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What is SF1408?

by Kim KosterGovCon, Government Compliance

Feb 21, 2019

Just in case you are completely new to Government Contracting, let’s quickly level set on the mission of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). Their primary function is to perform contract and financial audits for agencies that are responsible for acquisition and contract administration for the US Government. DCAA audits ONLY government contractors like you. They conduct these audits in accordance with the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS). The principles that GAGAS embodies are unbiased audit conclusions based on facts. If you are interested there is a ton of information on the DCAA website dcaa.mil to help you more thoroughly prep for impending audits. With all that said, let’s focus in on the topic of this blog, which is the Pre-Award Accounting System Survey (SF1408). The Accounting System Survey is considered “pre-award audit” and it is necessary for the award of any Cost Type contract. Below is an excerpt from the DCAA Letters to Congress about Pre-Award Audits: Pre-Award Audits. Pre-award audits determine whether the design of a contractor’s accounting system is acceptable, which is a necessary condition for awarding cost type contracts. To better meet the needs of buying commands, DCAA prioritized these audits and developed tools to assist both contractors and auditors. As a result, DCAA has reduced the number of days to complete pre-award audits going from approximately 120 days in FY 2012 to about 60 days in FY 2016. Those measures, combined with effective communication between audit staff, contracting officers, and contractors, has allowed us to more quickly identify system deficiencies, provide workable solutions, and reduce the time between solicitation to award. Additionally, a part of our outreach to small businesses focuses on the necessary components of an acceptable accounting system, which we feel also contributed to this success. The “Pre-Award Survey (SF1408)” is conducted prior to award and is contract specific. It results in an opinion that the system is “acceptable” for use on the contemplated contract. It should be noted that this is NOT a true audit because it does not look at any actual costs – only the system capabilities. It is referred to as a “Survey” in the document and it is considered a “review” in auditor terminology. It can, and often is, done on a system that is not yet implemented based on the software capabilities and pro forma company policies and procedures. The Survey is a Pre-Award Survey known as Standard Form (SF) 1408 which is asking questions about your accounting system. Below are some of the inquiries of the form: Is the accounting system in accordance the GAAP? Accounting System provides for: Proper segregation of direct and indirect costs Identification and accumulation of direct costs by contract Method for allocation of indirect costs Timekeeping System Labor distribution Segregation of unallowable costs Accumulation of costs under General Ledger Control Accounting System provides financial information Required by contract clauses concerning limitation of cost (FAR 52.232-20 and 21) or limitation of payments (FAR 52.216-16) Required to support requests for progress payments Is the accounting designed to have reliable and accurate data? Is the accounting system fully operable? This overall process can be tricky for new government contractors and it is highly suggested that you have the right processes and tools in place to assure success. If you are not comfortable with taking this on yourself please do call Unanet, as we have a partner network that can assist you every step of the way. This is a great example of investing upfront to ensure the success of your project. It will be worth every penny you spend. For more information, download the SF1408 Overview.

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Project Management Maturity

by Kim KosterGovCon, Project Management

Feb 19, 2019

Achieving a strategic level of project management maturity should be on the mind of every project-based business, especially professional services firms. Proposals, budgets, resources, estimate-at-complete (EAC) are activities a project-based business can’t live without.  In a perfect world, the project management activities will connect directly to time and financial systems. The integrated system (people, processes, and tools) will provide a level of visibility and control that will help mature your discipline and will improve execution success. Project Management Maturity = Project Success and Predictability   Evolving the Project Management Discipline Since project management depends on the strategic alignment of people, processes and tools it only makes sense to concentrate on the level of competency of each of these attributes throughout your capability evolution. Professional services organizations are all on different journeys as it pertains to capability evolution. Which one of the below levels accurately depicts your current maturity status? Level 1 – AD-HOC Achieving goals depend on individual effort and heroics. This is typically chaos and you might picture this state as people running around with their hair on fire. Level 2 – BASIC INFORMATION Basic project management processes are in place and the necessary process discipline exists to repeat earlier successes on projects with similar applications. Level 3 – ORGANIZATIONAL STANDARDS Processes are documented and standardized, with approved tailored approaches adopted as needed. Level 4 – QUANTITATIVE Detailed measures on process adherence and cost/schedule performance are quantitatively measured, understood and managed. Level 5 – CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT Continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies. By committing to mature your project management discipline you will realize the following benefits: Improved visibility and control into project performance Improved predictability and understanding of overall performance Increase in realized profitability Common organizational standards ensuring consistent reporting, reduction of rework, and reduced dependence on heroes. Optimization of the project management staff allowing them to focus on their customer, not on turning the crank. More efficient communication within project teams and to senior leadership. Delivery of real-time insight on project financials and enable resolution of identified risks. More on-time and on-budget projects, which equals a delighted customer.   What is PPM? Today we hear so much about PPM, but what exactly is it and how many organizations are really doing it effectively? What makes implementation of this discipline so difficult? The root cause is disparate systems and lack of process standardization make reporting and managing projects and portfolios very challenging. So, what is PPM? Wikipedia does a great job on the definition: “PPM is the centralized management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. The objectives of PPM are to determine the optimal resource mix for delivery and to schedule activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals, while honoring constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors.” Portfolios are groupings of projects that have common characteristics (example: customer, product line, etc.). The portfolio will not change, but the underlying projects and proposals will continue to change and evolve. The art of PPM is to plan resources, analyze data and resultant KPIs, and understand each project’s status all in one ecosystem (people, process, and tools). 6 Steps to Implement PPM: Get buy-in from all stakeholders: executives, functional leaders, portfolio managers, project managers all need to agree or at least understand the vision and the reason for PPM. Build a team with champions. Make sure you pick a team with the necessary expertise and if you don’t have the necessary expertise, consider hiring an outside firm. If you have a centralized project management office (PMO), they can be a huge help in providing expertise and direction for the PPM implementation team. Begin collecting project and program data in a central repository. An integrated project portfolio management tool will make a significant difference in the availability and accuracy of the data used for decision making. Common processes for all projects for the organization is a MUST. Processes must be current and realistic, and teams need role-based training. Projects all have nuances, so it is important to have tailorable processes to accommodate project size and type. The implementation team should lead this charge along with the PMO. Establish portfolios (in accordance with strategy) and align the projects to them. Assign portfolio managers and assure portfolio reporting is available. Common KPIs should be established with visual dashboards for the portfolio management team. Roll-out the discipline of PPM. Advertise to the organization and provide role-based training for all stakeholders throughout the organization.   Benefits of PPM: Common communication of business information produced from sound processes, assuring decisions are made based on accurate information that aligns with corporate goals Ability to manage the opportunity pipeline of all projects that can be rolled up to program and portfolio What-iffing and modeling aids decision making by allowing you to establish the best path for the business. Revenue, cash, project, new orders, and growth are a few financial metrics that support strategy Enterprise planning of resources assuring right resources, right time, and right place Analyze KPIs at all levels of the organization and communicate to the enterprise Portfolio reporting and drill down so that the status of all projects can be analyzed as a part of the overall portfolio Visibility into all the projects in a portfolio making sure that all projects are performing to expectations Common governance of projects and programs allowing for a repeatable and tailorable process for all project sizes and types.   Unanet Can Help You Get Started with PPM What better way to achieving project management maturity than with project management software supporting your projects? Unanet’s Project Portfolio and Project Portfolio Financials software offer one single source of truth for every aspect of your projects: expense reporting, budgeting and forecasting, time reporting, pipeline management, and more. We’ve helped over 2,000 customers transform their project management processes. See Unanet in action by contacting our sales team. Download our white paper, “Benefits of Maturing Your Project Management Discipline” to learn more.

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What Architects Should Look for In CRM Software

by Sarah LorekAEC, Cosential, CRM, ERP Software Best Practices, Uncategorized

Feb 13, 2019

Clients buy into ongoing relationships when they are sold on the experience your firm provides. How can you deliver at the highest levels on every project and gain an edge over your competition? Consider investing in an architecture CRM system to manage your business processes end-to-end. What is CRM? CRM is shorthand for customer relationship management. It’s more than just another software package or cloud-based service. Customer relationship management is a business strategy that helps architecture firms to increase revenues, reduce operating costs, build and nurture client loyalty, and improve bottom-line profitability. Think of CRM as an information hub. It gathers data from various sources including project budgets, conversation logs, project proposals, and invoices to give you a holistic real-time view of your clients and projects. Why architecture firms need CRM CRM helps you improve responsiveness and communication. Not only does it help improve direct communication with your client, but it also allows your employees to be more responsive to team members and be more proactive in completing tasks that make your projects run smoothly, completing them on time and within the budget. CRM allows you to measure the value of each client and each project. You’ll gain insight into how well you provide value to your clients. Together, this information helps you identify growth opportunities and develop strategies to expand relationships with your key clients. CRM in architecture not only helps you manage client relationships, but it also supports every component of business development from bidding and proposal delivery through project lifecycle management. 5 Features Every Architecture Firm CRM Must Include There are many CRM systems on the market. Some are specific to the architecture, engineering and construction industries while others are designed to work across a much wider variety of product and service industries. Here are the must-have features for an effective architecture CRM system. Project-based sales Configurability Go/No Go functionality Central database Relationship intelligence 1. Project-based sales You sell finished projects instead of physical products. Winning the next bid hinges on using information from the last project you completed. You may already use robust project management, PM, system and overlook this essential feature when selecting a CRM for architecture firms. When choosing a CRM, you can select a system that links to and integrates data from your existing PM tool, or use a CRM with project management features incorporated. Keep in mind the differences between the two. Project management focuses on short-term items including start and end dates, milestones and deliverables, workflow management, and task tracking. Customer relationship management focuses on long-term goals that support relationship building that leads to more business. Both PM and CRM support communication tools for contact management and emailing, scheduling and time tracking, and planning and analysis tools. An efficient project-based CRM gathers information from the systems and processes you already use to complete projects. It supports your proposal and bidding process with analytical tools to help you estimate budgets, completion timeframes, and logistics schedules to deliver more accurate project bids and proposals. 2. Configurability Configurability, including scalability, will ensure that your CRM will serve your business needs through crucial growth periods and beyond. When searching for the right CRM, remember that customizable and configurable are not the same thing. In software, customizing involves coding. In other words, you’ll need your IT person to custom code the fields, features, and functions you need. Configurable CRM systems allow non-IT users to change features and functionality through the built-in native tools in the system. Configurability does have limitations. You’ll need to consider whether the CRM system is designed for wholesale or retail product distribution, home or business service providers, or project-based service delivery. While a product-driven CRM may be fully configurable, it lacks the project-driven components that are essential for architecture firms. Additionally, ensure that your CRM is scalable and adaptable as your business processes change. One example of a scalable and configurable CRM feature is telephone dialing, call logging and recording, or message transcribing for mobile and desktop users. An effective CRM supports your staff through internal process changes without the need to migrate to and learn new systems each time you make small changes to your business model. 3. Go/No Go functionality Automating opportunity analysis supports intelligent business decisions. Early in the business development process, your CRM should be able to qualify or disqualify, leads and projects together and separately. To analyze new potential deals, you can configure the CRM to score a lead according to user inputs and reach a go/no-go decision. When bidding additional projects for existing clients, your CRM can pull details from previous projects, timelines, budgets, and customer experience data along with user input to yield a go/no-go on specific projects. 4. Central database Being able to find the data, documents, and information you need all in one place ensures a faster, more seamless workflow. The ability to search and sort, upload and download, retrieve and duplicate information, files, and data from a variety of locations is an essential feature of a robust customer relationship management system. CRM should bring together back-office documentation and client-facing information making them accessible in a few clicks. Also, your CRM should be able to extract data from one source and copy data into other functions to streamline workflows, task completion, and milestone delivery. A highly functional central database supports you in administrative processes such as onboarding new clients and finalizing completed projects. 5. Relationship intelligence Data without context doesn’t supply you with useful information. You need details that help you understand your clients and metrics that let you evaluate the impact on your bottom line. Relationship intelligence helps you achieve your most important business development and client-specific objectives. The most important function of the relationship intelligence feature in a CRM system is its ability to provide users with predictive information. It tells you if your firm’s relationship with a client is on track and profitable or if it’s at risk in any way. Automated relationship intelligence tracks interactions across multiple projects, can flag potential issues, and create a corrective action plan. With relationship intelligence, your team members know what needs to happen at every stage of a project and throughout the client life-cycle. Architecture CRM Meets Needs of Forward-Thinking Firms In summary, choosing a customer relationship management system is a critical decision for your company. Architecture firms sell experience and expertise. Being able to quickly and easily access past and on-going project information is crucial for writing winning architectural project proposals. Static, one size fits all solutions won’t get the job done. You need a robust CRM solution that allows you to configure your specific workflows, reporting, and analytical tools. Interested in winning more work with a CRM built specifically for architecture? Check out this free eBook. Architecture firms need go/no-go tools that help them quickly determine whether opportunities are worth pursuing, which projects get automatic approvals, and which ones require management input. A centralized hub for data facilitates better deal analysis and faster proposal creation. Architecture is a highly relationship-based industry. Therefore, make sure that the CRM architecture and design you choose supports your ability to determine how clients, internal project teams, and external partners impact your firm’s bottom line. If you like this article you may also like: What’s a CRM & Why It’s Important For Your Business

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DCAA Timekeeping Requirements and Timesheet Software

by Kim KosterGovCon, Government Compliance

Feb 04, 2019

Unanet has timesheet features and functions that directly support the DCAA timekeeping requirements stated in the Automated Timekeeping Systems section of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) regulations and Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). Note that DCAA requires that the timekeeping process, collectively including policies, manual procedures and tools be compliant; timesheet software alone is not audited for compliance or certified, nor approved as DCAA compliant. However, Unanet timesheet software has been reviewed by auditors at hundreds of customer sites and, along with the customer policies and procedures, approved as supporting DCAA timekeeping requirements. Unanet timesheet software makes implementation of the DCAA regulations easy and efficient. Here is a small sampling of the DCAA regulations supported by Unanet: Employees charge time to authorized, open projects An employee access their timesheet through a secure password Employee records are viewable and there are auditable comments for any timesheet change Supervisors approve the entire timesheet All time must be reported (total time accounting) Administrators monitor delinquent timesheets Learn more about how Unanet timesheet software can help support DCAA timekeeping requirements! For information on controls checked during a DCAA audit please refer to publication 7641.90 titled, “Information for Contractors,” or contact the Defense Contract Audit Agency at the address below: Defense Contract Audit Agency ATTN: Policy Auditing Standards Division (PAS) 8725 John J. Kingman Rd., Suite 2135 Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6219 (703) 767-3234 (FAX)

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What exactly is CRM … And How Does It Help Construction Firms?

by Sarah LorekConstruction, Cosential, CRM

Nov 02, 2018

Defining CRM In construction, CRM stands for client relationship management. It refers to cloud-based software that places key relationship, communication, lead and opportunity data at users’ fingertips. The construction industry revolves around relationships. Clients often award expensive, high-profile projects based on how well they know and trust a firm. Each point of communication with a client will strengthen or weaken that trust. That’s why it’s crucial for client-facing staff to know the full picture of their firm’s relationship with a client, including:   Who the client is. Who works for the client. What projects they’ve done with the client in the past. What projects they’ve done that resemble the one they’re attempting to win. What opportunities they have chased with the client, and how successful they have been (client hit-rate). How often their firm communicates with the client, and what they’ve said. And much more. Unfortunately, many construction firms rely on tools like Outlook and Excel to track this information, resulting in employees working from multiple, disparate documents … none of which provide an accurate, up-to-date picture of the firm’s current relationships. Without a clear understanding of previous conversations, employees often repeat questions or make contradictory promises, which can damage a firm’s reputation with clients and partners. A construction-centric CRM can eliminate this issue by making accurate, up-to-date, and actionable relationships easily accessible.   (Learn how Unanet CRM by Cosential — the CRM and Proposal Automation solution purpose-built for construction — can benefit your firm.)   CRMs offer measurable results that tools like Excel and Outlook simply can’t achieve. According to Software Advice: 74 percent of CRM users said their system offered improved access to customer data. 47 percent said it had a significant impact on customer retention. 47 percent said it had an impact on customer satisfaction. The kicker? This study analyzed generic CRMs designed for companies that sell products. Construction firms, which sell experience by demonstrating how the skills and knowledge used in previous projects can benefit future clients, have different needs. Firms that invest in a solution purpose-built for their unique challenges and business development processes can expect greater results.   Why construction-centric CRM matters In most industries, sales & business development is a two-stage process. In the first stage, the organization identifies a lead. In the second stage, the lead becomes an opportunity. The sales rep then aims to close the deal before delivering a product. But construction firms sell their experience and ultimately projects. For general contractors, this is a three-stage process. Leads or rumors become opportunities, which require proposals, bids or submittals before they can become projects. Finally, the firm uses that project data to win more projects.   For sub-contractors, the process is a bit different. Firms form relationships that lead to bids that eventually become projects. The firm then uses project data to win more bid invites.   With such a stark difference in the way construction firms and product-based companies win deals, it’s clear that construction firms need a CRM purpose-built to serve their needs. But what capabilities are most important for a construction-centric CRM?   7 things to look for when purchasing a CRM in construction: Network mapping Central database Industry-specific integrations Proposal and resume automation Hit rate-improving analytics Go/No Go functionality Mobile functionality 1. Network mapping Construction Executive warns that, when it comes to awarding a project, “multiple people can impact a decision.” That’s why construction firms must develop relationships “with everyone from top to bottom. A general rule of thumb is that every person at the prospect’s home or business is important, from the administrative staff to the president, as well as spouse and other family members.” That’s a lot to keep up with. And your firm and the prospect aren’t the only organizations involved in the deal. You also need to keep partners in mind — especially when it comes to joint ventures.   Juggling all these moving parts can get very complicated, very fast. To keep up with everyone involved, your CRM should allow you to map out and document your entire network, including: Clients Prospects Personnel Owners Owner’s reps Subconsultants Contractors Subcontractors Tracking down to the individual level is key. For example, imagine an employee leaves your firm. If they end up working for an architecture firm you work with or another construction firm you partner with in joint ventures, will your CRM recognize him or her as single person?   For most CRMs, the answer is no. Instead you would be forced to create a new record for your previous employee to associate with their new firm and mark the original record inactive. But with a construction-centric CRM, you can simply associate your former employee’s contact record with their new firm and not lose any rich details or history that is vital to your network. Put simply: All CRMs can handle contact management, but construction firms need a solution that can handle their unique use cases.   In addition to managing the contacts themselves, it’s also important to document communications between your firm and your network to empower greater internal collaboration.   “Our marketing and business development often teamed up with project managers to get new projects,” said Lisa Pitts, senior implementation specialist at Cosential, referring to her time as a marketer and business developer in construction firms like Satterfield & Pontikes Construction and Helps Phelps Construction Co. “Knowing who is talking to whom and when is key to a successful procurement.”   2. Central database Marketers and business developers in construction often live in several spreadsheets, wondering whether they’ve missed out on a great opportunity because of a forgotten lead — as Travis Wilson, director of marketing at Layton Construction, knows all too well.   “My team was struggling to collect information, and then, when they finally collected what they needed, it didn’t always make it into a central repository,” he explained. “We were using this constantly growing spreadsheet to try and keep track of all the data we had, but over time, it just became overwhelming. We were constantly saying to ourselves, ‘There’s got to be a better way.”   Now that he uses Unanet CRM, he no longer has this problem. In fact, the information he and his team need is so easy to access, he uses the CRM to quickly onboard new employees. “We used to struggle with a few people holding key institutional knowledge in their heads. I’ve been here for 13 years, and I have a few team members who are long-term employees. We know a lot about our projects, but as we grow and bring in new people, they don’t have the historical knowledge we do,” Travis said. “With Unanet, they can get a clear idea of the history behind our projects. It definitely gets them up to speed quicker and makes them less reliant on our veteran employees.”     3. Industry-specific integrations Integrations are incredibly important when it comes to CRMs, but many vendors don’t handle them well. In fact, 49 percent of CRM users said integrating with other systems is a challenge. And once again, this figure is based on generic CRMs and users from all industries. That means your chances of successfully integrating a generic CRM with construction-specific systems is slim. (Think financial systems, like Vista by Viewpoint, or project management systems, like Procore Project Management.)   But a CRM created for construction will provide integrations with these services and more. That eliminates duplicate data entry and addresses any data integrity concerns.   4. Proposal and resume automation  One of the reasons integrations are so important is they put project data at marketers’ fingertips, allowing them to generate proposals and resumes without the typical headache … a change they would welcome with open arms. “The thing about building proposals is it always comes down to the last minute,” Lisa said. “It’s really high pressure, and everybody gets frantic. Anything that saves time — that keeps you from having to dig or chase someone down for information — is huge.”   By pulling key project and resume data from your financial system or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software into your CRM, marketers can use the time they save hunting down and updating this information to better tailor proposals to the client’s key issues, leading to a greater success rate.   “Project managers can get irritated at marketers who ask the same question 20 times because they don’t know where they put their response or they want to double check that it’s right,” Lisa explained. “Once marketers have a single source of truth for the information, that problem is solved.”   And knowing the project data is accurate because the CRM pulls it from the system of record is invaluable. “Having that accurate data feeding from one source is key,” Lisa said. “Any incorrect information will bring your score down and may prevent you from getting shortlisted or winning the job.”   5. Hit rate-improving analytics In 2015, the Southern Illinois University Master of Marketing Research program partnered with SMPS to uncover which metrics matter most to success in architecture, engineering and construction. One of the most important, as you might expect, is the hit rate.   By understanding where your most profitable projects come from, you can create a more effective pursuit strategy that increases your hit rate. According to PSMJ, “In the past, the process was fraught with hunches and incomplete data. At present and in the future, there is no need for hunches or lack of data.”   Thanks to construction-focused CRMs, they’re right. To understand where your firm has the biggest opportunities to increase revenue, a CRM should allow you to analyze: The locations where you usually win work. This will help you develop a better understanding of your ideal customers and target regions where your firm thrives. Which relationships help you win more work. Measure which partnerships lead to the most wins. Maybe when you partner with organization A and compete against firm B, you win 90 percent of the time, but when you partner with organization C and compete against firm D, you lose 85 percent of the time. This information can help you determine whether pursuing an opportunity is likely to lead to a new project or become a wasted investment. Which lead sources most often lead to projects. You may already have some idea of which leads are most effective. For example, maybe you know conference leads perform well. But do you know if that’s true for all conferences or just some? Pinpoint your best lead sources at a granular level to decide which leads are worth pursuing. Which types of projects are most profitable. This analysis isn’t related to hit rate, but it’s crucial to understand. You may have certain project types or market sectors that frequently lead to wins, but if they’re not profitable, they’re not worth pursuing. 6. Go/No Go functionality A construction-centric CRM will provide tons of data to help you create an effective Go/No Go process, allowing your team to invest in high-probability opportunities and avoid wasting resources … a goal many in AEC overlook. According to Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM, vice president and CMO of JDB Engineering, too many firms put marketers “on wild goose chases because of poor go/no-go decision-making for clients and proposals.”   Fortunately, a construction-centric CRM will simplify this process, providing the data needed to answer key questions, such as: Is this a high-profile project? Does the project align with our core values? Do we have an existing, positive relationship with the owner? Is this owner collaborative and appreciative of our values? Will this result in an enduring relationship? Do we have the right team available for this project? (Want more help with your Go/No Go decision? Use this template from SMPS.)   7. Mobile functionality 81 percent of CRM users said they access their CRM using multiple types of devices. Even if you think you won’t need mobile access, it’s good to have the option. Your best sales people are not behind a desk. Mobile accessibility allows your business developers and seller-doers to capture key lead information while on the go. And that’s crucial for ensuring important information isn’t forgotten.   Your CRM should also allow you to do the following on your mobile device: Automatically log phone calls. Enter notes using voice to text. List and search your projects. Organize, search and filter contacts, companies, projects, call and opportunities. Receive enabled push notifications. Access driving directions to any address in your system. Review your upcoming and past due call logs. The #1 CRM in Construction Unanet CRM by Cosential empowers firms to: Improve their marketing and business development processes and communication. Access key project, personnel and client information anywhere, anytime. Win projects based on their existing relationships and proven experience Ditch frustrating and time-consuming spreadsheets. Leverage their entire network to win more projects. Integrate with crucial industry-specific solutions. Quickly generate bids, resumes and proposals. Analyze opportunities to improve their hit rate. Develop a strategic Go/No Go process. Want to find out if Cosential is right for your firm? See it in action.  

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What’s a CRM & Why It’s Important For Your Business

by Sarah LorekAEC, Cosential, CRM, Uncategorized

Feb 20, 2017

There are plenty who have heard those three letters “CRM” and aren’t sure what the acronym stands for. Quite often at events our staff asks or gets asked, what the acronym means and it’s a testament to the more recent awareness and adoption within AEC firms that many people to this day cannot define it. That’s okay; you’re not alone. CRM in concept is arguably one of the newest types of software to be implemented within AEC firms and the timing, while arguably late against other verticals, certainly aligns with younger generations joining and taking the helm.   CRM by common definition means “Customer Relationship Management”.  The earliest adopters are the organizations who have sold products, software, or “stuff” for decades.  They operate in a world of high-volume conversations, pitches, and attempts to win over most of their perspective TAM, or Total Available Market. AEC firms that sell projects over products are adopting CRM’s for core reasons such as having one source of truth for contact information, lead and opportunity pipeline management, and streamlining marketing efforts such as accessing historical project records for proposals and/or easily organizing email campaigns to clients, partners and prospects. Arnold Neustadter first marketed this practice in 1958 with his rotating index file cardholder we all know as the Rolodex. That type of tool reigned arguably well from its conception to the 1980s when Robert and Kate Kestnbaum pioneered database marketing. In 2007 the CRM took off fueled by the SaaS market and while you may have not known the acronym of CRM until recently it’s highly unlikely you have not heard of Salesforce, arguably the most popular and traditional CRM used by product and software-based companies to date. If we were immortal, only loyal to one employer, had immaculate memories, and of course telepathic there would be no demand for a CRM.  Perhaps in a galaxy far away this is the case but here on Earth, that’s not the case. At a business level, the information gained through years of relationships and transactions is the lifeblood of a company.  Documenting client names, contacts, contact information, and history is vital. So here we are, human.  We are forgetful tend to change jobs from time to time.  Combing through a departed employee’s laptop to recoup business intelligence is a familiar sight, but not needed for businesses capitalizing on technology such as a CRM.  The “tribal knowledge” of a company’s relationships can and should be documented within a modern, easy-to-use forum so much that when CRM is done right it’s the source of truth for your staff. What Do Most CRM’s do? The elevator pitch for a CRM is that it’s a software system businesses used to document the existence of prospects, customers, and house anything and everything associated with them. Expect a CRM to house accounts, and all the contacts with their respective telephone numbers, email addresses, notes, and conversations. Most CRM’s have a component that automatically logs every email between companies, showing who sent what and when with complete transparency.  At a minimum, all CRM’s allow users to log their own notes related to an account, contacts, and sales pipeline.  It’s the sales pipeline that business leaders focus on. Having a single pain-of-glass view showing what deals are in work, closed, and forecasted aligned with the ability to quantify or dig into activities is vital for leaders and executives.  That is what affects major business decisions and what feeds information back to owners, boards or investors. Life without a CRM Every business with ambitions to stay alive must have an aggregate view of performance. Traditionally those without a CRM live within an endless array of emails, spreadsheets, and attachments with a poor soul tasked to consolidate the data frequently.  It’s that simple, but it’s not. In such a world like this the more people contributing data the higher the odds of it either being vastly inaccurate and extremely subjective in format and content. Redefining the “C” in CRM: Fortunately, the first letter of the acronym CRM is flexible. The official definition is Customer Relationship Management.  But do you think of your projects as customers? Do you vest into having customer support lines, or a venue for customers to make returns, submit trouble tickets? For AEC firms the answer is obviously not. Unanet has redefined this “C” for years in marketing to AEC firms as a “Client Relationship Management”, tool and a taking a step further with “Company Relationship Management”.  When you consider how AEC firms manage not just clients, but partners, suppliers, and prospects, a CRM truly allows a firm to have a fantastic grasp on all relationships that matter. What if you could automate a process to reward your subcontractors with a gift or a shout-out for receiving the highest average customer satisfaction score from your most recent client?  What if you could do that without lifting a finger?  Relationships drive your business. One day you may be competing head to head with a firm and the very next day, teaming with them to win a big project.  The relationships you manage with Architects, Engineers, General Contractors, Sub Contractors AND clients are equally important.  One squeaky wheel can derail an entire project. Interested in learning more about how Unanet can help your firm stay on top of your personnel records? We would love to show you, request a demonstration today. Feel free to also reach out to our sales team here or 800-505-7089 ext. 1 with any questions you may have.