Sage 100 Contractor Version 20 upgrade side-by-side with V19.7 until you’re ready to commit. Pam says this is the biggest program update she’s seen in 23 years of consulting!
Cloud Project Management for Everyone!
Connecting the communication between the field and office continues to improve immensely — thanks to the cloud.
Three new products became available from Ledgerwood this year. We can help you make business optimization improvements based on users’ roles and your installed core software.
SCPC for GCs Using Sage 300 CRE
Sage Construction Project Center is one of the best additions Sage could have added to Sage 300 CRE, in our opinion!
Sage Construction Project Center allows “cloud” construction management by connecting the entire project team to all project-related details via a web browser. Share documents, drawings, RFIs, daily logs, punch lists, etc., from anywhere, with anyone on the project team.
This connection practically eliminates costly mistakes from the ‘disconnect’ between the office by updating Change Orders within Sage 300CRE.
Bid Management for Sage 100 CON and Sage 300 CRE
Also new to Sage’s cloud suite of Project Management products is Bid Management: true bid list collaboration among everyone on your construction project – including estimators, subcontractors, and material suppliers. This solution helps bid coordinators and estimators automate the entire bid process by finding, viewing, and tracking everyone who’s involved in the bid process.
eSUB for Subcontractors using Sage 100 CON and Sage 300 CRE
Finally – something for the field (instead of GCs and Owners)! This is a really cool Project Management tool for specialty contractors for managing timecards, RFIs, and Change Orders from anywhere, on any device. Workflows and user-based permissions are built right in. The real-time connection from the field to the office means approvals can be done in minutes, and not days.
eSUB is brand new for LAI — and we are introducing it in a co-sponsored webinar. Join us on November 10 at 11:00 AM Arizona time (see below)
eSUB Free Webinar
eSUB is the industry leader in mobile and cloud project management software for subcontractors. Built on 30-plus years of consulting expertise, eSUB’s easy to use, mobile and cloud software helps self-performing contractors increase productivity, communications, accountability, and profits.
Join LAI and eSUB Chief Strategy Officer/Co-Founder, Benny Baltrotsky on November 10th at 11 am AZ time for a FREE webinar!
What you’ll learn:
- Mobile is here! How to empower field and office teams to work efficiently together with field data collection. Empower your field crew.
- How eSUB’s modular platform helps Project Managers, Field Workers, Accountants, and Executives, across the entire construction company.
- How eSUB Users can easily enter and track all project information including Daily Reports/Time Cards, RFI, Submittals, Change Orders, Meeting minutes and more.
- How eSUB and Sage 300 CRE or 100 Contractor can reduce hours of manual data entry and increase accuracy of financial reporting.
The Evolution of Property Management
by Joanie Hollabaugh
Buildings change as the needs of man change. It’s pretty simple; just another iteration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
With the technology of (both residential and non-residential) building construction vastly changing – how will Property Management software of the future handle the increased needs like ‘smart’ capabilities, tenant/buyer financial potentials, identity security, and vendor/maintenance management?
Is technology your next landlord?
As you may know, biomimicry in architecture is advancing from applying similar aesthetic resemblances in nature to recreating similar behavior. For example, the Cacti Skyscraper, a project in Qatar, mimics a cactus’s response to environmental stimuli (by closing sun shades against scorching heat with a botanical dome for collecting water and growing food); will projects like these become scalable enough that builders will incorporate them in mass production or a standard for commercial building? How will the building itself be managed? And by WHOM – the property manager or by tenants, or both?
And how will property management software adapt to buildings’ “living” enhancements? As boundaries between lessors and lessees shift within the software itself (payments, maintenance requests, etc.) the more “human” tasks may become future software features. Will changing the building via software become a competitive feature for attracting tenants? And will building construction development be driven by consumer behavior and demands, e.g., “I need to live in a building/neighborhood that regulates air quality and generates heat-producing bacteria and edible vegetation!”
See more on building technologies like the Termes Project, SAM (Self-Automated Masonry), and building “skins” in our November 2015 newsletter, HERE.
Tenant/Buyer Spending Prediction
Market reports are widely available for WHERE to build properties, but when it comes to WHO will live there, there’s a huge opportunity for software advances. Going way beyond simply screening tenants, investors will want an algorithm that can calculate a tenant “livability-spend” score. I imagine it could contain not only the obvious of rent payment history, credit score – but a “social” aspect as well. How active is the prospect on Yelp, what restaurants or retail do they like on Facebook, what are their children’s activities, and what revenue do all of these produce? And the person that can curate this content and create software to predict the profitability could walk away as the next Zuckerman.
Furthermore, there is a legal and moral responsibility for lessors to protect financial and personal information of applicants and tenants. In a world where even Wells Fargo can get hacked – the demand for secure screening and accounting software will be critical. What guarantees and safeguards can software publishers provide to both the builders/managers and the consumers?
In a scenario where the tenant or buyer is making requests DIRECTLY to vendors (and suppliers) or maintenance, the software must come with built-in financial safeguards, safety and regulatory checks, as well as bonding and insurance compliance management. The software solution must protect this entity as well! And not to mention the interface between the two entities should be seamless and BRANDED. That can only happen via software, and most likely already is, in a less sophisticated form than the future will require.
Meanwhile, the middle man (builder/developer/owner/manager) must also be protected from lawsuits, overruns, negligence, theft, and damage. This is not a job for the faint of software!
Back to the Present
Slipping off the Marty McFly spectacles, current Property Management software is becoming easier to use, easier to access, and easier to protect all parties’ interests.
Recently, Sage entered into an agreement with RealPage to provide a (replacement for their) Residential Management module; the commercial residential product is still actively promoted and supported.
However, if you’re exclusively looking for cloud-based commercial property management, RealPage is the way to go. The OneSite Leasing & Rents Commercial product gives you real-time management reports across your portfolio. Automatically run office, property, or portfolio reports whenever you want—either on demand or scheduled.
Ultimately, rent roll, NOI, and occupancy rates don’t really change; and accounting is still accounting. Let’s hear it for the present!
Want to talk residential or commercial Property Management software with us? Want server side or cloud-based property management? We can do both! Shoot us an email and we’ll give you a call!
We’ll help make your dream come true!
Are you really, really good at accounting, project management, or estimating, and LOVE software?
Do you enjoy helping others solve problems and making peoples’ lives easier? Do you like to work remotely, a flexible schedule, and a little bit of travel?
Maybe you’re cut out to be a consultant! Ledgerwood can help you get your (Sage product) certification to join our team of top consultants! We don’t just hire 1099 contractors – we hire FT employees who enjoy full benefits and a great team environment!
Follow LAI on Social Media for immediate construction and technology news!
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Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
Paperless Approval for Sage 300 CRE
Timberscan is the ONLY Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System designed specifically for Sage 300 CRE (formerly Timberline)!
Join us for a live online webinar and learn how you can automate and simplify your A/P approval process. Here’s an example of what construction companies are saying about Timberscan:
It streamlines the invoice approval process, and ensures proper coding of all invoices, eliminates lost invoices, and improves payment terms.
Tom – Model Group
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 Sage 300 CRE.
Getting Real About Version 20 – Part 1
It’s already October and you need to do some serious planning! (Remember- if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.) This year, in addition to the “normal” year-end tasks you need to plan your upgrade to Sage 100 Contractor SQL v20.
NOTE– Version 19 will be supported through the end of 2017- so DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED TO HURRY- take the time to feel comfortable! There have been plenty of articles, notices and emails about the upgrade- describing the benefits of the upgrade as well as system requirements and upgrade processes. There is plenty of documentation available for these aspects of the upgrade.
BUT, before you begin downloading, loading, converting and testing I recommend spending a little time PLANNING your upgrade. You may have seen some of this information before, but I ask you to consider this from the perspective of PLANNING the process so that your actual upgrade will run smoothly. As you have seen before, this is much more than the “normal” upgrade.
By now, ALL Sage 100 Contractor clients (except those with a Standard or Extended Estimating integration) should have received an upgrade notice. This notice, labeled v 20.3, will provide the link needed to download the software.
The 5 steps for planning your upgrade:
- WHEN – can you devote the time and resources to this project?
- WHO – do you need to engage your IT company, or your Sage consultant?
- REQUIREMENTS – network, hardware, 3rd party apps- are you ready?
- TRIAL CONVERT/TEST – you can load/run side-by-side; convert, test, fix data if needed.
- FINAL – LIVE! – once everything is tested- a final conversion and go-live!
1. WHEN – can you devote the time and resources to this project?
Take some time to:
- Verify your system requirements- this may be very simple and take very little time, OR you may discover that a system upgrade is warranted. You will need to budget time and money for system upgrades.
- Load the software – the software takes some time to load. (Much longer than your “typical” update.) My own workstation took 15 minutes to load. Imagine loading at all of your workstations. And your server. There is a new “component” for you to work with- the “Database Administrator.” This will take some time to load and set up.
- Planning changes to Users – Log Ins. Learn about the “Authentication” and “Log Ins” and how they differ from what you currently have set up. There are also changes to the “Supervisor” user function. ALLOW TIME to learn about this and PLAN any changes you wish to make before you load and convert.
- Convert, test, fix data- Your data will take time to convert. The process includes auditing all of the data files as they are converted. Some data files will convert with no errors whatsoever; HOWEVER, most data files will require some sort of “fixing.” An error report is provided so that your version 19.7 data can be fixed and re-converted. This can take some time- the conversion alone will take awhile, and even more if repair and reconversion is needed. I have seen databases commonly taking an hour to convert.
- Convert, test reports – MANY of your custom reports and form will convert if they were created within the Sage Form Design and Report Writer. There MAY be some forms and reports that require “fixes.” So far, my average “fix time” for a custom report is 15 minutes. Reports written using “outside” report writers will need to be updated- you will need to budget time and/or money for these reports.
- Make sure 3rd party apps work- check with providers of any 3rd party apps you may be using. Some are ready, some are not.
- Final convert- once everything is done, loaded, tested and approved, you need to go through the data convert one more time- allow time to do this.
- Altogether, this could take as little as 3 hours (simple load, small database, no errors, very few custom reports), up to 10 or more hours, if you need to evaluate/upgrade hardware, convert large databases, fix reports, engage 3rd party, etc. It is important to assess this time requirement and schedule the process when you can devote the time and resources, and when your outside resources will be available.
Not every time is a “good” time – year end, busy seasons, and holidays are sometimes not conducive to making major changes or upgrades. Also you need to make sure your own staff AND outside resources are available. (Sage technical support and other Sage related resources are VERY busy from December 15 to February 15. Your own staff may be busy, or unavailable due to vacations or other time away from the office.)
2. WHO – do you need to engage your IT company, or your Sage consultant?
- Have your IT company verify the system requirements.
- Do you need to upgrade hardware, network, etc?
- Do you need resources loading the software?
- Many clients have IT company assist
- New concepts- SQL Express, Database Administrator
- Are you calling Tech Support?
- Will you need help fixing/converting data and reports?
- Make sure your resources are available.
3. REQUIREMENTS – network, hardware, 3rd party apps- are you ready?
- VERIFY the system requirements. Here is the link to the current Knowledgebase article: https://support.na.sage.com/selfservice/viewdocument.do?externalId=67758
- CONFIRM with your 3rd party app providers that they are compliant with v20.
4. TRIAL CONVERT/TEST – you can load/run side-by-side; convert, test, fix data if needed
- Schedule time to do a “Trial convert.”
- If all goes smoothly, and you have no errors, proceed to converting and testing custom reports.
- If you have errors, read the conversion error report. If you can fix the errors, do so and re-convert. If you need help, contact either Tech Support or our office.
- Test the newly converted data- enter transactions- make sure you see what you expect to see.
- Convert and test your reports.
- Allow enough time and resources to do this RIGHT.
5. FINAL – LIVE! – once everything is tested- a final conversion and go-live!
- Schedule a final conversion and go-live!
A little time spent planning your upgrade will make the process easier- PLAN to succeed!
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.
Part Three of a 3-Part Series: The ‘Send’ Feature
Submitted by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
Send a Report from Sage 300 CRE Using SMTP Settings
This article is the third of three in a series about setting up your Sage 300 CRE software so that you can use the Send feature to email reports directly from your Sage software. Using this feature, reports are converted to .pdf files which are then attached to email messages. The first article in our August newsletter provided details about which versions of Microsoft Outlook are compatible with the different versions of Sage 300 CRE. The second article in our September newsletter explained how to set up Sage 300 CRE to use a compatible version of Microsoft Outlook to send reports. This article explains how to set up SMTP settings to send reports from Sage 300 CRE without using Microsoft Outlook.
To configure mail settings to send using SMTP:
- Review and/or modify the SMTP settings:
- From TS Main, select Tools > Options.
- From Sage Desktop for versions 15.1 and earlier, select Common Tasks > Tools > Options.
- From Sage Desktop for versions 16.1 and later, select Applications > Common Tasks > Tools > Options.
- Select the Mail Settings
- Check the box to Use SMTP to send mail. Enter the following information:
- Sender email: (this is what the receiver will see the email is from)
- SMTP Server: (this is to be supplied by the IT person. An example might be smtp.mail.com, but will be different, depending on the person who set up the mail server)
- Port: (The default port for SMTP is 25 — Note that if the other default secured port of 587 is used, this feature may not work.)
- SMTP Account Name: (Type a username — your IT professional may choose to create an account explicitly for this, or may use any regular account used to log into email)
- SMTP Account Password: (Type password associated with the username)
- Click the Test SMTP mail Another dialog box will appear.
- Enter a Destination email address and click Send. Click only once.
- If successful, you will receive a test email.
- If unsuccessful, you may receive an error such as: “The connection to the SMTP server failed.” — or — “Authentication failed.” — or — “The operation timed out. Exception: System.Net.MailSmtpException: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.” This is generally a sign that an unsupported SSL port such as 587 was used in the setup.
If you would like more information, or need any assistance with your Sage 300 CRE software, please contact Ledgerwood Associates.
Lowering the Bar on Performance and Payment Bonding
Submitted by Bryan Eto, CPA
Acquiring or increasing your firm’s bonding capacity can open a whole new market of jobs. It can allow you to take on a multitude of public works projects or larger, more profitable, higher-profile private jobs that require a more hearty bonding capacity than what you, or your agent, are used to.
The traditional method of laying out up to 20 percent of the bond value in cash collateral may be uncalled for if you approach your agent in the right way with the following cash-saving opportunities.
Funds Control Makes You a More Attractive Candidate
Is your firm is being awarded a much larger project than average? By agreeing to use funds control, you may sweeten the deal and put your surety company’s underwriter in a better mood for granting the bonding capacity that your firm needs for the project. Funds control adds an extra level of comfort to the underwriter by guaranteeing that all subcontractors and materialmen are being paid as the project progresses, so there will be no chance of claims for non-payment down the line.
Funds control takes the “payment risk” out of the performance and payment bonding process, leaving only the “performance risk” for the surety company to bear. Here’s how.
The “How-to” of Funds Control
In cash flow terms, with funds control, your firm directs the flow of funds from the owner or general contractor you work for to your subcontractors and/or suppliers. In operational terms, you submit your payment application to your customer as usual, but you will also send a copy to your bonding agent and include a certified schedule of all the suppliers and subcontractors you currently owe money to, along with the amounts you currently owe them on this project.
The bond producer then gets the money for your current draw from your customer, and writes a batch of checks — one to each of the vendors on your list and one to you. The bond producer then sends this batch of checks to your firm for distribution, processing and/ or depositing.
Sound Like an Accounting Nightmare? — Not Really
With funds control, all of the checks come to you, even the ones made out to your vendors and suppliers. An inexperienced bookkeeper might get confused about how to account for it all, but all the payments for each draw go through your firm’s accounting system. Your CPA can show you how.
Bonding Qualification Assistance
The Federal Small Business Administration lowers the bar on bond qualification, giving contractors easier access to greater bonding capacity. It pays to know how the SBA Surety Bond Guarantee Program works, in case you need it.
If you are willing to pay a small administrative fee and have enough lead time to obtain bonding, the federal government can help you qualify for performance and payment bonds on a project when otherwise the bonding capacity you need might seem out of reach.
Federal Bonding Assistance Step One: Screen Your Agent
The Federal Small Business Administration Surety Bond Guarantee Program can only help you if you use an agent who is familiar and qualified to underwrite bonds with this type of bonding assistance. So ask around. You may not need federal bonding assistance for every project, but if you use an agent who can access the federal assistance program, it might make a difference when the need arises. As you know, a bonded project can’t start unless the performance and payment bonds are in place.
Federal Bonding Assistance Step Two: Try The Preferred Program. It Helps You Qualify… And Takes Less Time
If your firm needs help qualifying for that extra bonding capacity, the Federal Small Business Administration offers certain surety companies a hefty 70 percent guarantee backing on the bonds they underwrite for you, for a fee of only about 0.7 percent of the contract value (which you pay). Your firm must apply for the Preferred Surety Bond Program through your bonding agent with one of the following four currently approved, preferred surety companies:
- CNA – Western
- U.S. Specialty – HCC
As you might assume, a surety company is much more apt to underwrite your bonds if 70 percent of the risk is guaranteed by the federal government.
Federal Bonding Assistance Step Three: If All Else Fails, Try the Prior-Approved Program
This program requires a lot of lead time, but takes almost all of the risk off of any surety company you work with, so the bonding is almost totally guaranteed. If your agent is familiar and qualified to make use of the Federal Small Business Administration Prior-Approved Surety Bond Guarantee Program, he or she can present your firm to any surety company they work with because the bond application is reviewed and approved also by the government before it is underwritten.
The advantage of having 90 percent of the value of the bonds guaranteed by the federal government is that the surety company bears almost none of the risk of default. And the administrative fee your firm pays for access to this program is the same 0.7 percent.
Consult with your accounting professional for more information in your situation.
New estimating technology to tackle 5D BIM challenges
Submitted by Walt Davis, Sage Estimating Market Manager
VDC extends throughout the project lifecycle
Virtual design and construction (VDC) practices today extend into all phases of the building life cycle—from design, through estimating and construction management, and onto building maintenance and demolition. That flow involves many individuals of different work disciplines—architect, engineer, estimator, project manager and more—each with their own requirements.
To address the needs of these different disciplines, software developers over the years have become experts in specific software applications. While this has given each discipline the deep functionality they need, it has also resulted in software silos. Now, more than ever, there is a need to share information between disciplines and break down those silos through VDC technology.
BIM and estimating integration
As I mentioned in my last post,
The new solution will offer takeoff tools that make it possible for estimators to do production estimating work concurrently with 2D and 3D content. This will streamline the now fragmented takeoff process and eliminate additional error prone work. The ability to link construction objects in a model to assemblies in a customized estimating database will also be available, providing the estimator with the specification variables that are often missing in models.
If you are interested in or have questions regarding the other benefits the Sage Estimating SQL version can offer please contact us at 480.423.8300 or contact Sage directly at BIMintegration@sage.com.
Click the button below to set up a Sage Estimating Demo!