Example of How a Good IT Project Begins

Last updated by Webmaster on 12 February 2011  • 

In January 2011, instead of using a PowerPoint presentation or flip charts to explain what we do, for several minutes a business group 'became' a property management company that recently added an in-house maintenance department. Three group members became the boss, the maintenance chief and the head of the office administrative team. The other members became the rest of the staff.

In our scenario, as a group we had figured out our current workflow earlier, an assistant had drawn it up and made the copies that were now in front of every chair, and we had just come back from a break.

We began with a flip chart that had the company computer, the maintenance department and the office on it. Each of those circles had labels by it that showed information residing at that circle. We moved labels from one circle to another--mostly moving them from the maintenance or office groups to the company computer system--until all the information that both groups needed to use was in the office computer system where both groups could reach it as needed.

Bonnie Huval, founder of Havenshire Limited, facilitated the 'work session' as an abbreviated example of what we mean when we say we help companies make more money with their information technology. First we find out what your business does and what it needs to do, as the business group did for our fictional property management company. Then we use that knowledge to guide us as we orchestrate appropriate IT changes and additions to support what you need to do.

There is not a single correct answer to the property management firm's problems. The business group came up with a different, less high-tech solution from the example solution handed out after our exercise. A property management firm in the States that gave us the idea for the exercise is using a third solution between the example at the end of this page and the solution chosen by the business group. Each solution is right for the group that chose it.

We can teach you how to do such workshops yourselves for business process improvement--the usual visual aids are a little different from what we used for the live exercise because we needed to rush. We also facilitate brainstorming and goal setting sessions, and teach how to run those yourselves.

Take a look at the property management firm's current workflow. Then read the profiles of the three bosses in the firm.

Current Workflow

Jane - The Boss

We were outsourcing all maintenance and repair to contractors. That was a paper process. We issued a purchase order to a vendor, who did the work and invoiced us for it. We entered those bills as property expenses.

We leapt at the chance to hire Mike, who used to run the maintenance department for a larger company. He heads our new in-house maintenance department.

My Problem

  • We are drowning in paperwork and manual updates to our computer system.
  • We are missing out on some profits we could be capturing.
  • We are leaking money from the new department somehow. It isn’t making money as well as it should.

We thought we could substitute internal work orders for the purchase orders we used to issue, and everything else would stay the same. We forgot that now we have to buy parts and keep inventory on hand for parts that we need frequently. We also forgot that now we have to add up the cost of parts and labour ourselves, which we have to do by hand so we can enter it into the computer like the old invoices.

We also did not realise we now have opportunities to add markups, which add to our profits. Mike understands that in more detail than I do. We are missing some of those because so much paper is flying around that we sometimes forget to manually add the markups before entering work order details into our system as property expenses.

Mike - The Maintenance Chief

Recordkeeping is a nightmare. Work orders are printed out by the office staff. I hand them out to my crew. They fill in details about parts and labour as they work and turn in completed work orders at the office before the end of the day.

Some of my crew are billed out to the owners at higher rates than others. For example, anyone with formal electrical or plumbing credentials is worth more than an all-around fix-it worker. The office factors in the appropriate labour rates for each work order, adds the cost of parts and any markups, and enters the results into the computer system as property expenses billed to the owners.

Markups are new for this company. We get markups in two ways:

  • We buy bulk lots of parts that we need frequently, such as toilet flush kits. We Mike those parts to owners at a markup over the wholesale price we paid, but below the retail price. The owners are happy because they got a price break below retail, and we get a little extra profit.
  • We carry out entire renovation projects for owners now, including project management which the company couldn’t offer before. Our fee is a small percentage markup on the parts and labour for the entire job.

My Problem

  • My crew spends absurd amounts of time and petrol going back and forth to get and drop off work orders. If the office takes a call about something else broken in the same apartment building where one of the crew is working, it doesn’t get dealt with on the same visit.
  • The office is not accustomed to markups. Sometimes the staff forgets to add a markup, and sometimes they do it incorrectly.
  • The office staff has to interrupt me frequently to ask questions about pricing on parts and labour, and about markups.
  • The billings to owners are frequently wrong because of all this confusion, which makes all of us look bad, but especially me!

Louise - The Office Manager

My staff and I are overwhelmed with new paperwork, manual calculations, manual entries to the computer system, and checking details with Mike. We don’t quite understand some of markups we’re supposed to be applying. Since we’re in such a rush, if we don’t understand it, we skip it so we can put at least the basic costs into the system before we hit deadlines for sending updates to owners.

My Problem

  • We are drowning in paperwork and manual updates to our computer system.
  • A lot of the information we need to do the new work is with the maintenance group. Whenever we need some of that information, we have to set aside some of the work orders and start on them again later.
  • We Mike for labour based on a special chart of Mikeing rates. There’s no place in the computer system for it, since it’s a little above payroll rates. But it’s related to employee pay, so I’m the only one on the office staff with the right to see it. Since I’m the only person who can put labour rates into the system, I’ve become a bottleneck.
  • We don’t completely understand some of what we’re supposed to be doing. As a result, we’re getting a lot of complaints from both the boss and the owners about errors in our recordkeeping.
  • We used to feel competent, but we don’t any more. I’m afraid people will quit if this doesn’t get better.

A High Tech Solution

It Isn't All About the Computers

Every business is different and deserves IT that fits instead of warping itself to use IT that does not fit.

The IT solutions we implement do not always use leading-edge technology like what you see in the solution above. Sometimes the most effective solution is a change in a business process, or a change in workflow combined with some modest revisions to existing IT systems.

This page only touches on the highlights of what we can offer in one of our lines of service. Click here to let us know if you want more information, and we will contact you. The initial conversation is always free.