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How Technology Is Transforming Business Monitoring For Australia's Tradies

For small businesses, technology can make the difference in driving your company ahead and setting you apart from your competition. But the challenge is: how do you get there? Microsoft can help make the benefits of modern technology a reality for your business. Learn more at http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/business/modern-biz/business-anywhere/
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Mobile technology is transforming the Australian construction sector, helping tradies run their businesses more efficiently and providing insights on projects and staffing that have never been possible before.

While the network of Australia’s tradies have probably been slower to adopt software solutions to manage their teams and jobs, the ones that have are seeing the benefits.

Demand for cloud-based solutions from small businesses is increasing, making room for companies like consultancy TradiePad which sets up electricians, plumbers and builders, for example, with mobile solutions which cut the paperwork and increase the amount of information tradies can gather about their businesses.

TradiePad learning and development manager, Joshua Orr, told Business Insider that in his experience, builders usually have similar pain points, especially when it comes to costing jobs and monitoring progress on a project. Technology allows them to cost accurately and follow a build in real-time.

“They’ve got guys filling out time sheets and they want to be able to allocate that time to a specific area so they can see, at every single stage, exactly where their build is up to, when they’re going over budget, when they’re going under budget,” Orr said.

The management side of of the building game is complex, with businesses having to deal with subcontractors, clients, employees and suppliers, often running multiple sites. Management tends to be on the tools by day and typically on a computer quoting and invoicing at night.

“They all have exactly the same pain point. It was: ‘how do I see exactly where a job’s up to at any given point? How do I access that information live?’ and typically, at best, it’s been tracked in Excel files.”

Future Build owner, Brad Mackenzie told Business Insider rolling out tablets to his team and a number of apps, including Xero, Workflow Max and BuildSoft, to his six staff this year had already improved his operations.

Before using mobile apps and tablets his company used hard-copy time sheets, purchase order books and invoicing with all the data checked and entered in manually by his office staff.

Here’s what he’s noticed since upgrading his technology.

Less paperwork

Mackenzie said the manual processes meant he never had a clear view of job progress and how he was tracking against cost plans at any point in a project. He’s realised there are easier ways to run parts of his business that were becoming a time-sapping risk.

All his staff now have tablets on site which they use to enter time sheet information, purchase orders and leave applications which are all sent straight back to the office and stored in the cloud.

“There’s no requirement for a hard copy of anything,” he said. “It just gives you a heaps better dashboard of where you’re up to in your business.”

Knowing where staff are, and what they’re doing

Running on average about 10 jobs at a time worth about $450,000 each, Mackenzie has a lot of subcontractors, clients, orders and information to deal with.

Each hour and order needs to be billed out to a client, and by digitising everything he now has an accurate way of monitoring time spent on each task.

Staff now enter time spent on each job daily and the information is available immediately to Mackenzie and his office staff, ready to be billed.

The real time flow of information enables Mackenzie to “keep a better eye on costings”.

Orr said, “Keeping track of where they’re up to as they’re running but it all ties into the fact that when they do this first estimate they might say it takes 10 hours on one spot, 20 hours on the next spot but really it’s just guesses. Unless they have an accurate way of figuring out where it is.”

Order tracking and better client management

Getting rid of paper purchase order books and going digital makes reconciling orders and keeping tack of costs easier and more transparent.

All his work is done on a quoted basis and being able to see where the bottle necks are in terms of time spent on different tasks and material costs, he’s able to be more transparent with his clients and get a better insight into his business.

“If you’re not in front with your costs you’re not doing well,” he said, adding using the apps and cloud software with mobile technology he now has a real time view of how a specific job is tracking against a quoted cost.

Mackenzie has the tech bug and he’s now looking at taking that level of insight and transparency further by developing a client login so owners can see what’s happening at the site and what’s scheduled for next week.

The real time flow of information enables Mackenzie to “keep a better eye on costings”.

Orr said, “Keeping track of where they’re up to as they’re running but it all ties into the fact that when they do this first estimate they might say it takes 10 hours on one spot, 20 hours on the next spot but really it’s just guesses. Unless they have an accurate way of figuring out where it is.”

A leaner, better business

Using tech on site is enabling tradies to systemise, centralise and scale their business and not waste time pricing jobs.

“It’s making us more competitive,” Mackenzie said, adding his office is more efficient and his staff aren’t wasting time with paperwork and communicating or clarifying information manually.

Having all the information in one place also means less doubling up, Orr said.

“The other really big benefit they now get out of it is being about to template a lot of this stuff they do day-to-day,” he said.

“Once they’ve done a bathroom renovation the next one is almost identical.

“The cost might change here and there because it might be a different sink but really they can kind of cookie cut this stuff.

“They can just tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and it builds an entire project for them in a couple of seconds, where again previously that would’ve been hours sitting there with an Excel file.”

Taking out the guesswork

By looking at the data, managers are able to get smarter and boost accuracy when it comes to costing and estimating jobs.

“They know exactly where their costs are going and where their expenses are going,” Orr said.

“If they’ve been guessing wrong for ten years straight they now know that.”

Longer term, Mackenzie hopes all this technology will enable him to “take a back seat eventually” and get a helicopter view.

“There’s no limit to it,” he said. “You think you’re at the cutting edge of it but you’re just scratching the surface.”

NOW READ: Here’s How Shoes Of Prey Built Its Astounding Business By Getting To Know Its Customers

For small businesses, technology can make the difference in driving your company ahead and setting you apart from your competition. But the challenge is: how do you get there? Microsoft can help make the benefits of modern technology a reality for your business. Learn more at http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/business/modern-biz/business-anywhere/
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