Why We Chose Unanet: NewFields
The latest in an ongoing series highlighting a new Unanet customer and why it selected Unanet’s ERP solution over other options.
by Lucas Hayden
The firm: NewFields (www.newfields.com), a global environmental, engineering and construction management consulting ﬁrm whose areas of specialization range from environmental engineering and renewable energy to mining design and construction management. Founded in 1995, the 350+-person firm is headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., and has 19 offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. It serves clients in a variety of industries, including mining, oil & gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and transportation, and has completed projects in 70 countries.
As intentional — and successful — as the leadership at NewFields has been in cultivating an empowered, less hierarchical structure and culture across its 19 offices, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that the firm has been using for the last nine years was undermining that effort at every turn.
Rather than breaking down data siloes and enabling the free flow of information and insight across the enterprise, as the best ERP systems are designed to do, the system on which NewFields has been relying was doing the opposite, according to Eric Salnas, CPA, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer. The NewFields headquarters in Atlanta, he explains, functions primarily as a shared service center to support the firm’s local offices, ensuring they are coordinated and integrated from a systems and processes standpoint, while preserving their autonomy. But the ERP system was working at cross purposes, thwarting the headquarter office’s ability to integrate and coordinate, while at the same time hampering the autonomy of the firm’s local offices.
From the headquarter office where Salnas works, “to get any sort of data easily from across our local offices was almost impossible,” he says, because of the rigid, siloed nature of the ERP system. Answering a request to provide a list of projects performed for a certain oil & gas client, for example, could require someone to pull 10 different reports from 10 different local offices. Meanwhile, when local office employees needed to access data or run a report, they had to submit a request to the headquarter office instead of simply accessing that information themselves. “That created friction between the central office and our local offices,” Salnas says.
For he and the NewFields leadership team, finding a new ERP system was imperative. “Sticking with [the legacy system and provider] was never an option.”
After casting a wide net for a successor and bringing a handful of candidates in for demos, the firm chose Unanet ERP AE for several reasons:
- The Unanet team treated the NewFields team like a true partner. “We wanted personal attention, not to be treated like a ticket number,” Salnas says. What’s more, “it felt like a great cultural fit.”
- Unanet’s expertise and experience in ERP for engineering firms are a resource for customers. Asked during the final interview to explain how they would troubleshoot a particularly complex billing issue, the Unanet team “blew us away” with its on-the-spot innovation. “That was the deciding factor,” he says.
- Unanet ERP AE integrates seamlessly with other go-to software. Via the Unanet Connect integrations marketplace, NewFields can access pre-built application connectors to build out a digital ecosystem. Its first integration is with Concur, the firm’s preferred travel and expense software.
Having completed several rounds of staff training with Unanet ERP AE, NewFields is slated to go live with its new ERP solution in fall 2021. From both the headquarter office and local office perspectives, the implementation couldn’t come soon enough, Salnas says. “From Day One, we’ve told people they are going to finally be able to access their own data, that they can add a PO, update their budgets, or run a dashboard entirely on their own, and they’re thrilled about that. Our headquarter office can add much more value to the firm beyond running reports and editing documents. Unanet gives us the opportunity to serve differently, helping our local offices execute projects, win more business, and be more profitable.”
Instead of creating friction, Unanet ERP AE has become a cultural rallying point within the firm, says Salnas. “People see how data is going to be easier to find and they’re fired up about that. It’s harmony.”