Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

The power of business management software

September 19, 2010

Want to gain a competitive edge? Try looking at the newest trends in business management software.

The latest software options can help retain customer accounts and separate you from other building service contractors (BSCs) by generating up-to-date, accurate information in easily customized formats — and making it all accessible online.

Sure, you know your customers expect immaculate restrooms and dependable service. You make certain their floors are spotless — but are their statements and invoices similarly reliable and flawless?

Just as restroom sanitizing systems maximize cleaning efficiency, business management software maximizes customer billing efficiency.

No disparate parts

Most likely, your contracts are static monthly prices, but many customers inevitably request additional services. These requests can present challenges to your operations managers, billing personnel, receivables, and general ledger. Business management software can make these requests easier.

Imagine a dispatcher’s call effortlessly connecting a work order to the appropriate technician, who remotely logs in her time of entry, time of exit, and work resolution, plus equipment and supplies used.

According to software solution consultant Eric Siegel of L. Kianoff and Associates, Birmingham, AL, the information would automatically reorder inventory and generate an accurate invoice.

Siegel said all of today’s systems are totally integrated so there are no disparate parts — everything ties into the general ledger with complete audit trails, all with extensive drill-around capabilities.

Today’s enhancements

In the not-too-distant past, companies had to buy multiple software systems to keep track of different areas of the business. Payables and receivables were different from payroll, which was different from inventory management.

Specialized software still exists, but today’s developments allow users to input information one time instead of having to open multiple systems and multiple screens. Much time can be saved, and opportunities for errors are decreased.

Once you purchase software that can assimilate all the pieces, you are making progress — but you’re only part of the way to a real solution. How are you going to effectively utilize the data you have now captured? (See "Easily customized formats".)

Receiving, sending data online

One of the new data retrieval trends is On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP). What is OLAP?

Capabilities for OLAP technology are still evolving, but basically, this means people can view up-to-date, dimensional company reports via a browser in a variety of formats, Siegel said. Individuals may want bar charts, graphs, or text from a corporate database.

Viewing information is a great service differentiator that makes peoples’ lives easier, but inputting data online can be a great advantage, too.

As one would guess, much of the information in billing systems revolves around service employees’ time spent at a customer location. Service workers are typically paid hourly wages based on information recorded by time clocks.

Inputting accurate hours into a payroll system is a common challenge and frustration for many companies.

Steven Leaf, with Minneapolis, MN-based Ceridian Payroll Systems, said the biggest challenge in the marketplace is integrating (personnel) time into a bigger system, because supervisors typically delegate data entry to administrative personnel, leaving room for errors.

Web-hosted time collection systems are extremely advantageous for BSCs, as add-ons to their business management systems, Leaf said. By automating the payroll process into the business management software, new hires are automatically in the system, paychecks can balance back to the general ledger, and taxes are systematically accrued.

Many BSCs are already outsourcing time and allocation systems as enhancements to their business management systems due to the costs of maintaining and upgrading their own systems.

Instant gratification needed

Larger BSCs typically employ a variety of information end users. Account managers need to monitor employee hours, budget for upcoming work, and purchase adequate supplies.

Other internal users utilize customer information on a regular basis as well: Marketing directors need customer information in order to quantify profitability among various customer segments, and identify potential customers; human resources directors need salary reports and personnel costs; sales directors need historical data denoting which services customers need, and when they need them; and purchasing agents need pricing information for repeat purchases. All of these internal users need current information.

The growing number of people requiring instant access to updated information also brings the challenge of geographically diverse users who cannot store information internally on their desktops and laptops.

Centralized servers are a must — but what if all the users cannot run wires from the central server to their own computers? One method is to transmit information online.

Ben Weil is corporate marketing director for Rite Way Service, Inc. (www.ritewayservice.com), a regional facility maintenance company headquartered in Birmingham, AL. He can be reached at bweil@ritewayservice.com.