Why are custom reports so expensive?

When people see the price tag on a quote for a custom report, many times the first reaction is, “wow, that’s expensive” or something similar, and the next reaction is to decline the report.

But how did you know if it was too expensive? Was it based on a cost assessment you performed or a gut feeling? In fact, by doing even a quick cost assessment you may actually save money!

To do an assessment, answer these questions first:

* Will the custom report automate/replace a report we already have?
If so, determine the time and effort (including cost of not doing something else) it takes to complete the report each period (month, etc). This is the money you will continually save as opposed to the one-time cost of creating the custom report.

* Is the custom report something we need to help drive better business decisions?
Ask your stakeholders if this report will save them time and the company money by assisting with better business strategy/decisions. If so, try to determine the amount of money that will be saved.

* Will the custom report allow us to combine/consolidate reports into one?
Custom reports pull data from databases, and can sometimes easily pull in other data points, eliminating the need for multiple reports. If that additional report took time and money to prepare, add that to your potential savings.

* Are you/your coworkers overworked?
We all have those things that we want to make better but they just languish on our To-Do list. We know that life would be easier if we could just get these things done, but there are so many other priority things to do. Creating custom reports may help you cross off those To-Do items or free up your time to accomplish more.

If you can pull together an actual picture of potential savings and benefits for your company you will be able to make a more accurate determination if custom reports are worth the price.

How do I make sure my employees know our company policies every day – before they break the rules?

More and more companies are getting policies off the shelf and into the hands of employees on a regular basis, although sometimes that is still only once a year. Employees who have to make an effort to learn policies before they complete a task are more likely to take the “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” path. In a effort to reduce the number of policies, companies tend to make them too broad, leaving employees to interpret which parts apply to them and causing further issues.

Policy documents of the past have been separate from Process, Procedure, and Work Instruction documentation. However, consider consolidating this documentation to get all the information to your employees at the right time. If there is a form to fill out, incorporate the policy detail into the steps. If you need different groups to do steps differently, add a decision matrix in the form of a table, so employees can easily see what applies to their group.

This could make for longer procedural and instruction documents. But, considering how many documents you used to have, it is likely less for employees to read overall. And, if you have everything online, it makes it easier still. By having your policies in front of your employees when they go to perform a task, you’ll reduce the risk of violations and make those yearly reviews disappear (making less work for you, too!)

Check out some policy related articles from our staff consultant Karen on LinkedIn and contact Cornerstone if you need help with consolidating or just need a second pair of eyes while making your annual policy updates:


How can we make sure our onsite staff, subcontractors, & equipment are safe?

You can’t be everywhere all of the time, but you can monitor what occurs on the jobsite, even when you or your safety personnel cannot be there. With on-site surveillance, through the use of webcams, such as Next Cam Outdoor, or by using drones with camera functionality, you can identify and address safety concerns that occur when you can’t be there. Drones are particularly effective at getting into “hard to see places” where you may want to monitor non-personnel safety related areas. Be sure to check the surveillance/drone monitoring rules and regulations specific to your area. Additionally, make sure your drone operator is fully licensed and operates in a manner that does not introduce additional safety risks. A drone flying in front of an equipment operator’s field of vision or “surprises” someone standing on scaffolding could be counterproductive to your goals.

I need to get data from my users on the jobsite back into our SharePoint site. Any suggestions?

Yes! If you are an O365 shop, I suggest checking out PowerApps. PowerApps will allow you to effectively create mobile applications, without code, and deployment is quick and straightforward. Finally – we can say a true “good bye” to InfoPath forms. Take care however, and understand that PowerApps requires the user to have an O365 account to connect with!

What do you think of Virtual Reality Safety Training?

According to OSHA statistics, 1 in 5 workplace deaths are in construction, so safety training in any format is vital.

Virtual Reality (VR) training has come quite a long way in the last couple years and can be quite effective for training for a few reasons. Training with VR technology allows for a simulated experience, works with real-world scenarios, and if designed appropriately, can be very effective in multi-lingual environments. Additionally, the VR technology can be used to allow different areas of an organization to “experience” another perspective. Allowing an Accountant to experience a simulation of a Heavy Equipment Operator’s perspective without compromising safety, helps grow the health and strength of the overall organization.

Additionally, the VR can be structured to allow the Heavy Equipment Operator to see what his impact is from a numbers perspective, such as Accuracy Rates and Bucket Fill Percentages. VR Safety training can also be used for Corporate wide safety training, such as Fire Safety. Learning by simulated doing, such as how to use a fire extinguisher, and the impacts of which extinguisher you use on which type of fire, can often be better retained when learning through simulation, rather than traditional training methods.

VR training packages can be found through a variety of resources – so check online, with your trade organization, or through your local college/trade education system. You can also always contact Cornerstone for our recommendations.

Also, check out all the great articles we gathered on this topic here: http://hmscornerstonesolutions.com/whats-new/

Hey Joe: Why do some builders drive so many costs to job level costing instead of straight to the GL?

This question varies based on the accounting system you are using, though in general many builders like to have a job to capture non-lot job budgets and costs. For example, a project level job will never be a “house to sell”, but it is a great place to capture budgets and costs. One of the biggest benefits is the inception-to-date costing and budgeting. Whereas a GL cost center and budget run annually, a job cost level runs inception to date. Similar to capturing at the GL level, you would want to allocate costs from some of this type of job to actual lot jobs. For more information reach out to us using our ContactUs form and we’ll be happy to help.

Joe’s News: California mandates solar power on new homes

California has long pushed the envelope on energy and environmental policies.

Right now, people are abuzz with the California Energy Commission’s proposed requirements for the the state’s 2020 energy code, which includes mandates on solar energy generation for all new residential construction beginning in January 2020.

Read the full article at NAHBNow.org:

The Nation Watches as California Mandates Solar Power

Read more about the Energy Commission’s requirements at:

Energy Commission Adopts Standards Requiring Solar Systems for New Homes, First in Nation


Joe, I don’t really understand what “systems integration” means. Can you help?

Systems integration is the joining of two (or more) systems together into one. The demand for systems integration typically stems from reporting needs, error reduction goals, time saving efforts, or mandates. Wouldn’t it be a grand world if you never had to type the same thing twice or if your data was always consistent? These are the ultimate goals of System Integration. Be aware, there are multiple methods of integration and multiple tools to help you build your integrated environment. There are many factors that go into determining which method is the best direction for you. Talk to us when you’re ready to evaluate your integration needs and let us guide you on your journey to successful integration.

Is there a method to help us not run into the “same old problems” over and over again?

We’ve all been there. Whether we are the person who sees the problem or the solution, or if you are the person who is the problem or solution, there is a method to achieve permanent problem solving. The methodology is called the Eight Disciplines of Problem Solving (8D). We like this method because it addresses the full lifecycle of a problem, rather leaving components unaddressed, which results in one (or more) new problems being created. Successful resolution results in permanent resolution, which should be the ultimate end goal. Whether your company is comprised of five employees or five thousand, the 8D method is both affordable and scalable, which is not something we see every day in our industry. The fastest way to victory with 8D? Don’t skip any of the steps. And yes, there are 9 steps in the 8D process (D0 – D8)!