Outgrowing old systems
Abbey is one of the project managers for the company’s minor land divisions, and she recently managed their implementation of Synergy. Another reason to raise our glass. “We had six people on the implementation team. Because each section in our company is a bit different, we wanted to make sure we met the needs of each discipline with the software. So, on the team we had some senior surveyors, we had drafters, we had an admin person, and me as a project manager.
“We had to do a lot of change management in the process, because we hadn’t really done this properly before. 14 years ago, we created an in-house system. The system was called a BizPort, and it was more about inputting projects and then entering timesheets and costs and consumables. There was no real project management in that system, and hardly any reporting — we just outgrew it … by a lot.”
Alexander Symonds’ growth has been fairly steady since Abbey started. “When I started in 2005” Abbey said, “there were about 50 employees — now we have a lot more surveyors and a lot more field assistants. We have a bigger planning team dealing with our land divisions and offer a more vertically integrated service. The growth has been to support our expanded service offerings, which include not just our traditional surveying, but expansion into GIS, Aerial Drone Mapping, Underground Service Location and 3D Laser Scanning. We’ve also grown our footprint into regional areas covering South Australia and Western Victoria,
Greater volume of projects, more people, dispersed over a great distance, with multiple offices. Again, impressive. But also challenging in terms of business and project management. Especially when you consider that for most staff members, work happens in the field, not in the office. If we’re talking about Alexander Symonds people, in the words of Haley Joel Osment, “they’re everywhere!”
The problems before Synergy — access, time, and lack of integration
Before implementing Synergy, Alexander Symonds’ field staff would have to go into the office to complete their requisite admin tasks. “In our old system,” said Abbey, “staff were limited to putting in timesheets via PC, so what used to happen was they would come back into the office and sit down for half an hour and put a week’s worth of timesheets in at once — for project management and invoicing, that really wasn’t the best solution.”
Another challenge for Alexander Symonds was the incredible variation in the time their projects can take. “Because we have such a broad range of timeframes for work, it was really hard for us to find the right systems. Doing big developments can last 20 years, while doing a field survey for a boundary fence can last three hours. So, for us to get a system that has the flexibility and capacity to manage both those things was pretty challenging.”
Exacerbating these issues was the fact that none of the software systems they were using at the time integrated with each other. That meant more time wasted on manual entry, more room for error, more duplication of tasks across different systems.
“We had so many systems that just didn’t talk to each other. We had a lot of manual processes and double handling — it was a nightmare. And then, because we are out in the field, we have a lot of safety requirements, so field staff have to do pre-start safety checklists, and that piece of software doesn’t talk to anything else.”