A collaborative platform for AFPs – Can technology finally deliver?
New technology makes collaboration in construction a reality, with streamlined applications for payment speeding the process up for everyone
Construction projects are fundamentally collaborative, with clients, architects, main contractors, subcontractors and suppliers all playing their part. But all too often, this degree of complexity causes difficulties on the financial side of construction projects, and this is particularly the case with applications for payment.
It’s a messy, manual process that squanders precious project time every month, as subcontractors, contractors and other stakeholders battle through an unwieldy mix of paper documents, emails and irate telephone calls. By the time all parties have agreed what work has been carried out and how much is payable, the application for payment process may have inflicted significant damage on important project partnerships.
So besides the sheer inefficiencies that arise when communication between multiple parties is fragmented and money is at stake, there’s also the wear and tear on contractor relationships to bear in mind. And at a time when collaboration has never been more important in our industry – not least because of the acute skills shortage – why put everyone under such unnecessary strain?
Well there’s now a solution – and it’s in the cloud.
Construction in the cloud
Cutting through the jargon, the ‘cloud’ is a simple concept. Data and processing power are centralised on servers rather than on local PCs and laptops, accessed securely via the internet and instead of being purchased as a capital expense are subscription-based services.
The software is up to date, easy to use, it always works and can be accessed from any location on any device. That’s only the start of the benefits that cloud offers. For construction businesses, the key benefit is more streamlined ways of working, right across the multiple and dispersed parties involved in a single building project.
Cloud-based solutions shift the responsibility for technology away from the business. This means that you and all your stakeholders can focus on what you’re really good at – and features an easy-to-use web-based interface that anyone who can browse the internet will intuitively understand.
Simplifying the business side
Many businesses, not just in construction, can be slow to take up new technologies, and ‘cloud’ computing is no different. Whether it’s the desire to amortise sunk costs in IT infrastructure, confusion and off-putting jargon or simply fear of upsetting business processes, new IT systems can be viewed with trepidation.
With applications for payment being such a central part of the business side of construction, not to mention a longstanding problem, however there is a new imperative for welcoming new innovations.
Once the application for payment process is in the cloud, all businesses working on a project can make their applications for payment, assess and approve through a consistent online portal, meaning everyone is on the same system and sending their data in the same, easily calculated format. And all communications are clearly visible in one place, so no more undocumented phone calls or missing paperwork.
A cloud-based collaborative platform means that your project’s applications for payment will progress smoothly with fewer disputes, resulting in timely processing all round. Time wasted chasing or disputing applications is vastly reduced, as is the general sense of dread as that ‘time of the month’ approaches. Accounts staff are less hassled and the conflict that aggravates staff turnover is eliminated.
With so many people working on any project, all of whom need to be paid, anything that cuts through the confusion and smooth out the complications in is a boon to a construction industry eager to adopt more collaborative ways of doing business.
- Applications for payment are slow, confusing, contentious and can delay progress on site.
- ‘Cloud’-based accounting systems can cut through the confusion.
- There is no reason to fear added confusion from new IT systems as cloud systems are easy to use and the technical ‘back-end’ is hidden from users.