Expert Insights from BuildOps: Glen West
Apr. 5, 2022
BuildOps is here to help contractors grow and scale their businesses by using a cloud-based, all-in-one operations and field service management software platform designed for commercial specialty contractors.
We iterate our platform, not only through intelligent leadership and precise strategy but from experienced industry experts who believe in our long-term vision.
Glen West, Head of Growth, brings over 30 years of construction technology experience into BuildOps. Before joining BuildOps he had experienced it all, from early construction technology based on minicomputers and first-generation personal computers (PC) to the complex relationships between vendors, customers, and Value Added Resellers while a partner at Alliance Solutions Group.
Now Glen brings his expert view of construction technology to us, and we want to share his thoughts on the current and future landscape of commercial construction and service software.
Construction Technology is Changing
Back in 1984, when I started work with an engineering contractor, our first personal computer had a 4.7Mhz processor, 1MB RAM, and 10 MB of storage.
Most commercial computers were single-use and single-purpose machines meant to do a single job causing rigid workflows and operational limitations like word processing or graphics.
Until recently, the biggest change in my career happened at Timberline Software Corp. in 1992. We released the first construction accounting software with a graphical user interface (GUI) and supported multiple operating systems like Windows 3.1 and IBM OS/2.
GUI solutions are commonplace today; look at your smartphone or a laptop but in the early 90s construction firms were used to green screens, line printers, and large dollar solutions from a single source solution like IBM, Texas Instruments, or Prime Computer.
That GUI software changed the industry and became the standard with over 20,000 solutions sold.
Alliance Solutions Group started in 2005 because we noticed the need for local resources focused on the construction industry to help companies adopt and use the latest PC technologies and solutions.
Alliance focused on offering the most current software solutions that improved operational efficiency delivered via locally networked computers with sales, consulting, and support provided by local professionals.
We, at Alliance, believed that software shouldn’t create more work; it should reduce inefficiencies and increase revenue. Our differentiator was our commitment to the industry but also to the local markets.
From On-premise to the Cloud
Over the last 10 years, we have seen construction technology buyers change their focus from GUI solutions to SQL databases to mobile (cellular) solutions to hosted cloud servers to focused internet apps designed to address single point requirements to our current environment where software firms offer cloud platforms delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) with sophisticated web service interface capabilities.
The latest advancements were accelerated during the pandemic. Work restrictions made it imperative that resources could easily complete all of their work tasks remotely without complex hardware requirements.
Another trend we find is that younger software users expect the same experience within work-based solutions that they have at home or on their phones. And finally, these remote users expect their data to be available and reportable.
Cloud platforms let businesses use the best software for their needs, integrate to share data, and reduce in-house technical costs.
The Blind Spot in Construction Technology
I spent most of my career focused on construction enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions driven by accounting. These solutions typically offer single-vendor software including service, payroll, project management, modules, and more.
In that world, the financial team drove the software decision and the operations team may or may not have had a seat at the table. That focus on back office solutions was a blind spot.
Most decisions today include more stakeholders, but I believe the market has moved toward operations-focused software decisions and de-emphasized accounting.
This team approach allows a win for all groups involved when they make an integrated decision where all get the best software for their group. Employees expect investment in best-in-class tools and platforms that help them do their job.
Companies realize operations are where work is won, managed, and completed. The priority shifted to customer and field service employee/technician satisfaction because these are directly related to the tools used.
Specialized accounting platforms and solutions don’t actively think about operations. And construction management platforms and solutions don’t always consider the importance of accounting.
BuildOps is different. It is designed for commercial subcontractors and offers sophisticated service and project management but recognizes the importance of accounting to any healthy organization. Accounting integrations are a priority for BuildOps for this very reason.
The future is connected cloud solutions. Accounting tells business owners if their company is fiscally healthy. Operations tell them how to manage the work and process the transactions to deliver on every job. In many cases, transactions that happen in operations end up as transactions in accounting, revealing company health.
Here are examples
- When operations bill a customer, that document is an invoice for the customer, property, or project but is also an accounts receivable transaction for accounting which impacts financial statements.
- When operations issue a purchase order (PO), it tracks what is needed and ordered. Accounting looks at the PO as a committed cost that will be paid in the future. When the material is received and the invoice matched, it impacts both operations and accounting.
- When the payment arrives from a customer, it updates in the operations solution so the field staff knows the client has paid, but it is also a cash receipt deposited in the bank, updates the general ledger, and reduces accounts receivable.
These examples show how interconnected operations and accounting are and stress the importance of integrating both platforms the right way. Cloud-based platforms share information and sync in real-time, but integrations are essential for this to work.
One of the reasons I am here at BuildOps is to help people understand how a cloud operations platform, like BuildOps, can work seamlessly with a financial ERP.
Why BuildOps is the Future of Construction Technology
The market is changing. Many features, usually handled in accounting, make more sense in operations. BuildOps’ construction and commercial contractor platform understand this workflow.
I predict that in 10 years when someone refers to ERP it will relate to an operations platform and not accounting. Accounting will be for records and financial reporting only. Powerful, thoughtful, and timely accounting integrations change the way commercial service and construction contractors make technology decisions.
A robust cloud construction and service operations platform with intentional accounting integrations is what the industry needs and BuildOps offers that now.