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Mobile Tech: Fast-Tracking Accounts Payable, Improving Cash Flow and Other Surprising Benefits

Mobile Tech: Fast-Tracking Accounts Payable, Improving Cash Flow and Other Surprising Benefits

By Michael Smith

Most construction businesses take on fast-paced projects–juggling tight timelines and thin margins. At the same time, the costs of debt and equity are rising, pressuring contractors to streamline sluggish accounting workflows that can hinder cash flow, strain relationships, and put projects behind schedule. Seeking to move away from paper and manual processes that hamper profitability, many contractors are adopting cloud-based mobile applications that accelerate invoicing and accounts payable (AP) processes by democratizing data and streamlining workflows.

Connected mobile applications allow workers in the field to remotely access and capture data in real-time, alleviating the delays, errors, and costs associated with paper-based payments and invoicing. With integrated mobile applications, workers in the field no longer need to re-enter information from paper or spreadsheets into construction management software when they return to the office. With the ability to capture data in real-time, the risks of miscommunication, mistakes, and lost documentation are nearly eliminated. 

Storing data securely in the cloud gives accounting teams the information they need to generate invoices quickly. Access to accurate data means they no longer have to follow a paper trail or chase down answers when a problem or conflicting information arises. The ability to pay bills and invoices without delays improves cash flow, frees up accounting teams to work on other vital tasks and keeps projects moving. 

From Manual to Mobile 

For years, Texas-based civil contractor Great Basin Industrial (GBI) captured time and materials (T&M) in spreadsheets and transmitted them to the office, where the information was entered into its accounting ERP. The manual process of entering and transferring the data was incredibly time-consuming, taking around 30 days to consolidate T&M data into field tickets for owner submission. 

Many T&M dollars were unbilled due to complexity, with the sheer volume of tickets and spreadsheet-based tracking too overwhelming for their accounting team to keep up with. Work-to-billed-to-paid time stretched 50 days or more, which impacted cash flow. An outsized proportion of the accounting team’s time and resources were devoted to billing, and ensuring projects stayed on budget without daily cost data was a pain point for the company’s project managers. 

The company’s transition from manual processes to a connected mobile app accelerated time and materials (T&M) billing, improved cash flow and reduced costs. The ability to capture labor, equipment time, materials, and production in the field reduced the time to produce a field ticket from 30 days to one day, improving the company’s cash flow and cutting its work-to-billed-to-paid time in half. Accounting employees had more time to focus on other tasks, and GBI reduced the number of people focused solely on billing by 50 percent.

Empowering Workers in the Field 

Connected mobile applications can be especially transformative for service contractors. Whether performing regular maintenance on a cooling unit or repairing a malfunctioning boiler system, service technicians work in the field but need to be well-connected to the office. To get their job done efficiently, they require access to data that allows them to make quick, informed decisions and capture critical information without burdensome administrative tasks or disconnected systems that derail their work.  

By using a mobile app to gain real-time access to the information in the field, technicians can self-manage their work and eliminate manually inputting data into systems when they return to the office. Because mobile applications use the same connected data as the back office, generating purchase order requests is more efficient and accurate. Receipt information and tracking can be captured in the field, with a three-way match in place to ensure the accuracy of purchase orders. Electronic signature capture allows customers to sign, approve and receive emailed work orders from the technician’s mobile device. With this real-time connection to the office, completed work orders are routed to accounting for generating invoices right away.

Informed Decision Making from Anywhere at Any Time 

Most construction companies want to make data-driven decisions but are often forced to go with their gut and rely on instinct. Connected mobile applications can extend analytics to the field, helping contractors better understand their work so they can adjust course and make important decisions on the fly.

Whether on a jobsite, in the office, in transit, or even working from home, mobile data analytics can be applied across the organization, allowing virtually any construction professional to compare and segment data. However, enjoying the benefits of mobile construction data analytics requires a connected, cloud-based software suite that creates a single source of truth. With real-time flow of data between the office, the field and everywhere in between, users can access and analyze accurate, up-to-date data in real time.

Although many contractors acknowledge the potential for mobile applications to streamline information flow and democratize data, many are just scratching the surface. The ability to capture and access data on the go and quickly analyze, compare, and digest it in the office or the field can be transformative. From accounts payable and cash flow to field operations, communication and analytics, it may be time to rethink how going mobile can improve your business.

About the author: Michael Smith is the Senior Director of Growth and Innovation at Trimble Viewpoint, where he leads the development of next-gen solutions that enable contractors to run smarter and more profitable office and field operations by connecting workflows and gaining insights through shared real-time data and industry-leading analytics.