SiteMax Systems Inc. | Financial Post Article by Tony Wanless

Financial Post Article by Tony Wanless

When companies involved in Canada’s largest industry — construction — get to work, they usually employ some kind of project management software to keep complex projects on track.

There are hundreds of software options to choose from (Wikipedia lists more than 150) so one would assume there is a program suitable for everybody, from the five-person micro operation to the company employing thousands.

That assumption is wrong. As construction becomes more complex, the software a company uses to manage its projects needs to change to meet other business needs and handle a wider array of tasks.

Or so Wales McLelland, a British Columbia-based, $75-million-a-year design-build and general contracting company for light industrial, commercial, retail and residential projects, believed.

Unable to find exactly what it needed to manage its many projects in real time and with more information, Wales McLelland developed its own software. Not only does it better manage projects, but it also helps the company with its marketing, human resources management and client relationships.

“The industry hadn’t caught up to realities,” said president and owner Doug Scott. “We had site superintendents using faxes or video and laptops to report. They spent most of their time trying to make things work.

“Certain things started to bother me about how we were doing things,” he added. “The construction industry can be slow to upgrade and what we had on site wasn’t working. Superintendents were sending in paper reports at the end of the week. When we tried using laptops, they would fall in the cement, or be ruined by dust. I got tired of buying new laptops.”

Wales McLelland’s solution was to design a robust software system that involves a mobile hot-spot in an on-site trailer, iPad Mini’s for all superintendents, and continuous reporting from job sites to the head office and vice versa.

The software, which took six months to build and test and has been operating for another six months, continually streams information on work completed, on sub-trades, on project status and other important tasks back to Wales McLelland’s headquarters, where office staff have varying degrees of access. In turn it streams relevant information such as weather reports back to site superintendents.

James Faulkner, of the Faulkner Brand consultancy, which helped design and create the software, noted that the information stream creates many process efficiencies in estimating and construction management.

“In the past, superintendents kept timesheets for contractors,” he explained. “They were often duplicated and this solves that. It also saves a lot of time for the superintendents, who may be supervising 30 subcontractors.”

The software also has had an impact on head office staff, who now have a greater sense of belonging, he said.

“The velocity of the data streaming into the head office allows all departments to continually see what is going on with projects. This creates a team atmosphere. In any business, most employees are ‘present loyalists’ who are ready to jump all the time. With this, there is a sense of inclusion and less turnover.”

The software also acts as a kind of daily dashboard, streaming selected information to clients daily letting them know how their project is coming along. This also is a feature that smoothes client management and, because it creates a competitive advantage, performs a strong marketing function.

“It was interesting how the staff and some clients reacted,” Scott observed.

“Initially, everybody is resistant to change, but then once it’s there, everybody gets involved and starts throwing in ideas.”

Tony Wanless, of Knowpreneur Consultants, is a certified management consultant who helps knowledge-based businesses with strategy, innovation and planning.

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