October 2017 Newsletter
What we’re talking about in October:
- Sluggish software? Tune it up with an “auto” audit!
- The ABC’s of ECM
- Boo! Upgrades don’t need to be scary
- Encore webinar: The ROI of Automating your HCM
- Our own Kyle Z will be at the TUG Regional Workshop in Austin, TX
- ConstructConnect Event: 2018 Design & Construction Outlook: Cheery or Dreary?
- Awesome ‘Tips and Tricks’ for Sage 300 CRE | Sage 100 CON | Sage Estimating
More than Changing the Filter
Give it a ‘tune up’ audit
No one gets too worked up about an oil change or filter replacement, and even a dealer recall. And if you get a crack in your windshield you wouldn’t replace your whole car. Or would you?
We frequently experience clients who will change out the 85% of the software that works, for the 15% that doesn’t! That’s why LAI highly recommends checking your whole system – together! Sage sends out an invoice 60 days prior to your annual renewal — that would be a perfect timer to schedule a free annual audit.
Look Under the Hood…
We have a client that has 35 people in the office, and another 60 in the field, all pulling licenses. Running reports takes FOREVER. Everyone is complaining about how slowww the system is! Actually, the problem is not the software. You’ll see why:
Recommendation #1 – Review the version and upgrades
We have clients who regularly upgrade their systems to the latest version – and then ignore it (or receive them and never install them). Granted, release notes are the driest thing in the world to read, but they contain CRITICAL feature enhancement information, fixes, and speedy new improvements.
And if you’re a good do-be and someone actually DOES read them — do you have a process where this information is disseminated to your users? Do you have a power user who can train employees on how to leverage efficiencies and update internal processes? YOU PAID FOR IT – are you cruising along at full potential, or are you stuck in first gear?
Recommendation #2 – Review the server environment
Are you using a third-party IT service? Are they reviewing the minimum system requirements for every version upgrade or just telling you everything’s OK with your hardware? You could be seriously under-powered for the demand, causing your own sluggish performance!
Perhaps it’s time to invest in more storage, or to time to move to the cloud and not worry about purchasing more physical servers. Especially if you have or want mobility in the field. NOTHING will run quickly if you’re logging into Terminal Services from an iPad.
Recommendation #3 – Reinvest in integration
Even worse than scenario #1, where enhancements are ignored, is the one where clients pay for an integration solution – and NEVER USE IT. We regularly see clients who have purchased My Assistant or Construction Project Center, who have never implemented it. This is a total net loss!!
Or other clients who NEED an inexpensive fix like My Assistant or Construction Project Center – and are replacing the core software. With an audit, you can identify the gaps, and we can help you fix them, without throwing away the initial investment. You may have to spend a little, but it’s minor in comparison.
Preparing for an Audit
If you follow our suggestion to put a calendar reminder on your renewal invoice, you’ll give yourself two months to learn how to optimize your system. Invite your key users to the meeting, and perhaps your financial executives. Plan for 2-3 hours for LAI to ask questions, and propose solutions.
If you are like most clients, you’re probably using that 85% potential, but the 15% pain has you out sticker shopping. We promise we can get you up to 90-95% full potential. Nothing is 100% perfect – we can’t account for traffic!
The ABC’s of ECM
The world of paperless options has evolved over the years and is now generally referred to as Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Regardless of the description or how you have deployed it so far, digital capture and storage is clearly the direction for content of all types.
You already have some paperless processes, even if it is just a system of .pdf file storage. Or you might have been an early adopter of scanning for paperless storage, and it’s time to upgrade. Regardless of what stage you are at now, it pays to have an overall strategy for content management going forward.
Key elements of a paperless strategy:
- Easy to deploy — including capture methods, user interface, accessibility of digital content.
- Secure — levels of security may vary by subject matter. Bank statements may need to be more secure than AP invoice copies, which may lead to different methods of capture and storage.
- Easy to retrieve — within the security concerns above.
- Deliberately managed — the capture, storage, retention, and possible disposal should be actively managed.
A plan to execute your strategy might include policy and procedure changes, along with one or more additional products or services. You can check with peer groups, such as CFMA and the AICPA for ideas to get you started. Industry groups, such as the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) offer information. Look at existing products online. You don’t need to consider shopping at this point, but the lists of features may trigger some thoughts about your plan. LAI offers both TimberScan and Sage Paperless; talk to us about which works for your business.
Questions to start your plan:
- Do you have an immediate need or goal? What about 5 years out or longer?
- Is there one department or process that would have the most impact if it was handled without paper?
- Can some processes by changed? Instead of scanning paper invoices, can they be delivered electronically from the beginning?
- How does paper flow within your company now? Do the digital documents need to flow the same way, or can the process change?
- Who would control the digital process? Just as someone is responsible for paper filing, someone needs to manage the capture, storage and retention of digital documents.
- Do you have other digital content to include? This could be videos from project site web cams, photos, and recorded meeting minutes (where allowed). Does the non-paper content need to come under the same management process as the digital documents?
- Will you need indexing? When searching for documents later, how do you need to find them?
- Do you know the quantities involved? How many paper invoices or contracts do you have? The answer may help determine the type of scanning capability you need.
- Is the capture likely to be centralized, or will people in multiple departments need to handle their own capture and storage?
- Will the digital documents need to be available only on demand, or will they be “pushed” out?
- What levels of security are needed? Is it defined by department, job role, or person?
- How will you apply a record retention policy to the digital content? Do files need to be purged on a scheduled basis?
- What documents still need to be retained as hard copies? Would they be stored only as hard copies, or in addition to the digital version?
- Are there any legal questions to ask? Do you need to be concerned about the validity of signed, digital documents?
- Where will employees be when they need to access digital content? Should there be a mobile access point?
- How will you measure your goal? Is it quantitative gains—faster invoice approval or reduced postage cost? Is it qualitative gains—better access to information for project managers or more streamlined AP processes?
- Is your user audience receptive? If users are not open to paperless solutions, you may need to plan on a bit more training and orientation at the beginning.
- Will the answers lead to multiple solutions or implementations?
There may be more questions that your company needs to consider. LAI can help you with that! Call us at 480.423.8300 to find the ECM solution that integrates best with your current accounting technology suite.
Want to learn more about ECM and paperless? For Sage Paperless and/or TimberScan click HERE.
Upgrades don’t have to be scary!
by Joanie Hollabaugh, Sr. Director of Marketing
Recently, I “upgraded” the ‘http’ Ledgerwood website to a secure ‘https’ site. Having done copious amounts of research, and being without a dedicated IT resource — I decided I could handle it.
And I did. And I got lucky.
Because during that research, I discovered that a plethora of unfathomable things could go wrong. I literally: Held. My. Breath. And I went live!
Fortunately, it went smoothly. There were some minor glitches in the navigation fluidity, but I figured that out, too.
The good news, is that as the sole Marketing person in the company, I had the leisure of planning, researching, backing up and testing prior to going live. I was not under pressure, nor a deadline. But I did know via my marketing resources, that it was the best decision for the company. While we are not an e-commerce site, Google prefers your site to be secure and will improve your (page) ranking as a reward for doing so.
Addressing the fear
You may not enjoy all the leeway I granted myself when it comes to upgrading your construction accounting or estimating software (YE deadline, right?). We’ve been communicating with you for months (via articles and emails) about creating a strategy, determining which version you’re on, where documentation can be found for hardware requirements, etc. We’ve also recommended that you pick a ‘hard’ date for your upgrade and to reserve consultant time! We think you’re on solid ground.
It’s a treat, no tricks!
However, I am going to do you a BIG favor (because that’s how much we care)!
We are collecting all the Sage and LAI resources and links we can — and aggregating them on a single LAI (blog) webpage. I will add to the page as more ‘help’ is released via Sage, or as our Sage Certified consultants uncover helpful nuggets at clients’ sites.
Bookmark your resource page!
Sage 100 CON
Sage 300 CRE
Better Manage Construction Docs and Automate AP Processing
A TimberScan for Sage 100 Contractor Overview
Join Core Associates for a 1 hour webinar to learn about TimberScan 100, a powerful content management and automation solution designed especially for Sage 100 Contractor users. By attending this session, you’ll realize the potential resource savings YOU can experience just by using TimberScan 100. This presentation includes a demonstration of:
- TimberScan 100: Learn how to acquire AP invoice data, automatically route documents for approval, and sync AP information with your Sage 100 Contractor system to save your staff mounds of time and manual work.
- Core Cloud Systems (CCS): Quickly develop and deploy forms and applications for your business, streamlining both accounting and operations while syncing with TimberScan 100 and your Sage 100 Contractor system.
2017 TUG Regional Workshop
October 12-13th in Austin, TX
Kyle will be teaching several Sage 300 CRE courses in Texas this year! Be sure to attend her courses – Kyle was a former Timberline ‘power user’ who became a Sage Certified Consultant.
The 2017 TUG Regional Workshop this October 12-13 in Austin, Texas delivers the live, in-depth training you need now to maximize your Sage Construction software, whether you are just starting out or have been working with the software for years.
Five reasons why you should register right now:
- Two days packed with in-depth sessions and hands-on labs led live and in-person by expert users and consultants
- Vital user insights including step-by step instructions, tips and tricks and best practices.
- Networking with fellow users to build a support network.
- A marketplace of third party ideas and solutions that integrate with your software.
- Earn up to 14 CPE credits.
The ROI of Automating Human Capital Management (HCM) system
Our kick-off event was so well, attended, we’re adding another!!
Most companies understand on a general level that automation can minimize their spending while increasing efficiency. But deciding to make the investment of time and human talent needed to automate your HR processes typically requires a more precise understanding of the potential return on investment. It’s important to take the time to understand the prospective financial impact of automating your HR services, time and labor, and payroll processes.
Join us as we will take a closer look at how understanding your potential ROI can give you the insights needed to decide if HCM automation is right for you.
What you’ll learn: Human Capital Management (HCM) is the set of processes related to your organization’s payroll, HR, time & labor, scheduling, and other administrative needs. Through automating HCM functions, organizations can see significant savings in the form of time, money, litigation exposure, and overall aggravation.
2018 Design & Construction Outlook: Cheery or Dreary?
November 1, 2017 | 2:00 PM ET
PRESENTED BY CONSTRUCTCONNECT, AIA, AND AGC
Employment and revenues for architecture, engineering and construction have grown modestly for most of 2017. But the signals for the next 12 months are mixed. Architectural billings are positive, but construction project starts uneven. Contractors are hiring, but concerned about finding qualified workers. Meanwhile, uncertainty about the impact of changes in tax, infrastructure, immigration and other policies looms over investment decisions. How will these cross-cutting influences play out?
Follow LAI on Social Media for current construction and technology news!
Upcoming LAI Online Training and Networking Events:
The Importance of “Close Out” Meetings
Submitted by Bryan Eto, CPA BeachFleischman
Learn from the “Nuggets”
They say hindsight is 20/20. You can take advantage of that hindsight by holding regular project closeout meetings to find nuggets of truth about how the project went and learn from them.
Not every project makes money for your company. You can find ways to improve project and accounting management if you set a tone of openness to genuine feedback that will filter down to your project managers and other key employees. The following are some guidelines for success in this endeavor.
Your project financial reports, in both form and content, are key to your firm’s sustainability. It is imperative they be designed by a specialist in construction accounting and finance. Ask your accountant for guidance in this area.
Distribute relevant reports weekly
No one likes extra paperwork, but your project managers will appreciate your weekly financial reports if you include the information in a way that is useful, relevant and on point. How do you format the reports? What to include? Well, what not to include is just as important a question.
Hold closeout meetings on all but the smallest projects
Even when jobs are extremely profitable, there is much to be gained from a 30-minute review after the project’s final numbers come in. The meeting should include you, the chief executive, the chief financial officer, the project executive, project manager, project accountant, and the office manager who prepares and distributes the reports. Bring the following specialized reports with you to ignite discussions and keep them on point:
- All construction costs incurred that were not assigned to any of the jobs. This will give the project manager a chance to claim any of his or her costs that would otherwise go to formless overhead.
- Itemized list by vendor of all the materials and supply purchases on this job. This will put the project manager on the spot to justify any expenditures you deem excessive.
- Weekly labor utilization showing the number of men by pay grade and the number of hours worked — for the entire lifespan of this project. If the project took longer than a few months, then a well-designed chart or graph may be easier to read and discuss than a report.
- Job profitability report showing more than contract revenues minus expenses.
- Timing of cash flows. Weekly net cash inflows pitted against weekly net cash outflows, with a net overall weekly and project-to-date cash in- or outflow.
Let your finance, accounting or tax advisor who specializes in construction configure these reports for you. Don’t let your bookkeeper waste time reinventing the wheel.
The Discussion Format
Project closeout meetings should be brief and productive. Set the tone and state the goal upfront. The primary purpose is to extract and develop insight from the financial results of this project for two purposes:
- So the project manager can better manage future projects; and
- To help senior management train and guide rookie project managers.
Open every project closeout meeting by having the project accountant narrate the rest of the group through the above reports. He or she should not only explain what every column means, but also point out significant events that affected cash flows, job costs and profits.
Then, use these questions as a guide. Pose them to the project manager one by one, and be sure that the manager answers them completely in front of everyone present:
- What did you make (for example, 47% profit, 3% profit or a 33% loss) on this project?
- What were your biggest costs and why were those specific items the biggest costs?
- Looking at this complete list of materials supply costs by vendor on this project, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
- How could you have saved money on this project?
- What kept your labor costs so high over the course of this project?
- Why did (or didn’t) this project hold its own with timing and net size of incoming and outgoing cash flows? How could cash flows have been improved?
- Does anything on any of these reports surprise you? What surprised you and why? How does that realization change your frame of reference?
Once the project has been put under the microscope and all cost, revenue, and cash flow matters have been brought out in the open, turn the meeting over to your CFO to hammer home any points that executive wants to make and to create takeaways for the project manager and project accountant to leave with.
The project manager should come out of the meeting knowing his or her real value. The project accountant should come away scribbling down notes for improving communication by getting more of the relevant information to the project manager more effectively, while removing information that is not beaming with intelligence.
Beach Fleischman 2201 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85016 602.265.7011 | http://beachfleischman.com | twitter: @BeachFleischman
It’s time to upgrade your Sage 100 CON v20
by Pam Schulz, Sage Certified Consultant
If you have not upgraded to v20 yet, it’s time!
There are some big features, and there are some “little things” — but with this upgrade, there is something for everyone.
Features you’ll love:
- Better Security and Control with the new SQL database.
- Better data integrity with the new SQL database.
- Faster, better, more modern everything with the new SQL database. The old database is over 20 years old — In computer years that’s ancient! (This is at the heart of “why” this upgrade had to happen.)
Enhancements beyond the “techy” stuff:
- Unlimited custom fields in many screens (not just two User Defined fields anymore)! These are SO cool- they can be pinned to the screen- creating VISIBLE NOTES. They can be used in reports. This is HUGE!
- Larger field sizes in over 500 fields (example: Client Name).
- Automatic backup (you set the schedule).
- A new button on the vendor screen for “non-AP payments” so you have complete payment history for the vendor in one place; AP payments as well as GL check payments.
- Better lookup windows. Example: the vendor NAME in the AP invoice lookup. Additional improvements make the lookup windows even better (the day I discovered sorting items in “reverse order” was a happy one).
- Fixing payroll posted to the wrong period is now a simple built in option. This used to be a very difficult problem to solve.
- Filter the cost codes available in a lookup window by Job and Phase. There is no comment to add anything to the importance of the last sentence.
- Company Specific Forms and Reports — an easier way to get the right logo on your forms when you have multiple entities. Or, just don’t bother one company with the other company’s custom reports.
- Access to enhancement request information; pending requests, release notes identify enhancements suggested through requests.
Sage is listening- and showing it! Don’t miss out any longer. Each update has valuable enhancements to improve your productivity. We’ve collected all the resources you need to upgrade! Bookmark THIS BLOG page with links and articles.
New User Training – Where’s the Manual?
by Kyle Zeigler, Sage Senior Certified Consultant
It’s called “Help” and “What’s This?”
One question often asked of Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate consultants is, “Where is the manual for the software?” This question is posed by brand new users and more experienced users alike. Whether you are new to your company, your company is new to Sage 300 CRE, or you just want to expand your knowledge and proficiency, the opportunities for learning are right at your fingertips.
Help Topics – the “Manual”
The Help menu selection in each module provides access to Help Topics specific to that module. Help Topics are organized in volumes that expand into sub-volumes and individual topic links that provide detailed information about the setup and workflow within the module. Help Topics can be printed for easy reference, and many contain hyperlinks to additional topics to provide users with broad, multi-level learning opportunities. Help Topics are key word searchable on the Index and Search tabs of the main screen.
Window-Specific Help and “What’s This?” Icon
Most Setup, Tasks and Tools workflow windows include a Help button that opens the Help Topic specific to the window and the fields it contains.
To access the Help Topic for a specific field in a window, users can first click the ‘What’s This?’ icon on the window and then click on the field. ‘What’s This?’ icons are identified by either a question mark or an arrow and question mark together. In the absence of a ‘What’s This?’ icon, field-specific information is still available through the Help button on the window or the Help Topics for the module.
The Workflow Centers in Sage Desktop > Additional Tools provide a simple graphic interface for users to access Common Workflow Tasks, Additional Tasks, Setup Tasks, commonly used Reports and Inquiries, and commonly accessed Help Topics. All elements can be launched directly from the graphics and links contained in the Workflow Center.
Beyond the Basics
The built-in “manual” of Help Topics is not the only at-your-fingertips source for how-to information, particularly when it comes to correcting errors and troubleshooting unexpected issues. Sage Software purposely included the Sage Support web page as one of the default Home Pages of the new Sage Desktop introduced in version 16.1. The Sage Support page provides 24/7 access to the Sage Knowledgebase. This key-word searchable database contains articles produced by Sage technicians in answer to questions and issues submitted by Sage users over the years. Many of these articles even contain helpful guidance for setting up and using the software in uncommon situations.
Sage Support handy links for users to:
- Submit an online customer support case to Sage. A Sage 300 CRE expert will contact you to help resolve your issue.
- Chat online with a Sage 300 CRE expert about a technical issue with your software product (available during Sage business hours).
- Access the Sage 300 CRE product documents.
- Access Trending Topics articles and Videos produced by Sage that address specific training topics and help keep users up-to-date on industry-related issues.
- Access Sage University to enroll in Sage training opportunities, including Anytime Learning and scheduled live webinars.
- Access the Sage City community and a host of links to blogs, discussion forums, articles, and videos provided by users, consultants, and Sage.
- Download products and access installation instructions and activation keys.
In addition to these self-paced, independent learning methods, Sage certified consultants are available to work with users on a one-on-one or group basis, either in person or remotely using interactive online meeting tools.
The Bottom Line
The opportunity to learn about the set up and use of Sage 300 CRE is limited only by a user’s dedication to the learning process. Some suggestions for honing your skills include:
- Prepare written procedures for the tasks you routinely perform within Sage 300 CRE. Take screenshots of the windows you access, paste them into a Word document, and add notes detailing the fields required (either by the software or by your company) and the steps needed to fully complete the task. Have another user test your procedures from start to finish. Fill in any missing information and add the document to your company’s procedural manual. Modify as needed to keep the documentation current so that new users follow the same procedures.
- Keep a written list of other topics to be explored; add to the list as questions arise during use of the software. Prioritize the list according to individual and organizational needs.
- Schedule time to research a topic on your list using the tools above. Document your findings and add the documentation to your collection of written procedures.
The Sage 300 CRE software product is a suite of multiple integrated applications. The structure and navigation alone can seem complex and daunting for users, but Sage has provided everything you need to become a power user – and your Sage business partner is committed to helping you achieve success with your Sage 300 CRE software.
Can I go directly to the newest Sage Estimating version?
by Renee Mullen, Sage Marketing Manager
With all of these wonderful new features being released along with the move to Microsoft SQL I am sure you are excited to get to the newest versions.
On the DOS version of Estimating, you say? Not a problem. In this article we will cover the appropriate upgrade paths from DOS all the way up to SQL.
There are currently two versions of Sage Estimating:
- A Pervasive/Actian version (i.e. versions such as 9.7, 9.8, 12.1, 13.1)
- A Microsoft SQL version (i.e. versions such as 11.2, 13.2, 14.11)
Each version has a different upgrade path requirement. Below are some possible upgrade scenarios.
DOS version to DOS version
This version is known as Precision, and has since been discontinued. If you are on DOS Precision versions 1.0 through 5.0, you must upgrade to DOS Precision 6.0 prior to upgrading to DOS Precision 10.0.
DOS version to Windows Pervasive version
If you need to upgrade DOS Estimating data (versions 6.0 through 10.0) to Windows Pervasive/Actian data, after installing the Windows-based Pervasive/Actian Estimating software, launch Estimating Tools and during the file upgrade process, check the radio button for ‘Convert – For users of Precision for DOS.’ See help topics in Estimating Tools under Index: DOS files for more information.
Windows-based Pervasive version to a newer Pervasive version
An example would be 9.2.1 to 13.1. You can upgrade any Microsoft Windows-based, Pervasive/Actian version of Sage Estimating to the newest Pervasive version of Sage Estimating. See the InstallationGuide.pdf or GetStarted.pdf located in the Documents or \Documents\Documents\ folder of the download image for more information.
Pervasive/Actian version to Microsoft SQL version
If you are on a Pervasive/Actian version and wish to upgrade the data to the Microsoft SQL version (SQL Estimating), you must have Sage Estimating version 9.6 or later installed on the computer where your Pervasive/Actian SQL data is stored to perform data migration. You must also have a copy of Sage Estimating version 9.6 and later installed on the local computer where you are performing your data migration. See the Sage Estimating Installation and Administration Guide.pdf on the SQL Estimating download image (located under \Install\Documents\) for more information.
Note: Both Pervasive/Actian and SQL versions of Estimating can be installed on the same computer and will continue to function. However, the data format is different between the two and SQL Estimating can access Pervasive/Actian data files by performing the data migration, but Pervasive/Actian Estimating cannot access SQL data files.
SQL version to SQL version
You can upgrade from any SQL version of Estimating to another SQL version, such as version 11.1 to 14.11. See the Sage Estimating Installation and Administration Guide.pdf on the SQL Estimating download image (located under \Install\Documents\) for more information.
Note: Beginning with the new 17.1 version of Sage Estimating you will not be able to upgrade data from v4.0 (pre-Pervasive) Estimating. You will need to upgrade these older data files with v16.1 or earlier.
Questions? Chat with Sage Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
Also, join the conversation at Sage City, available 24/7, the online community is your gateway to many Sage resources.