High tech: A look at integrated software

August 9, 2019 -  By
Person using integrated business software (Photo: Aspire Software Co.)

All systems go Using a fully integrated software program helps ensure that all separate parts of a company are connected all the time. (Photo: Aspire Software Co.)

At a time when Landscape Workshop was experiencing rapid growth, the company was operating on what Christianna Denelsbeck called a “frankensystem.” A large portion of the full-service commercial grounds maintenance firm’s back office was running on Microsoft Excel documents and Google Forms, and the company did not have a proper work-order system.

“Every day I was worried that we’d blow up this form or that form,” says Denelsbeck, the Birmingham, Ala.-based company’s vice president of finance. “We were also worried about missing billing due to that setup. We decided we had to make the move toward a system that could grow with our business.”

Since implementing Aspire business management software in 2017, Denelsbeck says the $46 million company now has a better grasp on the key metrics within the business and a better understanding of its margins. Real-time data is accessible to all company managers at all times, scheduling is more efficient and timekeeping is more accurate.

Fully integrated business management software is still fairly new in the green industry, but contractors are beginning to understand just how helpful it can be.

“Business software is still pretty new to landscape guys — they might be using pieces and parts, but not many are investing in fully integrated systems yet,” says Kevin Kehoe, founder of The Aspire Software Co., based in Chesterfield, Mo. “They haven’t thought about spending the money, but it’s necessary to compete in the future. Five years from now, this is going to be how everyone will do business.”

Kehoe says any quality landscape business software program will have three main features. The first is access to the cloud for data storage, which is easier and less costly than having personal servers. The second is mobility. Systems should be fully operable on mobile phones and tablets — not only for crews out in the field, but also for customers at home and on the go. Last, systems should be fully integrated, so all facets of the business are connected at all times.

“The real directionality is integration,” says Kehoe, adding that for contractors to stay competitive, they should be spending 1 percent of their revenue on technology. “It’s pulling together sales, administration and production into one seamless software flow. Everything happens in one place.”

Scott Prince, co-founder and CEO of Constructyv, a business management software provider based in Indianapolis, says contractors are looking for simple, streamlined business management programs. He says Constructyv’s average customers struggle with things like providing quotes and invoices, accepting e-payments and credit cards, managing cash flow and scheduling. Constructyv is structured around the four core functions of quoting, scheduling, invoicing and payments.

“We expected customers to give us a laundry list of additional functions and features they required that other software products have, but what we heard consistently was the opposite,” Prince says. “They really don’t want anything more than those core functions, as they didn’t use over 70 percent of the complicated features and functions found in other apps they’ve tried and abandoned.”

For contractors looking into business software options, Denelsbeck suggests they do their homework upfront and understand who they’ll be working with. Post-implementation support is another factor to consider. She also recommends charting out a deployment plan with measurable and time-bound goals.

“Involve key stakeholders throughout the organization, such as back-office and operations staff, in the decision-making process and prepare for some work,” she adds. “Change is rarely easy, but it’s often worth it.”

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