While owner Ernie Hemmings feels passionately that the business should be family-owned, he and the Group Managing Director, Dave Jones, also acknowledged that it needed a more professional approach to growth and expansion, ensuring strong performance against the KPIs. This has meant a re-orientation of the organisation – heavy investment in new skilful staff, unified Group branding, and now, improved systems and business processes.
Nick Howell, Group Company Secretary, comments, “We operate a culture of ‘do it right, do it once’, aiming for zero defects on all projects. This can only be achieved through strong project management and the setting of high quality targets, so we need high quality systems in place to support us and ensure our continued growth as a single, integrated group.”
Nick Howell continues, “There was very little investment in ERH for a period of time so the underlying structure was far less effective than it could have been. The business used ‘Intellect’ software but we needed a solution that was more than just an accounting system doing mere day-to-day administration. It became essential to have good quality management information and a software system capable of driving the Group forward; a system that encourages an integrated approach and touches as many parts of the organisation as possible; working as a whole and not in isolated pockets of the business. It is these touch points where we had traditionally faced most of our challenges and spent much of our time, so integration was important.”
SELECTING AN INTEGRATED SOFTWARE SOLUTION
An antiquated software system with poor management information means lack of visibility across an organisation, lack of reporting and therefore less insightful decision-making. ERH considered SAP but baulked at the expense. Their final decision was between two solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics – one NAV, the other AX. They soon realised they would only use a fraction of the AX solution and wanted something that could be used as a web-based system further down the line. Microsoft Dynamics NAV’s roadmap contains these plans so the Group opted for ERP EVision, with NAV at its core.
In addition, we provided ERH with EValuate for controlling pre- and post- contract processes; Dynamics CRM for contact and opportunity management; Project Document Management powered by Organice for management and version control of project-related documents; Business Intelligence powered by Jet Enterprise for reporting; and Document Distribution powered by Spindle Professional for the efficient emailing and personalisation of documents, so saving on fax and postage costs.
“The integration between these products is what impressed us” says Nick Howell. “Opportunities come into the business from various sources and Microsoft Dynamics CRM manages these and the pipeline produced. From the opportunities and pre-qualification details held in CRM, the tender documents are then generated in Estimating. Eque2 is working with us to enable CRM to feed ERP EVision with the contract and client information.”
Project Document Management is separate but even so, it is working to support rather than against the contract and the client. “Consistency of communications and access to information is a big bug bear for those onsite” Nick Howell comments. “When working to architects’ specifications, those on site need to see the most up-to-date document, not an old version. So it’s all about the effective management of contracts from start to finish; it’s a single process so our systems should reflect this.”
PARTNERING WITH EQUE2
ERH’s ‘do it right, do it once’ ethos extends to its expectation of chosen suppliers. “We’re confident that the investment we’ve made in Eque2 as a partner will carry us through the next fifteen years or more” Nick Howell says. “With their dedication to building integrated products, coupled with Microsoft’s research and development spend, we know we’ve got the long-term support we need from a partner who will work in tandem with us to ensure full visibility and control of project opportunities right through to delivery; who will be an important and integral part of ERH’s growth. There’s a true sense of co-operation around the project and we’re working together to produce something that’s truly effective and is going to make a difference.”
IMPLEMENTATION AND SUPPORT
Nick Howell isn’t new to software implementations and knows they don’t always run smoothly. He has previously been involved in replacing a manufacturing system as well as SAP. From an internal perspective, this particular implementation was more challenging – “Finding the right people with the right level of skills was tough because ERH has a smaller pool to select from than previous implementations I’ve been involved with. Everyone has their day jobs and finding the time to install new software on top of that is tricky. Yet this implementation has been significantly smoother than previous ones I’ve experienced. Don’t get me wrong, problems were found as with any implementation, but they were very small and very easy to resource; just small configurations that had to be made and some very minor misunderstanding of issues that were quickly rectified.”
He goes on to say “I can’t really fault the consultants. During implementation they went above and beyond what was required, and from a technical point of view they’ve been superb. Their calibre as implementation and support specialists is second to none. All had their own strengths – business analyst skills, understanding of product functionality, practical business processing advice, industry expertise, system administration and configuration ability – which, when combined, worked really well for us. At every stage the project was carried forward based on our feedback, and their advice and support.
Since ERP EVision has gone live at ERH, all users have been incredibly complimentary about the support desk. Richard Castle, Finance Director for ERH, says “I raised a helpdesk query recently and was amazed at the speed of the support – it was logged in the afternoon and fixed by the next morning.”
£500K BUSINESS SAVING OVER THE NEXT 5 YEARS
ERH’s cost-benefit analysis looks at typical business processing throughout a contract and provides anticipated cost-savings based on the new set-up. “Now that our business processes are integrated right across our organisation using software from Eque2, we predict a cost-saving just shy of £500k over the next five years due to improved efficiencies. This isn’t about reducing staff, but about giving people the ability to do their jobs rather than constantly fire-fighting issues and re-keying information into disparate systems. The integrated nature of Eque2’s software solution will free up our people to focus on more important and more strategic tasks that will really help to drive the business forward. More time, for example, means we’ll have the ability to take back some of the work that subcontractors are now doing, meaning we also take back some of the margin.”
Additional benefits that ERH is experiencing is improved procurement through advanced historical intelligence and reporting on what to buy, and from whom; easy profit control from a cost point of view; and improved decision-making through better access to real-time information.
Nick Howell confirms, “Management information is now better than it’s ever been. For instance, our quantity surveyors can access more information about their jobs, allowing easy decisions around what jobs needs to take priority. Managing reports is another example where we’ve already seen chunky benefits – a report that used to take me two to three days now takes me just twenty seconds! This is a combination of the use of Business Intelligence powered by Jet Enterprise and the ability I now have to capture more information, giving me visibility right across the business. With ERP EVision, having sight of issues is more instantaneous so we can do something about them straight away, minimising the risk of unnecessary escalation. The up-to- date, good quality management information means our decisions are more timely and better informed.”
“It’s less about processing transactions now and more about real accountancy and business intelligence.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ERH GROUP?
Nick Howell comments, “Our serious growth aspirations mean the number of users on our software will increase over time, hence why we’ve chosen such a scalable solution in ERP EVision, EValuate and Microsoft CRM Dynamics. As well as Workflow powered by Agiles to help lock down the process and drive efficiencies, we’ll start looking at other elements of ERP EVision that we have yet to implement – resourcing, service management, and Human Resources for example.
“Eque2 will continue to work closely with us to develop the integration between Dynamics CRM and EVision, so we can use it for account management in the future. We believe this will be a powerful tool for viewing, understanding and influencing the marketplace – giving consistency and transparency across the group.”
Ultimately, the implementation of software from Eque2 denotes a huge step-change for ERH. Following the installation, the Group is beginning to implement KPIs across the business which will provide more specific and challenging targets to ensure better rebates and better margins.
FLEXIBLE SOFTWARE SECURES BETTER BUSINESS PROCESSES
Managing Director of ERH, David Jones, says, “With the support of our software, we’re able to start reshaping the business to help drive growth. It’s less about processing transactions now and more about real accountancy and business intelligence. Everything is so open and visible, meaning improved accountability across our people. Once everyone gets used to the new systems, we’ll switch on the authorising of documents using Workflow powered by Agiles. That’s certainly not about layers of bureaucracy, rather it’s a way of ensuring we lock down the new processes that work.
IT Manager for ERH, Duncan Revell, goes on to say, “If the processes need to be altered, we can easily change these because of the flexibility brought by our new software. The old system was unwieldy and any desired alterations, even little things, meant paying for a day or more of consultancy. Now we can make alterations ourselves if we need to. So far it’s been around the way people view the on-screen information and we’ve easily been able to make the changes we need to suit us. For example we’ve given each of the quantity surveyors specific information about their contracts for example. It’s incredibly flexible to maintain, control and ‘own’ – far better than it was with our old system.”
CHANGE IS A GOOD THING…
Following all the recent changes to our business, the industry is starting to notice ERH and they’re getting good feedback.
When our competitors say we’re starting to step on their toes – that’s a compliment!” says Nick Howell. “It’s about choice – if people are choosing to work with us over our competitors, it’s because they find it easy to do so. They’ve selected an organisation that understands their needs, is dynamic, and has the capability to track, monitor and evaluate projects from start to finish. Most of all, it’s about working openly and honestly, and about completing projects on time and within budget, to the desired quality with the minimum of disruption. We’re a professional organisation with family values… and our presence is beginning to be felt.”
For more information about ERH visit www.erh.co.uk. To read more about the features and benefits of the Eque2 software the Group opted for, visit www.eque2.co.uk and click on the ‘Contracting Software’ tab.