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Know the True Status of Projects and Subcontractor Performance

9-21-2021

54 Min Watch Time

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TRANSCRIPT


Rick Deans:
All right, let’s get rolling. Thanks again for joining us today. You’re all going to get a sneak peek into our first ever InEight Innovations release, which we just launched today. So you’re probably wondering what is InEight Innovations? What’s this all about? Well, it’s a quarterly release of our newest product enhancements. And again, we’re just kicking this off today. Today in this webinar, we’re going to do a deep dive into subcontractor management, and we’ll we’ll explore that in a little more detail.
Here’s a quick highlight of the latest innovations we just released. These latest enhancements will help you gain deeper project ends sites and strengthen collaboration among project team members. As I mentioned today, we’re going to take a deep dive into subcontractor management, but while we’re here, maybe we can explore what some of these other innovations cover. So today we’re going to look at Subcontractor Management, but our slate also includes short interval planning, a new mobile app for our document application, a deep dive into change order management and the business processes surrounding that, as well as general enhancements on the InEight platform.
Before we dive into today’s topic on Subcontractor Management, here are some resources to you stay up-to-date on future innovations and product enhancements. Most importantly, our Chief Product Officer Brad Barth will be taking a deeper look at all of our product enhancements we released this fall, and he’ll be doing a deep dive into short interval planning next week on September 29th. So if you want the latest and greatest on our enhancements, register for our up coming webinar on ineight.com. I have the opportunity to be joined today with a couple colleagues we’ve done a lot of work with in the past. Morgan Smith is a Product Owner here at InEight. I’m going to let Morgan introduce herself.
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, hi everybody. My name’s Morgan Smith as Rick said. I’m mainly a Product Owner at InEight, but I came from the construction industry. I worked in the field for about three years and always really had an affinity for software and the really cool opportunities that presented themselves on construction jobs. So I just naturally navigated my way over into the software space. And now I’ve been working on developing programs for constructions for about the last five years.
Rick Deans:
And we’re lucky to have you, Morgan. And also joining us today is one of our Client Success Managers Pranay Enamela.
Pranay Enamela:
Thanks, Rick. Hey everyone. My name is Pranay Enamela and I’m a Client Success Manager here at InEight. My role primarily is to help company needs with their digital transformation from the services side. So we basically get involved really early in the sales cycle and we hold your hand all the way through the implementation process and make sure you’re live in the system and you’re getting the benefits out of InEight and its products and what we told you at the sales cycle. So that’s where my role is. And very similar to Morgan, I also come from a construction background. I’ve been on the field for six years running crews as a superintendent project engineer. And the importance of technology can’t stress enough the things that it can solve. So that passion led me to InEight. And here I am helping other company with the digital transformation.
Rick Deans:
That’s great, Pranay. Thanks for joining us today. And my name is Rick Deans. I’m going to let Morgan and Pranay do all the heavy lifting today. I’m going to moderate. But my background is, I’ve been working with this set of tools. I used to round up to 20 years now. I round down modestly to 20 years, but I’m always is learning something new from our customers or from our prospective customers in the market. I like to spend a lot of time with our customers in the field or virtually helping them make sure they get their maximizing their investment in the InEight platform.
So we’re going to have a moderated discussion here. We will be doing a little bit of live of software demonstration as appropriate. We encourage you to ask questions. We’ll monitor the chat room. So feel free to put some questions in there. And afterwards, we’re always interested in learning how we can do a better job of these. So let us know how we did, and you can use the heart icons at the top of the broadcast to give us kudos if you think that’s appropriate.
So we’re going to dig right in. And Pranay, maybe I’ll throw this over to you. We talk about project specific tools. And if I were a contractor and maybe I’m already heavily invest in an accounting solution or an ERP system, why would I need yet another set of tools that help me track costs at the project level? Isn’t that an overlap, or does that present too much information or too much work for the project teams?
Pranay Enamela:
Yeah, it’s a very interesting time where for all the old projects that I’ve been part of, this was five, six years ago, if somebody asked me this question, I would say, ERP systems are the way to go. All my information’s there. It’s timely, it’s detailed, it’s sometimes way too much detailed, but it’s there for me for what I need. But then as we’re starting to do much more challenging work, riskier projects, we also want to have a layer of tools to help us, get to the results before we actually start work. And that’s what ERP don’t do is, they help us analyze after the fact not before.
So at the end of the day, it’s not a planning tool. It’s not a tool that gives us insight to work before work happens. It doesn’t help drive any decision making process to the crews or to the people that are actually running the work on the field. So I think that’s why ERP systems, because of their nature of being so stringent, it’s tough for construction companies to tweak it, to massage it to what they want it to do. And hence, there’s a new layer of systems that have to come in place that are on top of the ERP. We can’t replace ERP because it drives accounting and everything. But we can definitely inject a whole new layer of software on top of it that speaks the language of the field and gives them what they need. And again, most importantly, it needs to be flexible for all kinds of projects. So I think that’s where the whole subject of ERPs are slowly changing towards the necessity of having another layer of tools.
Rick Deans:
Yeah, and I think that’s an excellent example, Pranay. Morgan, I know sometimes ERP systems like to summarize things in to high level cost codes where maybe you can activities or maybe there’s a little bit more context that it needs to be shared with project team members there?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, you’re exactly right, Rick. The ERP system, they’re great at what they do in terms of being that system of record for accounting and ultimately the cost coming in and out out. However, if for anybody that’s ever used one, you would find that you run into some roadblocks fairly quickly. In order to actually get to the data that you want to be inputting into there, oftentimes people would need to create side spreadsheets or really have these binders full of information that they then have to input back into the ERP doing double entry and trying to pull from all different places and ultimately getting it in there.
And then you run into the challenge like you said, Rick, of, well, actually I need to know one level down, ultimately in order to get to that high level piece of information that you might have in the ERP. And that’s where our system of tools really compliments the ERP really well is that you can take just one lump sum type of task and break it down into the level of detail that works for you, for your colleagues, for all of the different rules that might be looking at touching that information, needing to see what’s going on, needing to know the status and translating it really into something that’s usable for everybody on the job.
Rick Deans:
Now, that makes great sense. And you’ve given us a couple of great responses, especially at how tools like this can affect your frontline personnel, the folks out on the field, on the project teams. What are you guys seeing, Morgan and Pranay? And maybe we’ll start with Morgan. What are some of the other business drivers that you are seeing that are leading organizations to adopt tools like this?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, so from our research, it really comes down to efficiency, certainty, and availability of information. So what I’ve noticed or just firsthand, but also we do research and check to see what’s going on in the industry is that it’s really difficult to actually find the piece of information you might need. It could be in a binder somewhere that you could be offsite and somebody’s calling you about something. Could be buried in a notebook somewhere. Having one integrated set of tools allows you to just quickly find whatever you’re looking for no matter where you happen to be.
Not only that, when you get to another project, you’re already familiar with the way that that project’s going to be run because you already know the software tools. There’s no new spitting up of, okay, we’re going to use this system to track this or we’re going to use this and my project engineer likes this. So we’re doing it this way. Here’s a special spreadsheet. All of that’s eliminated. Everybody already knows the process. And that ramp up speed is just accelerated incredibly. That’s a huge benefit.
And then certainty, of course. When there is a set of tools that has been geared towards providing specific information, providing you those KPIs on what’s going on in the project, you can be confident that what you’re looking at is the truth and it eliminates that human error that can often be involved with coming to those conclusions manually.
Rick Deans:
Oh, that’s a great point. Pranay, you talked earlier about helping our customers through every stage of their implementation journey. Maybe you could add some more color around that in terms of what sort of pain points you’re seeing when you’re talking to these new customers and how our tools are helping them out?
Pranay Enamela:
Absolutely, Rick. One of the biggest pain points is inconsistent processes that they have, one project to the other. Everybody does their own thing. We all have site spreadsheets. We’ve used it, we’ve been there. And by the time that communication goes over to the management, all this time is lost. You don’t know if the data is accurate, sometimes spreadsheets break, there’s all this stuff that’s happening. So what we see when companies approach us at the time of implementation, they want standardized process. They want all their workforce to use a tool that’s consistent and that is speaking their language. That’s the first thing that they ask, is we want to get standardized.
The second is, we want reporting to roll up all the way to the organization level, all the way from the project up. So I want to see how this part of the company is doing versus another market, or why is California work is doing really well compared to like Texas. They want to have all these different analysis of their fingertips and want to be able to quickly make decisions. It’s all about that decision making. But then it happens at every level, it happens at the superintendent level, happens at the sponsors, the executives, and all the way up to the CEOs.
So how do you basically give them all this wealth of information and how do you make sure it’s accurate, it’s timely it’s giving them what they want? So those are the top two pain points. If I were to summarize it, is is accurate portfolio style reporting. And which is real time. And then the second one is standardized process across the company. And then we’re seeing a big change in workforce. We’re seeing a lot of younger kids coming in from college that have never been on a project site, but they can understand technology. They understand the principles and the philosophy of this holding because they’ve learned it in school. But then if you give them technology, they’ll use it. They’ll jump on it, they’ll put it to use. And it makes their life a lot more easier. And it also helps them be part of that culture change.
As we’re going towards that new generation, stepping into the industry, we need some of that perfect handoff from that experienced 30, 40 year superintendent to this young kid who’s just graduated college, and superintendent can do all that at his fingertips at a spreadsheet, but can you make it easy for them like giving them technology? That’s the other pain point for that whole standardization thing that companies are trying to solve. So those are some of the key drivers that we see and the implementation side. And I feel like both of them are very core for how InEight approaches it and how we solve it.
Rick Deans:
Yeah, that’s a great point. And I’ve seen that throughout my career as well where companies will actually go out of their way to team up like you say. Maybe the new refresher individual that’s coming out of school with somebody that really understands the work and understands the industry, but might not have grown up with computers and tablets. So putting them together, I’ve seen in the past, they can really help each other out where one is really strong in certain area. They can compliment each other’s skill sets that way and the organization can move forward.
Help us out a little bit, Morgan. I know sometimes tools like this can help eliminate project surprises and maybe lend a little bit more and Pranay alluded to this maybe little bit more operational control or pull some of the subjectivity out of progress reporting that sometimes we see. What have you seen, Morgan, in your experience in terms of maybe lending a little bit more objectivity to the data rather than relying on I think we’re X percent complete?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah. Well, I think one of the better examples is with forecasting. So when I’m talking about forecasting really talking about, okay, where are we going to be at the very end of the project with every piece of information that we know today, whether we’re 50% complete, 80% complete, what have you, how can we be as certain as we possibly can be on that value at the end of the job? And from my experience, there’s never a one-size-fits-all. So answer to that because your project’s going to have a number of different activities going on. There’s going to be subcontractors, there’s going to be self-performed, there’s going to be equipment, there’s going to be purchasing. There’s a whole lot going on at any one time.
So I actually want to show you guys a little bit about how InEight solves four forecasting with all of those different combinations. And we can take a bit of a focus in on subcontractors here just for the sake of time. So if you look here, what I’m showing you, this is just a user landing page. This is really nice, gives you a really quick overview of, hey, what’s going on today. There’s even more available than I’m showing today as you can see. I don’t have everything filled in here, but you can really customize this to whatever you may want to see on your project, including how are we trending over time? What are we planning to spend or have spent in any particular month, that kind of thing?
Then I’ll show you here just the array of solutions that we have that are specific to just any piece of that construction life cycle. So we’ve got modeling, documentation, design, estimate, control, which is project controls, planning, progressing, contracts, change, huge amount of tools very specific to any particular stage of that construction life cycle. I’m going to take us you the project control space here and show you a little bit on forecasting.
So the way that any control looks at forecasting is, is we took an approach where we allow people to do a little bit of offline or personalized what if scenarios, modeling, if you will, and giving them the ability to look at best case, worst case scenarios compare that to what they were reporting from last month, et cetera, and really do that analysis at the level of granularity that they wish to do it as well as really only publishing out information when they feel comfort with it. So what you’re looking at here, this is a CBS or cost breakdown structure of a particular project. And I’m looking at all of the tasks or these are really cost items, anything that can incur cost on a project. And specifically I’m looking at the forecast information.
So what I’ve got here grouped into what we call data blocks. So blocks of particular sets of data. I’m looking at my private forecast information. So this is just for me or for any particular person on a job, giving me a set of, specific to me, a place where I can perform those what if scenarios. So what I want to call attention to here is, if you look here, we’re actually pulling the number of contracts directly from the system of records. So nobody has to go in and enter how many con tracks they happen to have against a particular item. This is just automatically you enter a contract, boom, it’s brought into the control system and you can see that contract information.
I can even go in here and go one level down and take a look at the specific line items. So now I’m looking at, okay, here’s Dave’s fencing. I’m looking at per line item. What’s the status? Are there any invoice receipts? Are there any pay form net amounts? And these are links too. So these will bring you directly into the contract application where if you need to make a change, you can on that subcontract. So really nice, just accessible information right at your fingertips. You don’t have to open up a new app application just to look at this information anymore.
What’s nice too with forecasting is that I can use this information without having to manually enter it myself to actually drive that forecast. So for example, here I am forecasting my forecast method based off of my committed cost here. So this information is telling me, okay, with my remaining commitments spend the money to get those closed out, I’m going to be spending this amount of money. But again, this is just personal to me. So I can actually bring that into data block to compare the value with what is the report value up to the executive level.
So I’m looking here at my sandbox compared to the live forecast. I can send this information for review. I can copy it directly into the organization level reported value. Lots and lots of really cool capabilities here to allow me or allow the project engineer on that project to really customize the forecast at each level specific to the needs of that cost item. So without going overboard, I’ll end the demo here. But definitely if you have questions on any of this, please feel free to mention those in the comments box there.
Rick Deans:
Morgan, what you just showed, depending on the size of the project, if this were a large project and someone else entirely or a different team were responsible for issuing those contracts and managing those contract terms, I as a member of the field project team, I might have received an email three or four weeks ago that maybe had an attachment to it, but your ability to just click on that line item and then bring up the contract details, it doesn’t matter who entered those in, correct? Those are just available. I can analyze that information. And like you say, hey, we’ve already committed a certain amount to this subcontractor. I can go ahead and use that as my forecast.
And then I’ve also been around projects where once that forecast is announced, well, you’d better be able to answer all kinds of questions. And what I saw there and the tool set was, you are able to really with your project team members and choose the most appropriate forecast after some discussion to push out organizationally. And it’s not just a one shot deal. There’s some ability to give some thought and some analysis to that. So yeah.
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, there’s so much I could tell about, but there’s a space too to add that contextual information against each row. So if you really want to per month say, hey, this is what’s driving my forecast, this is my reasoning behind it, that’s all available to be input into the system. You don’t have to just have a meeting and have that live in a conversation. It’s documented in the system. So everybody no matter where they are, they can happen to look at it. If you want to look past auditing purposes, how did we get there, it’ll be there available to anybody at any time.
Rick Deans:
And in the old world, I’d be looking for some common time. I could get together with Pranay so we could discuss. And by the time that meeting rolls around, maybe I’ve even forgotten the importance of why I want that information.
So you both mentioned to this. Pranay, let me put you on the spot a little bit. You mentioned earlier that tools like this can land a lot of what I’m calling operational discipline or operational controls to an organization. What are some of the best practices that as you’re helping new customers come on board with the platform, what are some of the best practices you and your team are talking to customers about maybe adopting or reinforcing within their organizations?
Pranay Enamela:
If I were to summarize, maybe pick three top best practices. First is, we can talk about forecasting. Forecasting seems to be the most important thing that everybody wants to see. They want to catch mistakes. They want to predict things before they happen. They want to fix it. They want to get ahead of the game and know what their actions are going to be like before they even start work.
So forecasting is one of those things that a lot of companies are trying to get really good at, but unfortunately, again, they’re relying on spreadsheets, they’re relying on ERP data, they’re relying on inputs, quantities measured by the field. So there’s a lot of inputs coming in, but they don’t have a nice tool yet to take all this information and then give it to them in the simplest format and analyze it. And that’s exactly what Morgan was showing earlier is, you have all this information and you have all these inputs coming in, but can you quickly manipulate it and do what if scenarios and give me five ways where we’re going to do great on the budget and five ways where we’re going to go really bad. We’re going to lose on this budget. That’s the power we’re talking here based on different techniques.
So that’s the first best practice we always try to preach is forecasting needs to happen every day of the month. It shouldn’t happen at the end of the month. It shouldn’t happen once you have all these invoices. It shouldn’t come later in the day. You’re supposed to know exactly what’s going to come in, when payroll hits, when commitment cost is going to hit. And then based on that, accurately put your forecast together. So that way you’re not, in a surprise, you’re not guessing anymore. It’s all right there. You mentioned you have to be in a position to explain your forecast. And that’s what the tool does really well.
So that’s the best practice talk through, number one on my list. And then the second one is, we change management. There’s so many changes happening. I don’t have a good way to keep track of everything that’s going on. Whether it’s quantity, hours, budget, I don’t have a nice, organized way to keep… And also when we talk about change management, it’s like telling a story. I want to know why it happened. I don’t know where it’s captured. I want to know who signed off on it. There’s all these things that come into play when you talk about change order management. Can I really go after a change order? Does the contract allow me for a change order? All these things.
And most of the time, this information is in people’s heads. It’s not in the system. If I am a change order management person on a job and then if I go on vacation and then all of a sudden three change orders hit, the project team wouldn’t know where to go look because I was the keeper of this info. But if you had a system that would track and that would tell you that whole story just the way I would, then that’s what we need. That’s the second best practice that we look at is, the way people do change order management in the outside the system. We try to take that same concepts, culture, put it in the system. And there’s a nice workflow process. There’s approvals. And the thing I really like about control is, it’s all connected. Is exactly connected to the one activity code to that one contract at your fingertips. That’s the beauty of it.
And then the third one is, the best practice that we try to talk about is rules of credit, which is my favorite one, is the way you measure things on the field. No two foreman performing the same kind of work on the same kind of job will measure things the same way. They’re going to measure it differently. So I think that’s where we try to get them to think about standardizing how you measure certain thing. Whether it’s a simple piece of pipe going in the ground, or pulling a cable or pouring a foundation, there’s got to be one standardized way of measuring it.
And you talked about subcontractors and suppliers and some of that. You could do that with them too. I want to know how the sub is going to install this piece of work so I can measure the same way he’s measuring. So when he invoices me, I know exactly what he did and I can pay him for that invoice. There’s no gap anymore. It’s very crystal clear. So those kind of things can come into play if you have standardized claiming schemes as we call it, or rules of credit between not only self-performed work, but subcontracted work. And the more and more challenging projects we do, the more challenging scopes we take on. It’s more important to get on the same page. If it’s sub is performing a work and I have no control of how he’s performing it, how he’s measuring, if he’s giving me one line lump sum X amount of dollars, I wouldn’t know what he’s doing.
So I think that’s where we’re going with these best practices is, now you have a tool that allows you to break it down to the very detailed level that you want to go into. And that way you can measure accurately. So those are my top three things that I feel we really preach as far as best practices go in the InEight services side. And with every new customer and every new challenging project, we’re just learning more and more as we grow. But one thing I will tell you for certain is that, some companies already do it. It’s not like they’re not doing it. It’s just the tool makes it a lot easier for them to do it.
That’s what I think in InEight positions very differently than other groups is, you can be spending three, four hours out of your day doing forecasting. It makes no sense. We don’t have that time and luxury anymore. It needs to be done throughout the day. Quad change management it needs to be done throughout the month. And same thing with claiming rules of credit needs to be done throughout the month. So at the end of the month, you’re reviewing, you’re tweaking and you’re adjusting, you’re not actually doing the work at the end of the month. So that’s I think the difference in how we approach it.
Rick Deans:
And that last one you mentioned, Pranay, the rules of credit, I’ve seen personally where that can really, and you mentioned this, if I’m a GC performing or responsible for the work, I’ve hired a sub to come in and perform the work, but I’m also communicating with the owner, it really level sets has been my experience if we have established rules of credit that we can all agree on in terms of how we’re going to claim progress.
We agree on those initially and we can reuse those from project to project and all people need to know in the field is, yeah, we poured the concrete today or we finished the rebar and that’s behind the scenes it’s going to calculate those percentage completions and it’s really going to help eliminate some of those surprises. When the owner is asking a certain question of me and I’m relying on the subcontractor to give me data, we can lay those ground rules initially. It just really lends itself to a much more predictable process. And I think that’s a huge piece of this.
Pranay Enamela:
Absolutely.
Rick Deans:
Morgan, again, if I were self-performing work, I think a set of tools like this would be invaluable, but one of the reasons I would hire a subcontractor to begin with is maybe to offload the risk or have them worry about that while I’m worrying about other things. If I’ve got a sub who’s going to be performing the work, maybe for a lump sum, why should I really be concerned with tracking their progress? And what’s the benefit to me?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, that’s a great question because oftentimes the whole point of hiring a subcontractor is so that hopefully it eases some of that burden off of the prime contractor. However, without going to maybe the degree of planning that you would go if you were self-performing something, it is valuable to track the progress, of course. You want to know are we on schedule? That one’s huge. If that subwork is on the critical path, it can’t slip.
So you really need to be mindful of where are they at today when they tell me they’re 80% done, are they really 80% done? I need to actually go and double-check that and make sure that our system is in sync with what they’re telling us. And the nice thing too about a set of solutions like this is that that subcontractor would be able to input their information into the system as well, eliminating, again, that discrepancy between multiple systems of information, wires getting crossed, emails getting lost or buried, et cetera, et cetera, all of that that goes on day-to-day when you don’t have these things, talking to one another.
Invoice reconciliation is another great reason of course. You get an invoice coming in and it says, “Hey, we did this, this, this,” and you might receive it and say, “I didn’t see that get put in yet,” or, “Is everything jiving with the true state of where it lands today?” Those reasons I think are very beneficial ultimately to the prime contractor on why to have an eye and ultimately to invest a little bit of time, not a huge amount of time because it is quite efficient the way that it’s set up in the set of tools, but just as simple as claiming quantities for your subcontractor at that schedule of values or at that agreed of upon contract level, claiming what’s been received or receiving items, receiving work and having that actually drive the percent complete automatically on the cost item or help drive that. Those are some of the benefits that you have.
So it eliminates a lot of that repeated process. You would really just have to enter that information once and be able to see it being update across the board. And it empowers you with all of that wealth of information that you wouldn’t have otherwise to do things like check whether you’re on schedule, check whether the invoices are correct before you go ahead and improve them. And as well as quality assurance and checking to see that everything that’s installed is looking good. We have forms for that as well. So really all aspects of it it’s valuable to just make sure that the work’s going the way that you need the work to be going.
Rick Deans:
Yeah, you mentioned so really interesting there, Morgan, and I want to go off on another limb here with that. And that’s, those of us who have been around projects for years, there’s always been that triangle of scope, cost, and time. You mentioned quality. And I think the fifth piece of that is safety. And as we’re getting subcontractors to adopt tools like this as well, we can now include their workforce hours in our analysis for lost time due to incidents, et cetera. And we don’t have to wait, like you say, until someone sends us an Excel spreadsheet, whether rough stab at a time sheet on it. We can collect that information as work is per addressing in the field. And I think that’s something that a lot of more companies, from my perspective, hen you talk about those three pillars of project management, it almost anymore, you really need to talk about those five that include quality and safety as well.
Morgan Smith:
Absolutely. Yeah.
Rick Deans:
So Pranay, I’m going to put you back on the spot again. All of this sounds. If I were a big EPC and all I did were these billion dollar mega projects, this would sound like a must have tool set. But as many of our customers do a high volume of relatively short duration and small volume projects. They just do a lot of them over a quarter or calendar year. What’s the argument for a set of tools like this for a company that does a high volume of smaller projects? Is it the same argument? Are there areas of value that they can get out of a tool like this? Or are they better off using spreadsheets and doing all this stuff on the side?
Pranay Enamela:
Yeah, Rick, I think the simple answer to that is, no matter what kind of projects you’re doing, you are still trying to get some value out of this whole tool by getting some metrics. And the most important thing that we’ve seen that everybody comes back with is billings. We want to get paid. We want to get paid on time for the work we’re doing. So we’re not a billing system, but we can definitely guide you to exactly know what the work you perform and how much you should be billing.
We’ve always been behind the scenes messenger saying, “Hey, you’ve done all this work. Your crews have claimed it. You have schedule of values associated with it, but you haven’t built anything.” So those are kind of the questions we try to drive from the system. And those are the questions that you don’t have to be a billion dollar project to work with. From like five grand to 50 grand to 500, everybody’s got to get paid. And all the work you has to be measured and accounted for at some point.
So I think earlier when I mentioned flexibility of the tool, whether it’s a bridge or building, or if it’s a gigantic power plant, or if it’s solar, or if it’s commercial residential type construction where you have 10, 20 grand worth of upgrades across residential homes or for small school, the nature of the work is still the same. You still have a budget or you still have quantities to claim. You still have billings to do. You have an owner, you have subs, all these elements are still the same. It’s just the size of it can vary.
So keeping that in mind, the tool allows you to be flexible. And when we implement, I always say this to customers like to me, it’s the same. Your problems are the same, the metrics you are asking are the same. It’s just you might have a bigger structure than these other guys. You might have 1,000 line items versus this small home construction company has only 10. But when you were looking at Morgan’s demo earlier, the columns that she was looking at, the data blocks that she was showing, those are still the same. The rows might be longer or shorter. That’s about it.
So when we implement, we go with that perspective of, it doesn’t really matter what kind of job they’re doing. The nature of all these activities is 100% the same for us. And so that’s the argument we try to put in is, you don’t have to be a huge mega project or some kind of a huge owner that’s running work across multiple states and countries that implement the tool like this. We’ve seen people that have had 5,000 projects and each project is less than about 10 grand. And sometimes the project is done within a day or in a couple hours.
So it gives you the flexibility and how easily the tool can be set up and how they can get the value of what they’re trying to get out of the value from the system. So that’s the argument we would position. And the beauty of our platform, again, it’s all connected and that’s what people like is, I don’t have to go log into another system and then pull this ID from here, punch that in and review a report. I don’t have to do that. And the more we try to integrate our products and understand what people will do in certain situations that better our tools are getting at.
So like historically, I’ve never seen a system that would tie a contract to a WBS. I would have to go to an ERP and I’d have to run two, three reports to figure that out. Well, now with four or five clicks, I can get to the contract document, the change orders, the budget and forecasting, all of it in one place. And so these are the things that would work for mega jobs. It will work for small jobs. I don’t see why not. So that’s the perspective that we take. And like I mentioned earlier, the more challenging projects that we do, the more customers that we’re supporting, we’re only trying to understand that the tool is powerful enough to satisfy everybody’s needs.
Rick Deans:
You bring up a couple really good points, the time to bill, that’s key. We’re not doing this for the practice, we’re doing this so we can drive revenue.
Pranay Enamela:
Yeah.
Rick Deans:
And a lot of these organization’s cash flow is really king to their business. But another thing you mentioned in there was the ability to set up a project. It’s a repeatable process. So we don’t have to rely on bills, set of spread sheets, and bill’s homegrown application for this project and Steves and Jills and the next. As one of our customers likes to say, “When you roll onto a new project site, really the only new piece of information you need to know is that what’s that new projects number.” So we can templatize this stuff.
Morgan, I know in the control world, we can do things that are reliant and almost dependent on a tie in with an ERP system. But if I were doing a much shorter duration project where maybe the ERP isn’t going to be able to give me that information, what are some things that you’ve seen where our customers and users of our tools can benefit from more of the real time nature of our tools?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, so that’s a good aspect to talk on because one of the things that actually is great about the set of tools is that you actually don’t need to integrate to the ERP at all if you don’t want to. And not only that, you can really simplify your business process if the things that you are interested in are specifically how am I tracking percentage-wise on my percent complete? I’m going to be looking at my costs over here and I’m happy doing that. I just really want to know are we on track to get this done? When we said we were going to be able to get this done, what are those issues?
So some of the things that we have available to people that are interested in a more streamlined really lean process is the ability to estimate the order of magnitude of how much you are spending without needing that actual cost information to hit the system. So we have estimated actuals able to be seen in the application and used in the same way that a true actual cost might be used in forecasting, for example, and that estimated actual cost comes right away as soon as you track a quantity. So if you say, “Hey, I installed one cubic yard of concrete.” The cost associated with that becomes estimated and comes along with that.
It’s very flexible. So if you do happen to have, that will cost information coming in at a later date, of course, payroll is going to be lagging behind the actual true work that’s being installed, you can swap them out. So if you want to see right away, okay, how am I on trend for my budget versus what I’m spending right now, you can look at your earned value versus your estimated actuals. And then at the time where you do get the true actuals perhaps invoices have hit, payroll’s been ran, et cetera, all of those legging processes that might happen weeks or even months down the road, you can swap them out.
So, hey, I’ve got my real information looking at that now. Don’t need the estimated information anymore, but it really brings the whole process to the level at when you are ready to do it. So if you want to forecast right away, you don’t have to wait weeks or months for the real cost to come into the system anymore to be able to accurately forecast. You can use those estimations. And all of that is automated as well. There’s no, I need to punch it in. It happens if you configure your organization that way. So it’s really flexible to be able to see if you don’t want to integrate your ERP, if you do want to integrate your ERP. Depending on the business process that works for an organization, you can use it multiple different ways.
Rick Deans:
Yeah, and you mentioned something in there, Morgan, which is really key and that’s the ability to make decisions in a timely manner. I’ve been around a lot of projects where there’s no shortage of decisions to be made. We just got to make sure we’re making the right decisions. And in a typical WBS, you’ve got out maybe 20% of those WBS line items that are driving 80% of the risk, 80% of the cost or 80% of the workforce hours.
And maybe those are the things you pay special attention to, but I’ve worked with a lot of project teams that have said, “If we can get it… Doesn’t have to be actual data like to your point. It can be estimated actuals, but if it’s within a few percentage of points, that’s fine. I would gladly trade the timeliness of that data for the precision of it because I need to make decisions in real time as this work is going on. So that’s an excellent point you bring up.
We’re going to open it up for a couple of questions now. I see one of the questions coming through in the chat and maybe Pranay, I’ll throw this one at you. When we estimate work, we tend to look at things differently than how we execute work in the field. How can an integrated platform like this help tie those two worlds together where we’re estimating at a certain level of detail, but maybe we’re executing it at a different level of detail?
Pranay Enamela:
Yeah, that’s traditionally been a very problematic space to be in for any construction project. And it’s also one of those things we hear from every customer is, how do I bridge the gap? And what do I need to do here? Because I have estimators that do their own style of estimating. I have execution teams build the work they want to build and they don’t talk. And sometimes they sit in different geographical locations and we don’t know how to bridge that gap.
So, we have definitely certain ways to solve for that. And one of the key ways we try to do is having a middle consistent structure in place that gets tagged on estimating and also gets tagged on execution. So it’s not a new concept. It’s just, there’s has not been a tool that made it easier for people. And the idea is pretty simple. Estimating when they start to build an estimate, they go into some pretty high level detail like they might not break down which subs are going to do what kind of work. And they might not have contingency all over the place. They might only have it in one place. There’s all these different flavors of estimating because they have limited info.
But at the same time, if you are tagging with some key metrics like, hey, this is operation code, this is civil, or these are all sub codes, you have some kind of a mechanism that the company wants. The structure has to be agreed upon by what is important for that company. And so as long as they say, “Hey Pranay, these are the five things. This is the level of detail they want,” and you tag that on estimating, you also try to tag that again on the execution. That’s the rule. It’s got to be consistent on both sides. So then you’ll have estimate made it at this rate, performed at this rate, budget at this rate, you get to see all of it in a nice plot chart next to each other.
So the struggle that we see as simple as I try to make it sound, the struggle that I see is companies have a huge learning curve when they do this. It’s not a simple process. It takes time, it takes multiple projects to perfect it. And ultimately they’ll land on a comfort rhythm of activities that they like. So for example, they might say, “Pranay, I’m not interested in a specific type of pipe that’s being installed in the ground.” Instead, I might just quantify as, is it a large bur pipe or a small bur pipe? Is it above 20 or less than 20 inch? That kind of detail is enough for me. I don’t need the exact specific. And I’m like, “Great. If that’s the detail you want, then that’s what we’ll position, both on the estimating and on the execution side.”
And so as long as both parties are tracking these particular metrics against their structures, we’re in good shape. And then you’ll take reporting as an [inaudible 00:48:14] because that’s the common denominator. Reporting takes all this information and then it basically get gives you like a visual and saying how come estimating did at this rate. And then they really beat that estimate. Well, how did they do it? And then you go ask that formula or you ask that superintendent how did you do that? And that kind of information becomes useful on the next one.
So this is a concept that people have used in the past on spreadsheet, on some of the other schedules, but there’s never been again, I keep repeating this, but there’s never been an easy way to do it. There’s never been a realistic approach on how to actually get to that structure. And most importantly, it’s garbage and garbage out. So you can really tell, hey, that data is wrong. That’s not a good estimate or that’s not a good unit rate because it’s too off. So how can be that off? What I mean? Those type of metrics become a lot more easier to analyze, and that’s where we’re going with. So that’s one of the things that I’ve seen in my experience with the being at an age and helping customers is, we call it conformance process. This is basically taking that estimate, putting into execution, and then that whole journey of the estimate and then coming back full circle with benchmarking, with [crosstalk 00:49:35].
Rick Deans:
Elevating a library benchmarks organically as you’re going through that process. That’s a good point. Morgan, here’s another question. You showed the control application earlier. Does it support time phase budgeting and time phase forecast of that?
Morgan Smith:
Yeah, it absolutely does. I would love to dive into some of the more granular details on that, but it is a big topic. So I’ll keep it short and sweet. When we talk about time phasing, really what does that mean? Well, it’s taking the spend or the work activities like the hours spent on any particular task and distributing it over the schedule start and end date of that particular task.
The reason that this is so nice is then you really get to your cashflow. You’re able to see, okay, what’s coming in, what’s going out? Am I trued up for any particular month? Am I in a position where we’re going to be able to buy everything that we need? All of those questions can be answered. Not only that, when you’re looking at a month, it’s much easier to conceptualize what is actually going to happen in that month.
When you abstract a task into a generic, just a single line, it can become difficult to really start to imagine over time what does that actually mean? But when you say what’s going to happen in April, it’s pretty easy to say, “well, we’ve got this, this, this. Let me look at my schedule.” All of that becomes a lot more clear and you’re able to really look at the spend of the month with up more confidence that that’s actually going to be what’s happening.
So our set of tools absolutely does support this. And there’s a lot of really cool stuff that’s built in that really automates it. So you don’t have to come up with your own cost month over month. However, if you want to do that, you absolutely can. But using the information that’s already there, schedule start date, schedule end date the cost curve, so are we going to be linearly spending? Is it back-loaded or front load spending? Or is it more of a bell curve? How this work is going to be performed? Boom, just those pieces of info along with your budget and your forecast you’re able to automatically see month over month where you’re going to land.
So it’s a really cool aspect of our application. Would love to get even into more detail than that, but it’s absolutely there and definitely highly recommend people to research a little bit more and ask us more questions on that if that’s something that you’re interested in.
Rick Deans:
Yeah, and it makes sense because that’s how we manage our household budgets, right?
Morgan Smith:
Exactly.
Rick Deans:
On a period basis, we don’t budget for the year and hope that at the end of the year, we come in where we should. All right, well, I wanted, again, thank our audience for joining us as we talk about, this is the first in our InEight Innovations series. So we’re going to have some more of these beginning next week with Brad Barth talking about Short Interval Planning. So we’re really excited about that. And again, feel free to provide us feedback. Visit our website ineight.com. There’s always something going on on there, whether it’s a new innovation, or we keep our blogs and articles current. So by all means, visit the website. If you’re interested, reach out to us and schedule a presentation. We’d love to learn more about some of the challenges you’re facing with your business and how our tools can help you out. So for the InEight team, we’ll and thanks again for joining us.

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