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Brothers form happy fraternity

Software eliminates duplicate data entry, bridges gap between departments

Article August 19, 2002
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Founded in 1983 by brothers Dan and Frank, Colacurcio
Brothers Inc., Blaine, Wash., started out as a small excavating contractor. The
company quickly grew and in 1986 Chris Colacurcio, now CFO/controller, joined
his brothers in the family business. Licensed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
Montana and North Dakota, the core of their $14-16 million (annual revenues)
contracting business is heavy/highway construction; utility, excavation and
site work; and bridge and railroad work.

“Three years ago,” said Chris Colacurcio,
“we jumped into the commercial building market in a big way.”
Adding a general construction division created significantly more paperwork.
“But,” stated Colacurcio, “even though I added a whole
building division, I didn’t increase my office staff.” With just
six people in the office—including Cola-curcio—and an average of 48
in the field, this was possible, he said, “Because the sophistication and
integration of my accounting software enabled my staff to handle the extra
paperwork.”

When trying to track a lot of paper, one solution is to add
more staff. Another is to give your existing staff better tools.
“I’m a big fan of better tools,” said Colacurcio.
That’s why, in 1999, Colacurcio started thinking about project management
software.

“In today’s construction world, it is imperative
to keep track of everything,” he said.  “The speed with which you are able to go through the
paperwork process greatly affects the bottom line on jobs. After watching my
project managers and superintendents tracking their jobs using spreadsheets,
word processing documents, notebooks, binders and faxes, I began to search for
a software tool that would help us integrate all of those functions.”

 

Integrated accounting

The better tools option is nothing new to Colacurcio, who
initiated a change in accounting software in May 1983. “At that
time,” he explained, “Colacurcio Brothers had clearly outgrown a
general accounting package. We had turned the page on being a small contractor
and it became necessary to either greatly increase our administration, and
thereby our overhead, or find a better way to do the work.”

Colacurcio began a methodical search for new construction
accounting software. “The first thing I did was find every construction
accounting package I could. I quickly realized that a lot of what was out there
just didn’t work for our situation. Others were eliminated because I wasn’t
seeing the stability that I wanted.”

Once he had narrowed his list to a few choices, Colacurcio
intensified his scrutiny with software demonstrations and discussions with
actual software users. When it came time to make his final decision, Colacurcio
chose Dexter + Chaney’s Forefront Construction Management Software
(Circle 919).

“Everything I needed was addressed in the
product,” Colacurcio stated. This included fully integrated modules for
accounting, equipment management, remote connectivity, data sharing and reporting.

 

Divided by data entry

Just as it became clear when Colacurcio Brothers had
outgrown its current accounting software, it also became apparent when it had
outgrown its current method of project management. “Dealing with a lot of
disconnected systems—the binder, mail, fax, spreadsheet
scenario—made it tough to keep track of a big job,” Colacurcio
said. The duplicate data entry this created was a huge drain on resources. In
addition, there was a great divide between Colacurcio’s accounting
department and his project managers.

“There was this constant rift between the two,”
he explained. “For example, my project managers would say,
‘Here’s my change order.’ My accounting staff would then come
back with, ‘It’s not coded right and it does not balance.’ I
was constantly trying to get the project managers to reconcile with the
accounting department.”

Colacurcio realized this divide was a significant factor in
his decision-making process. Because of it, he said, “I wanted my project
management software to integrate with my accounting system.”

Researching project management software in a similar fashion
to researching accounting software, Colacurcio said,  “I went and looked at every project management system
I could find.”

Many systems offered integration with accounting, but on a
limited scale. “Things like phase codes and scheduling were
integrated,” he said, “but everything else had to be manually
entered from one system to another; the financial information didn’t
integrate. This was not the kind of integration I was looking for.”

Even though Dexter + Chaney offered integrated project
management software, Colacurcio explored all his options before making a final
decision. Ultimately, Colacurcio did find what he was looking for in Dexter +
Chaney’s project management software, which integrates with his Forefront
accounting package.

In May 2000—nearly seven years after implementing
Forefront accounting software—Colacurcio Brothers implemented
Forefront’s integrated project management software.

 

Tending to the details

Project management software is ultimately a tracking device.
“Issues come up on a job and as a result, documents get generated, you
receive responses, you respond to them,” Colacurcio said. “The
software provides a way of managing what’s been done, who’s been
told about it, what’s still hanging on and who’s got it.”

Documenting job details as they occur has significantly
expedited Colacurcio Brothers’ change-order processing. “The
project management software helps us manage the change request process more
effectively,” said Colacurcio. “We see a 3-5% improvement in
margins on change orders as a result of using the software.

“Not everybody’s recollection is perfect,”
Colacurcio continued. “Documenting an issue that comes up on a jobsite
and getting the correspondence that relates to it out right away gives
everybody better recollection. This means less conflict with the owner or subs
and a smoother change-order process.”

From an owner’s standpoint, Colacurcio finds value in
the overview information he now gets. “I don’t want to see every
little correspondence that comes through,” he explained, “but I do
want to see how many RFI’s are out there, how long it is taking to
process them.

“Also, where are the submittals? How many have been
issued, returned, rejected? The software gives me this kind of
information.”

Although using project management software is common
practice on general building projects, Colacurcio feels it’s equally
beneficial when used to manage unit-price jobs. “On dirt projects,”
he said, “you may not be tracking issues that turn into change orders
like you do on a building project. It’s sometimes tempting to think that
project management isn’t an issue.” Colacurcio suggested resisting
this temptation.

“You have to deal with a lot of compliance issues over
the course of a dirt job,” he explained. “Soil compaction, natural
materials and types of pipe are some issues that generate correspondence
between you and the engineer or owner. That information needs to be tracked and
kept.” Project management software tracks that information and keeps it
in a consolidated space that doesn’t get archived into a storage facility
somewhere.

“A year down the road,” said Colacurcio,
“if you’re trying to close out a project, you’re not digging
in storage for documents or trying to remember who said what when. Even two
years down the road if a warranty issue comes up you’ll have an easy
place to find information.”

On any construction job, project management software gives
you a single source to access job-related information.

“If you’re not using project management
software,” warned Colacurcio, “then you’re at the mercy of
your own filing system. I don’t like to be at the mercy of my own filing
system, and I certainly don’t want to be at the mercy of my project
managers’ filing systems.”

 

No more paper routes

Colacurcio Brothers will soon be adding Forefront’s
document imaging capability to its integrated accounting and project management
systems. “Document imaging is a great idea from the get-go,” said
Colacurcio, who is looking forward to using document imaging so he can take
advantage of his software’s electronic accounts payable approval process.

“Like any other company,” he continued,
“we route AP invoices to this person’s box and then this
person’s box or if there’s a problem, along a slightly different
path. We send a packet of invoices around and in the world that we live in,
things get lost.”

Document imaging will allow Colacurcio to scan invoices,
time cards and other documents and attach them to transactions in his
accounting and project management software. User-defined electronic filing
cabinets will store documents that don’t relate to actual transactions. A
simple mouse click will retrieve documents where—on screen—they can
be viewed, annotated, printed, faxed or e-mailed.

“My staff will be able to go to their
computers,” said Colacurcio, “pull up a visual of an invoice and do
everything they normally would on the paper itself. Nobody will have to take an
envelope full of paperwork from one place to another. And nothing will get
lost.”

 

Feeling the same

Since implementing project management software, the divide
between Colacurcio’s project managers and accounting staff has
significantly diminished.

“Now,” he said, “they look at the exact
same numbers at the exact same time, with no effort on my part. My project
managers look at live accounting data for their jobs instead of spreadsheets or
some other manual record.”

 

For more complete and detailed information on the I-69
project, you may check INDOT’s official I-69 website at
http://www.i69indyevn.org/. Other related sites concerning I-69 are:
http://www.i69in-ky.com/, http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/information-office/I69/,
and http://www.i69texas.org/

About the author: 
Colacurcio Brothers Inc.?s $14-16 million business is heavy/highway construction; utility; excavation and site work; and bridge and railroad work.
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