How has the construction industry embraced technology and innovation?
The construction and architecture industry has been very slow to adopt technology. But we've seen that change drastically in the past few years. There's been an influx of technologies that are hitting the market and we see a lot of venture capital money being poured into construction and architecture technology.
When I first started, using iPhones and iPads was considered innovative. Things have changed a lot. We're now using 3D scanners on our sites. We're flying drones to capture progress on job sites. There's quite a bit of technology out there and part of my job is to evaluate these technologies and see which ones bring value. 10,000ft was one of those applications that has proven to bring value and help make some of our processes more efficient.
We initially had a resourcing problem. At any given time, we have 30 or 40 projects running at once, and about 150 people to match up to those projects.
"10,000ft has really helped us identify where we can line up resources, not only for today, but a month, two months, or three months out."
When the company was smaller it was easy to manage using Salesforce and an Excel spreadsheet. As the company grew and we had more projects and more people, we needed something to help us visualize that, as opposed to just looking at a spreadsheet.
We came to a point where we would have guys sitting on the sideline and we wouldn't realize until the last minute — all of a sudden we have this guy and we don't have a project to put him on for two or three weeks, so what do we do with him? We're paying him to sit for two weeks. That’s what prompted us to jump into a tool like this.
10,000ft has really helped us identify where we can line up resources, not only for today, but a month, two months, or three months out. We can see what's coming down the pipe, who's coming off a job, who's coming on a job, and where we can move resources. So it's been a huge help from the resource management standpoint.
It's been quite a ride seeing the company grow from 15 people to 150. With that growth comes some pain points, like trying to match resources to projects. We have specific skillsets based on the type of project. It might be an industrial project, it might be a ground up construction, or one might be an interior fit-out, and each resource has their own specialty.
Initially we tried to leverage Salesforce for resource management, just because that's where the opportunities came in, and we started working with one of their third-party applications. But we were trying to make Salesforce do something that it wasn't really designed to do.
It got to a point where I started looking around and came across 10,000ft. To be honest, I didn't see many other resource management tools out there, and nothing geared towards construction. This was one tool that fits into the way we do things in construction. I think the labor forecasting component is something that’s missing a lot in the construction industry.
When I saw the gantt chart and the schedule view, I was like, "This is exactly what we're looking for — something like this that we can visualize." At that moment I knew 10,000ft would be a great solution for us.
"10,000ft has been a big help helping us visual scheduling data as opposed to a flat excel sheet with names and dates on it."
We use it in a few different ways.
One is for time capture. All of our time cards are done through 10,000ft and people enter time against their projects. Halfway through the payroll period, we send out a link to the team, just so they can see where time is being allocated. We send that report out by resource, then send it out by project, so people can look at their projects, make sure they should be putting time against those projects, and see where people are allocating their time.
The forecasting piece is also a great tool for us. As far as I've seen, there's not a great forecasting tool out there for labor. We do a little bit of forecasting in Procore, but not to the extent that we can do it in 10,000ft. It allows us to lay out our budget from a labor standpoint, shift around start and end dates, and move resources around to see how that affects our end budget.
We also use it for staffing. We have a full-time recruiter on the team and finding talent in this industry is tough. So, before we go look for people, we check and see if we can utilize someone from another project. Sometimes we can't, so that's his flag to go out and start looking for somebody new. So from a recruiting standpoint and a forecasting standpoint, 10,000ft has been a huge help for us.
"We have a staffing meeting that occurs every couple weeks, where they pull up the 10,000ft schedule view to really identify where the holes are."
We're sharing how much time has been allocated to each project. Like I mentioned, we're sending out a link to those reports to the entire company halfway through the payroll period, and again towards the end. That allows them to make adjustments to their time if they need to.
Each project executive is in charge of their delivery unit and may have four or five projects to manage at once. We encourage them to use the resource management component of 10,000ft to adjust dates and move people around. We always try to get them to keep an eye on the forecasting piece, too.
We track each one of our projects in a pretty detailed schedule, using Oracle P6 Primavera, which is a construction scheduling tool. But the start and end dates often shift. Your end date could move out 30 days, or it could move back. So as that date changes, we update it in 10,000ft and then we can see how that affects our budget.
And we might have to bill the owner of the project if there's additional time involved. 10,000ft allows us to see it ahead of time as opposed to waiting until the last two or three weeks of the project. Having that conversation earlier with an owner is a lot easier, rather than in the last couple weeks.
We also encourage people to use the project pages, and bring them up in their meetings. We have a staffing meeting that occurs every couple weeks, where they pull up the 10,000ft schedule view to really identify where the holes are. We use placeholders to identify which positions we have to fill in those meetings.
"We do a little bit of forecasting in Procore, but not to the extent that we can do it in 10,000ft."
Throughout the lifecycle of the construction project, our main application is Procore, which manages all our contracts, change orders, drawings, RFIs, and submittals. Just about everything project delivery related lives in Procore — it’s our central hub. We also use Slack here and there for project communication.
There's really no resource management tool in Procore. So, before the project starts, we use 10,000ft to allocate resources.
We start entering the project budget and setting up contracts in Procore. Then we enter the labor portion of the budget in 10,000ft. Our budgets are very detailed, broken out by hundreds of cost codes. But the labor portion gets taken from Procore and then gets entered into 10,000ft, which allows us to track against our budget.
We use something called a PTC (percent to close) on each deal. It's a number scale from one to five, one being the lowest, five being the highest probability that we'll win it. Once an opportunity hits a four, that's our flag to start looking at resources for the project. And once we have a contract signed, it moves to a five. We try and stay ahead of that by looking at those fours and using 10,000ft to make sure we have staff ready for those projects. They go right into 10,000ft so we start to track time against them.
We started using it for time entry, so that helped a lot. That forced people into the system. If they wanted to get paid, they had to enter their time. But once I showed them the value of seeing the budget and being able to move resources in and out, and dates in and out, it really opened their eyes.
We rolled it out company-wide. I had numerous training sessions where I would invite everybody and we had a lot of team members show up. After that I sat with each project executive and said, "Give me your budgets for your projects. Let's sit down and I'm going to show you how to enter this." Once they had the data in there, they saw the value right away.
The time that goes into managing the bench. We try and keep people lined up in case we have a project that comes up. But if we're not ready for that, we could lose a couple weeks off of a project, and that lost time equates to dollars.
Our Chief People Officer is relieved now that we have a tool like this to help management. Otherwise he's scrambling. He hates that last minute, "You have somebody for this project for next week?" 10,000ft really helps keep those available people on the radar.
Absolutely. I think once a company reaches a certain size, you need a tool to help you manage resources. I would recommend 10,000ft for a company of any size. Otherwise, if you don’t have a tool to help you manage it all, you're going to miss things.
I would absolutely recommend 10,000ft for not only construction companies, but any type of company that's matching resources to projects. It's absolutely brought a lot of value to Hollister.
Hollister Construction Services is a pre-eminent commercial construction services firm in the NY Metro area. Their team of exceptionally talented people utilize the latest in technology and embrace best practices in project management to deliver award-winning results.
Stephen Knapp brings over 18 years of information technology experience overseeing the development, implementation, and use of technology. As Hollister’s IT leader, Steve ensures that Hollister remains at the forefront of the industry in terms of technology and innovation.