CONSTRUCTION MANAGERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
More time for
core commercial tasks
Judith Schermann has been working in the construction industry for over 13 years. During this time, she has worked for many years as a construction manager in Romania and Austria. She is currently working on the topic of Procure2Pay and how to simplify processes and everyday work for commercial managers
Question: Judith, before we talk about the processes and working methods of commercial managers, I’d like to start by asking you what you think makes the job interesting.
Answer: As a commercial manager, I particularly enjoyed the variety of activities and working in a team. And the feeling when the building was completed and the income statement showed a good result was always very enjoyable.
Q: Looking back at what you did in your early days as a commercial manager, what did the process around handling receipts look like when there were no digital solutions?
A: Back then, we still had countless folders where all the documents were gathered. First, the foreman received the delivery bills and kept them in the construction office. From there, the construction clerks collected them and kept them in these folders until the paper invoice arrived. The receipts could only be processed when the invoice for the delivery note was available . Gathering the documents was always very time-consuming. If you were in charge of several smaller construction sites, it sometimes took a whole day of “driving around” to pick up the slips
Q: How did you keep track of the construction sites back then?
A: It actually wasn’t too easy. We always kept a number of Excel sheets and other lists in order to be able to compare actual and target figures, for example. It was literally a paper chaos.
Q: Did the administrative process change over the years?
A: Electronic invoicing was an important first step. With it came automated workflows, and since then invoices can be sent directly to the appropriate people for approval. This used to be a time-consuming procedure because the folders with the hardcopy documents had to go through the approval process. You were always in the dark because it wasn’t clear where the folder was and you didn’t know which signatures were still outstanding. Today, you see at a glance when the authorization run has been completed, and nowadays the group leaders simply do this with their tablets. This example already shows how digital solutions bring more transparency and shorter workflows to administrative tasks.
Q: When we talk about “optimization through digitization,” what benefits do you expect from a solution like SEQUELLO?
A: A digital solution ideally functions in such a way that the order, delivery note and invoice are processed automatically. Consequently, the construction managers would only have to check those items where that shows a discrepancy in quantity or price. And, of course, it is important to have various dashboards so the information that used to be found in Excel lists can be evaluated directly in the system.
At the moment though, we’re still struggling with the fact that there is no consistent documentation of which orders have already been placed from the construction site. Although we receive the invoice, we are often unable to identify to which delivery it belongs to until the incoming goods have been documented. Making the allocation leads to additional administrative work and it also unnecessarily delays the settlement of the invoice. The effort increases additionally if the delivery documents don’t match the invoices, and the reasons for the discrepancy needs to be determined.
Q: If construction managers are relieved of a large number of administrative tasks in the future by digital solutions, what activities will be left? Won’t they get bored?
A: No, certainly not. As a construction manager, you take care of many important aspects of the construction site so that the work can be carried out in a well thought-out and efficient manner. Setting up the construction site with electricity, Internet and construction containers to preparing payment schedules, monthly construction site profit and loss statement and supervising construction site controlling are all tasks that are part of the job. Furthermore, the construction managers should show more presence on the construction site again.
Q: Why is it so important that the construction managers are also out on the construction site?
A: On construction sites, we have the dual control principle between the construction manager and the construction site manager. Ideally, both should have the same level of information about the technical and commercial aspects of the construction site and coordinate their activities on an on-going basis. It is precisely for these core tasks that resources are now to be freed up through digitization and automation of the entire procurement process.
The construction site is the source of success; our common goal is to organize and control construction execution efficiently to ensure that a good result and generate stable profits.