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Construction Management and Quickbooks February 18, 2013

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, project management software.
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Whether you are a residential or commercial general contractor, Quickbooks is the most popular accounting software serving the construction industry in the United States. The challenge is achieving an integrated solution with estimating, scheduling and project management capabilities while addressing detailed job costing. As your contracting firm grows your needs typically outgrow what you can do with Microsoft Office so where’s a GC to turn?

If integration is important, and you really want to avoid silos between finance, estimating and operations you’ll want to look at Corecon. They were the first to embrace the API’s available with Intuit and have managed to address everything but BIM and CAD needs for the small to mid-sized construction company.

Construction Project Management and Quickbooks

Corecon is a Software as a Service solution all based in the cloud and works with the popular browsers so there’s no need to install software of worry about upgrades and backups. It’s all done for you. What really separates this solution with others (I’m disclosing that I do sell this software) is the depth of integration and the capabilities.

Estimating, Bid Requests, Preconstruction, Purchasing, Safety, Submittals, Correspondence, Progress Billings, etc. It’s all there. It even has a mobile login for accessing your contacts, viewing you To do List, receiving Alerts, tracking project leads and reviewing all your project’s Correspondence, documentation, schedule, Time Entry, Miscellaneous Expenses, Procurement and Financials. There’s even handy charts to visually see your construction project’s financial health.
Corecon Project Management

For additional information visit Corecon.com and tell them Carol Hagen sent you in the comments.

If you have time take a peak of the mobile operations in this video:

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Construction: What’s Your “X” factor? December 22, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, project management software.
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Successful contractors know what their xfactors are and if they align with your supplier’s, employee’s or project owner’s interests.  Your differentiaters can attract talent, press and business. Just how do you leverage your xfactors?

Talent Attraction Xfactors

When it comes to talent, three items come to mind: culture match, reputation and technology.  The best talent looks carefully before putting your construction firm on their shortlist.  Smart leaders make sure all three shine through in their people, projects and on the internet. They empower their employees to showcase their work in the company intranet, and include employee stories in their newsletter.  They keep content fresh and update their blog when new technology is deployed in the office and field.  They share success stories on Facebook and YouTube that reach out to communities, showcasing company values, through volunteer efforts while making the content easily shareable. The message is human and caring. These same efforts often lead to free press.

Press Attraction Xfactors

Always looking for an angle, journalists love stories about overcoming obstacles, announcements that impact their community or improve the quality of life.  Your construction projects are ideally suited to these storylines. Building a bridge? Share shorter commute times, connecting commerce, job creation and closing gaps in your press pitch.  Now spin your xfactor into the story – your commitment to veteran hires or the  team diversity can reflect your company’s culture. 

Business Attraction Xfactors

Every completed project stands as a testimony to the special talents of the project team, but delivering on time and under budget doesn’t always convert to repeat business. 

Communication and shared core values is the key.  Setting clear expectations, how you handle crucial conversations and sharing key progress throughout the project  team is critical. Your emod factor showcases your commitment to safety, your ability to keep project costs lower and your business values are aligned with your entire team. If your systems are well defined, software can help with the deliverables, communications and the collaboration. So can smartphones, tablet PCs and iPads. 

Can a small firm (perhaps using Quickbooks) compete in technology? Surprisingly yes. Creating a central document repository, tracking milestones and collaborating can be done effectively and affordably without a Sharepoint Server. The key is delighting the team, especially the project owner.  Recently Corecon announced their new Team Link Portal which extends the project management activity out to the architect, engineer, subcontractor, supplier and owner.  Here are a few Screenshots:

Corecon Team Link Portal – Owner Project Financials Dashboard

    Corecon Team Link Portal – Correspondence Tab

      Corecon Team Link Portal - Correspondence Tab

      Making critical information accessible keeps people happy and coming back for more.  What I like about Corecon (and why I rep for them) is the straight forward approach, recognizing that small and medium sized construction firms, who don’t have full time IT staff actually have a competitive advantage. They’re more nimble. This and other xfactor offerings can help keep repeat business occurring and attract new business too.

      What are you construction xfactors and where do you share them? Please add them in our comments.

Construction Collaboration: PDF Secrets Part 2 – On-line Meeting for PDF Changes Now or Later July 6, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in communication, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, project management software, records retention, Sharepoint, web conferencing.
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Construction Collaboration often involves sharing documents during an on-line web meeting. While many solutions allow for these sessions to be recorded, there are few that let you leave it open for up to 2 weeks, append to the meeting later, or provide a way to capture the log of the discussion, particularly when changes are made to a “working” PDF. The problem is the method to make these annotations because the web based sessions are typically screen captures of the presenter’s desktop. There is a better way to work on PDFs with individuals or teams which can track, log and hyperlink to the PDF area details. Automatically documenting and capturing the recorded modifications on the PDF for construction project teams with Bluebeam® Studio Server™. You have to see it to believe it.

Let’s take a look at a Bluebeam Studio Session. In this example there are questions concerning the placement of lighting. Note that the chat session captures all annotations and jumps to the view of that persons workspace when they added that annotation.

Bluebeam® Studio Server™ allows you to connect, create and collaborate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Simply upload your PDFs to Studio and invite attendees from across the globe to view and comment on your PDFs. Chat and add markups to the same PDF together in real-time or separately on your own. Markups and chats are tracked in a Record that links back to the PDF to easily review session activity. You can even create a report of your Studio session to archive or share with your team. With Bluebeam construction collaboration delivers complete version control and report access that you can upload to Sharepoint or ingest into your Enterprise Content Management System automatically using a monitored folder.

Whether you need clarifications from the architect, engineer, General contractor, owner or principal, subcontractor or supplier you can capture the suggestions from each participant, whether you’re all on-line simultaneously, or invitees join later with new ideas or alternatives. If revisions occur later, you can receive email notification that more revisions have been added to the session. Bluebeam has more PDF collaboration power for the AEC industry. In Part 3 we’ll discuss AutoCad and Revit.

If you missed part 1, you may want to read the previous post PDF Secrets: Estimating takeoff from PDF. If you can’t wait for the rest of this series, You probably want to watch this video:
Bluebeam PDF Revu 9 – The Acrobat Alternative Or just Take Revu 9, Bluebeam Studio or Q for a spin with a 30 Free A Trial

Disclosure: Bluebeam software impressed me so much that I recently became an authorized reseller.

Xoom for the Construction Project Manager March 4, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, project management software.
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Update 3/23/11: With Firefox 4 for Android soon to be available, it is expected that Corecon will run the full version of their software on the Xoom!

The Motorola Xoom has been available at Verizon for a few weeks and all the competition keeps repeating is “there are no apps for it.” Who needs apps when smart software developers offer access to their applications in the cloud? For instance, Corecon, a construction project management and estimating system. Their Corecon mobile login provides the project manager access to his projects, job financials, documentation, correspondence, contacts, etc and a way to update directly from the field. Here’s a video showing a few project management functions on the Xoom:

It works well on all the other popular platforms too like Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. This isn’t just for the commercial general contractor either. Architects, engineers, homebuilders and suppliers use Corecon everyday collaborating, estimating and responding to requests for bid, RFI’s, and more. So you know, my client’s bought Corecon from me to streamline their operations.

Personally I am awaiting the 4G upgrade (coming summer of 2011) before I grab a Xoom, but once I do, I’ll be Xooming presentations, videos and keeping projects up to date without the size limitations of my smartphone or the need to lug or boot up my laptop.

Corecon project management and videos on other devices can be viewed in a previous post entitled:Project Managers Go Mobile

PDF Editing, Sharepoint and ECM for the AEC Industry February 24, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in CAD, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, estimating, project management software, records retention, Sharepoint.
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Editing PDFs is a daily occurance in the construction industry. Architects, Engineers and Contractors have standardized on the PDF as the file type to share, email and collaborate on. PDF editing streamlines and helps clearly conveys changes, clarifications and improvements. Everyday PDFs are instrumental in the construction conversation to show mark ups on Microsoft Office documents, interactively draw on tablet PCs and then share these PDFs on Servers. But PDF editing software licensing is expensive and often cumbersome. What the AEC Industry has yearned for is One-Button creation of PDFs from within industry standard product like AutoCad, Revit and SolidWorks, and integration to their Sharepoint or ProjectWise servers. This is deliverable today with Bluebeam.

The PDF solutions Bluebeam provides to Construction Industry Professionals “are designed to improve communication, tracking, and speed. Create PDFs from any CAD or Windows file.” You can “add comments and notes directly to PDFs received from architects or consultants to eliminate extra steps or confusion and improve turnaround time.” With Bluebeam Revu, you can skip the paper process and “simply markup the PDF drawing electronically and send it off in one click from anywhere you have an Internet connection.”

Estimators will also love Bluebeam Revu. With the “built-in measurement tool, onscreen quantity takeoffs are calculated, totaled and stored in a list that can be summarized in Excel for estimates.” Bluebeam is a PDF Editor’s dream and works well for Architects and Engineers from design development through bid and construction. There are toolsets for a variety of designers including:
Landscaping Tools, Kitchen Furniture, Office Furniture, Home Furniture, Windows and Punch Symbols from Bluebeam clients along with extensive toolsets from Bluebeam

What’s missing to Bluebeam is document management which can be done in part on Sharepoint or using tools like Construction Imaging’s Content Archiver in their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System. Content Archiver is a utility that looks at the directory structure where a document is stored, and sets the indexes or metatags of the document in the customer’s ECM system. It then sets a pointer to the document in the ECM where the original document resided. Many construction firms today are just storing documents on a hard drive where they’ve created a folder for each project. Underneath the project are more folders for RFIs, change orders, pictures, etc. What’s the benefit to doing this? You avoid accidently putting multiple copies of the same document into your ECM system and no one has to manually index the docuemnt again.

Now I hear some novices out there saying if I have PDFs then I can search through my documents and there’s no need to index them. Essentially with that scenario you index by every word in every document. While filing becomes fast, searching for specific documents can become a length chore. Do a Google search on any word and just how many results do you get? You could spend hours with the thousands of results that are returned. Substitute Content Archiver and you can find a document in 3-5 seconds.

Making it easy to capture, distribute, manage and store documents in the construction industry seems challenging, but with the right tools the job becomes a whole lot simpler. We’d encourage feedback and would love to hear from our readers. Please add your thoughts in the comment section and see if we can get a good discussion going.

Tucson Contractors Soak Up IT Knowledge February 4, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, estimating, project management software.
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Tucson contractors have already put my presentation to good use on “All things Information Technology (IT)” at the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) luncheon yesterday. Excel Mechanical’s Carrie Stone emailed me her results this morning and I can only hope everyone in attendance will also share their success.

Topics during my 45 minute chat included: Search, Backups, Data Storage, Cloud Computing, and construction project management. Sound’s boring right? Guess again. Humorous videos, made light of heavy topics and kept the pace moving…ever see storage take a ride down a pool slide? Questions popped up while audience members confessed to being email hoarders and a few still used tape for backups. Thank you Sundt’s Kevin Burnett who was the example for how to think Lean and taking it on the chin when I explained why small firms are often more nimble than large.

There was great interest in how to get your company to show on a local search, what Removable Disk Cartridges (RDX) offer as advantages over tape and regular hard drives, and how estimating, project management and job costing can effectively be done in the cloud. I’m beginning to think that Corecon might become my top selling construction software solution here in Arizona.

Questions after the lunch were as involved as during. I don’t recall who I was speaking to, but one contractor had an iPhone so I suggested he try the CardMunch app which lets you suck in all the business cards you collect when networking with general contractors, service providers and subcontractors at CFMA events. It’s owned by LinkedIn and the service is free.

For those that didn’t take notes or can’t recall the name of a particular product or service mentioned during the presentation, I am willing to share the powerpoint, just drop me a line. Hope to hear from you soon!

Federal Construction Contractors and the OFCCP Audit December 3, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, project management software, records retention.
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OFCCP AuditLast week the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Valley of the Sun Chapter had the pleasure of hearing from two fabulous Senior Compliance Officers, Mary Sneed-Hill and Cheryl Davis from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). As most road projects in Arizona are either Federal Contracts or Federal Assisted, there are a few compliance issues that will most likely come up when an Onsite Investigation commences. Records retention is paramount in avoiding violations and construction firms must prepare and educate more than just their Human Resources and Payroll departments.

All personnel and employment records made by the contractor must be preserved for at least two years for larger contractors, contractors with fewer than 150 employees or contracts less than $150,000, records must be kept for at least one year. These do not need to be in electronic format. You will find that electronic systems your contracting firm uses to distribute invitations to bid may not offer the ability to maintain copies of subtract solicitations to minority and female-owned businesses, a record of responses, and any follow-up within them. Computer based project management systems, estimating software and accounting solutions each may have a subset of the overall records you will need to produce in an OFCCP audit. It is likely that your standard systems will not track or produce all the necessary documentation.

The Phoenix District office of OFCCP shared that the most common record keeping error (found in 42 of 50 contractor’s evaluations in western states) is not following the Subcontractor Award Notification 41 CFR 60-4.2(d)(3) requiring you notify the OFCCP within 10 days of awards greater than $10,000. If you are new to federal contracting or haven’t had an audit yet. It’s best to be proactive and send in the notifications you forgot to (even when they are late). Perhaps some of the Bidding and Estimating systems will be proactive themselves in adding this form and a scheduled action or reminder to keep contract administrators on task for OFCCP compliance. Here’s a sample Subcontractor Award Notification form from OFCCP so you aren’t part of the 84% statistic:Notification of Award of Construction Contractors

Additional information can be found in the Technical Assistance Guide (PDF). Anyone may contact OFCCP for assistance interpreting the regulations, filing a complaint or other compliance matters
San Francisco Regional Office: (415) 625-7800
Phoenix District Office: (602) 514-7074
Las Vegas Field Office: (702) 388-6897
Internet: http://www.dol.gov/ofccp

Construction Project Managers Go Mobile September 1, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in communication, Construction Industry - Software, iPhone, Payroll Time Collection, project management software.
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Update September 27, 2010: Project Manager views Job Alerts on iPad using Corecon Mobile

Update: Project Manager uses iPhone to access construction documentation

Construction Project Managers main line of communication is their mobile device. Whether it’s texts, emails or phone calls your smartphone has become the primary tool of the trade. What’s missing? Applications designed to improve collaboration that you can navigate efficiently on your cell phone or iPad. Today I want to introduce you to what I suspect will be a best friend to homebuilders, architects, engineers, and commercial contractors and subcontractors. The Corecon Mobile solution. This is part one in a series of 5 posts on what construction project managers want access or update on a job when they are out of the office.

To be clear, Corecon is something that my firm markets to the construction industry and I believe that they’ve hit the nail on the head. First it won’t matter which smartphone you have. Corecon Mobile will work on all these devices:

* Apple – iPhone
* Apple – iPad
* Blackberry
* Google – Android
* Microsoft – Windows Mobile
* Palm – Palm OS

Wait, you did read that correctly…the iPad too. Corecon is a web-based estimating, project management and scheduling system that has managed to roll-out mobile apps at no cost to the Corecon client. No need for virtual servers, or IT staff to keep Corecon running. They believe in value and have delivered. So what areas of the Corecon system have they included in their first Mobile deployment? The list is impressive:

Construction project management on iPhone with Corecon Mobile

iPhone 3G Project Menu

Contact Management

* Companies
* Contacts

Project Leads

* Leads Listing
* Lead Directory
* Bid Calendar

Projects

* Project Directory
* Alerts
* Documentation
o Checklists
o Daily Log
o Meetings
o Owner Items
o Permits
o Punchlists
o Safety Accidents
* Correspondence
o Comply Notices
o Journals
o RFIs
o Submittals
o Transmittals
o Work Orders
* Time Entry
* Schedules
o Tasks
* Financials

All this with no need to install anything extra on your device. Just access to the internet and a subscription to Corecon. The mobile portion is free. In essence Corecon delivers value to their customers and their smartphones. Here’s a Comply Notice screenshot to wet your whistle.

HTC EVO 4G screen shot of Comply Notice using Corecon Mobile

Comply Notice on the HTC EVO 4G


Tune in tomorrow for more. Over the next few days we’ll be showcasing more than screen shots with actual video of just how easy it is to access, create, update and share these documents from the device of your choice. We’d like to hear what you think about the evolution of technology for managers in the field and on the go.

Update: Blackberry used by Project Manager to access contact directory in Corecon Mobile V7:

I should also mention that Corecon has a fabulous integration to Quickbooks, SAP and Simply Accounting so contractors won’t need to rekey the data and worry about transposing errors. Smaller firms can have all their accounting, estimating, project managmeent and scheudling in the Cloud so the overhead for fancy PCs, backups and loading updates is over. The future has arrived!

What has your construction firm been using your smartphone for other than email and phone calls? Leave comments and share this with others.

Construction Project Management Questions and Answers August 26, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, linkedin, project management software.
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Construction project management has many sources for great content. Software vendors, certification programs and forums abound that focus on the project manager and they create great content. Today I thought I mention a place where project management Q&A is happening, but perhaps you haven’t noticed it. With over 395 questions and answers already available I think it’s a good source for the beginner and expert alike. It’s not in the obvious places you’re used to looking, but actually inside LinkedIn Answers.

Here’s a screen shot of what construction project managers have asked and answered:Construction Project Management Questions

To access this in LinkedIn, Click on the More tab, then Answers, click the advanced answers tab, browse on the right and click on Business Operations, then project management. Don’t forget to enter “construction” in the keywords field. You should see a screen like this:
Questions and answers from Construction Project Managers
Perhaps you’ll want to chime in with your two cents of wisdom in one of these discusssions…or start your own!
You should also look into a few LinkedIn Groups…more on that in a future post. Suggestions & recommendations welcome.

Construction Software Partly Cloud(y) May 28, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, estimating, project management software.
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Cloud ComputingCloud computing at its basic level is accessing applications and data solely via the internet. No extra hardware or software needed, just a web browser and internet connection from your PC, smartphone or iPad. If you don’t need to backup, load updates, have a server or need full-time IT staff to keep it going, why isn’t everything in the cloud already?

Cloud Computing Perceptions: Speed, Security and Trust

Bandwidth is similar to a highway. It’s the infrastructure that connects everyone. If you have two lanes and 100 cars merging from one ramp their’s a traffic jam. It slows everything at that location to a crawl. Get a T1 or T3 line and be there alone…it’s lightening fast and you never wait. Back in my college days it was time-sharing and modem speeds of 1200 baud. Now we want live video streaming and instant access. While the major metro areas have availability, there are challenges where contractors work…the edges of the grid as cities expand. So the rule is as our cell service is so goes our connectivity and speed. Travel to a more rural area and there are still few choices with the only “high” speed option is satellite. Now I live in the Phoenix metro area so for me I’m good with bandwidth.

Another issue with speed is the platform design of the application. There are many mature software systems that did not start on the Internet and their cloud offering is actually a patchwork. This occurs frequently to computer software. Today’s programming language is tomorrows legacy. Try rewriting a million lines of code so it is .NET Framework 3.5 and you’ll understand that longevity of application is not an advantage but a burden. Some firms offer web collaboration but they still sell and maintain their legacy systems installed on their customer’s servers. And every customer is indirectly paying to keep the non-cloud based systems maintained and supported.

Security is what’s the track record and how much have I been influenced by the “disaster” stories the news has reported. With cloud access can’t someone steal my password and access my information? If their servers fail how long has it been since their last backup? With critical systems like email in the cloud can I afford to be down when gmail is attacked and aren’t the cloud systems more open to attacks? My answer is it depends. Who is your cloud service with? Is it a Tier 1 site, SAS 70 compliant and continually providing co-location of your data?

If you are considering cloud computing there are plenty to pick from put choosing wisely may be looking at the specific area of specialty. Here are a few I see the construction industry embracing:

MyAccountingCloud – offering the full slate of all Intuit Quickbooks Solutions including Quickbooks for Contractors, without sacrificing any features. What’s intriguing is that they host Intuit products better that Intuit does and are based here in Phoenix.

HighRise and Salesforce – customer relationship management has been in the cloud extensively and Salesforce has been a marketing engine. HighRise is also a contender from 37Signals as they promote software that’s easy. Both solutions have their advantages, offer many 3rd party add-ons and have smartphone apps to keep you connected at all times.

Corecon – provides estimating and project management for the construction industry. Corecon has lead tracking, estimating, invitation to bid collaboration, buy-out, scheduling, project documentation, detailed job costing, dashboards and tight integration to Quickbooks and SAP Business One, Corecon’s not only something to consider but a solution that my firm offers.

SmartBidNet – for the mid-sized to large general contractor this is a robust bid invitation and bid management system. With a prequalification module, and integration to on-line takeoff and estimating systems, its a great add-on to your existing technology solutions.

After you’ve looked at these solutions we’d like you to comment on your findings so the construction industry can stay informed and we can continue to provide free information. Please bookmark our site so you can post a comment later or if you already have experience with these, post a comment now. I appreciate it!

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