Does my Disaster Recovery plan have to include Business Continuity?

First, let’s look at a comprehensive definition of Business Continuity:

Ensuring that the critical operations of a company can continue without stoppage; the capacity to restore systems to a pre-defined level of operation; and the ability maintain acceptable customer service, including delivery of products or services, irrespective of adverse events and following any disruption.

As we can see, Business Continuity includes recovering from any business interruption, which could be as small as a few minutes to as large as recovering from a disaster. Therefore, Disaster Recovery is actually only one part of a larger Business Continuity Plan.

The reason that Disaster Recovery is more familiar is because this type of recovery is the most extensive type of recovery and it gets more press. Truth is, disruptions to business happen all the time but usually companies can provide work arounds quickly enough that those disruptions don’t significantly impact customer service. The key question is, are you using the most efficient method in your recovery?

The goal is to create plans that address all types of potential disruptions, agree on which systems and processes will be addressed first, and have contingencies for a wide range of scenarios. For example, what if no one is available to execute the plan? Could a disaster far away impact your business? What about a hazardous incident on the nearest highway, at your nearest electrical station, or a fire in the offices next door?

To be able to build out their plans and create contingent manual processes if necessary, all departments will need to agree upon the order in which systems will be recovered and which processes take precedence. And IT will need to create their plan to incorporate these requirements alongside their own. When you have developed well thought through and tested plans, you will be able to withstand any size outage with the smallest affect possible to your bottom line.


Buzzsaw is going away? What do I do now?

Buzzsaw, one of the leading real estate and construction document management systems, has announced that it will be discontinued as of January 31, 2019? According to their website:

“After this date, customers will no longer be able to renew, access or use Buzzsaw.”

If you are currently a Buzzsaw user, you will have six months to migrate your data, plans, schedules and blueprints to another state-of-the-art system.

For our residential builders, we believe there are a couple of products that lead the homebuilding industry and are used by many public builders. These systems can be either standalone solutions or integrated with many leading back-office ERP software systems. These leading document management systems share similar features and functionality that should be compared to an individual builder’s information requirements.

Some of the features to look for are:
1) Supports residential builders with plan libraries for master plan communities and standalone plans.
2) Ability to catalog and store active and inactive plans and elevations.
3) Manages master plans with multiple layers of versioning for community and lot-specific items.
4) Collaboration tool for internal departments as well as external partners needing access to documents such as blueprints, schematics and diagrams.
5) Supports user-based security which limits both internal and external users to those items deemed appropriate.
6) Supports comprehensive workflows and alerts informing construction team members that bids have been updated or blueprints have been downloaded.
7) Unlimited storage provided and the ability to add more with a simple phone call, email or text.
8) Daily backups of all files including data and diagrams.

If you would like more information about the leading document management systems being utilized by our industry, please contact us today.

What’s the difference between campaign automations & workflows in Dynamics 365 CRM?

Campaign Automations are a feature of the Click Dimensions Email Marketing Tool, which can be integrated within Dynamics 365. Campaign Automations are accessible to regular (non-admin) users and provide drag and drop icons to build a nurture program for marketing to Leads and Contacts. Features include triggers and timers based on forms, surveys, email actions and lists, assigning owners, notifications, automated email sends, and running workflows (on demand type).

That said, workflows are much more granular. Workflows can base triggers on fields within forms and make updates to entity records. Workflows can also run plugins. However, workflows are under the Settings menu by default, and therefore are usually restricted to admin type users.

Thus, if you have Click Dimensions and would like to start a nurture program, go ahead and try campaign automations first, especially if you don’t have access to create workflows. If you find a limitation that you and your workflow admin can’t get around with an on demand workflow, you’ll have to switch over the entire program to regular workflows.

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:

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.