“There must be a better way of running our business” was the overriding frustration in the Downer NZ Technology Solutions (formerly Telecommunications) teams as they battled to deal with a number of problem issues within their estimating system.
Downer Technology Solutions provides critical infrastructure management solutions, designing and building networks, managing and maintaining facilities and engineering and deployment of major infrastructure projects within the telecommunication sector. Work which involves around 100 people undertaking estimates and collectively producing over 10,000 quotations per annum.
While Downer was working with their clients to ‘help the world stay connected’, they realised that a new system was needed. The team required a solution that was both scalable and powerful enough to cater to their large volume of data.
In search of a better way to run their business, Downer Technology Solutions turned to Benchmark Estimating to eliminate their spreadsheet pain, improve operational efficiencies and to eliminate double entry of data in their job management system.
‘The major catalyst for using a commercial software package was so the team could have a central repository for all estimates.’ Sue Kapeli, Business Change Manager for Downer Technology Solutions said. ‘However, we found that the additional benefits from taking on Benchmark Estimating Software were many and far reaching throughout the business.’
Profile of Downer Technology Solutions
- Web site: downergroup.co.nz (web site of the Downer Group of which Technology Solutions is a part of)
- Industry: Technology Solutions (telecommunications and related infrastructure)
- Location: New Zealand
- Year established: 1995 (the Downer Group established in 1870)
- Number of employees: ~1,300
- Previous estimating system: Spreadsheets
Panacea for the spreadsheet headache
Sue Kapeli explained that the basis of their major problem stemmed from their use of highly complex and multi-faceted spreadsheets for estimating.
Their team needs to complete thousands of estimates each year and all these were saved in a shared drive on the server. This meant that as well as being disparate and confusing and prone to human error, there was no way to report on the huge amount of data that was there.
To add to the frustration, as with any spreadsheet system, the Downer Technlogy Solutions’ system was originally set up to fit the purpose at the time, but with business growth, their system, as in many other companies, was becoming an obstacle that needed to be overcome.
Benchmark Estimating Software was implemented in order to help organise and streamline the estimating processes.
‘Within our spreadsheets there were also many very complex calculations, including v-lookups and other tables that dragged information from spreadsheets from around the group. These processes needed to be incorporated into Benchmark to make the way we work seamless and a lot more accurate,’ Sue explained.
Through close collaboration between Benchmark and Downer Technology Solutions, this was successfully achieved, with the Benchmark Estimating Software providing the central repository they required and creating seamless operational process.
Two-way integration minimises errors and maximises efficiencies
Benchmark Estimating Software also addressed another of Downer’s problems which was to eliminate the error-prone double entry of data into their job entry and management software –JobTrak.
Benchmark Estimating delivered a customised, 2-way integration with Downer’s JobTrak system to create seamless co-ordination between their estimates and their management tools.
‘With our spreadsheet system, a double-entry into JobTrak was occurring for every estimate that was created, and there are over 500 every month,’ Sue Kapeli explained.
‘Now, with the Benchmark System, you enter the data once, and once only, and there is total integration between the packages.’
The integration has revolutionised the way in which the Downer group operates by saving both time and money and significantly reducing the risk of human error in the system.
Reducing risk, increasing trust
The third and extremely important issue that Downer needed to address was to reduce the risk factor associated with their existing estimating system.
As happens with many organisations, an individual was responsible for maintaining the spreadsheets under the previous system. These spreadsheets were complex and numerous and many risks existed with such processes. Benchmark Estimating Software enabled Downer to reduce their risk on multiple fronts: eliminating the errors incumbent with spreadsheets and double entry of data as well as installing a secure system with login/password control, user access permissions and business workflows.
On a larger scale, it also enabled them to ‘formalise and document the business logic’ in a robust and secure manner which is far easier to understand than the previous, complex spreadsheet models.
Working with the Benchmark team – a “fantastic experience”
On completion of the project, Sue Kapeli described working with Benchmark’s service team as a fantastic experience, especially in regard to their specifying and their ability to fully understand and appreciate exactly what Downer needed and how to deliver it.
‘Of significant value are the outputs that we will be collecting from Benchmark. The bespoke reporting and remarkable customisation will have lasting positive benefits for our team.’ Sue concluded.
While the initial brief from Downer was for Benchmark to provide a central repository for their estimates and thus create greater operational efficiencies within that department, when they rolled out the system, they realised that Benchmark delivered more varied and far-reaching benefits.
Read more about the Downer Group on their web site.