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ERP Feature Spotlight: CMiC Enterprise Planning

  
  
  

Successful construction project management can be summarized by two key components: planning and execution. Even if an organization has all the necessary equipment, expertise and partnership resources it needs to fulfill the demands of a contract, it can't maximize its potential unless its strategy is crafted with precision and carried out with the utmost scrutiny. For this reason, CMiC Enterprise Planning is a vital part of any construction ERP deployment, providing the forecasting insight and guidance a company needs as it sets to work on projects of any type and scope.

A glimpse into the future
Decision-making at the enterprise level demands quality, relevant information from all corners of the operation, as well as a clear view of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. With the support of a dedicated Enterprise Planning suite, contractors can generate accurate forecasts for internal teams and external stakeholders, basing their predictions on tangible data sets collected across the ERP system. This accelerates bid and approval processes while building trust with clients and partners, as well as mitigating the risks associated with "ballpark" estimates and generalities. 

Project and financial forecasting also come together in the Enterprise Planning platform, connecting the dots between contract checkpoints and the budgetary demands that each step will present. Every aspect of the strategy is laid out with project's goals and finances, creating a holistic plan that everyone can follow. This allows stakeholders to get a panoramic view of the contract's trajectory and leaves no ambiguity as construction teams set to work on the project. 

Multiple perspectives
Whether a company is prepping its workforce for a project a week in advance or procuring materials for a contract that won't begin for another several months, decision-makers need maximum visibility of their outlooks regardless of the timeframes in question. Luckily, CMiC Enterprise Planning offers a variety of schedule scopes through which business leaders can strategize on immediate and long-term levels. Project supervisors can even map out their day-to-day plans in order to maximize the value of every second spent on the job site. That is the true meaning of efficiency.

Identifying opportunities
Complete enterprise planning isn't just about managing activity on the job site and in the finance department - business development and partnership cultivation are also critical to the future trajectory of an organization. That's why CMiC Enterprise Planning includes an Opportunity Management platform in which marketing and sales teams can build connections and campaigns that help drive their brand to new heights. This allows a company to spark new growth and nurture the partnerships that have built its reputation thus far. 

Since the module's resources are integrated across the rest of the ERP system's applications, these departments have access to all the data and information they need when interacting with potential clients and long-term connections. It's these fine-grain details that can set a company apart from the competition when it comes to bringing in new business or locking down a major repeat contract.

ERP Feature Spotlight: CMiC Enterprise Content Management

  
  
  

The modern construction project is not only a complex job site operation, but also a test of a contractor's ability to manage and organize the massive streams of data generated day after day. From email correspondences and financial reports to digital blueprint resources and graphics-heavy files, it's nearly impossible to keep up with the flow of information unless teams have a dedicated solution to address the issue. That's where CMiC Enterprise Content Management delivers incredible value, offering a centralized platform to collect and organize key digital resources of all kinds.

Consolidated content 
Over the course of a construction project, files and documents may be scattered across various hard drives, email accounts and personal devices, making it difficult to maintain complete control of critical information. With an ECM platform, however, supervisors can track and organize content from all corners of the digital domain, dragging and dropping resources from their original locations to a central vault that synchronizes across systems automatically. No longer will team members have to rummage through archives and databases in search of a particular document or image - everything is in its right place. 

Integration across apps
Because construction content is generated and stored in such a wide range of enterprise applications, businesses can't afford to suffer compatibility issues when orchestrating operations on a large scale. With CMiC ECM, applications are readily integrated with the platform, allowing users to seamlessly transition from one tool to the next without running into consistency problems or having to copy information across various modules. The software is built to interact with other CMiC features without a hitch, built on a unified data set that always maintains the most relevant information.  

The most compelling use case for ECM's compatibility is its integration with CMiC's Building Information Modeling solutions BIM 360. With this level of coordination, design and construction teams can see much deeper into their BIM structures, as these models are now supplemented with data from the ECM platform. This allows images, reports and budgets to be easily accessed within the BIM module, saving end users time and energy as they enjoy the power of synchronized content at their fingertips.

Deeper analytics insights
CMiC ECM lets construction teams take a comprehensive approach to analytics, accelerating the discovery of patterns and best practices that would otherwise require additional third-party support. Since data sets are synchronized automatically across the system, supervisors can enjoy real-time insights in the form of professional reports and spreadsheets - valuable resources that can serve to solidify procedures and relationships with business partners. Analysis can be presented in a variety of formats and detail certain components of the project's development to meet specific demands.

Finally, the analytics systems of CMiC ECM can be structured in a range of customized arrangements, delivering powerful insights for team members, partners and executive leaders alike. This allows construction firms to focus on refining particular aspects of their operations while maintaining a big-picture perspective on the overall capabilities and challenges of their business.

ERP Feature Spotlight: CMiC xProjects

  
  
  

Project management is no longer the linear, predictable process it once was - the digital revolution has not only put contracts on the fast track with expectations for accelerated execution, but has also raised the standard for collaboration across multiple teams and subcontractors. Construction leaders need a dedicated platform from which they can manage every aspect of the project life cycle while staying in close communication with key business partners and clients. CMiC xProjects delivers a comprehensive set of applications that supports precise and fast decision-making from end to end. 

Take control of bids and budgets
Before a contractor ever breaks ground on a project, there are a host of critical checkpoints that must be navigated to ensure optimal procurement and financial provisioning. It all starts with determining the costs, revenues and budgets that will form the foundation of the contract parameters, as well as the bid processes that establish the teams and partners that will ultimately drive the project forward. CMiC xProjects devotes specific software modules to these functions, allowing construction leaders complete visibility of the budgeting, bidding and procurement elements that kick off any contract.

Change management features also give contractors the edge when contract terms need to be altered in light of new demands or financial circumstances. Although change orders can tend to cause major obstacles for unprepared contractors, those that deploy CMiC xProjects have the tools necessary to make the necessary adjustments while minimizing waste and inefficiency.

Build and strengthen partnerships
Effective business relationships are a vital ingredient for success in today's construction environment, as enterprise operations rely on a multitude of distinct contributors in the execution of a major contract. Subcontractors, consultants, supply chain participants, clients and other collaborators must all be kept in the loop in order to ensure a maximally efficient and precise project life cycle, and data serves as the fuel that powers these processes in a synergistic manner.

That's why the Collaboration Management module of CMiC xProjects is such an invaluable tool for any enterprise operation, organizing and dispersing key information to the relevant partners throughout the project execution process. The platform promotes the coordination of multiple contributors with dedicated databases that synchronize across applications on an automatic basis, eliminating repetitive processes and accelerating the completion of objectives. With a stronger standard of collaboration, companies can finally combine forces across stakeholders for phenomenal results.   

Master job site operations
When it comes time to dig in on the job site, construction teams need to stay in complete control of all activity if they are to fulfill the demands set before them in the contract. This requires clear and consistent insight into every development that takes place on the construction site, utilizing regular reports, daily journal wrap-ups and active punchlists that allow for multiple data entry points. CMiC xProjects incorporates a dedicated Site Management solution that includes all of these features, setting a higher bar for accountability and communication from the job site to the back office.

ERP feature spotlight: CMiC Financials

  
  
  

Precise financial management is critical to successfully maintaining and growing an enterprise construction operation, as every branch of the organization must be supported by smart budgetary decisions and coordinated with capital assets. Whether a firm is preparing a long-term financial outlook or simply getting ready for its next contract, enterprise leaders need a solution that will give them total control of the big picture while maintaining a strong handle on the tasks at hand. CMiC Financials offers the complete spectrum of tools necessary to navigate construction capital needs at the enterprise level.

Superior core controls
In the modern era, spreadsheets and paper-based reporting won't make the grade when it comes to delivering timely, accurate and polished reports to stakeholders and collaborators. Enterprise contractors need powerful financial controls that take into account all aspects of the contract budget, tracking every transaction, monitoring cost fluctuations and offering a snapshot of the project's trajectory. CMiC Financials delivers this functionality at the core of its value proposition, ensuring total visibility of a company's financial situation down to the fine-grain details that make all the difference.

Automation tools that manage repetitive transactions and tasks offer another layer of control to a firm's financial management outlook, freeing up valuable time and minimizing waste from error. With the ability to create streamlined workflows for every aspect of the enterprise operation, business leaders can focus on the details that require their absolute attention. 

Workforce requirements
Managing a growing, changing workforce and the financial demands that surround it is a challenge unto itself, demanding specialized software that forms another key component of the CMiC Financials suite. The Human Capital Management module serves as the master repository for all time card, payroll and administrative needs that a construction firm must facilitate, as well as a full-featured employee profile system that offers individuals greater insight into work-related information. HCM also incorporates a comprehensive benefits management suite complete with self-service functionality. 

In addition to offering employees more autonomy and visibility, administrative departments can also enjoy faster, more accurate processing tools that save them time and effort. Since staff members have direct access to key information and controls, administrators can tackle projects with greater urgency and rest assured that employees have the support they need. 

Protection from risk
Risk assessment is a never-ending responsibility in the world of enterprise construction, which is why CMiC Financials includes a dedicated Corporate Risk Management module as a part of its lineup. With this industry-specific tool, contractors can assess their compliance adherence at every phase of the project lifecycle, tracking standards at the national and international level if need be. This feature also provides a clear audit trail for all financial processes, aligning all procedures with the accounting standards specific to the region in question. 

With the power of precise financial controls, a strong grip on human capital management and tactics to actively combat risk, enterprise contractors have everything they need to square away their capital requirements with CMiC Financials. 

Construction software promotes stronger app integration

  
  
  

In the contemporary world of IT, integration is key. Contractors whose operations rely on specialized applications may have an edge when it comes to executing isolated tasks and communicating with specific teams, but when the job calls for information to be distributed across the organization or to a third-party collaborator, data silos and other boundaries can bring productivity to a screeching halt. That's why tech leaders are promoting a higher standard of integration throughout their enterprise app deployments, aiming for greater levels of efficiency and the elimination of obstacles.

Connecting key resources
While conventional approaches to app deployment focused on simply getting the necessary data from server environments to the front line, today's organizations and stakeholders have much higher expectations when it comes to information flow and the operational efficiency that comes along with it. For instance, ERP solutions were once isolated with their own specific data sets and could not interact with other financial or development modules. Similarly, CRM software used to be sequestered from resource planning platforms and other key resources - a recipe for severe inefficiencies.

As highlighted by a recent article from CIO Magazine, integration efforts have taken on a life of their own in the past several years, and software developers are looking to make 2015 the year when apps truly come together in a holistic manner. The source explained that with the convergence of ERP and CRM, organizations are already enjoying simpler, faster and more cost-effective information sharing across their operations. In the world of construction, this means more precise and effortless project execution, as well as fewer errors and wasteful practices. 

"Historically, ERP and CRM have been viewed as two separate systems of engagement," noted Jeremy Roche, CEO of FinancialForce, according to the news source. "However, many businesses are starting to realize the immense value in eliminating distinctions between front and back office processes, bringing ERP to the forefront." 

Benefits for all stakeholders
With more open, reliable pathways through which data can move across the enterprise, clients and subcontractors also see a range of advantages when they engage in business with a firm utilizing the latest integrated construction software. CIO Magazine pointed out that with the support of interconnected applications, organizations can more easily share, edit and develop project materials with third parties on the fly, rather than relying on repetitive processes for file distribution and coordination. This dramatically enhances the client experience and builds trust with business partners. 

"Rather than continuing to allow vital customer information to be scattered among various pieces of a business, companies will begin to merge ERP and CRM into one single system of customer engagement, so they can better support the entire customer journey, from the initiation of interest to the delivery of a product," continued Roche, as quoted by CIO Magazine.

Contractors depend on accurate, agile IT tools to fuel their operations, and with highly integrated app environments, they can finally make the most of their construction software investments. 

PCI compliance considerations for contractors

  
  
  

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is much more than a framework for retailers and financial services firms looking to shore up their privacy measures. These regulations are an in-depth set of rules and guidelines to help competitors in all sectors develop stronger and more resilient processes to facilitate transactions of any type. With regard to the construction industry, this could account for anything ranging from supply chain purchases to client billings and payroll management. Contractors simply can't ignore PCI standards, especially in an age when cybercriminal activity runs rampant. 

Time for a change
While PCI DSS did a fine job at guiding organizations toward best practices for the past several years, the recent slew of cyberattacks and related incidents proved that the organization was due for an update to its standards. PCI DSS 3.0, the latest version of the group's regulatory measures, took full effect on January 1, and compliance crackdowns are currently in full swing, according to an article from TechTarget. Decision-makers have their work cut out for them as they navigate the 96 adjustments and additions to the original framework, thoroughly examining their own practices in the process. 

As the source explained, changes will impact how organizations build relationships with third-party service providers, facilitate transactions with external stakeholders and track the flow of sensitive data throughout their networks. For contractors with complex, homegrown construction software solutions, it will be critical that they develop updated workflows that increase the visibility of these processes. Otherwise, they may encounter issues once it comes time to audit these systems or protect themselves against the many threats of the digital age. 

"Not only do you have to have a documented policy and procedure, but those who are responsible for those actions also need to actually know that the procedures and policies exist and be knowledgeable of them," said Isabel Bardsley-Garcia, QSA and PCI practice lead for the security consulting group within Dallas-based AT&T Consulting Solutions, according to the source.

Getting prepared
Rather than revamping their infrastructure from the inside out, contractors should consider restructuring their software deployments with the assistance of a dedicated service provider that holds itself to a higher standard of compliance. Now that PCI DSS 3.0 has swept the digital landscape, there is no better time to update applications and communications to meet the demands of these new regulations. 

4 Keys to digital asset management for construction

  
  
  

Digital asset management (DAM) is arguably one of the most overlooked aspects of IT strategy in the modern business landscape, and organizations in nearly every industry could benefit from adopting solutions that better promote the creation, organization and distribution of content across the enterprise. However, it's hard to imagine a more fitting domain for DAM than in the construction segment, in which critical, collaborative files are constantly on the move throughout the network - an expansive web of devices and applications that now includes mobile elements. 

Content-heavy construction
Without knowing it, many contractors have already tried their hand at DAM using isolated applications and databases, although efficient and secure operations have been hard to come by without dedicated systems. While some attempts have brought organizations closer to their asset management goals, there is still much left to be desired, especially as new and unique forms of content become central to construction operations.

"Most organizations use digital asset management to manage images. It has always been this way and it will likely continue to be this way for some time," said DAM thought leader David Diamond, according to an article from CMSWire. "After all, images are the thing DAM does best. But it's time to stop using DAM to manage images because you could be doing so much more."

Now, decision-makers are looking to turn over a new leaf with highly integrated tools that simplify and streamline asset management processes so key to the modern construction process. This will require a deeper understanding of the DAM landscape and a willingness to take on new construction management software technologies. To jumpstart these efforts, here are four must-have features that should be a part of any contractor's DAM deployment.

1. An industry-specific suite
The types of digital assets managed by a firm in a particular industry, as well as the workflows and processes surrounding this content, vary drastically from one industry to the next. Construction companies have precise and unique demands when it comes to their DAM strategies, and need a software solution that can keep pace with the specialized nature of the tasks at hand. As a recent article from TechTarget recommended, decision-makers should begin by engaging in discussions with potential partners to evaluate their mastery of the field in question

"Does the partner understand my kind of industry? Are they the kind of partner I want to work with? Do they understand my parameters? Focus on the features that differentiate one software system from another," Theresa Regli, a principal analyst and managing partner at The Real Story Group told the news source. "There is one that is right for you and that fits your scenarios."

2. Email organization made easy
While cutting-edge content types have saturated the construction environment, traditional channels such as email still play a vital role in the project management process and should be considered a primary element of any sound DAM deployment. Employees and supervisors should be able to tap into email archives organized by date, context and project type in order to cut out time-consuming processes and minimize confusion and frustration. A strong email platform will form the backbone of a content management plan if integrated well with the rest of a construction software suite. 

3. Accessible blueprints and images
Whether it is an employee, supervisor, subcontractor or client who is looking to access a blueprint or job site photograph, these assets must be readily available and easily accessible in order to keep construction moving along at a productive pace. The ideal DAM suite will not only allow end users to view these files, but to also make necessary edits in a collaborative manner, especially when multiple parties are required to voice their opinion on a project checkpoint. This also goes for BIM and other 3D modeling software, which have become vital to job site operations. 

4. Built-for-mobile functionality 
Limiting DAM tools to a desktop environment can dramatically limit the value of the construction software, and considering the widespread adoption of mobile tools, there is no better time to expand these tools onto platforms such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. Mobile Enterprise pointed to research from Soonr revealing that 74 percent of employees expect to be able to share key files using mobile hardware, meaning that construction leaders must step it up and expand the functionality of DAM into this domain. 

"Solution providers can no longer rely on simple sync-and-share capabilities - employees need easy access to complete documents along with full editing capabilities under a range of conditions, even offline, in order to do their jobs efficiently," said Ahmet Tuncay, CEO of Soonr, according to the news source.

Most organizations have an idea of how they want their content to be developed and distributed throughout the network. With these tips in mind, they'll be that much closer to making this vision a reality. 

Cybersecurity a top concern in 2015

  
  
  

One does not have to be a cybersecurity expert to know that this area of IT strategy was under the spotlight throughout 2014, and became a primary topic of boardroom conversation following an endless stream of headlines and media buzz. While business leaders in the construction industry may have once considered themselves immune to the trials and tribulations faced by retailers and financial services firms trying to protect their digital assets, this past year proved that network defense is a concern for any organization powering its operations with IT assets and strategies. 

A look at a year past
As stories of data breaches and vulnerabilities took center stage in 2014, stakeholders across the private and public sectors kept an eye on cybersecurity developments in hopes of extracting warnings and lessons from less-fortunate entities. For instance, attacks at retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and Home Depot raised awareness of point-of-sale security and the importance of encrypting digital transactions, while the massive breach at J.P. Morgan brought attention to the significance of double-authentication password protection methods.

A recent blog post from The Wall Street Journal dove into some of the gritty details about the reality of today's threat matrix, suggesting that organizations now face a wider variety of hazards in the digital environment, not to mention a more organized and well-funded group of adversaries. Bryan Sartin, director of the RISK team at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, voiced his assessment of the current state of affairs. 

"It's not just about stealing data, it can be about extortion, data destruction, combinations of demonstrated denial of service [DDoS] attacks and data theft. It's no longer about preventing; smart security now is about how to recognize and react to indicators of these attacks and to do something before it results in alerts going off on your network," Sartin told the source.

industry implications
While 2014 didn't see any significant attacks on the construction industry per se, cybersecurity leaders suggest that criminal groups are widening the scope of their targets and techniques in search of the next big attack opportunity. Since many contractors are positioned within an intricate web of manufacturing, engineering and other supply chain entities, it would be wise for decision-makers in these areas to shore up their security efforts with stronger construction software strategies and address the shortcomings of their current profiles - the repercussions could be drastic if they don't. 

"The question is what happens if somebody shuts down the East Coast electrical grid or blows up a power plant," said Eric Friedberg, partner at Stroz Friedberg, according to The Wall Street Journal. "At some point the extreme motives to do harm and the capability of using cyber are going to merge."

Construction firms have plenty of challenges to tackle in 2015, but as business leaders map out their objectives moving forward, they can't neglect the realities of the modern cybsersecurity landscape, especially if their stakeholders are spread across various industries and specializations. 

Construction takes on the Internet of Things

  
  
  

The Internet of Things is easily one of the most compelling trends in the IT world at large, and with innovators in the manufacturing and engineering industries already discovering a variety of promising use cases for these technologies, it won't be long before decision-makers in the construction sector take on the IoT in search of a competitive edge. In fact, many forward-thinking IT leaders have already expressed interest in the IoT for construction, and as these intrepid adopters begin to reveal the true potential of these resources, a new standard of connectivity will surely sweep the industry. 

Time to get ahead 
Between the wide variety of equipment on the modern job site, the growing functionality of project management software and expanding digital capabilities of end users, the construction landscape is simply ripe for IoT empowerment. As a recent article from Equipment World explained, there is a wealth of opportunities waiting to be revealed with the help of the sensors, computer chips and transmitters. Construction leaders simply need to take the plunge and begin to integrate these tools into their operations to realize transformative efficiency and productivity gains. 

"I'm going to tell it to you straight: He or she who controls the intelligence - the data about those assets, inventories and areas of operation - will control that market, the customer, the regulatory environment and the supply chain," tech leader Chris Rezendes reportedly said at the Association of Equipment Management Professionals Asset Management Symposium.  

All signs are pointing to an IoT revolution in the construction arena, the source explained, as sensors become cheaper and project management software develops into a central component of job site and back office operations. With the growth of what General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt calls the "industrial Internet", inventories, personnel and equipment assets will all be orchestrated with digital oversight. Now is the time for organizations to experiment with these tools and techniques in order to realize competitive advantages and get ahead of the curve. 

Beware of IoT risk
Even in light of the exciting capabilities offered by the IoT in the construction domain, business leaders in the sector must proceed with caution when leveraging any newly-minted technology, especially one that focuses on such tightly integrated hardware and software components. An article from Computer Business Review urged decision-makers to remain conscious of their procurement and implementation strategies when developing their IoT outlooks, as cybercriminal groups view unprotected devices and applications as easy pickings for network intrusions. 

"These connected devices use new protocols, present new ways to hide malicious activity and generate more noise that must be accurately filtered to identify true threats," Carl Leonard, Principal Security Analyst at Websense, told the source. "Attacks are likely to attempt to use control of a simple connected device to move laterally within an organization to steal valuable data."

Companies are now tasked with balancing the security and functionality of their IoT deployments, but with a strong foundation of construction software underpinning these efforts, they'll be able to realize sustainable value and innovate in compelling new ways. 

Get collaborative capabilities - without the risk

  
  
  

Enhancing collaboration across the job site and back-office operations is a goal shared by nearly every construction organization around the globe, as firms that have executed these synchronized strategies have enjoyed productivity and quality boosts in nearly every aspect of their operations. Implementing these tools and techniques is easier said than done, of course, and companies have long experimented with various approaches in an effort to bring consistent collaboration to the enterprise without sacrificing the control and security of vital digital assets. 

Much more than storage
One of the most common areas where organizations falter in their collaborative goals is in their attempts to promote file sharing and construction document management in unauthorized, unmonitored environments such as consumer-grade, downloadable tools. While these "box" solutions serve a purpose for quick and easy access to non-critical files, the protection of vital blueprints and financial records becomes an issue when these applications become the central component of a company's collaborative portfolio. A much more robust content management system is a necessity.

TechTarget explored this corner of the IT market in a recent article, suggesting that organizations are beginning to recognize the shortcomings of solutions solely focused on the storage and sharing of digital files, in regard to both the security and feature sets of these programs. The source explained that decision-makers are now prioritizing file sync-and-share capabilities, unified data sets and encrypted collaboration platforms that allow multiple parties to edit and create content in dynamic ways, especially in the mobile domain. 

"The market has matured way beyond being a storage solution," Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group told the source. "And we're seeing pricing strategies that reflect that because the value in these products is in the access and sharing functionality. For business users, these solutions have tremendous potential to enable collaboration and workflow and really take the place of some of the [enterprise content management] systems, or at least some of the workflows that now live in ECM systems."

Proactively combat risk
Another pivotal topic in the construction project controls conversation is the risk that accompanies the use of unauthorized apps - yet another reason why construction firms should deploy centralized, industry-specific solutions that protect data at rest and in transit. As a recent article from eWeek noted, a report from Globalscape found that 63 percent of employees still use platforms such as email to send and share vital documents on a regular basis. IT leaders must actively search out these risky behaviors within their organizations and replace vulnerable channels with dedicated solutions. 

This type of proactive stance toward risk mitigation is especially important when collaborating on resource-heavy files such as CAD and other 3D modeling platforms, as these sensitive materials also tend to slow down network operations if not supported by construction-centric content management applications. To maximize the performance of the IT infrastructure while upholding flexibility and security, business leaders must integrate specialized construction software that promotes the development and management of all content types and collaborative use cases. 

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