There’s a lot of fieldwork involved in environmental heritage assessment and management. The expertise of Extent’s practitioners resides mainly in the areas of archaeology and architecture.
“A lot of fieldwork means a lot of detail behind our projects,” said Joanne, “A lot of documentation, across diverse projects, with different disciplines, and with archaeologists, and heritage advisors they just want to be in the field or writing reports — they don’t want to be tied down doing timesheets and admin.”
“We started off as a smaller company and then merged with another heritage company to become Extent Heritage. As we grew to 50-plus employees, it became increasingly difficult to maintain an understanding of all the projects and how they were performing (both in timelines and financially).
Initially, the firm used Synergy desktop practice management software to great effect. “That was our first project management system,” said Jo, “And admin really liked it — once we got them on board with it, all the staff liked it. But they didn’t realize how much they liked it until we switched to another cloud-based management software. There was a lesson learned there!”
Synergy cloud was still being developed and the Extent directors were keen to take their software off premises, to where their projects happen.
“The directors wanted it in the cloud for people to access anywhere without the problem of accessing the office server. Because we have a lot of work across a large geography, a lot of teams want to work on different projects to get the experience. The shift to the other cloud software was about managers being able to say who was available and who was busy on what, and where.
“The other system looked like it did all that, but they didn’t understand our industry at all. The more you used it, the more you realized they just didn’t understand the operations of a project-centred, built environment industry like ours.
“It was so complex our staff didn’t want to use it — and so they didn’t.
“We were back to square one with no one using the system. Pretty soon everyone knew they might as well just pick up a phone and ask so-and-so who’s available. That was that.”
Jo says that one of biggest benefits of Synergy cloud is that it’s simple enough for the staff to use on site easily, while also clearly showing them where their time is going and where they’re blowing out. For Extent, the project-based nature of a heritage advisory business like theirs, needs an industry-specific solution to gain buy-in from everyone across the business.
“Synergy is definitely designed to help built environment professionals manage their projects. Even the juniors can see that and understand it. For project organizations it’s also important that things like timesheets are really easy to do. When you’ve got a lot of heritage advisors or people that don’t want to do timesheets, you’ve got to make it user friendly, let me tell you!
“You can’t project manage without staff submitting their timesheets. You really can’t. And with Synergy you’re able to capture it on a daily basis — it gives you that up-to-the-minute look at what’s going on, which is really beneficial.”
After less than a year on the generic cloud management solution, Extent Heritage migrated to Synergy cloud at the beginning of 2020. Joanne says that the whole company has breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“Because the previous cloud software was so messy, it could sometimes take me four or five days just to sit down and do the billing,” says Jo. “Whereas now, it’s maybe half a day, if that. We’re talking a lot of invoices.
“We’re just not pulling our hair out anymore — everyone on the staff had such a difficult time with the previous software that they were very keen to change to Synergy cloud.”