VPN Connectivity Gives Regional Company Full Control
North American Development
Knoxville, Tennessee; Houston, Texas; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; New York, New York
North American Development is not your typical construction firm. The co-owners live thousands of miles apart, one in Texas and the other in Florida and New York, while production personnel for the residential construction division are situated in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"Our people are located in diverse geographic regions, so I knew that we needed a lot out of a project management system," said Richard Morgan, co-owner and Chief Financial Officer. "We needed a system that offered networking and remote connectivity options on top of its project management capabilities. We needed a system that could not only connect our estimates and schedules, but also be compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook, because that's what we were using. We also send quite a few documents by e-fax and email, our system needed to work with that as well."
After looking at various construction software packages, Richard chose UDA ConstructionOffice NT, a 10-user network version to suit his company's needs. "With my business partner living in Ft. Lauderdale and New York, me living here in Dallas, and our residential employees in Knoxville, we needed to be able to access our information from anywhere in the world."
To obtain this type of connectivity, the people at North American Development set up a virtual private network (VPN), which creates a secure tunnel to the company's local area network in Knoxville. Richard said that through the VPN connection, they have literally been able to access essential project information from anywhere in the world. "My partner was actually looking at UDA Job Cost reports from China recently."
But the success of any software integration ultimately depends on how it is implemented by the company. For Richard, it was important to utilize ConstructionOffice for every aspect of the residential division's operations. "It is fully integrated with our business. If I didn't have UDA, I'd have to have something like it, or I couldn't run my company. It's improved our project flow, it's allowed us to build more homes faster, and we're able to track our costs better which helps us save money. We save money and time, and that's all the building business is - money and time."
"ConstructionOffice enables us to track our costs by category, and not just by house. We can use the UDA tools to segment the production where I can just look at my framing schedule and we can manage crews instead of having to view every build in the subdivision. It's a good feature when you have multiple projects in progress. Right now, we have a few big projects going on -one in Houston and one down in South Florida, and we're also looking at some land in Southern California."
Richard purchased a 10 user license for the residential division, and his employees depend on UDA ConstructionOffice. "I've got 2 employees unlimited on a daily basis, and then people doing the print outs and production reports. Everything we use is supplied by UDA. All of our production managers go in and get their respective reports Thursday morning at seven. I've got one person full time doing nothing but reporting and data updates, and UDA is the primary tool for making that happen."
"I also have a purchasing manager that is in charge of purchasing all of the materials and bidding everything out. Every single house that we have under construction has a UDA Budget in it, and that UDA Budget is attached to a UDA schedule. Those have to be built before we start construction and approved by the project manager and the general manager of the company. Out of that, we produce a customized weekly production report, which is our estimate of cash forecasting on that house over a 16-18 week construction cycle."
"Our internal production clerk visits each subdivision on Wednesdays and updates the production reports in UDA based off of our schedules. He supplements those reports with digital photographs that he's able to attach inside the UDA files. Having the photographs available in our estimates and schedules is very helpful."
"If I want to look at production in the field, I can literally see a snapshot of the foundation or framing job from China - I can get that photograph from inside our ConstructionOffice estimates and schedules. I look each project over and under - I compare budget vs. actual, not just in dollars, but also in time and progress with the UDA reports that we use." With advanced functionality such as this, ConstructionOffice gives Richard the ability to effectively manage projects from a distance.
He attributes the company's effective integration of ConstructionOffice to their mindset and approach when they first received the software. "I think that people who buy project management software don't generally take the time to learn what it can do, and consequently, they don't end up getting as much value out of the product that they could get if they just spent more time and energy on the front end."
While it only took Richard's residential company two weeks to implement and begin to use the network solution, he admits that it took a couple of months to get it fully integrated into their daily and weekly processes. "We were up and running within two weeks. A few of the nuances and more subtle things took a little while longer to get into, but it was fairly quick."
"Construction people can be pretty hardheaded sometimes, and getting them to use a new tool is not always an easy thing. It took a while for some of my guys, but after about 60 days, they were raving over it. Once they really saw what ConstructionOffice could do and the information it provided, they totally embraced it."
Because they took the time to fully integrate ConstructionOffice within their business, the residential development division found great success with UDA project management software. "We played around with a couple of other pieces of software on a test basis before we chose UDA. To me, when you think about scalability, UDA ConstructionOffice is probably the best model for the small and medium companies."
"Based off of what we know about some of the larger builders - the big New York Stock Exchange type builders who are building thousands of homes per year, we really don't believe that they have anything on us. From an information gathering and reporting perspective, we literally don't think they can do anything that we can't do - they can just do more of it. With UDA, I wouldn't be uncomfortable managing 500 homes a year and 50 subdivisions a year."
Quick Facts about North American Development
Locations: Knoxville, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, New York
Industry: Property Development / Residential Construction
Projects per year: 7 Subdivisions, 100 Homes
Years in the business: 5
Number of Employees: 10