[ Back ]   [ More News ]   [ Home ]
July 10, 2006
A Sage Solution for the Construction Industry
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on AECcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each AEC Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the AEC industry, AEC product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by AECCafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

About this Issue….


Welcome to AECWeekly!

Sage Timberline Office 9.3 is the newest version Sage’s integrated financial and operations software for the construction and real estate industries. In an interview with AECWeekly, Erin-Todd Hansen, product director, tells about what led up to the new version. Hansen has been with the company for 14 years (and was formerly with Timberline which was acquired three years ago).


AECWeekly is a news magazine featuring important industry news profiles, a summary of recently published AEC product and company news, customer wins, and coming events. Brought to you by AECCafe.


AECWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Announcements, Financials, Contract Awards, Awards, People, New Products, Around the Web, and Upcoming Events.


AECWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think.
Please send me your comments


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor


Industry News


A Sage Solution for the Construction Industry

by Susan Smith


Sage Timberline Office 9.3 is the newest version Sage’s integrated financial and operations software for the construction and real estate industries. In an interview with AECWeekly, Erin-Todd Hansen, product director, tells about what led up to the new version. Hansen has been with the company for 14 years (and was formerly with Timberline which was acquired three years ago).


What has transpired in the years you have been with the company?


ETH: I was the product director for the release in which we introduced the Setup Central Wizard and some other tools referenced in the 9.3 release. Sage Timberline Office makes software for estimators, project managers and accountants. These tools were designed to help our smaller clients with less complex operations quickly implement their construction accounting software – for the accountants and contract administrators.


The accounting software was successful when it first came out, but we always had challenges implementing the software. Our reputation was for software that was customizable but it was not inexpensive to have implemented into your system. The reason for this was there are so many decisions and so many reports that you might want to customize. We wanted to see if there was an easier way for our customers to come on line.


The Setup Central tool is an interview tool – much like Turbo Tax or HR Block Online – that interviews you about your business, the industry you with within, e.g., residential, electrical, commercial, etc., gathers your starting balances and then creates your company behind the scenes for you. The motivation behind this tool is to reduce the time and cost to get implemented, so our clients can get up and going as quickly as possible. We also introduced tools called “Workflow Centers” that provide a graphical representation of workflow for specific roles in a construction business. At the new users’ fingertips they’ve got one-click access to the most
commonly used reports, tasks and answers to questions for people just getting started.


Main Menu

[
When you look at traditional project management/construction accounting software, there’s a main hub window with menus to pull down for tasks, setup, reports, etc. If you’re coming off a low end solution like Peachtree or QuickBooks, it can be a big shock because you’ve just bought this really specialized accounting and job costing solution. We’ve built this graphical orientation into the software, so you can actually see a diagrammed workflow by role, so whether you’re the contract administrator or the controller or payroll person, you can see the workflow you would perform within the software, in one quick action. It makes it easy for someone who’s not
software savvy to really get up and going quite quickly. We have a tool called Timberline Office Desktop which gives you one quick access to most common reports. This is linked to an online knowledge base which is actually a standard that we use for the rest of the Sage Organization.


Specifically, what are the best practices Sage customers have pinpointed and what has Sage done in this release to address those needs?


ETH: This pertains to how clients set up their software. Examples include:

  • Ready-made cost coding structures to better manage costs for their industry (although the client can use their own custom formats),


  • Special ways to track the workers’ comp associated with the type of work being performed to ensure you don’t over pay your insurance which happens all to frequently,


  • Specialized productivity, forecasting and analysis tools and reports based on the industry of the contractor,



  • We also introduced new functionality to make data entry easier for the implementation and setting up jobs after going live. For example, we support cut and paste into our data grids. Let’s say the client is using Excel to do their estimating, they can copy and paste that information directly into the Job Setup window in which we have all of the estimate info. Same thing for the schedule of values.


    We spent 6-9 months doing research on best practices around not only how individual companies of a particular industry type such as electrical, mechanical, residential, commercial, set up and run their businesses. But we also looked at best practices just in terms of how to implement software, or take something complex and interact with the user in such a way that you’re speaking to them in layman’s terms and behind the scenes figuring out something that will be of use to them. A good example is TurboTax. Our friends over at Intuit have done a nice job of interviewing people about taxes and do it in such a way that makes sense to users, i.e., tax filing information is created
    behind the scenes. Many tax tools such as HR block really shine in that way.


    QuickBooks has an interview tool which you don’t see it at the middle market, which is where we consider ourselves to be. We also wanted to make it easy for customers to get in their starting balances but have the software do reconciliations and make sure the balances tie out just right. Accountants are generally busy people and it’s a nerve wracking thing to switch accounting systems. We want to reduce anxiety for the accountants and contract administrators. That’s what Setup Central is about.


    What tasks does Timberline Office 9.3 address that are specific to the Construction Industry?


    Workflow

    [
    STH: Obviously we have tailored the Setup Central wizard to hit the most common construction industries. We also help developers and property managers with the tool as well. In terms of what we might be doing after the wizard, we have those Workflow Centers I mentioned above. The available workflow centers include – Accounts Payable, Billing and Accounts Receivable, the Controller, Job Costing and Contract Administration, Payroll and general monthly tasks. Since our software is tailored for construction, all of these features are specific to the various industries. The other tool we introduced for after you go live is Job Central. It is really all about automating the process to
    as quickly as possible set up your most common jobs and contracts. If you have some very specialized construction tasks you need to track, we already have that plumbed into the software. What we wanted to do was really streamline the steps for getting a job, contract, estimates, etc. set up.


    Some providers of this genre of construction management software have stated that their biggest competitors are email and the fax machine. Would you say this is true of your software, and if so, how do you accommodate users who wish to make the shift from using the fax machine to using your solutions?


    STH: For accounting software, we just acquired our largest competitor – Master Builder. For our project management software, our largest competitors are Meridian’s Prolog and Primavera’s Expedition. But, project management is one of our fastest selling applications and sales are now accelerating now that we’ve reached a core level of functionality. As the product director for that application, I couldn’t be happier. For our Estimating software, our #1 competitor is Excel.


    What about compatibility?


    STH: What we’ve done to differentiate ourselves from Prolog and Expedition is we’ve embraced the integrated approach. Our project management software is fully integrated into Timberline Office. They focus wholly on project management and we’ve tried to make it so it’s designed so a project manager only needs to get into project management, but we realize from a reporting standpoint, it would be very convenient to have that all integrated. It’s designed so if you’re a small organization, you can launch everything from the desktop if you want to and you have everything at your fingertips. If you’re a larger organization and you have role
    specialization, project accounts, project management, you can divvy up the individual tasks that make up the various attributes of the software based on the role of the individual.


    We’ve also designed our software so other software can be launched from within the desktop. This would not be our first choice, but if someone opted to buy our accounting software and was using the Prolog product, they could have it integrated from a launching standpoint, within the Timberline Office desktop. You don’t want to have to jump all over the place as you’re working through your day.


    What is the breakdown of Sage Software, the
    company?


    STH: Sage Software has more than 2.6 million small and mid-size business customers in North America. Sage Software is a subsidiary of The Sage Group plc, formed in 1981 and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989. The Sage Group now has 5 million customers and employs more than 10,500 people worldwide.
    About 3 years ago Sage Software acquired Timberline Software and we became a division now called the Sage Construction and Real Estate division.
    We also acquired the ContractorAnywhere product. We now have three major products under the Sage Construction Real Estate division.


    Trends that you might be watching


    STH: We have our own research tools internally. I keep my eye on Autodesk and their acquisition of Constructware which gives them everything in house to do that integration. Competition is a good thing. The customer gets choice and there are fresh ideas going into the pipelines. With consolidation we can take advantage of the best of the products that exist.


    I see the whole wireless paradigm as being something that could shake things up. We’ve seen websites growing in prominence and I think they are here to stay. The introduction of wireless and Microsoft’s SharePoint. ‘Collaboration’ is a buzzword right now. The ability to go online both within your own company and with your partners and owners in construction projects and being able to share documentation and interact with the same document online whether it’s an RFI or a change request, etc. is a great productivity boon because you can do this remotely. SharePoint has the potential to allow contractors to develop their own websites to facilitate a collaboration.
    Today people use ASPs for collaboration, which are costly. If Microsoft can lower the cost so that you can buy the software yourself and maintain it, that could shake things up. With wireless, I could potentially log straight into the software, go online, and with bandwidth improving, I could key in my timesheets right then there wouldn’t need to have a website in between.


    In terms of actual products, there are new products on the virtual or visual estimating side of things. There are inexpensive tools on the marketplace now that used to be affordable only to those who could buy JD Edwards or Oracle. Example: a product that reads your whole database and then automatically emails and notifies you of issues that come up.


    What about the future for Timberline Office?


    STH: I think there will be more acquisition as companies reach a certain level and branch out into new markets. Every twelve years in Timberline’s history has come out with its next generation. We are working on those things now.


    Announcements


    CH2M HILL, a global full-service engineering, construction, and operations firm, emphasized its strong commitment to safety by signing the World Safety Declaration on June 28, 2006. The company joined other industry leaders including DuPont, British Petroleum, General Electric and CEMEX.


    Financials


    Oce Announces Results for the Second Quarter and First Six Months of 2006


    Intergraph Announces Date for Second Quarter 2006 Financial Results


    netGuru Reports Fiscal 2006 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Financial Results from Continuing Operations; Excludes REI and French Subsidiary Due to Sale


    Contract Awards


    Michael Baker Jr., Inc., an engineering unit of Michael Baker Corporation, announced that the design/build (D/B) team of Desbuild, Inc., and Baker, has been awarded a $13.5 million D/B contract from the Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) of the U.S. Department of State (DOS). Baker will be providing architectural and engineering design services valued at approximately $850,000, and Desbuild will provide construction services for a new, two- story, 2100-square-meter, office building annex (NOX) for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) facility within the U.S. Embassy Compound in Kingston, Jamaica.


    Awards


    Graphisoft, a global leader in Virtual Building solutions, is a recipient of the 2006 Constructech Hottest Company Award in the commercial sector. This award recognizes Graphisoft's Virtual Construction(TM) solution as the first commercially available application to integrate all the core processes required to successfully deliver construction projects to completion. By linking design, estimating, scheduling, procurement, and site management, Graphisoft's solutions help reduce the cost of building projects and identify constructability issues during the design and preconstruction phases.


    People


    Avatech Solutions, Inc., experts for design, engineering, and facilities management, announced the appointment of George M. Davis to its Board of Directors. Avatech’s Chairman, W. James Hindman, also announced that Mr. Davis will serve on the Company’s compensation committee.


    New Products


    Common Point, Inc. announced the release of its new ConstructSim Steel Craft Pack. The Steel Craft Pack joins the already successful Pipe Craft Pack as part of the ConstructSim Suite. ConstructSim is a state-of–the-art virtual construction application that reorganizes data for construction planning, automates construction planning activities down to the crew level, monitors progress of construction activities and simulates construction schedules.


    RDV Systems Ltd. announced the release of Rapid Design Visualization 2007. The latest release makes it even easier for Autodesk Civil 3D designers and engineers to create professional drive throughs, flyovers and interactive simulations for proposed roads, subdivisions, commercial site development and underground infrastructure.


    RDV 2007 delivers a new and enhanced set of visualization and simulation capabilities to Autodesk users such as object animation, support of Google Earth, real physical interaction and full support of all images inside AutoCAD, including MrSid, ECW, and more. RDV 2007 supports all AutoCAD platforms from 2004 and up.


    Check out the new Autodesk Labs
    http://labs.autodesk.com

    This is the new and in process public betas and R&D projects site Autodesk is using to get tools in the hands of Autodesk product customers and get feedback to help the tools and ideas mature. There are already 2 tools featured for download. The lab in Autodesk Labs is a play on words as Autodesk is one of the few large companies that allows employees to take their dogs to work (get it: “Labrador” retriever).

    AfterCAD InSite is a Web 2.0 solution that presents CAD and scanned images for viewing, markup and annotation using just Internet Explorer or Firefox. Your browser is your CAD viewer.


    Around the Web


    Geodesic domes: doing more with less, Monday, July 3, 2006, CNet News.com --A leading maker of geodesic dome kits advances Buckminster Fuller's vision.


    Upcoming Events


    Date:
    July 17 - 18, 2006
    Place: Vancouver, Canada
    A host of new Canadian research buildings and science teaching facilities (recently completed, and nearly completed) demonstrate innovative, cost-effective solutions for a broad spectrum of growing and fast-changing science programs. Specifically, they reveal how scientific vision, design concepts, and building operations plans are shaping decisions on:
  • Costs & budgets
  • Performance metrics
  • Flexibility features
  • Efficient space utilization
  • Multi-discipline, multi-tenant building solutions
  • Biocontainment, vivariums and other specialized embedded spaces
  • Sustainable ("green") design
  • Mechanical and electrical systems
  • Operations & maintenance
  • Building upon the success of Science Buildings Canada 2005, the Science Buildings Canada 2006 conference will reveal the occupancy plans, lab and lab/office schemes, mechanical designs, sustainable design criteria, security, project planning, management strategies, and bottom-line costs that are shaping the facilities side to Canada's major new science and research initiative.


    Attend this conference to get ahead of the planning curve for your next major science building project, facility renovation program, or facilities management initiative.


    Please note:

    All conference proceedings will be conducted in English.


     
    Date:
    July 17 - 21, 2006
    Place: The Monona Terrace Convention Center

    Madison, OH USA
    This meeting will be one of many opportunities for both new and seasoned executives to learn from one another. The blend of activities includes thought-provoking presentations by members of the AIA family and sessions on effective component programs and activities, and a celebration of the achievements of our colleagues.

     
    Date:
    July 19 - 21, 2006
    Place: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

    Washington, DC USA
    Experience design in the Nation’s Capital. DesignDC is Washington’s premier event for Metro area architects, designers, engineers and contractors. Learn about the latest tools, trends and technology to give your design business the competitive edge.


    Produced by the Washington Chapter/AIA and Potomac Valley AIA, this conference and expo is specifically tailored toward helping design industry professionals fulfill continuing education requirements, network with colleagues, and meet vendors who can make your job easier and more productive.

     
    Date:
    July 20 - 21, 2006
    Place: Hotel Allegro

    Chicago, IL USA
    Designed for architects, engineers, facility managers, project managers, and contractors, this two-day program reviews codes and standards for health care facilities, including changes and new material in Guidelines 2006, and features a lecture format with open forums and question-and-answer sessions.


    At the conclusion of the program, attendees will be able to:

    - Explain the underlying intent and current interpretation of existing and newly revised text in the Guidelines

    - Identify, locate, and use the information relevant to your health facility project quickly and easily

    - Discuss how your state applies the Guidelines

    - Determine how the new Guidelines will affect the design and construction of specialized patient care areas


     
    Date:
    July 21 - 23, 2006
    Place: AIA East Bay

    Oakland, CA USA
    David Thaddeus, AIA, returns to AIA East Bay to prep ARE candidates on Structures. The evaluations for Mr. Thaddeus's 2005 class were overwhelmingly strong, with 100% of attendees stating it was worth their time and money.
     
    Date:
    July 25, 2006
    Place: Guggenheim Museum

    New York, NY USA
    Participants in the event include the senior curator of the exhibition Germano Celant, architects Patrik Schumacher and Peter Eisenman, as well as assistant professor of architecture Sarah Whiting from Princeton University.
     


    You can find the full AECCafe event calendar here.


    To read more news, click here.



    -- Susan Smith, AECCafe.com Managing Editor.