How do I get everyone on board to take down new releases?

Keeping systems current is critical for many reasons, including features and functionality improvements. Planning and communication are key to successful upgrades. Most organizations have a test environment or sandbox. The best practice is to copy most current data from your live environment to your sandbox.

Next, be sure to read the release notes. Take down the current release to your sandbox environment only. Be sure to upgrade all linked products as some are dependent on each other. Based on the release notes to know which areas have been upgraded, perform normal routines in the sandbox and test for functionality.

Give a time frame to the end-users for their testing. For example, allow two weeks for testing and have a person in AP perform normal tasks such as entering and invoice and cutting a check. Once testing and acceptance is complete, you are ready to upgrade your live environment. Plan your timing, inform the staff, distribute the release notes, upgrade. Voila!

If you need help with this, the Cornerstone team has decades of experience helping people through this. We even perform the normal testing for some of our clients as their staff may be too busy to test.

Is it possible to link Microsoft CRM to my Sales System?

Absolutely! In fact, without this integration, your staff will be doing double work and defeat the purpose of one of the systems.Cornerstone has been very successful in helping our clients integrate MS CRM to sales systems.

The goal is to keep the lead/opportunity in the CRM for management until the prospect is ready to write a contract, then, electronically push the pertinent data over the to sales system when triggered by the end user. There is no double entry of information.

Some of our clients go even farther to push back information to the CRM and use the CRM to continue touch points with buyers or tenants. These clients are getting the best value of both systems and feel it gives them the technical edge required today.

Is SharePoint right for my company?

That’s a pretty open-ended question.  SharePoint remains Microsoft’s flagship for intranet and document management.  Many large organizations use the platform for the internet as well.  Being able to use SharePoint in conjunction with Office 365 make this a remarkable tool.  Some of us can remember when “copy & paste” was a new function in the world.  Microsoft continues to weave the product offering and collaboration tools into a wonderful web.

Is it right for you? There are many best practices that should be followed in making the decision to go down the SharePoint road.  We would recommend that you work with professionals such as those on our team to help you decide if this is a fit for your organization.  Things to consider is how much of the product would benefit you, how long to deploy and consider a phased approach, will it be hosted or on-premise, what is the annual budget, do you need multiple languages.  Give us a call and we can help you through the decision-making process.

I’ve heard certain builders are on “auto-pay.” What is it and do I need it?

Auto-pay is a general term for payments that are triggered by 1) having been issued a purchase order and 2) having the items on the PO tied to a construction task in the field.  When the builder’s superintendent approves the work as completed in the field, the related purchase order becomes part of an accounts payable batch in the builder’s ERP and posts as an invoice.  The trades no longer send in invoices, they are truly paid from PO and satisfactory work completion.

This process saves time and money for both the builder and the trade.  Many programs such as Newstar, BuildPro/SupplyPro, Sapphire Build, and others offer this great feature.  The Cornerstone team can help you roll this out in your organization.

What is Positive Pay and Do I Need It?

Positive Pay is an automated fraud detection tool offered by the Cash Management Department of most banks. In its simplest form, it is a service that matches the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment against a list of checks previously authorized and issued by the company. All three components of the check must match exactly or it will not pay.

How does Positive Pay work?

Positive Pay requires the company to send (transmit) a file of issued checks to the bank each day checks are written. When those issued checks are presented for payment at the bank, they are compared electronically against the list of transmitted checks. The check-issue file sent to the bank contains the check number, account number, issue date, and dollar amount. Sometimes the payee name is included, but is not part of the matching service.

When a check is presented that does not have a “match” in the file, it becomes an “exception item”. The bank sends a fax or an image of the exception item to the client. The client reviews the image and instructs the bank to pay or return the check.

There is generally a fee charged by the bank for Positive Pay, although some banks now offer the service for free. The fee might well be considered an “insurance premium” to help avoid check fraud losses and liability.

Many of the mainline accounting or ERP systems offer this feature to create the file to be sent to your bank.  Give Cornerstone a call and we can help you get this fraud prevention function running.

How to get my superintendants to update their schedules daily?

To get the superintendents to adopt a new tool, it must do something for them.  Demonstrate what benefits the field will gain by using the scheduling tool.

There are several things that you can do to see that schedules are updated daily, depending upon the approach that fits your company culture best:

> Have the system send out reminders, follow-up information, etc. that the superintendent previously had to remember to do. For example, six weeks before the cabinets are to be installed, have the system send a reminder to the installer of the upcoming date. This can help ease the lag time issues.

> Use the information in the schedule at the routine backlog meetings. Have the schedule information be the one source of truth. If we allow “off-line” schedule related information to be used, your scheduling tool becomes redundant and is left by the way-side.

> Provide training. Sometimes tasks don’t get done on time because people aren’t sure how to start or complete them correctly. Providing access to training and refresher courses pave the path to compliance.

> Using the schedules and your back-office system, implement auto-pay. The schedule now is critical to the superintendent and his trades. The schedule now saves the superintendent time in approving invoices, saves the trades time not creating invoices, gets the trades paid quicker and makes you a builder partner of choice.

> Get management involved. Sometimes people just need a little nudge from above to grasp the importance of some tasks. If management is using the data and speaks up when it is wrong or lapsed, people will value the use of the tool.

What’s the difference between Power BI and SSRS?

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and the Power BI Service are both Business Intelligence tools designed to present data to the end user. While they are both part of the Microsoft BI stack, they are geared towards different audiences and intended to be consumed in different manners. Power BI is intended to leverage an existing data warehouse, providing analytics based on a snapshot of data. This allows the power-user to ‘self-serve’ their reporting needs and drill into the same data from multiple perspectives.

An SSRS report requires a developer or report writer to design and deploy a static report layout, however SSRS can read data real-time and reports can be delivered to users through the browser or on a schedule. SSRS does have drilldown capabilities, however the Power BI interactive visualizations provide a more interactive experience for the end user. SSRS comes with SQL Server Standard or Enterprise Editions and is hosted locally, while the Power BI service is a cloud based solution that requires O365 licenses and does not have robust security options until reaching the Enterprise level. SSRS is the go-to solution for reporting, while Power BI, based on Excel’s Power Query, is nestling in as the future in interactive dashboards.

Have questions about which BI solution fits you best or if you should consider both options?  Don’t hesitate to reach out, we’re happy to help.

My warranty cycle time is 3 days, is that the average?

Warranty cycle time of 3 days is not bad at all. Of course, you should be tracking different types of warranty with different planned response times. Your “normal” warranty call with a response time of 3 days is not bad. Most builders are striving for 2 days. But, your “emergency” warranty calls (burst pipe, no heat, popping breakers) should have a target of immediate or less than 4 hours. Tracking these cycle times is very important to customer satisfaction and loyalty. A customer can’t be loyal if they are not confident that you will take care of them. In this world of immediate response, be sure you have a touch point of phone call or email prior to being able to get a tech to the home. Communicate who is coming and approximately when.