While COVID-19 caused massive disruption to many industries, one silver lining is that it has accelerated the adoption of technology.
During a session titled Mastering Procurement Through the Power of Technology at this year’s Buildex Vancouver conference developers discussed how they have fared adopting digital solutions.
Ravi Pandarinath, controller for Ronmor Holdings, said his small company of 35 employees implemented new management software several years ago to streamline processes and cut down on excel spreadsheets.
“We have a lot of people doing multiple roles,” said Pandarinath. “We would love to have the resources to have people dedicated to stuff by we are small so we don’t.”
So when shopping for software solutions, flexibility was key. They found a solution that allows decisions to be made remotely from anywhere and the authority for those decisions can be switched around as people change roles.
“It was way too easy to sell this to us,” he said. “Sometimes people work different roles on different projects or others are on vacation. It was just seamless.”
When the pandemic hit, Ronmor pushed vendors to eliminate paper in favour of digital documents and electronic funds transfers (EFTs).
“We told them it is a health and safety issue, they switched over and we have stayed that way,” he said. “Necessity is the mother of all invention. It has changed workflows.”
When implementing the new software with the team, Pandarinath stressed that patience and grace was key.
“We said that we don’t care how many times you ask a question,” he said. “We prefer that to stumbling through it. It took a lot of pressure off everyone.”
Sandeep Manak, chief financial officer for Wesgroup properties, explained the development side of the business has to track an increasingly complex building process that includes change orders, scope agreements, invoices, time sensitive payments and more.
“In construction, maintaining goodwill with the trades is important and the pandemic challenged all of us to go digital,” said Manak. “Canada Post wasn’t working normally.”
They began a massive push to get vendors to conduct payments digitally instead of physically picking up cheques.
“Every vendor wants to get paid fast and when it is digital it means it can move faster,” said Manak, and he noted many vendors are seeing the advantages.
Not only does payment come faster, issues can be spotted and resolved far quicker.
“Rather than digging for files we can just look at the digital pdf,” said Manak.
He advised not going too hard, too fast and making sure teams are ready to digest major changes.
“If you push before people can digest, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Christine Williams, vice-president of operations and administration of QuadReal Property’s residential department, had the unique experience of planning technology into the young business from day one.
The five-year-old company started with a full procurement to payment platform that is continuously being refined. They also have a third-party software company digitally managing vendor compliance for them.
“There was a group of us in meeting rooms for months defining the workflows,” said Williams. “We knew it wouldn’t be perfect and we would have to spend time continuing to improve it but we wanted to lower the number of touch points. Pain invested today will be well worth it.”
While QuadReal is a young startup, Williams said initial investment was large, which enabled the team to get lots of resources for rolling out the technology, like consultants and software experts.
“There was lots of hand holding, lots of patience and lots of listening,” she said. “The foundation for all of it was the documentation we did with the consultants defining what we wanted it to all look like.”
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