In a recent webinar, Acumatica spoke with a panel of experts on navigating COVID-19 challenges. They offer some sage advice for construction professionals, including the wisdom of implementing cloud-based construction and accounting software.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including pivoting to a remote working model, are being felt by businesses in every industry. Construction firms are particularly challenged with a workforce split between the office and project sites. A panel of experts suggest that embracing the new state of work and implementing cloud-based construction and accounting software, such as Acumatica Construction Edition, can help make the shift to a remote-based business virtually seamless.

Navigating COVID-19 challenges

In a recent webinar, Ajoy Krishnamoorthy, VP Construction, Acumatica moderated a panel of industry professionals about the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel included Dawne Meijer, Controller, Pin Oak Corpus Christi; Stuart Binstock, President and CEO, Construction Management Financial Association (CMFA); Mike Griffith, Managing Partner, Alliance Solutions Group; and Warren Hennagin, Partner, Marcum LLP.

Like all of us, they’ve had to adjust their business processes to overcome the COVID-19 challenges. They took time out of their busy schedules to share what has been working and to offer advice for those in the same situation.

Dawne, the Controller for Pin Oak Corpus Christi, a storage and logistics company that serves North America’s crude, refined product, and chemical industries, says for them, Acumatica’s construction and accounting solution has ensured business continuity during the crisis. Pin Oak has smoothly transitioned its employees from working in the office to working at home because of that decision.

In fact, this transition was already in the works before the pandemic hit. “We were going to do it around March 13th. We checked out monitors to people, sent laptops home, and then we never came back into the office,” Dawne says. “It’s been a challenge, but our organization has rallied.”

Having their construction and accounting software in the cloud has been a tremendous help. “We don’t have to worry about the server back in the office we have to VPN into. The transition for accounting, projects, and purchasing was pretty seamless. We could pick up and go.”

Pin Oak is an Alliance Solutions Group client. Dawne says they participate in Alliance Solutions Group’s “Customer for Life” program, which provides online training, support, and conferencing. “In the last month, we’ve been using a lot of the resources to even further automate and streamline our processes.”

Mike, a managing partner at Alliance Solutions Group, considers Dawne’s company ahead of the curve. Many of his other clients, including construction contractors, are running on legacy systems. They are uncovering insufficiencies and areas of improvement since their employees have been working remotely and are just now requesting information on cloud-based solutions that highlight productivity.

While there are many cloud-based applications available, such as Procore, that can help them do their jobs, Mike says having only part of their operation in the cloud isn’t going to cut it. They need a flexible, comprehensive ERP system for construction companies, such as Acumatica Construction Edition, that lets them work from home and/or on the project site, and the system needs to be able to handle all—not some—of their processes.

Acumatica Construction Edition gives general contractors, home builders, land developers and subcontractors access to real-time data in the cloud, including project reports, contracts, budgets, plans, purchase orders, change orders, and more from a central system. Additionally, accessing their data and communicating with their teams is possible from any internet-enabled device whenever they need, from wherever they are.

Helping others during the crisis

The Navigating COVID-19 Construction Challenges webinar also touched on how organizations, like the Construction Financial Management Association (CMFA) and Marcum LLP, are providing businesses with tools and resources that can help them continue operating in today’s altered reality.

For example, Marcum LLP, the 14th largest CPA firm in the United States, is helping their construction clients with understanding how the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans work. Warren, a partner at Marcum, advises businesses to be diligent in utilizing the money as soon as they receive it. “The day it gets funded, the clock starts. You need to start accounting for it from day one.”

He says that businesses have eight weeks to spend the money, 75% of which must be used for payroll and payroll costs with the other 25% going towards rent and utilities. If a business follows that criteria, the loan is forgiven. A recent Forbes article lays out the details even further.

CMFA has also been helping businesses with many resources, including webinars and the COVID-19 Resource Center. The online resource is organized by topic with job site, finance, industry, and risk updates as well as industry news and other websites to refer to. It is accessible and free of charge for members and non-members.

Another online resource by CMFA is the Connection Café, a forum for the organization’s 9,000 U.S. and Canadian members where they can post questions for other members to answer. Stuart, President and CEO of CMFA, says the outpouring of advice and help during the last two months has been “heartwarming” as “everyone is chipping in.” Stuart also says that CMFA’s annual conference, which was scheduled for this month, is now a virtual conference starting June 22, 2020 through June 26, 2020. CMFA is offering 26.5 CPE credits, and attendees are allowed to watch the trainings live or on demand up until September 30, 2020 to earn them.

“This flexibility was key for us moving forward,” he says. “It’s a win-win for our members.”

Closing words of advice for navigating the COVID-19 crisis

The panelists offered some closing words of advice for those in the construction industry:

  • Monitor your backlog. There may be work now, but are you out there bidding for future projects? You should also be monitoring your cash flow (especially if people begin to hoard as we have seen with other products) and monitoring your supplies. Currently, domestic supplies seem to be available but imported supplies are delayed; your supplies are your lifeline, so stay on top of what you need.
  • Continue to social distance, wash hands, wear masks, and think about implementing Acumatica’s COVID-19 Wellness Tracker, which can help you monitor your employees’ health while out in the field.
  • Take advantage of the government loans that are still available and educate yourself on the regulations.

Finally, if you’re running your business on a legacy construction and accounting software system, it’s time to move to the cloud. Acumatica is a flexible solution that provides users access to constantly updated data from anywhere, at any time. It allows contractors to connect to a single source of truth, increase their productivity, and to make informed decisions that will move their businesses forward.

“A cloud solution is the way to go because it’s so easy. Just log in—nothing different than just sitting in an office. You can see the same screens, everything is exactly the same,” Dawne says. “It’s important you have that accessibility for your operation and your project managers so they can see what’s going on in their projects. What invoices are there? Do we need to do change orders on purchases? And things like that so businesses [can move] along pretty normally. I’m proud our organization is doing so well with the system and not missing a beat.”

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