Why All the Buzz About Self-Service Analytics?

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

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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.

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                 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

 

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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

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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

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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

Wi-Fi on the Jobsite -- Anytime - Anywhere

Posted by Phillip Schell Nov 4, 2014 11:31:00 AM

OpenRoute OnSite Wi-Fi Sample DeploymentOpenRoute_Worker_w_Tablet

I will never forget the look on my son Tyler’s face as we backed out of his grandparent’s home late one Christmas day. At nine-years-old, he had received his first computer for Christmas, a small netbook -- the perfect starter. He said in an ever-so sad voice, “Dad, my computer is not working.” I looked over and replied, “Son, we are not connected to the Internet anymore. You can still use your computer, you just can’t connect it to the Internet while we are driving.” In a tone of voice increasingly glum-sounding, he said “If it can’t connect to the Internet what good is it?” Then came the obligatory speech about the old days and how the Internet came after computers. All of this was met, of course, with the usual eye-rolling and the deepening of my dinosaur-experience hole.

Every time I think about the construction industry and Cloud applications, I think of my son. His connectivity issues are not unlike those experienced by the construction industry when it comes to Cloud applications: If you can’t get to them – what good are they? And, the issue is actually bigger than that. A lot of important business takes place at a construction site and sharing and using field information in real time can pose a business-critical challenge. The construction site is where risk is heightened and where quick, fact-based decisions need to be made in the battle for margins. For a long time, it’s also been the place that’s been disconnected from all the tools that can improve productivity, manage risk, and enable effective decision making.  But – that was then. Today, portable Internet access is available from B4 Consulting's valued partner OpenRoute.

OpenRoute was born out of CoCo Communications, which was established post-911 to build software-defined, tactical communications solutions that enable people in mobile- and zero-infrastructure environments to share information securely and reliably. OpenRoute was formed to commercialize aspects of CoCo technology in support of the construction industry. The result:  OpenRoute™ OnSite Wi-Fi - a truly state-of-the-art, construction-rugged device, which extends Internet connectivity past the trailer and out into the field. OpenRoute OnSite Wi-Fi is easy to set up. It starts with connecting a small, self-contained yellow box to your existing Internet and power sources. That's it. When you need even more coverage as the job site expands and structures are built, add another yellow box or two, or more. The yellow boxes connect wirelessly and automatically, forming their own mesh network.

openroute_yellow_box

 OpenRoute On-Site Wi-Fi - A briefcase-sized yellow box that's easy to deploy and use.

To assist in deploying additional yellow boxes, you get a free OpenRoute™ NetMeter mobile application, which quickly identifies where to place units for optimal coverage across the site. You can even pick up a yellow box and move it for the day. No professional site survey or calling the wireless carrier. No need to add expensive controllers or computer-based software programs to manage the network.

OpenRoute Wi-Fi is a fully enclosed “simple-to-deploy” piece of communications hardware that’s built to withstand the harshest weather elements. A single weatherproof connection point substantially reduces installation time, moves and re-configurations.

I’ll let the facts speak for themselves:

 

Component Selection

  • Top-of-the-line radio cards generate maximum FCC allowable transmit power with extreme receiver sensitivity. Supports HT20 and HT40 backhaul speeds (130/300 Mbps) with very low latency. MIMO technology optimizes packet delivery.
  • The “best” antennae available – 2 omni-directional 5.8 Ghz and 2 cardioid patch 2.4 Ghz antennas installed in opposing positions provide a host of orientation/positioning options without changing antennas. Patch antennas optimize user experience in high noise environments.
  • Near-perfect antenna/card match (VSWR) for optimum coverage and throughput.

 Software

  • Operates in Layer 2, each unit capable of multiple roles
  • Self-forming network - does not require hardware or Cloud-based controller
  • Both 2.4 and 5.8 Ghz networks secured
  • Remote connectivity secure terminal via SSH
  • Multiple SSID and Radius support
  • Basic industry standard 802.11g/n/s protocols, compatible with standard networks
  • Enhanced patented software developed to “fix” 29 serious routing deficiencies in standard 802.11s improving packet delivery, throughput speeds, and user experience
  • Radius support

Deployment

  • Downloadable OpenRoute NetMeter app. supports set-up, configuration, and management without a laptop
  • Rover capability for instant network extension/fill-in
  • A myriad of mounting options for virtually any environment or application

 OpenRoute_Sample_Deployment

Sample Deployment of OpenRoute On-Site Wi-Fi

 

OpenRoute's rock-solid technology has been extensively field testing with several contractors and in different construction environments: vertical and horizontal construction; high-rise commercial construction; industrial construction; and in multiple infrastructure sites. Contractors such as Bayley Construction and Lease Cruther Lewis are among contractors who have deployed their yellow boxes. And, here are just a few of the benefits they are realizing:

  • Immediate access to information reduces rework
  • Reduced RFIs ($1500/RFI)
  • Near elimination of  “Trailer Walks” ($20-$40/walk
  • Field Data Management Tools save an average of 9.1 hours per user, per week
  • Improved “single entry” collaboration eliminates multiple emails on multiple enterprise networks, and multiple phone calls
  • Reduced/eliminated significant printing costs (paper, ink, printers, time, etc.) by going “paperless” onsite
  • Reduced/eliminated mobile carrier data fees ($25/GB)
  • Improved accuracy of project bids as a result of real-time data collection/tracking closer on the job site
  • Data connectivity to sub-contractors (monthly charge or free) to improve productivity

At B4 Consulting, we design solutions that give our customers end-to-end functionality utilizing the best technologies available. Many of the emerging solutions are Cloud based, which gives customers quick and easy implementations, rapid time to value, and the lowest total cost of ownership. Our Cloud solutions enabled by partners such as Ariba, Corecon and MobileLogix provide rich functionality. With OpenRoute we solve the connectivity problems of the past and provide reliable access to applications and data that are needed at your jobsite. We have partnered with OpenRoute to help solve construction site connectivity issues regardless of the applications you are using.

And to my son, Tyler, you are spot-on – applications aren’t worth much if you can’t connect to the Internet.

Let’s talk if you are ready to see how OpenRoute’s innovative technology can improve your field operations. Contact me at pschell@b4-consulting.com.

 

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

 

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Topics: Mobility, Engineering and Construction, construction, productivity, Cloud Computing, Jobsite Internet Access

Lower Staff-to-Craft Ratio with Enterprise Content Management

Posted by Phillip Schell Aug 28, 2014 12:55:50 PM
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As the construction industry emerges from the dark days of the recession into the light of new project work across the country, it is confronted with two thorny issues that can impede growth:  an unusually high staff-to-craft ratio due to under-investment in technology; and retention of skilled workers.  A common theme runs through these seemingly disparate issues – and that is one of document management.  Consider this: The construction industry hires skilled, college-educated construction professionals with degrees in engineering or construction management and tasks them to manage mind-numbing, time-intensive paperwork.

Imagine investing in a college education in which you have acquired a skill set in Visual Design, BIM, or leading-edge scheduling system and having to sit in front of a desk full of material receipts to input into a materials book. Adding insult to injury, at month’s end you have to run around to gather all those receipts and compare them to the paid invoice amounts to accrue for unpaid commitments in a green-screen accounting system. Is it any wonder why the construction industry is challenged to attract and retain skilled workers who are versed in modern technologies that provide a competitive edge?

But this issue of document management extends beyond the back-office and thwarts efficiency on the job site as well – particularly on self-perform civil construction job sites. For example, a continual flow of incoming trucks have materials that must be weighed, received, or laid down into yards. Every receipt of materials affects job cost, which requires the involvement of project engineers. Approval and reconciliation of these receipts is typically handled in an old-school, manual manner that can take anywhere from hours to days, is highly error-prone and does provide real-time visibility or data.

 

Enterprise Content Management with ELOB4_ECM_No_Paper

B4 Consulting is addressing these construction-centric document management issues with a solution that easily integrates into any IT landscape and at a fraction of the price of some Redmond-based document management systems. Through our partnership with ELO Digital Office, a world leader in Enterprise Content Management (ECM), we bring easy-to-use and affordable ECM solutions to SAP and non-SAP users.

Construction companies such as SNC Construction and Bilfinger have gone digital with ELO. Companies such as these integrate email, estimates, drawings, delivery tickets, purchase orders, and invoices – all on one seamlessly integrated platform.  In one system with rights-assigned access -- employees can from any type of device streamline and standardize processes such as:

  • Project Site Setup: Create an archiving structure for all project-related digital content
  • Delivery Ticket/Goods Receipt Process: Delivery receipt at project site; receipt confirmation; automated G/R posting
  • Accounts Payable: Capture supplier invoice, validate data, remote project-site workflow approval,  release/posting into AR, process invoice with and without PO#

With our ECM solution, the job site scenario described earlier is quickly transformed into a few-click process done in seconds vs. hours or days in which:

  • goods receipts are automatically assigned to a clerk who scans them into OCR-based technology
  • OCR technology is integrated with the ERP solution
  • ERP solution allows the user to check the accuracy of the scan
  • workflow is triggered alerting the appropriate Project Engineer to check for any exceptions before approving the goods receipt
  • system automatically captures delivery tickets and matches them to appropriate invoices to create an Accounts Payable event, accompanied by an approval processes

This functionality can be applied to several construction scenarios from goods receipt to change order management processing. The B4 Consulting ECM solution for intelligent document processing can be applied to any number of business processes in the construction industry, which integrate ERP systems and enable workflows for downstream processing.

Moreover, our solutions use technology for increased efficiencies that optimize resources while ensuring and simplifying compliance with both internal and external requirements. Your skilled construction personnel can now focus on field activities and managing projects instead of paper. Staff-to-craft ratios can be optimized for improved profitability, increased productivity, and higher worker retention rates.

Regardless of your IT landscape, B4 Consulting can help you implement an ECM solution that capitalizes on the latest scanning technologies to increase your productivity and improve profitability. Let’s talk about how we can put ECM to work for you – email me at pschell@b4-consulting.com.

 

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Topics: SAP, B4 Consulting, construction, ELO Digital Office, Enterprise Content Management

Travel & Expense is Easy with a Cloud in Your Sky

Posted by Jay Nichols Aug 5, 2014 10:13:18 AM

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Summer is here, the sun is shining on the golf course and you are planning a vacation.  There’s not a cloud in the sky and life is good.  Ahhhh! 

Suddenly, reality hits: you still have to work on that expense report, call the hotel to send you a new receipt for last month’s business trip to San Francisco, itemize the trip, confirm all the costs, and submit to your AP Department before you can really focus on that vacation.  Isn’t high time you look into a cloud-based application for your Time & Expense reports?

Reach for the Cloud 
Currently, Cloud solutions are all the rage in the industry and for good reason. Cloud solutions have easy delivery and licensing models and do not require a local installation. They offer a configuration-based implementation, which is much faster than traditional on-premise software. Ideally, Cloud solutions provide an easy-to-love UI, which enables you work from any device -- desktop, smart phone and tablet -- without long training cycles.
While Cloud may be the rage, few companies have dabbled with the Cloud to create their own experiences. In fact, approximately only 30% of businesses use a cloud-based travel solution.  And Travel & Expense is an ideal area to jump-start your Cloud experience as it delivers immediate pay-back. SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense is an ideal way to jump-start your Cloud experience. It’s a global travel management solution that handles the entire lifecycle of a business trip and eliminates all the fragmented processes typically associated with T&E (e.g. reconciliation of receipts, copying receipts into a single document, etc.)

Imagine sitting on a flight home from a business trip and knocking-out an expense report by simply: snapping photos of your receipts and credit card transactions and automatically feeding that info  into your expense profile right from your mobile. It’s an easy, thorough and secure process that can bring you one step closer to you vacation.

The SAP global cloud solution for T&E, which stands far and above competitive products, has also delivered several enhancements in its latest release outlined below.

Improved Compliance Checks
Every company has company-specific policies and wants expenses to comply with these policies.  Therefore, SAP extended capabilities to check those limits with the ability to setup sophisticated rules  such as identifying duplicate expenses or manually entered expense rates that exceed system defaults. As a result, the solution reduces auditing efforts and increases compliance and accuracy.
Enhanced Mobile Capabilities
Mobile usage is constantly increasing, and mobile devices are becoming the method of choice for capturing expenses and submitting expense reports. Therefore, SAP extended the capabilities for the Windows Phone 8 and the iPhone app.  This now means the mobile application (free from the respective app stores) is compatible with all major smartphone OSs (iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry).
Mix and Match for Planning and Booking
SAP customers love the ability to integrate with our online booking partners such as Amadeus e-Travel Management, GetThere,, cytric, and i:FAO. They also value the fantastic capabilities of using Traxo. Now, our customers can use both in parallel. Itineraries are synchronized between the online booking partner, Traxo and SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense to have the full view on both ends. You never need to manually enter bookings that have been separately made.
Multiple Itineraries
If you are a frequent and busy business traveler, on occasion you may need the flexibility to plan a trip with different options. With the latest release of SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense, you can build more than one itinerary in the same time frame and  have the flexibility and freedom to decide - up until the last minute -- the itinerary that’s best for you.

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SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense provides full transparency and compliance across your business.

SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense provides functionality across the entire company, which:

  • Supports a large number of employees
  • Makes filing expenses easy (both in and out of the office)
  • Removes administrative burden
  • Offers device independence
  • Provides a fast and efficient method for reconciling and posting expense reports

SAP Cloud for Travel & Expense perfectly supports companies of all sizes and industries and brings transparency to the second largest controllable cost in your company. And by enabling increased compliance, accuracy and automation, SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense makes for a very happy  CFO.

Start your Cloud experience today with  SAP Cloud for Travel and Expense and maybe you’ll be able to start that summer vacation sooner.

Note to SAP ERP users:  SAP Cloud for Travel & Expense has native online integration to your systems included with no additional subscription cost.

 

Jay_Caricature

Email me to learn just how easy the Cloud can be: jnichols@b4-consulting.com. 

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