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Learn the Power of an
Integrated Construction Platform

 

04/27/2021

53 Minute Watch Time

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Catie Williams:
Thanks everyone for joining today. My name’s Catie Williams, and I am a product director at InEight. I’m very excited to be your host today because we have a special guest, Tom Baskind from Graycor. He’s going to talk about his experience and perspective of integrating and using an integrated construction platform. In addition, we have Rick Deans and Natalie Takacs, both from InEight here as well to share their ideas. Before we do some introductions, we’ll just go through a couple of housekeeping items and then we will kick this off.

Catie Williams:
You’re all muted. At any point, you can ask questions in the Q&A box. I will be monitoring that the entire webinar, and I will try to sneak those questions in wherever I can, but if we don’t get to something, we will definitely follow up after, and then we would love feedback, so please let us know how we did if there’s anything else that you would like to see or have another webinar. If you want to get into contact with anyone also, we can make sure that we make those connections. How about, Tom, we start with you? Maybe you could give us a little bit of an intro on your background.

Catie Williams:
I think just to level set, when each of you are doing your introduction, if you could just state what an integrated construction platform means to you, just so we level set with those that are listening.

Tom Baskind:
Sure. My name is Tom Baskind, and I’m the technology manager for Graycor industrial, and I’ve been with Graycor for 24 years in a variety of positions. An integrated platform to me is a complete digital solution that is cloud-based for all project management requirements. That is everything from documents to estimates, timesheets, cost, forecasting, quantity, entry, reporting, and all the other needs that we have on a project.

Catie Williams:
Great. Thank you, Tom. We’re very excited that you’re here with us today. Rick, why don’t you go ahead and go next.

Rick Deans:
Thanks Katie. Yeah, Rick Dean’s, I’ve been working with some of these tools for over 20 years. I used to round up, now I round down, but I’m excited to be here, and it’s great to see you again, Tom, thank you for joining us. From what it means to me, to talk about an integrated platform, I’m going to put it in the words of one of our customers, who said this approach gets everybody on our team speaking the same language, whether they’re in estimating, planning, scheduling, working with contracts, working with documents, out on the project team doing project controls. Everybody is grounded in the same information and everyone is really, again, speaking the same language, so really excited to be here today.

Catie Williams:
Great. Thank you, Rick. And Natalie, do you want to introduce yourselves, please?

Natalie Takacs:
Hi, I’m Natalie Takacs. I’m the product manager for our connected analytics products at InEight. I’ve been at InEight since 2018, but I’ve been in the construction and data analytics space since 2015. If you asked me what an integrated construction platform is that single source of data and not having to enter the same data in multiple places, having it be able to talk back and forth, and then being able to see where you’re at any given point in time on any different part of your projects, but also being able to look back and look forward as well.

Catie Williams:
Great, thank you, Natalie. At any time, if you have questions, that’s the focus of this webinar. So, please put them in the Q&A, and like I said, I’ll be looking in a couple different directions trying to make sure that I incorporate those in as the questions come in. Maybe to kick things off, I provided … We all met beforehand and talked a little bit. I think maybe if we started with just the overall reputation and traditional nature of construction’s typically seen as a very decentralized industry. What we’re talking about is having this centralized system, and so I think it would be good if we talked about maybe some of the benefits, if there have been any pitfalls or challenges with moving to a centralized and an integrated system, and maybe, Tom, I think it would make sense from the customer perspective if you wanted to just start and address that question first, maybe.

Tom Baskind:
Sure. Some of our projects are as large as the yearly sales of some businesses, so they can each grow their own character and they can kind of morph into their own independent identity. By having a centralized digital solution, we’re able to use similar processes across all the jobs. Whoever goes to whatever job uses the same processes, all we have to really do is tell them what job number that it’s going to be regardless of geography and market. It allows employees to have the flexibility to switch and fill in for people as needed. One of the other things that we did is we centralized our document control.

Tom Baskind:
A lot of our jobs have 10,000 to 20,000 drawings, and it’s a lot of work for a project engineer to be distracted when they get a transmittal that has all these new 500 to a thousand drawings. By having a centralized document control system, that engineer can forward that transmittal to the owner. Excuse me, to the document control specialist, and that specialist can then upload the drawings very formally. I use the word formerly, because in our document control solution, all the documents have to be uploaded with a revision, a version, a discipline, a drawing type, and other metadata. So, we take our time to make sure it’s done right.

Tom Baskind:
At any time, we know what drawings were received from home and who we sent them to. We want our project engineers to be able to spend more time on the project, so managing the project and working on field issues and not being bogged down by clerical data. So, the ability to have a centralized system that everybody has access to and having people in the home office support really frees up a lot of our people to have more meaningful work throughout the day.

Catie Williams:
Would you say, and I’ll let Natalie and Rick jump in on this, if they want to, would you say that, like a potential pitfall or challenge has been change management? I mean, how has that worked, moving everyone to this centralized system, when maybe in the past, they have their own process or did it in Excel or not at all? How has that gone for you guys?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, so it’s gone well, because every project would come up with its own version of tracking. They would have some of Excel file that was fairly detailed, fairly robust, and they would update it and then it would become a monster because they would keep adding functionality to it. By having a unified system where everybody uses the same process and procedures, we’re able to keep them on the same path. As far as change management goes, it is a big deal to go to an organizational change like this, but we did it in pieces.

Tom Baskind:
We did it one at a time, and we introduced more and more modules to people as we got further along. We gave them manuals. We typed them up so we could take a 200-paged manual from the software solution and make it into a 25 page quick use guide of how to do it day by day, and we worked with them in person. We did all our training in person through a teams meeting or right in the same classroom. We wanted them to have the support they needed, instructor led, because it is a big change, and if you’re there, teaching them, holding their hand as they do it, they’re going to be more apt to want to do it and do it well.

Catie Williams:
That’s great. Rick, I don’t know. I mean, you’ve got lots of experience with implementations, large organizations. Is there any other perspective you’d add from other customers?

Rick Deans:
Yeah, Catie. Tom did a great job of answering the question in terms of the how. I think, just as importantly, is the why. Having an organization let their folks know, this is why we’re making these changes, this is why we want to get better in these areas, and really getting that buy-in, and that occurs at all levels throughout an organization, from the CEO all the way down to a person out in the field filling in a timecard. If everyone’s rowing in the same direction and everyone understands why we’re making these changes, then you see things fall into place a little bit more easily, and that’s been my experience.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. Buy-in would be a lot better if people really can see the full, what I’m doing and then the outcome, for sure.

Rick Deans:
Right. My spreadsheet works great for me, but I don’t see what happens upstream and I don’t see what happens downstream, right?

Catie Williams:
Yeah. No, exactly. I know Natalie, we talked a little bit about change management too, so I don’t know if there’s anything you wanted to throw in there.

Natalie Takacs:
Yeah, and I think another thing that Tom mentioned that’s really important in terms of change management within your organization is taking it in bite-sized chunks. It’s really overwhelming if you’re implementing a brand new system and changing all of your business processes. So, taking it in those smaller chunks and teaching people, like Rick said, reiterating the benefit of what you’re getting, and getting those executive sponsors on board, I think is going to make the most seamless change possible. And just really again, making sure everybody knows what’s going on. The communication has to be really clear as well.

Catie Williams:
That’s great. I mean, I personally am a pretty competitive person, and I think the industry is known for having a lot of competition. Have you seen, and then typically competition would drive high performance, really strong work ethic, have you seen any change in, from that perspective, on implementing an integrated system? Has it changed the way the work is being done in, maybe not, I would assume not a positive … It isn’t a positive way, but have you seen any impact from that? [crosstalk 00:09:01].

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, I’ll take that. What it’s done is it’s formalized our processes. That’s the most important thing. We’ve become extremely disciplined, because the way that our innate software works is that we make the plan the day before of what we think is going to happen tomorrow. The cruise, the hours they’re going to use, the quantities they’re going to install. Then we know, before we even send that plan for execution, if they’re going to make the estimated productivities. If 100 feet of pipe isn’t enough, we can go and put 120 in and push the crews to do 120, so we actually can show that we might save an hour or two the next day.

Tom Baskind:
It’s formalized our processes, where every night we make the plan the day before. We execute it the day of and approve it that very evening that the work has happened. So, it’s just a formality that’s offered. As I mentioned earlier, about the formality of drawings, how every document has to be uploaded with all the metadata, and even our cost forecasting, and everything that we do is just very formalized. Again, as I said, you’d send someone from one job to the next, they know what they’re doing. There’s no separate spreadsheet, no magical need to define how it works. It’s just automatically done in the system, through the digital user interface.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. Being able to just pick up and go somewhere else without that long lead time of getting up to speed has to be very valuable. Rick or Natalie, before I changed gears, anything else you want to throw on to the competitive nature of construction?

Natalie Takacs:
I think being able to have all of your data in one place, it makes you much more efficient, even in your offices, in your business side. I think that gives you a leg up as well, and that’ll lend to having that competitive edge.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. You could even do some gamification potentially of results. Sorry if I stole what you were going to say, Rick. Go ahead.

Rick Deans:
We’re thinking along the same lines, and that’s what I’ve seen, especially with larger organizations where people don’t have the opportunity to really sit and meet with other team members, but due to standardized reporting structures, people’s productivity and gains are broadcast throughout an organization. So, yeah, you better believe folks are competitive. They want to know. I’ve seen a lot of folks get phone calls while I’m in the room. Hey, what did you do on that job to keep that productivity high? What are some of the things that others in the organization can learn from you based on how you handle that in that particular case? It brings a lot of cross-pollination of great ideas throughout an organization.

Catie Williams:
Are you seeing that Tom, in your organization, that the transparency of information, in addition to standardizing your processes so that everyone’s familiar and doing the same thing, are you also seeing now that information is being shared across the organization more?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, definitely. The access to information is so immediate and it’s so accessible, whether you have an iPad or a laptop, desktop, even your phone. Management could check in the hell of a project at any time, looking at its dashboards, running reports, or looking directly at the forecast. There’s no hidden spreadsheets that get sent out once a week by say, a project engineer. Everybody waits for that Thursday morning report. Anyone can run these reports at any time.

Tom Baskind:
Some of the reports are based on man hours and don’t need to have the costs posted in the ERP, and therefore we can get our productivity factors right away based on the approved daily plans. The data is all linked together, as Natalie mentioned, it’s a one-stop shop for everything else. The other thing, again, back to that formality, it forces us to enter quantities every day. It forces us to forecast every week. It forces all of these really good habits. These habits are being formed and people are getting used to it, and it’s going to become a reflex, like putting a seatbelt on when you get in a car.

Catie Williams:
Have there been any insights? This is probably a tricky question to ask, but is there anything that you didn’t have available to you before? You alluded to some of the timeliness of not having an integrated system like having to wait, but are there any insights and additional information that now that the information is all integrated, you now have available to help drive decision-making?

Tom Baskind:
Again, I think that comes down maybe to the immediacy. We had an example of one project that had a productivity factor of close to one, which would be cause for celebration, but when we looked at the screen, we were able to see that the actual cost per man hour was much higher than as was bid. Very early on, we realized that we were using a crew from a different location that had a higher wage rate. So, we immediately made changes to that crew and were able to bring down the actual cost per man hour down.

Tom Baskind:
Having that digital solution right in front of you, immediately, we could see the column that says, current budget as bid, cost per man hour, and then actual cost per man hour, and make changes immediately. In the old tools, maybe we had to wait until the end of the month. We would have been real happy all month because our productivity factors were at 1.0, and then at the end of the month, we would’ve seen that, well, there was a big difference in wage rate cost per man hour. Those are just some of the benefits we get.

Catie Williams:
Sure. Rick or Natalie, I don’t know if there’s anything that you’ve seen from more of an industry or other customer example.

Rick Deans:
I’d say it strips out a lot of the subjectivity, especially when we’re talking about progress reporting. Tom mentioned something really key, and that is qualification of activities. Rather than doing the, well, I think I’m 25% done with the work. No, we’ve qualified the work. We’re iterating daily productivity quantities that’s calculating percent complete for us. Again, it’s a much more objective measure of what’s happening. It pulls that subjectivity out of it.

Natalie Takacs:
That, and being able to go back and see how other … You mentioned that it was the crew from another job, seeing how your crews compare across projects, even, helps there.

Catie Williams:
Switching gears maybe a little bit. So, we talked about the transparency and information that’s been available. How about internally, how about any competitive advantages? When you’re competing, you know, as an organization, have you seen any benefits, increase competitive advantage when you’re bidding or anything like that, that’s helped you win more work?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah. The fact is, a digital system like this can make your field team smaller. We no longer have to enter the data manually into the ERP for time sheets. That’s all done electronically behind the scenes with automatic data that’s being sent to our ERP system automatically. Our project engineers don’t need to spend time updating quantities at the end of the week. The foreman enter the quantities every day as they actually happen. So, they’re more accurate and we can find issues early on.

Tom Baskind:
Maybe the crew is too large, maybe there’s things that we need to do to get back on to the productivity that we want. We don’t have custom Excel sheets, as I mentioned, that just becomes so cumbersome as they grow and more functionality gets out of them. Everybody does the same thing. The field staff is able to spend more time managing the project and less time with clerical work, and they have more meaningful days. They’re doing more important things managing the project. We have people back in the home office that can take care a lot of the document uploading and some of the clerical work that has to be done.

Tom Baskind:
So, our teams have gotten thinner, but that’s a good thing because we’re able to have them be more effective, and actually appreciate their job more when they’re right there doing the right things for the job and not clerical activities.

Rick Deans:
I’ll jump in on that as well. I mean, what Tom described is what I would call a quantitative return on that investment, but there’s also the qualitative return on investment. If I know we’ve done this sort of task many, many times before, we’ve got that good benchmarking information, if it’s a hard bid type of a job, yeah, we can feel confident that we’re submitting a good number to that client, but if it’s a negotiated project as well, we might go to that meeting with a set of data and say, we’re not going to be the cheapest, but our history shows that X, Y, and Z are things you need to consider.

Rick Deans:
Then it’s almost like our customers are sitting on the same side of the table as the project owner providing that value add and leveraging their experience, which again, has got all of the subjectivity stripped out of it.

Natalie Takacs:
That’s a great point, Rick.

Catie Williams:
I think at InEight, we’re definitely seeing the perspective change from an owner and client, in terms of what they expect, what they know is possible. I’m curious, Tom, if you’re also seeing that where they now know that an integrated system is possible so it’s their expectation to have X, Y, and Z at every job. Maybe you could talk a little bit about how you see the relationship with the client and owner changing and what their expectations are.

Tom Baskind:
Sure. So, we’re working with some clients, they understand that we have a digital solution, and they’re willing to work with us on what we can provide. We have some clients who understand that filling out an Excel sheet that they have to get the data they want might not be as effective as us just running a canned report and getting all that data instantly. Maybe it’s 90% of what they want, and we could make it a hundred by adding additional information, but some of them are willing to work with us. The other thing that we have, we have an example of a client that had an RFI system that maybe wasn’t as robust as ours, so we showed them what we can offer with our RFI system and they liked it and wanted to use it for themselves.

Tom Baskind:
We gave them a login with security and they now use that RFI system for their RFIs, not just for us, but for their vendors and their other suppliers. They’re able to use our system and all the functionality that it has, because we’re willing to share that with them because it’s a mutual benefit for all of us.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. Rick, I’m sure you have something to add there because you talked to a lot of owners and clients all the time.

Rick Deans:
Yeah, and owners are kind of playing catch up these days. Gone are the days where an owner would completely rely on a contractor to come and give them a completely detailed estimate and follow through on the progress, reporting to them. Owners are getting out ahead of that, do you want more detailed knowledge going into a project? They’re actually doing their own benchmarking is what I’ve seen, and they’re coming up and having good discussion points with their contractors. But it’s that synergy of having everyone on the same page as far as the data’s concerned. That’s really what we’re seeing a lot in the industry today.

Natalie Takacs:
Yeah. I think that’s definitely true, as well as owners are starting to understand what’s possible from a technology perspective. They’re now aware that it’s there and they can ask for it, and they can do their own metrics and answer their own questions. I think that’s pretty powerful, the fact that the industry is digitizing, and every part of the industry is starting to get in on that.

Catie Williams:
Yeah, I think traditionally I would hear, like I run my report as a contractor, and then I go and modify a presentation for what I present to the owner. So, are you seeing a change too, or it’s more just being transparent and here’s the information and here’s our plan to get back on track, or we’re being more open about things? Is that also changing?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, I think they realize that there’s a lot more data that’s easy to get, that’s accessible, that can be run on subscription basis where you can get reports every week or every day. They’re willing to work with the solutions that we can provide because in some cases, our systems may be a little bit more robust than what they have. But that definitely, it’s a collaborative effort. We both win when it takes less effort. We can get them all the data. Again, when we’re formal, and we enter the data a little bit every day, instead of at the end of the week or end of the month. All that data is available whenever you want it, since it’s updated every day.

Catie Williams:
Tom, are you seeing, or did you see at the beginning of this journey, a challenge with getting the data in, in a quality way, or do you feel like your implementation approach, and I know I have a question a little later about what approach you took, but do you feel like you didn’t face that because of the small little chunks that you took to get everyone on board? Or did you see initially like, people weren’t putting in the data in right, and it took some training and awareness of that output that we’ve talked about that’s so important, how did that go for your organization?

Tom Baskind:
Because we trained everybody in person with an instructor and went through it all, they were never taught any bad habits. Basically, they were taught, this is how we’re going to do it. We would show a little map, Monday night, you make your daily plan for Tuesday, Tuesday, you execute it, put in the actual hours, any sort of notes, someone was early, late. Then you approve it that night, it goes right into the ERP system that night. We’re no longer chasing time sheets on Wednesday morning for Tuesday’s time. We really didn’t give them the option to do it a different way.

Tom Baskind:
Because we taught them that from day one, that’s how they’ve been operating and using the system. The system is as good for, as complex a project you want, where we have a piping project that requires a lot of components done at the ISO level, or maybe a civil project that has much less components and we don’t need to be as detailed that way. As long as the software can work for the most complex job, it’ll certainly work for the least complex job.

Catie Williams:
Yeah, I don’t know, Natalie or Rick, if you have any thoughts on when we have customers that have lots of different project types, they compete in a lot of different markets. What suggestions do we have for them trying to do that standardization process and handle the change management when things have to be just slightly different?

Rick Deans:
Well, I think a lot of it has to do with what’s the end game. I think Tom mentioned this, is the fact that you’re doing more with less, and if you go out and you look at folks that are maintaining side spreadsheets or side applications, and they’re going on a research project to collect data so they can report it to their stakeholders later in the week, that’s a lot of churn. I love what Tom said. They didn’t have the ability to develop bad habits, right? If everybody’s on the same page and everybody knows what needs to happen to produce these results, you find out there’s a lot less wasted effort to try to maintain these side systems that do result in a lot of lost productivity.

Catie Williams:
Sure.

Natalie Takacs:
I agree with that, and I think it also goes back to getting the buy-in across the organization, making sure that everybody feels like they have a seat at the table as you’re setting up your processes, for them to interject the one-off scenarios that they encounter in their process as well. I think just having that open communication again is crucial.

Catie Williams:
My big question that I, we talked about beforehand, but we’ve talked a lot about the benefits. Haven’t been a lot of negatives in doing this, but then what is preventing companies for moving forward and actually implementing an integrated system? I mean, very bluntly, why isn’t everybody doing this if it’s so great?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, I’ll take that. Organizational change management is extremely difficult, that’s why, and it’s also expensive. It takes quite a bit of work, a lot of planning and dedication. It has to be supported by upper management. That was mentioned earlier. Upper management has to be supporting this the whole time, and back behind it. People need to realize that there’s a lot of effort to get put in for this to happen, but keeping old systems in place is even more effort, and you’re wasting a lot of money keeping old systems in place, manual entries, all the different things that get done when it’s not digitized.

Tom Baskind:
It takes a little bit of courage to do it, and it’s a courageous decision to tackle a big organizational change. Once that decision is made and implementation starts, there has to be a decision that give it the resources that it needs. There will be savings eventually. The return on investment is not immediate. But if you are in for the long game and you’re willing to put in the dedication and time, you really will get results once it’s up and running, just have to be patient.

Rick Deans:
I think historically too, the market has been cluttered with a lot of point solutions. One tool did one thing very, very well, but it didn’t really connect with anything else, and so all of the data there was maybe reported out and somebody was ham feasting that into another system downstream, where now we can leverage technology a little bit better, we can leverage the data, and it flows, or more elegantly, if you will, throughout an organization.

Natalie Takacs:
Rick, to your point, I was kind of thinking about that before we jumped on today. Obviously, I’m the most junior on this panel, but in my experience, we’ve talked a lot about the construction industry moving towards more technology. Those are the points systems that you see. Then it became about, how do I get the data out of this system? Now we’ve moved into this place of maturation, where we’re talking about the data moving back and forth, which is something that hasn’t happened before. So, it’s a really cool time to be in this industry, but back to your point, Tom, it’s a very courageous move to flip your organization on its head.

Tom Baskind:
It is.

Catie Williams:
I’m glad that you think it’s obvious that you’re the most junior on the call, Natalie. Rick wondered about that. I’m just kidding. Okay, we had a question specifically for Tom come through. Through the use of the InEight platform, you bring up formalization of process. Are you seeing any efficiencies from these new processes? And if you could give a little bit more detail and maybe just clarify what efficiencies you’ve gained.

Tom Baskind:
Yeah. Because it’s so formal and we plan every night, we’re able to adjust our quantity entries and make adjustments, even before the work started, as I mentioned. We know what we bid at, man hours per quantity, and we can make sure that we set the plan for that the next day. So, we’re, for the first time ever, our foreman can see how they’re performing based on the estimate. The way it works is, after they actually enter the actual data or the actual quantities that they installed, they get to go to the productivity tab and actually see how they did that day.

Tom Baskind:
Maybe they lost an hour and a half, or they gained two hours that day. So, they push each other. There was a comment made about competition. When you have two different crews doing two different things, you can see one could be doing maybe better than the other one, so they’re going to push each other to try to save, well, I saved two hours today or I saved two and a half, but it’s that formal process. It’s the fact that we are showing them the productivity, is we’re showing them how they did. They’re able to see immediately if their crews are making or losing money for that particular day, and it’s pushing them to want to do do well so we’re successful on that job.

Catie Williams:
Well, there’s like a ripple effect, As soon as you start doing it at one place, then you can start to tweak other things and you just start to gain momentum in terms of identifying areas that now you can incorporate into this standardized process.

Tom Baskind:
Yes.

Catie Williams:
Okay. Sorry, one second. I did want to talk about how you’re finding of talent and resources has changed as an organization. Using a more integrated platform versus maybe homegrown things or more manual Excel spreadsheets, how has that changed your ability to find project resources, internal like back office resources? Maybe you could talk about that a little bit.

Tom Baskind:
Yeah. We have a little bit of an older ERP system, and when we would hire people out of school, we would have to teach them how to use it, and it’s a little bit antiquated in how it’s used. Now that we have a digitized solution that’s basically brand new technology, our younger professionals want to use it. In fact, they’ve been the best adapters of anybody. They wanted this, they want to be able to run reports, they want to be able to have an easy graphical user interface to use, and so we’re finding that they’re excited to have access to that software. We’re keeping them out of old systems. We’re basically having them use InEight for everything that they do, whether it’s documents or estimating our cost forecasting cost code management work, work packaging, quantity tracking, all that, reporting and dashboards, it’s all done in one spot.

Tom Baskind:
You give them a login, and then over time, we slowly have taught them more and more modules, and then they’re up and running. The best part is, is when they’re on their second and third job, the only training you have to give them is just email them what the new job number is. They know how to do everything else, and that’s really been helpful with our training. I mentioned earlier that we do all the training in person, either through teams or in a classroom. But once you make that investment in someone and you’ve trained them, then you don’t really have to do it again, because it’s really intuitive how they use it.

Tom Baskind:
Again, as I mentioned before, there was a theme about taking clerical work away from project engineers. All too often, in the past, they would just spend so much time, years ago, making Xerox copies or doing data entry for quantities at the end of the week trying to catch up. In fact, that is done every day now, and then it’s done automatically by the foreman. It’s just saving everybody time to do again, more meaningful work and to be able to spend time managing the project in the field, solving problems in the field, and not doing these tasks that take up a lot of their day.

Catie Williams:
I don’t know, Rick or Natalie, if you’ve seen from other customers similar perspectives about making sure that having up-to-date, and maybe even mobile, throwing mobile capabilities in there as well might make a difference in terms of attracting talent to your organization.

Rick Deans:
I think it’s a number of things. You’ve mentioned the hesitancy of organizations to jump on technology, and that’s because I think they’re trying to protect the folks in the field, right? These folks have enough to do. They’re a line of sight to the project, to the client. We don’t want to overburden them with stuff that’s going to cause them to lose that productivity. But as Tom said, if we’re giving them more meaningful things to do, as opposed to clerical stuff or stuff that can be offloaded, then they really, really gravitate toward this stuff.

Rick Deans:
Think about the old paradigm. If I’m filling out a time sheet and I have to wait till month end and till accounting closes, and then another few days to get a report back, four or five weeks might have taken place between when I did the work and when I got any kind of meaningful feedback, and as Tom pointed out, now I can do my daily plans and know ahead of time before we even commit a resource to this activity that we’re going to make or break budget. That’s great. I think that’s where the new people in the industry, that’s what they … They have an expectation that there are going to be tools and there are going to be technology available to help them do their jobs like this.

Natalie Takacs:
Yeah, not only that, but I think a lot of younger people, say somebody coming out of school, they see a lot of this stuff in their education. A lot of technology is being brought to them so that when they are looking for that job post college, they’re going to look for someone that has technology similar to something that they’ve used, or maybe they’ve really liked what they’ve done, and that’s going to make or break the decision between two companies or two offers. You’re talking [crosstalk 00:31:53].

Catie Williams:
Oh, sorry, Natalie, go on.

Natalie Takacs:
I was just going to say, you’re talking about new grads and new talent. You’re talking to a generation that grew up with technology and that’s kind of their safe space, it’s where we feel comfortable.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. I was going to say their expectation seems to be that access to data, access to the information, very different than someone that’s already been in the field for a while. We did get another couple of questions. Maybe Tom, you could talk a little bit about your implementation approach of the integrated platform. When you answer that, if you could also address how you’ve taken those efficiencies gained on one project into another project. That was a question that came in is, are you seeing, and I’m elaborating on it a little bit, but have you seen, if you put this process in place on this project, do you see those same gains in the next project?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, I’ll answer that part first and then we’ll go into how we did it. Rick mentioned benchmarking. So, every item that we do, every cost code, face code that is used to track cost is given a benchmarking cost per quantity, man hours per quantity. At the end of the job, we benchmark that information back to our estimating program [inaudible 00:33:09]. When we bid a job, we benchmark those man hours per quantity from the bids, and all that benchmarking data ends up as data points when you’re estimating something. If you’re looking at a line in an estimate, and it says that it’s, say two man hours for a piece of steel, we’re going to be able to go to the benchmarking tab and see a bunch of dots that represent how it was bid and how it was executed in the field as built.

Tom Baskind:
So, we’re going to see diamonds and circles and rectangles, and we’re going to be able to look at that and say, here’s where we are right now in this estimate and here’s where we bid it previously and here’s where we actually built it. How does our number look now compared to this? When every job is finished, we sync those benchmarks back to the estimating software. When every job is bid, we sync those benchmarks back to the estimating software. We select which projects we want in our benchmarking. We refresh our benchmarks for each job, and then we use that as the basis to determine how we’re bidding this particular job compared to other jobs.

Tom Baskind:
That’s been really helpful to be able to have that much data from every job, not only bid, but every job as performed. As far as our implementation approach, as I mentioned earlier, it’s the chunk approach. We do it in modules. We decided to do it consecutively. We had one implementation manager. It was like a project manager of a job site. That person stayed for the entire thing. That was me for our company. Some decisions that you make in one module affect the other one. When you make your account codes for estimating, those are going to be the same account codes that you use in the field for quantity tracking and forecasting, so they really feed off each other.

Tom Baskind:
We kind of looked at it the way a normal job would be. We first did our document control. Then we did our estimating, and then we did our controlled plan and progress, which is essentially time sheets, work packaging, quantity entry. Then, when that was all up and running, we started to feed people other things like the reporting, the dashboards, the change management tool. So, they were given things in digestible chunks. They started using one and then used old tools on the other things. Then they used two, and then they had [LaSalle 00:35:09] tools. Eventually, everybody’s using all new tools now.

Tom Baskind:
Again, people can only take so much training. They’re only capable of sitting for say an hour, hour and a half before you really just start to lose track of what you’re being taught, but if you have more training sessions that if you feed them the information in digestible chunks, it’s going to be a lot easier to understand, but it also helped us with the implementation to spread it out and make sure that there was one person leading the thing that knew all the key decisions that were being made. That’s how we went down and did it.

Catie Williams:
Rick, I don’t know if you have any … I mean, are we seeing similar implementation approaches, where instead of trying to do a big bang, where you do everybody at once, it’s very either modular or project by project?

Rick Deans:
I’d say our customers sort themselves out, right? We’ve got some customers that want to do that big bang. As of November 1st, everyone’s going to be using this new set of tools, and that puts some pressure on people to learn and adapt. But usually, there’s some driving object within an organization. I remember one company up in Canada, they did oil field services kind of call and response work. What they were really concerned about was what they called leakage of margins into out of scope items. While the crew was onsite, the client would say, “Oh, by the way, while you’re here, can you go work on that valve for a couple hours report, do some of this other work.” For them, that was their driver, right? They want to do avoid that leakage, and the technology enabled them.

Rick Deans:
They were able to tell what was in scope, what was out of scope. Sorry, Mr. Client, that’s not on my list of things to do today. I can put you in touch with our business manager that will discuss that with you. Every company has that low hanging fruit that thereafter, but usually, once they’ve solved that problem, they’ve gotten accustomed to leveraging the data, leveraging the technology, and they start looking for new problems to solve. Again, every customer has their own journey through that is what I’ve seen.

Catie Williams:
We had another couple of questions come in, and I’m going to maybe combine a couple just with what we had. We talked about how do you justify the investment when someone’s just thinking about, I’m thinking of going on this journey, I think we need this, how do they justify the investment? Maybe you could address that. Then also, the question was, when you’re actually going through and evaluating solutions, what’s a tip you could share or how would you do that? I think those are kind of related, and if you could, maybe Tom, you could start, and then Natalie or Rick, if you have anything else you want to throw in.

Tom Baskind:
Okay. Yeah. The first part is, how do you justify the investment? There’s an old cliche. I hate to use cliches, but if you’re not growing in business, you’re dying, and there’s some truth to that, because you have to grow. How many businesses could function today without a website? How many airlines could begin business without online ticket purchasing? What about a bank that didn’t offer online banking? They really wouldn’t survive today. Investment is needed to grow and stay alive. You want to show the employees that you’re committed to the company. Think of this quote, someone said, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty of fad.” That was said by the president of Michigan savings bank and talking to Henry Ford’s lawyer in 1903.

Tom Baskind:
You’ve got to put some things in perspective. You’ve got to be willing to make an investment and maybe work outside your comfort zone. There’s been a long list of companies that have had competitors that one, op competed the other significantly, looking at IBM and Smith Corona, Motorola and Zenith. One of them ended up being a giant in the industry and the others never got anywhere near their competitors, because they were willing to make investments and do things a little bit outside their comfort zone.

Tom Baskind:
I think, in all those examples, when you invest in your company, when you look to the future, and you’re not stagnant about the processes and procedures you’re using. You’re showing your employees and the owners and the clients that you believe in the company and its future, and the employees need to see that. For the second part of your question about, what advice would you give? I would say that research what’s available there and then create a diverse team with very positions in the company. Decide what is needed and make sure that upper management has the guidance and support. Make sure that management understands it will take a long time and resources, but that we’re working on the long game, we’re looking at the long benefit of this.

Tom Baskind:
As I mentioned before, it will not be an immediate return on investment. There is time it takes to set it up right, but eventually, it will bring much return. My last comment, as I said earlier, is to be patient, and don’t be afraid to extend it if you have to. The analogy I like to talk about is cooking chicken. You cannot take it early off the grill. It has to be fully cooked before you can give it to someone. Someone would rather have it late and cooked properly than to be given a raw chicken. Only when something’s ready to use, can you really give it to the field to use. You’ll be in a lot worse shape if it’s not ready when you take it out.

Catie Williams:
Well, I love that analogy, because someone will always remember a bad rollout, but they will remember if you missed the date, but I had a little bit, so I think that’s great. Thanks, Tom. I don’t know, Natalie or Rick, if you have anything to add to either of those, justifying the investment spend or tips for someone. Obviously, we’re InEight, so that one might be tricky to answer, but …

Natalie Takacs:
Yeah. Something I was reading the other day, it was an article about how design firms, at the beginning of 2020, when we all kind of entered this pandemic, they’re forced to digitize faster than ever before. I think that has also impacted the industry in a way to move a lot of firms towards this digitization and just having that awareness that we don’t know what’s going to happen. That might be another way to justify investing in this technology, just being able to keep your employees connected, keep your jobs going, keep that data flow given no matter what happens. I think it’ll be-

Catie Williams:
You’re probably right that a lot of people had to really determine, could they continue operating in a whole different way? The ones that maybe were further along in their journey, that wasn’t such a challenge for them. It was just flip a switch and everyone was working from home, but those that haven’t really started down their digitization journey probably had some pain points, for sure. I don’t know, Rick, you have anything else before I switch to questions.

Rick Deans:
Tom’s chicken analogy is tough to follow up. I remember once I was in a room and there was a discussion, are we going to spend this money and are we going to train our people? What if they leave? Somebody else in the room said, “Well, play the other side of that card. What if we don’t train our people and they all stay?” To Tom’s point, either a business is growing and it’s prospering or it’s not growing and it’s starting to die.

Catie Williams:
Yeah. Another question that came in before we switched gears. On multiple projects, does InEight provide the much needed governance to ensure all projects are aligned with those corporate goals? I don’t know if Rick or Natalie, you want to take that one first or that makes more sense to go for Tom. Maybe you’ve seen how having a system like InEight would make sure everyone is aligned doing things the same way.

Rick Deans:
Sure. I’ll jump in. This goes back to one of my earlier comments, and that is from a customer of ours. We heard this helps everybody speak the same language. The software tools are really enablers, right? They enable the adherence to fundamental business processes. If those processes are in place, the tools can really shine, because people understand what’s the next step, what’s the level of prioritization of this task over that task? What’s the ultimate outcome? If a company has that sort of business process already in place, then the tools just really enable that. That’s what I’ve seen.

Tom Baskind:
Yeah. I’d like to just add that all our projects have the same goals. I mean, that is to make sure that our workers are safe, that we do a high quality job, that the jobs are done on time and on budget. We all have the goals, but the only way to achieve goals is through systems that work, and a system is how you achieve goals. By using the InEight system for us, it allows us to achieve our goals because we use the same process and it’s a proven process that works.

Natalie Takacs:
Well, that, Tom and I think your training approach at Graycor to not form bad habits is also part of this, ensuring that everybody is following the process from the organizational perspective, as well as the software perspective, and making sure those things align, I think, is really important.

Catie Williams:
When you were doing your evaluation, Tom, and again, this is another thing we kind of talked about a little bit before, the difference from a vendor with construction background versus not, how did that impact and weigh in on your decision?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah, we look at a lot of options out, and there was an item that was really important to us, and it was the people that came in and presented to us. We had people that came in and presented to us and we could tell were construction people that, oh, by the way, also made software. They made this software to solve construction problems they had on real projects, and they had this robot software, and they went to the market sell it. We also talked to other people that were software engineers and they had developed a solution for construction that maybe might not have been made to solve actual problems, but were certainly good solutions as well, but it was the fact that when we talked to construction people that were also into software, they spoke the same language we did.

Tom Baskind:
They had been in the trenches and had very similar experience than us. We liked the fact that they had created the software to solve construction problems, and certainly bring it to market and make a profit on it, but that it wasn’t designed solely to make a profit to solve construction problems.

Catie Williams:
That’s great. Another question came in. Rick, if you have a company that’s willing to undertake a complete digital transformation, where would you guide them to start?

Rick Deans:
Again, I’d want to have some discussions with them, find out what some of their organizational challenges are and go after that low hanging fruit. Sometimes if we can get those early wins under our belt and show people how these tools can really make an impact, we get that buy-in from across the organization, which is really key to rolling out the entire set of tools, for sure.

Catie Williams:
I don’t know, Natalie or Tom, if you’d throw anything else into that question also.

Tom Baskind:
I was just going to add that you make a priority list of what you want. When we did it, we made key priorities. We had to have electronic time sheets. We had to have work packaging. We had to have an easy way to do forecasting and some other ones, and do. Once you found software that could do all those, then you started seeing what else they offered. Well, they also offer documents and they offer these types of reports and dashboards. So, the key is to get your key priorities met, and then once you have that, go look at what else is out there with that.

Catie Williams:
Okay. Just switching gears a little bit, do you still feel like, now that you’re on this journey and you’ve looked at lots of tools, are there still big problems or challenges in the industry, and really, maybe Rick or Natalie too want to weigh in on what we see from a market and industry perspective, but is there anything that we still don’t have a good technology solution for something that would be an enabler to making the process change, to improving efficiency?

Rick Deans:
One of the things that I’ve heard over the years is job site inventory management. It’s very difficult to do within an ERP system, point solutions only go so far, and at InEight, we’re pretty focused. We don’t want to solve all of the world’s problems. It would be great if we did, but in this particular case, we partner with a firm called Jovix that does just that. So, with our open architecture and our ability to take data in and push data out through our application programming interfaces, our APIs, it makes integrating with a solution provider like that much more feasible. Those are some of the areas where I think that if we don’t provide a solution for that particular piece of the puzzle, then we’re more than happy to partner with somebody who’s already solved that problem and bring it as part of our overall set of solutions.

Tom Baskind:
I would just add that there are going to be a lot of solutions that come in the future for all kinds of problems that we have to make it easier, but let’s not forget that the brick and mortar approach, this work is actually being done by hand by the craftsmen and craftspeople. We just want to make sure that they do a quality job and the software can help us with that. We can do it on time, the software helps us with that, as well as budgeting and forecasting. It’s that safety aspect that we got to make sure that the guys and the crews, they all do the work properly, they have the right tools, and that all these solutions that we have help manage the problem, but it’s really the people doing it in the field that we got to think about as well.

Catie Williams:
That’s a really good point. Were you going to add something, Natalie? But you went off mute, but …

Natalie Takacs:
Yeah, I was just going to say that some of the creative things I’ve seen client’s doing with software solving their own problems, taking matters into their own hands is really remarkable. They have ideas that I never would have come up with. I think the industry as a whole is solving a lot of problems by moving in the direction of adopting technology.

Catie Williams:
That’s definitely a great point. We did have another question come in, and we, just a time check, we’ve got about 10 minutes, so if anybody else has any that they want to throw in there, please go ahead and do that. But the question is about drones and how we see them being used in the construction role, and maybe even for really use cases, versus just again, I’m elaborating on the question, but maybe just beyond the cool factor of having a drone, do you see any practical use cases for them in the industry?

Tom Baskind:
Yeah. The work that we do, we don’t really have too many drone uses at the moment, where we’re usually working inside of a plant, inside of a building, but I know that our sister company that does use them. There are a lot of things that they can do, like they can calculate the volume of a mound of dirt. They can do some layouts, laser scanning. There’s all kinds of technology available for that. So, it’s interesting to see that technology come through and all the benefits it can bring us.

Catie Williams:
Rick or Natalie, do you have anything on the drones or maybe even advanced technology, you don’t have to limit it to drones, you could do VR or any of that.

Rick Deans:
Yeah. Leveraging digital models, I’ve seen some customers doing their quantity claiming, and to Tom’s point, it has to be the right type of project, a project that’s out in the open that drones can fly over and measure what’s been installed during a particular piece or during a particular period of time. But yeah, all of that data can be fed back to update our systems as well. So, it’s interesting to see where the technology is going to go and what sort of newer technologies are out there, and then to be able to solve some of these problems.

Catie Williams:
Yeah, and some of the applications to prevent safety incidents are really neat and absolutely valuable. That’s another great opportunity to identify some operation that’s not safe, and could a drone or another technology be used to help supplement that work, for sure. I think I’ve answered all of the questions. I think I would just open it up. You guys, if you have anything else that you’d want to say, I know we were going to wrap it up with, if there were anything for someone that was starting down this path, that we’ve already kind of talked about, so then maybe just any final words or tips for someone that is thinking about doing this, is right on the edge.

Rick Deans:
I’d say if you’re on the edge and you’re thinking about investing in a technology solution, do your homework, vet the market, and then when you’re ready to do so, find somebody that’s willing to take the plunge with you. That’s what I like to tell our customers, Hey, we’re going to hold your hand and jump off the cliff with you, and it’s not going to be that scary. We’ve done it before, we’ve helped others, and we can really help you track that return on that initial investment and then set you up for success down the road as well.

Tom Baskind:
I would just add that it can be done even if you have an old ERP system. We can make everything communicate with each other these days, and we were able to go to a digitized solution that’s SaaS based, in the cloud, even with an older ERP system. So, the people using the software in their field don’t even need to know what’s happening behind the scenes with the ERP. They just do everything in the graphical user interface and let other people in the home office worry about sending the data back and forth.

Catie Williams:
That’s great. Natalie, I know we lost you there for a second. So, are you … Oh, go ahead.

Natalie Takacs:
While you’re doing your homework, really dissect your problems. Understand what it is you’re trying to solve for, where exactly are your pain points, and then use that as you go to research your solution.

Rick Deans:
Excellent.

Catie Williams:
Great. I don’t think any other questions came in, so I appreciate it so much. Thank you, Tom, Rick and Natalie, for a great session. Again, if anyone has anything further that they want to discuss, feel free to reach out to us and please rate our webinar also so we can get your feedback. Hope everybody has a great day. Bye.

Rick Deans:
Thank you.

Natalie Takacs: Bye.

Tom Baskind:
Thanks.

Catie Williams:
Bye.