Driving Project Certainty with Next Generation Analytics

Posted by Phillip Schell Jan 29, 2018 11:37:47 AM

Sorry you missed the webinar! 

Please stay tuned.  It will be posted OnDemand soon.

 

Analytics Cloud For Construction

B4 Consulting has developed a stand-alone solution for the entire construction market.  Our Analytics Cloud for Construction app will be a game-changer in this industry. We are offering a complimentary webinar to introduce you to this efficient and easy eay to meet business objectives, manage risks and grow your business. Please register at the link below to learn more.

The construction industry is one of the world economy’s largest sectors, with $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year. In a low margin industry with capital-intensive projects, success can depend on tightly monitoring and controlling the performance of projects. The SAP® Analytics Cloud for Construction solution can make this task easier by helping managers identify issues, derive insights, make optimal decisions, and take action.

SAP has had a dedicated industry practice since 1996, serving a customer base that includes over 3000 companies globally. We see the challenges posed by globalization, resource constraints, and increasing project complexity and risk. We are working with our customers on a variety of fronts to meet and defeat these challenges.

SAP is committed to partnering with customers to help:

  • Provide timely, accurate information in real-time
  • Tightly monitor and control project performance
  • Detect and mitigate risk early in the project lifecycle
  • Give project executives appropriate information to make better decisions
  • Avoid time and resources involved with developing customer-specific analytics content
This webinar will showcase our partner, B4 Consulting, and how they’ve created a construction/project specific deployment of world-class analytics in the cloud.  B4 Consulting integrates business processes and technologies globally for customers who want to transform their businesses with innovative on-premise and cloud-based solutions.  B4 Consulting’s team of solution architects integrates these solutions with leading systems, such as SAP solutions, to enable business performance excellence and improved profitability. Partnering with customers throughout the U.S. and Canada, B4 Consulting has the largest practice in North America dedicated to the engineering, construction, real estate, equipment management, field services and professional services industries. www.b4-consulting.com.

 

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Topics: B4 Consulting, Engineering and Construction, Cloud Computing, Self-Service Analytics, Data Analytics, cloud, solutions

iSlide Chooses B4 Consulting to Implement SAP Business One

Posted by Angela Cook Dec 29, 2017 1:43:18 PM

ISlide Chooses B4 Consulting to Implement SAP Business One®


Cloud-based, comprehensive business management solution will transform business operations for fastest-growing and innovative footwear manufacturer


Waltham, Mass. – June 20, 2017  B4 Consulting®, helping companies grow with innovative software, services and support, today announced that Massachusetts-based ISlide, one of the world’s fastest-growing and innovative footwear designers, has chosen B4 Consulting to transition its business operations to SAP Business One® Cloud. SAP Business One Cloud is an affordable, scalable and easy-to-use business management solution designed for growing companies. B4 Consulting, a full-service SAP Gold-level partner, resold SAP Business One Cloud on SAP S/4HANA® and will implement the solution at ISlide headquarters in Boston.

“ISlide is a great example of innovative entrepreneurship that thrives in Massachusetts,” said Klaus Schottenhamel, president and CEO of B4 Consulting. “They are pioneering a manufacturing process that enables customers to custom-design slide sandals online and receive the finished goods in about a week. Their business model is revolutionizing the footwear industry, and SAP Business One gives them the perfect foundation to scale and grow.”

ISlideAccess to Real-time Data for Real-time Footwear

Since its founding in 2013, ISlide has become the preeminent leader in slide sandals “with sales doubling annually,” noted Justin Kittredge, founder and CEO of ISlide. “But we were running a lot of disparate systems for financials, sales, inventory management and the like. To continue our growth rate, we wanted a scalable system that could integrate all the standard business functions plus incorporate those that are unique to our business, such as printing and website shopping. Plus, it had to be easy to use and deploy.”

ISlide vetted a number of solutions and implementation partners before deciding on SAP Business One Cloud and B4 Consulting. “We went through an exhaustive evaluation process,” said Steve Amrein, operations director at ISlide. “SAP Business One Cloud was the only solution that could fast-track our operations into the 21st century, adapt to our unique product needs, and give us access to real-time data, which is essential when producing custom-designed sandals with the industry’s fastest turnaround times.

“B4 Consulting was the only reseller who ‘got us’,” continued Amrein. “B4 has experience in helping early-stage companies successfully grow their business with the latest technologies, they’re experts in SAP Business One, they understand manufacturing processes, and they know how to translate those processes into simple functions with SAP software. Lastly, we wanted a local partner who would give us personal attention and support as needed.  The B4 team came to the table with a level of enthusiasm and commitment that matches the high energy at ISlide.”

The SAP Business One Cloud software-as-a-service model enables ISlide to accelerate the time-to-value of SAP® software across the organization.  On a single platform, the solution integrates key operational functions including accounting and finance, sales and customer management, purchasing and operations, inventory and distribution, material requirements planning, and reporting and administration. ISlide will also take advantage of SAP Business One add-on functionality for:

  • Job costing and project accounting
  • Shipping integration
  • Warehouse management
  • Credit card processing

Running on the cutting-edge in-memory computing of the SAP HANA® platform, SAP Business One Cloud will enable ISlide to quickly process large volumes of data and get immediate feedback on transactions and complex analyses. It is the only solution for mid-market companies with an in-memory database, which provides extensive analytics capabilities. “We’re on a growth trajectory, and we’re looking to SAP Business One to help propel that growth and our continued innovations,” noted Kittredge.

About B4 Consulting, Inc.

B4 Consulting integrates business processes and technologies globally for customers who want to transform their businesses with innovative on premise and cloud-based solutions. Our team of solution architects integrates these solutions with leading systems, such as SAP solutions, to enable business performance excellence and improved profitability. www.b4-consulting.com. Follow Us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/b4consulting

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B4 Consulting is a registered trademark of B4 Consulting, Inc.

SAP, SAP Business One, SAP S/4HANA, SAP HANA and other SAP products and services mentioned herein as well as their respective logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of SAP SE (or an SAP affiliate company) in Germany and other countries. See http://www.sap.com/corporate-en/legal/copyright/index.epx for additional trademark information and notices.

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Topics: SAP, Mobility, Engineering and Construction, Cloud Computing, AEC, SAP Business One, Enterprise Content Management, iSlide, SAP Hana, S/4Hana

IFRS 16 Real Property Leasing with SAP Real Estate Management

Posted by John Chapman Dec 29, 2017 1:16:29 PM

B4_Blog_IFRS16.jpg

 

IFRS 16 Real Property Leasing with SAP Real Est... | SCN

Summary

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) recently announced the release of new accounting standards that define how organizations must account for leases.  Essentially, these accounting standards stipulate most leases must be reported on each company’s balance sheet, increasing the risk of regulatory noncompliance and inaccurate statutory reporting.

 

SAP Real Estate Management is used to optimize the portfolio of global assets and supports the regulatory compliance of these new accounting rules.  This solution provides a single point of entry for collection, validation of lease contract data, performs valuation calculations and generates the financial postings derived from these calculations.

 

The Compelling Event

  • New standard on leasing released by FASB and IASB
  • Need to capitalize many corporate operating leases and record these lease obligations on the balance sheet as assets and liabilities
  • Boosts the amount of debt on balance sheets by tens of billions of dollars
  • Beside affected accounting, new standards will transform corporate business processes in many areas, including finance, procurement, tax, treasury, legal, operations, corporate real estate and HR

 

Which Customers are affected?

  • Every IFRS/ US-GAAP reporting company renting real estate or leasing equipment will be impacted by the new standards
  • Large companies with big property portfolio are affected most and need to react quickly to prepare

 

The Solution

The new leasing standards represent more than accounting changes.  They force business process change and with any business or process change, there’s going to be some level of impact on systems and technology.

 

SAP Real Estate Management enables close collaboration between the lease administrator, lease accountant and fixed asset accountant.  They access the same lease record, with all calculations being based on the terms and conditions of the abstracted lease.  The lease transaction in SAP Real Estate Management provides separate authorizations to ensure a clear separation of duties.  The following illustration highlights the coordination between the different departments provided within the solution.

Blog_SAP_LeasingIntegration.png IFRS 16 Real Property Leasing with SAP Real Est... | SCN

In addition to capturing contract terms and conditions, SAP Real Estate Management is specifically designed to support real estate leasing processes such as managing critical dates, exercising renewal options, early terminations, rent escalations and sales based rent.  The highly flexible and extendable forms collect industry- or business-specific- attributes and enables users to stay ahead of the game.  Periodic posting runs automatically generate all lease payments based on the terms of the current lease agreement with real time integration into SAP Financials.

 

The solution also provides lease accountants the ability to evaluate the financial impact of each lease and ultimately generates all valuation postings required by the new leasing standards.  It even manages the postings for multiple lease accounting standards simultaneously, regardless if the general ledger account or parallel ledger methodology is utilized. This solution is part of SAP Finance and is completely integrated, helping avoid the kind of costly disruptions that can derail critical business processes, operations and costly noncompliance events.

 

Why SAP Real Estate Management?

SAP Real Estate Management is specifically built to integrate with SAP Financials.  No other real estate software provider can take abstracted lease data, generate payments to landlords and perform all valuation calculations and postings back into SAP without cumbersome interfaces.  SAP’s real estate solution performs all these activities in real time and without complicated interfaces.

 

If a company uses spreadsheets or an alternative solution, information silos will naturally exist between lease administrators and accountants.  Data becomes inconsistent over time, resulting in inaccurate valuations and misstated financials.  SAP Real Estate Management breaks down silos between these groups, ensuring transparent, consistent and accurate results.

 

SAP Real Estate Management will help improve your decision making through greater visibility into portfolio wide lease data. All in all, the solution provides you with improved understanding all the associated legal, financial, and business implications of your leasing strategy in a way not available with other solutions.

 

What to Do Now?

Even though the new leasing standards are not effective until December 2018 for US GAAP and January 2019 for IFRS, companies can choose to be early adopters and begin reporting January 2017.  Whether you choose to be an early adopter or comply by the deadlines, there are certain things you can do today to prepare.

 

  • Current SAP Real Estate Management users should implement the new leasing enhancements as soon as they are release to begin evaluating the impacts to your financial statements.  Even if you do not intend to be an early adopter, the loading of the leases and analyzing the results will pay big dividends in the future.
  • If you use SAP Financials, you can quickly implement SAP Real Estate Management for real property leasing to give you a fully integrated leasing solution.  SAP currently has and will roll out new accelerators designed to help customers quickly implement SAP’s leasing solution.

 

Once SAP Real Estate Management has been implemented, begin abstracting existing lease agreements and ensure the abstracted lease terms and conditions are correct.  For most organizations, this will be the most time consuming portion of the lease compliance project.  All calculations are dependent on accurate lease information.  Any inaccuracy in probable end dates and payment amounts for example, will have an impact on the posted valuations.

 

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Topics: SAP, Mobility, Engineering and Construction, AEC, Enterprise Content Management

Why All the Buzz About Self-Service Analytics?

Posted by John Reid May 18, 2017 3:47:13 PM

 Business_Intelligence.jpg

 

Data analytics is a data-centric approach to decision making. Self-service analytics is an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and analyze their corporate data with minimal skills in business intelligence and data mining. This is achieved through the use of tools that simplify the business users’ ability to access corporate data and the ease in which they can manipulate that data to uncover important insights and trends.

Barriers to Self-Serve Analytics

Most business users are hesitant to dive into a new self-service analytic tool. The idea of taking the time to learn a new application to the point where you are comfortable is disheartening to the average business user.  Just rolling out the installation of the tool and providing basic documentation on typical functionally or work flows will only result in failure.  Having a good IT support system to help guide users in the use of self-service analytic tools is critical for the success of the self-serve BI initiative.  Hands-on training workshops, with corporate test data and real business process scenarios, will go a long way to ensure end user acceptance. 

It is important that business users in the organization understand the main intent for the self-serve analytic tool. Expecting to produce or replace existing corporate executive dash boards with a few hours of effort in a self-serve analytic tool is not going to produce successful results.  The focus should be on discovery of current conditions and treads that can influence organization KPIs related to cash flow or production performance.  For example: Why is sales revenue down in store X this month?  Can we determine why Plant Y is seeing a 28% increase in productivity?  Having a clear understanding of the tools’ intent will help users focus on getting the most out of their efforts.

Self-Serve Analytics – The Road to Success

In order for self-serve analytics to be successful the user interface needs to be intuitive, with a development canvas and navigation functionality that is user friendly. Successful self-serve analytic reports tell stories.  They combine data facts with business knowledge to bring out hidden business insights. They help you show the root causes to business problems and can help provide solutions to resolve those problems.

Training is needed to help users understand what corporate data is available and how that information should be accessed. IT also needs to focus on maintaining the corporate data warehouse and data marts to ensure that business users have the right data at the right time.  With the right training and data business users can build their own queries and customize their own reports and dashboards with minimal effort and maximum benefit.

It is important to note that while self-serve analytics can provide business users with an easy to use tool that greatly increases their ability to access and consume data, it can also bring confusion and mistrust if there is no corporate data governance processes in place. Data made available to your self-serve analytics tools must be relevant, accurate, and timely.  The data provided needs to help resolve business problems not create new ones. This requires a data governance policy that maintains data consistency and quality though out the organization using constant monitoring and review processes so business users have confidence in the data they are using.

Lumira_GEO_Analysis.png

                 GEO analysis made easy with SAP Business Objects Lumira

Summary

Self-service analytics will not replace traditional business intelligence or remove the need for data scientists.  Organizations will still benefit greatly with operational and strategic reporting and complex data analysis that can be captured in a traditional BI system with the assistance of data scientists. Self-service analytics enhances the BI offering by allowing core business users to generate new business insights and use these insights to make more informed decisions.

B4 Consulting can provide assistance with implementing a good self-serve analytic strategy, which will integrate with and complement existing BI initiatives. Data preparation processes that adhere to corporate data governance policies and business user training are the key components in a successful self-serve analytic initiative. 

SAP Lumira offers a very insightful and user-friendly interface that supports self-serve analytics development. Seamless integration with the Business Objects BI Platform exposes all of the rich functionality of a secure BI platform while providing users the flexibility of both desktop and web-based development environments.

For more information on how self-serve analytics can engage more employees to help give your organization a competitive edge -- contact me at B4 Consulting -- jre@b4-consulting.com

About the Author

John Reid is an Analytics, Mobility & Technology Consultant at B4 Consulting.He can be reached at

jre@b4-consulting.com 

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Topics: SAP, B4 Consulting, Business Intelligence, Self-Service Analytics, SAP Lumira, Data Analytics

Are You Ready for IFRS 16?

Posted by Phillip Schell Jun 28, 2016 12:47:00 PM

 

Are You Ready for IFRS 16?

 

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) released new accounting standards that define how organizations must account for leases.  These accounting standards, addressed in the International Financial Records Standard 16 (IFRS 16), stipulate how most leases must be reported on a company’s balance sheet.  For many lessees -- this change is huge.

While the new leasing standard does not go into effect until January 2019, companies can begin reporting in January 2017 and start communicating expected changes with stakeholders – now. The new standard will affect virtually all commonly-used financial ratios and performance metrics such as gearing, current ratio, asset turnover, interest cover, EBITDA, EBIT, operating profit, net income, EPS, ROCE, ROE, and operating cash flows. These changes may affect loan covenants credit ratings and borrowing costs, and could result in other behavioral changes. And, these changes may compel many organizations to reassess certain ‘lease versus buy’ decisions.

IFRS 16 changes will affect lessees in the following key areas:

  • Balance Sheet: Initially recognizes lease assets and liabilities on the balance sheet at the present value of future lease payments.
  • Income Statement: Recognizes amortization of lease assets and interest on the lease liabilities over the lease term. The overall effect on profit will depend on the portfolio of leases an entity holds. However, in the earlier years of a lease, it is expected that the profit will be lower as a result of higher interest accruing on the lease liability (akin to an amortizing mortgage).
  • Cash Flow Statement: Separates the total amount of cash paid into a principal portion (presented within financing activities) and interest (presented within either operating or financing activities). 

As you can see, the changes are dramatic. This is not just a software change or upgrade. It is a major change in business processes, how applications integrate to accommodate the rule change, and last but certainly not least -- companies will be challenged to effectively communicate IFRS 16 standards to stakeholders who will see major changes in financial results.

To successfully implement IFRS 16 requires a structured initiative that will manage:

Business Process Change

Business processes in many areas, including finance, procurement, tax, treasury, legal, operations, corporate real estate and HR will have to be changed and aligned to support a successful adoption of the accounting changes.

Software Application Integration

For those companies with real estate in one application, assets in another and separate G/L, it will be difficult. The SAP integrated platform will make this a much easier. SAP customers who are already on SAP Real Estate and have their fixed assets in SAP will have an enhancement to download in a few months that will put them into compliance.  

 

SAP Real Estate Management application enables coordination between different departments.

The solution also provides lease accountants the ability to evaluate the financial impact of each lease and ultimately generates all valuation postings required by the new leasing standards.  It even manages the postings for multiple lease accounting standards simultaneously, regardless if the general ledger account or parallel ledger methodology is utilized. This solution is part of SAP Finance and is completely integrated, helping avoid the kind of costly disruptions that can derail critical business processes, operations and costly noncompliance events.

Stakeholder Communications

Corporation stakeholders will need a lot assistance in understanding the changes in nearly all financial ratios and performance metrics such as: gearing, current ratio, asset turnover, interest cover, EBITDA, EBIT, operating profit, net income, EPS, ROCE, ROE and operating cash flows.

Even though the new leasing standards are not effective until December 2018 for US GAAP and January 2019 for IFRS, companies can choose to be early adopters and begin reporting January 2017.  Whether you choose to be an early adopter or comply by the deadlines, there are certain things you can do today to prepare.

Current SAP Real Estate Management users should implement the new leasing enhancements as soon as they are released to begin evaluating the impact on your financial statements.  Even if you do not intend to be an early adopter, the loading of the leases and analyzing the results will pay big dividends in the future.

Companies that implement the SAP IFRS 16 enhancements quickly can run it in simulation mode only and use the results to compare their financial performance before and after implementation. We believe that when key executives are knowledgeable about how IFRS 16 changes will affect performance reporting, they can effectively communicate with their stakeholders.

Recently, B4 Consulting announced its support for IFRS 16 real property leasing with SAP Real Estate Management, which includes implementation services for real estate, procurement, and financial management. Through an IFRS 16 Assessment,  we examine all your business processes and areas affected by IFRS 16. Then, we develop a road map and budget for successful implementation of IFRS 16 standards – including stakeholder communications.

Get ahead of the curve and let’s talk about how you can successfully prepare for IFRS 16. Email me at pschell@b4-consulting.com.

 

Phillip Schell is vice president of Industry Solutions at B4 Consulting, Inc.

 

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Topics: SAP, B4 Consulting, SAP Real Estate, Reporting, IFRS 16, Leasing, Real Property, Leases, Accounting

Why Zachry Construction Made SAP its Platform for Growth

Posted by John Chapman Nov 10, 2015 12:08:41 PM

Zachry Construction

 

As the principal for the Engineering, Construction & Operations (EC&O) practice at B4 Consulting, I have the opportunity to lead numerous business transformations for a variety of construction companies -- both small and large -- throughout North America. When we partner with these industry leaders, I have the distinct pleasure of working with forward-thinking executives who understand the strategic value of SAP solutions for the construction industry.

Zachry Construction Corporation, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is one prime example of a forward-thinking construction company. They made a strategic business decision to replace their legacy systems with an integrated ERP system. And, this bold decision set in motion a business journey in which, over a 2-year period, they evaluated close to 18 ERP solutions – including those from CMiC, Microsoft and Viewpoint. After a thorough needs analysis, they selected SAP because they perceived SAP solutions to be the most widely-used business technology platform that would meet their business requirements -- out-of-the-box -- while providing the industry's most integrated construction-centric solutions. B4 Consulting was chosen as their implementation partner due to our industry experience, solution know-how, and as one executive said, “B4 Consulting speaks our language.”

In just 12 months, we implemented an integrated solution set that included SAP ERP, CRM, EAM, HCM, BusinessObjects, ETM, SAP Mobile Platform, and an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution. These capabilities, in turn, enable Zachry to implement progressive project management to a broad array of vertical and heavy civil work in both public and private sectors.

With their SAP platform, Zachry’s business processes, workflows, field data entry, and IT are now centralized on a single system that generates new levels of efficiency and serves as a strategic platform for company growth. These operational improvements are rooted in an implementation project that:

  • Seamlessly managed Zachry’s process of going from an Estimating Cost Breakdown Structure to a Work Breakdown Structure during Project Execution with the appropriate level of detail
  • Imported actual cost back into the Estimating system for comparison purposes (benchmarking)
  • Fully integrated many back office processes in Finance, HR, Procurement and Job Costing
  • Created real-time field visibility into Simple Earned Value Management via mobile devices
  • Implemented a construction industry enterprise content management solution that integrates with SAP to manage project documents, field delivery tickets, and invoicing via OCR scanning

Today, Zachry has a user-friendly platform that supports 21st century technology to provide real-time information that is enabling upwards to:

  • 50% increase in the accuracy of cost collecting
  • 50% increase in the speed of cost information
  • 25% faster month-end reconciliation

Awesome numbers, right? There’s more to the Zachry project that can be read in the SAP Business Transformation Study  -- just click button below. But, if you want to learn how B4 Consulting can uniquely transform your business for improved efficiency and profitability – let's talk.  Email me at jmoore@b4-consulting.com.

 Juan_Moore_B4_Consulting

Juan Moore

EC&O Industry Principal

B4 Consulting

Read the Zachry Story

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Topics: SAP, Mobility, Engineering and Construction, AEC, Enterprise Content Management

How to Attract and Retain Skilled Construction Workers

Posted by Luke Marson Jul 23, 2015 11:42:33 AM

 

 

Construction_Workers

 

It’s no secret that the construction industry is facing an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers.  The industry’s worker exodus during the financial crisis of the 2000s and retiring baby boomers leaves “70% of construction CEOs concerned about the availability of key resources and rising labor costs in growth markets,” according to a PWC construction industry survey. This labor shortage may exclude you from competitive bids – or worse yet – jeopardize project safety and success with untrained workers. So, the pressure is on both small and large construction companies – from general contractors to self-perform – to recruit and retain skilled workers.

 

Recruiting skilled labor and the rise of the digital age have changed the face of hiring. Word-of-mouth and local advertising are the hiring strategies of a bygone era.  Today, new technology enables customized recruiting, marketing, management, and onboarding easily available at lower costs and with greater return on investment. Don’t be one of the 48% of organizations that have difficultly hiring employees with base-level skills or one of the organizations where 25% of new hires leave within the first year. Think about investing in the foremost technology that enables you to strategically manage your human resources initiatives for long-term growth and profitability.

 

The SuccessFactors Human Capital Management (HCM) suite – the leading human resources enterprise software suite – is the perfect fit for construction companies looking to improve the way they attract skilled hires and engage, manage, and retain them. The suite provides capabilities that include:

 

  • Recruitment and Marketing Management
  • Core HR Functionality
  • Employee Onboarding Systems
  • Workforce Planning
  • Compliance-based Learning Management
  • Performance Tracking
  • Goal Management
  • Employee Collaboration

 

On July 29th at 11am PST / 2pm EST, B4 Consulting and Hula Partners will show you how the SuccessFactors HCM suite can help you attract, develop, and retain skilled workers while minimizing turn-over. Please join us for this free webinar in which you will also have the opportunity to ask industry experts on how to implement strategic HR in your company.

 Webinar Registration

 

headshot_luke_marson_t_q215

Luke Marson
Chief Cloud HCM Architect

An experienced solution architect and thought leader in HR technology, Luke has worked with over 40 customers on 5 continents. Luke is a prolific writer and co-author of SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM.

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Is it a Serpent or an Elephant? The Construction Industry Needs Better Business Intelligence Tools.

Posted by Phillip Schell Apr 20, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Six_Blind_Men

 

Is it a serpent or an elephant? The parable of the six blind men and the elephant is one of the world’s most widely-known parables. It illustrates that we should not mistake a part for the whole and importance of keeping an open mind to different points of view. It also conveys the importance of perspective and the value of closely examining complex ideas and issues.

And, while it may seem as though I’m going out on a limb -- this parable also makes for a teaching moment in the construction industry.

More than ever before, the construction industry is learning to use Business Intelligence tools to extract data from construction projects for real-time decision making. The challenge: the construction industry needs to draw accurate conclusions from the huge datasets that are being generated and avoid the conclusions of the blind man feeling the elephant’s trunk and declaring it a serpent.

To help construction companies extract and leverage accurate data from all its data sources, B4 Consulting is building Integrated Frameworks for Construction. We call it -- IF4C – and it allows applications to become interoperable (see http://blog.b4-consulting.com/blog/how-to-achieve-interoperability-in-construction). We believe that this interoperability has a positive effect as well on Business Intelligence. Consider this real-life case: I want a report on the health of one of my self-perform projects, and I want a report on the trend line of the labor productivity of one of the major work packages being performed.

In our experience, this is a typical scenario and here are just a few of the questions and issues that prevent the quick, efficeint and accurate generation of such reports in a lot of construction companies:

  • Do I need my estimating data to make this comparison?
  • If my CBS structures have little or no relationship to my WBS structures what does it mean?
  • How timely are the actual installed data being imputed into a system for trend analytics?
  • How accurate are the data being entered and are they entered into the correct WBS structure?
  • Do I need equipment run time data to interpret the data correctly?
  • Do I need ECM data such as pictures, daily logs, weather reports, etc. to make the correct decisions?

B4 Consulting believes that Business Intelligence is architected correctly when it goes beyond the esthetically pleasing or even intellectually stimulating. Business Intelligence must be actionable and create the opportunity for increasing productivity. See http://blog.b4-consulting.com/blog/outsidein-and-the-ooda-loop-–-transforming-construction

The architecture’s defining characteristics include:

  • Front-end mobility component to initiate real-time possibilities.
  • Ability to draw datasets large enough (remember the elephant!) and across pertinent applications to drive value.
  • Presentation to the correct decision makers in a timely and intuitive manner to advance better field decisions.

The well-architected Business Intelligence framework gives the construction industry the proper information to make the OODA loop work and inform them for competitive advantage.

 

 

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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, Real-time Data, Reporting, construction, productivity, OutsideIn, Interoperability

How to Achieve Interoperability in Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell Mar 20, 2015 8:33:37 AM
Interoperability_Wheels

 

Interoperability is kind of a strange word. It does not roll off the tongue and does not intuitively communicate value to the construction industry. B4 Consulting has, however, figured out how interoperability can be achieved in the construction industry and this blog post outlines the value it brings in something we call the Integrated Framework 4 Construction or IF4C.

Back to Interoperability. In its simplest definition, it is - the ability of making systems, processes and organizations work together. And, it’s easy to recognize the value of interoperability in many facets of our lives. Take for example the transportation industry: Major modern railroads have interoperability as they are required to conform to standards around gauges, couplings, brakes, signaling, communications, and operating rules, to mention a few parameters. We have also seen our armed forces achieve historic levels of interoperability between the branches of the military and integrated command and control of land, sea and air operations. And, the medical industry is trying to achieve interoperability between emergency response, providers, hospital operations, medical care, drug companies, and insurance providers.

B4 Consulting believes the construction industry is standing on the brink of achieving interoperability as they respond to the market forces of design build (DB) and design build operate (DBO). In these new delivery models, holistic design is required to survive. As construction companies rise to meet the challenges of design-build and design-build-operate, their success will rely on interoperability and related enabling technologies.

 

 

 IF4C

The Integrated Framework 4 Construction (IF4C)

The diagram above illustrates the concepts of an Integrated Framework 4 Construction (IF4C) and how it enables the interoperability required to succeed in today’s modern construction industry.

  1. It begins with integrations of materials to the Visual Design (VD) and Construction tools of BIM or CAD. We believe that the system should be application-agnostic so that multiple design tools can feed materials from my ERP system where transactions will eventual take place. B4 Consulting suggests federating these models in the SAP® Visual Enterprise product. This final federated model will not only allow for a clean bilateral integration of materials and quantities for estimating systems, but will remain as the GUI used to visualize our eventual progression data.
  2. Bilateral interfaces bring materials and quantities to Estimating systems, again application-agnostic. B4 Consulting believes that the data elements are the most important factors and we use the SAP ETL tool Data Services to provide that integration to any estimating package.
  3. Estimating Bilateral interfaces create a Project Control Budget. Using management consulting methodologies -- not technology – B4 Consulting harmonizes the CBS structures with the WBS structures. This gives each group the detail and levels they need to do their job, but having a structure that maintains the relationship to enable roll up and comparison of estimated cost to actual cost. The impact on the integrity of past cost is amazing. We can now seamlessly create a fully-loaded control budget with materials, labor and equipment usage from our estimate. Again, application-agnostic, utilizing the powerful SAP Data Services application.
  4. We have created an ETL layer of the most critical data elements that progression tools need to deliver to the control budget. While these are, for the most part, mobile applications, they can also be specially designed HTML5 applications on any device capturing time, installed quantities and equipment hours. Our thinking here: the platform these tools are using change frequently (i.e. iOS, HTML5, Android, etc.) – but -- the data elements don’t change. So settle on the landscape and just give them the data element targets.

B4 Consulting believes that the Data Services layer of these critical data elements become the most efficient place for Business Analytic tools, either Business Objects or HANA Sidecar for dashboarding. This frees-up the design from integrating to each individual application or one monolithic one.

Finally, all of this runs on the SAP HANA database for easy retrieval of past cost while enabling quick and efficient incremental conceptual design and estimating modeling.

IF4C effectively enables interoperability in construction where all the applications within the framework work together and are more efficient as a whole than the sum of their parts. This level of interoperability has been proven to reduce risk, drive more efficient field operations, improve productivity, increase profitability, and generate successful projects that are highly repeatable. If you’re ready to see how IF4C can work for your company – email me at pschell@b4-consulting.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Engineering and Construction, construction, Interoperability, Design Build

OutsideIn & OODA - Deliver a Competitive Edge to Construction

Posted by Phillip Schell Dec 1, 2014 2:37:00 PM

MASH_Pic

 

One of my favorite episodes of the iconic TV series M*A*S*H, was when Colonel Potter ordered a Bug Out because the enemy was coming and Radar said, “you mean Supply sir?” It serves to remind us that sometimes we may need to take a step back and asses who is the real enemy - or what keeps us from meeting our objectives.

Colonel John Boyd, a fascinating military strategist and the father of modern day dog-fighting, faced the enemy time and again and through those experiences posited a set of theories based on time. Boyd believed that decision-making is a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act (OODA). He developed a theory for achieving success in air-to-air combat in which the pilot who goes through the OODA cycle in the shortest time prevails because his opponent is responding to situations that have already changed. Today, his OODA loop has become an important concept in litigation, business, and military strategy.

In the construction industry, time is the determining parameter as well.  Time is the real enemy --  not owners, sub-contractors, unions, lawyers, or the weather – it’s time. And, that's why Boyd's OODA Loop is so compelling. The OODA Loop is comprised of four interrelated and overlapping processes through which one continuously cycles:

  • Observation: collection of data by means of senses
  • Orientation: analysis and synthesis of data to form a current mental perspective
  • Decision: determination of a course of action based on the current mental perspective
  • Action: physical playing-out of decision

OODA_Graphic

 

Boyd theorized that large organizations such as corporations, governments, or militaries possessed a hierarchy of OODA loops at tactical, grand-tactical (operational art), and strategic levels. In addition, he stated that most effective organizations have a highly decentralized chain of command, which utilizes objective-driven orders rather than method-driven orders to harness the mental capacity and creative abilities of individual commanders at each level.

I would like to view two construction processes through Boyd’s OODA loop, one existing inside the other.

  • The process required for efffective Design Build. This is an integrated process of design, estimate, build, and measure. One seamless process, using the same data elements integrated to one another.
  • A progression process that resets the OODA Loop on a daily basis as we put actual construction-related data back through the model. On a daily basis we use mobile devices to track the actual labor hours, actual materials installed, and equipment hours used. This now can get compared to planned hours, the planned productivity of materials installed and the planned equipment hours used in estimating.

So now, we have related the two of the most important aspects of Boyd’s OODA Loop to the construction industry: (1) Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate; and (2) daily progression to the parent process.

B4 Consulting has developed tools to not only integrate Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate, but also mobile devices for the field to measure on a daily basis how we are performing to the plan.

The B4 Consulting OutsideIn approach enables field activities to be fed into an OODA Loop of decision making based on a foundation of Design-Estimate-Build-Re-Estimate. This approach is a transformational way to structure processes and technology for the construction industry.

When the construction industry recognizes that time is the real enemy, it can capitalize on an OutsideIn approach and use OODA Loop decision making to fully exlpoit the mobility revolution, optimize construction management, and successfully prevail against the competition in the shortest amount of time.

 

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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, productivity, OutsideIn