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Improving Back-Office Efficiencies to Ensure Project Success

back office at construction site

Project successes are never guaranteed. Even when everything goes right during construction, your company could be subject to losses after the job closes. Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true techniques that can mitigate job losses—techniques that you can implement before the job commences, during construction, and after you’ve signed off. We discussed a few best practices you can employ on the jobsite in this article, but there are many ways back-office staff can improve project outcomes, as well.

Embrace Technology

It may sound a bit too easy, but one way you can improve project efficiency is to simply use the technology that’s available to you. Adopting new technologies can do a few things.

First, if you rely on technology to perform the rote and repetitive tasks required to keep your business running, you can have your employees spend their time on value-added tasks or creative projects instead, furthering business goals rather than simply meeting them.

Second, technology (especially automation technology) saves time, which should translate to cost savings over time.

Third, your quality will improve. Technology can eliminate human error, which can make your reports more precise and your forecasts more accurate.

Below are a few technologies that can help make your construction projects more efficient.

Data Analytics Technology

Data analytics is the art of analyzing raw data to draw conclusions. Your accounting system likely has data analytic functionality built in — you just need to know how to use it. A few uses for this technology in construction are:

  • Using past information to predict future resource requirements and expenses
  • Looking for potential weaknesses or bottlenecks in the construction process
  • Assessing subcontractors’ compliance with budgets and deadlines

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that uses “if/then” protocols to mimic human keystrokes. Typically, RPA does best at performing repetitive, computer-based tasks. For example, if you’ve been struggling to hire quality workers, you could use RPA to prepare and send emails to job candidates automatically. Or after a construction project has wrapped, you could use RPA to send invoices to late payers and even adjust those invoices to include late payment fees.

Artificial Intelligence

AI can feel out of reach for a company looking to implement simple jobsite and back-office controls, but there are a few AI tools that anyone can adopt quickly and cheaply. Consider, for example, the use of AI-powered writing assistants. Generative AI can help you create project updates for your subcontractors, notify customers of late payments, request materials quotes, or respond to inquiries from job candidates.

Fortunately, many of these technologies are already embedded into your enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting software. If you’re unsure of your software’s capabilities, reach out to your software providers and to your accounting advisors to see how you can optimize the technology you’re already using.

Implement Digital Security Measures

The jobsite can be infiltrated in more ways than one. Hackers can gain access to your private and sensitive information through the internet. A few of the many ways you can safeguard access to your digital assets are to:

  • Require unique logins for all staff members and monitor the activity of privileged users.
  • Use virtual private networks (VPNs) whenever an employee accesses your systems remotely.
  • Patch and update your software regularly.
  • Use encryption technology to send sensitive information.
  • Back up important data.
  • Regularly conduct cybersecurity training.
  • Continuously monitor your digital safeguards and upgrade for new threats.
  • Conduct regular cybersecurity audits.

Managing Cash Flow

Improve Payments

You can do this by:

  • Identifying which customers are more likely to be late payers
  • Automatically sending reminder emails
  • Providing a discount for early payment
  • Depositing checks as often as possible
  • Shortening payment terms
  • Invoicing more frequently
  • Invoicing more timely once the project wraps

Minimizing Losses

You can do this by:

  • Use RPA or AI to read invoices and prepare payments, only initiating payments when they are due.
  • Talking to your bank about better loan terms.

Improve Your Company Culture

Whether you realize or not, jobs are affected by company culture. What creates your company’s culture, and once that culture is established, how can you change it?

Define Your Existing Culture

Before you can change your culture, you must first determine what it is. What are the defining characteristics of your company? How do employees act toward each other, and what are their opinions of their direct supervisors? What complaints do you hear most, and what do you think your employees enjoy about their jobs? What type of work is turned in and acceptable, and what failures are most egregious?

Define Your Ideal Culture

What do you want your company’s culture to look and feel like? Do you want your employees to be innovative and take risks, or would you prefer your management team to plan and for your employees to execute? Do you value collaboration, or do you prefer a more hierarchical culture?

Model and Reinforce Desired Behaviors

Your employees take cues from you, from their managers, and from other workers. Highlight the behaviors that align with your culture goals and discourage staff from engaging in activities that bring your team down. You can do this in many different ways, but common ones are to:

  • Highlight good work or create employee recognition programs
  • Have productive and efficient face-to-face team meetings
  • Accept feedback and make changes
  • Build or encourage employee community groups
  • Redefine your company’s mission
  • Change communication styles, work volumes, desk configurations, etc.

In Conclusion

The handful of techniques we’ve discussed today only scratch the surface of how the back office plays a role in overall project successes. If you want to learn more control techniques for your back office, contact a leader in LaPorte’s Construction Industry Group. They’d be happy to discuss additional controls you can implement so that your construction projects have the best chance at being a success.