Smiling and Dialing


NextPlans new service featured in CE Magazine

Construction Estimators Magazine

NextCall was launched in June of this year as a call service built in to the pre-construction module of NextPlans. Estimators can identify where they have not gotten good initial response and prompt the call service by trades needed for that project. Local call center representatives then contact subs on behalf of the General Contractor to determine whether or not the subcontractor is going to bid the project. That information is then put back into the bidder call report in NextPlans for the estimator to review and have for future evaluation.

Construction Estimating Magazine sat down with Stephanie Hinson a Program Manager for NextPlans to discuss the service and it's progress

CE Magazine: NextCall was launched in June, but just now seems to be gaining strides, what's changed?

Stephanie: We worked hard to promote the service to our existing clients and through that marketing and inner soul searching by our clients we have really picked up momentum these last 2 months.

CE Magazine: What do you mean when you say inner soul searching by your clients?

Stephanie: There were a few concerns or obstacles we needed to overcome:
1) Clients were concerned that there would be scope specific questions that a sub would want answered that we wouldn't be
able to.
2) Many clients were tasking these initial call responsibilities to their entry level estimators or estimating assistants
3) It would take away from the personal touch of calling a sub yourself for their pricing.

CE Magazine: How are you addressing or have you addressed these concerns?

Stephanie: We custom prepare the call script with our clients before calling subs. So far the script has been fairly consistent between our clients using the service. We ask the sub if he is interested in bidding "project x" If he/she says "yes" we update the reporting and include any additional comments. If they say "no" we ask if they can expand on their "no" response and we
update that information in the reporting as well. Any scope questions we refer them back to the invitation and the estimator for the project from our GC client.

CE Magazine: What about concerns 2 and 3?

Stephanie: These concerns are where the real inner soul searching comes into play. Our clients have to feel like the calls they need to be made aren't being made. A lot of money can be spent in pre-construction before the GC even has the job so they really have to evaluate their time & cost versus the NextCall service. If you can put together pricing on 2 projects in the time it would ordinarily take you to do 1 it seems like a good fit. You aren't wasting any time calling for clarification of bid intention, you are calling to answer scope questions, sway someone off of the "Undecided" list, or follow-up on a quote that's due.

CE Magazine: So, no personal touch gets lost from using the NextCall service?

Stephanie: None what-so-ever. If you look at it like a sales pipeline, we are warming the leads. An estimator will know who to call to give that personal touch too. A good example we see a lot of; "Not sure yet", "We have a lot going on", "Please have the estimator contact me". These are people on the fence where personal touch is needed. Senior estimators can better train entry level estimators by immediately being able to go into in depth conversation with a prospective subcontractor.

CE Magazine: Is there any other information an estimator should know about the service?

Stephanie: Definitely. We find a lot of times after the call service has been requested on a project that a lot of the contact information in the GC database is outdated. We update the information, and resend the invitation for the client. That information is then entered into the reporting interface for their reference.

Interview with a Construction Manager

Are you wasting time with technology?
We were recently onsite with a project team from a US Top 10 Healthcare Construction Management Firm.

This project team has a multi-project contract with an owner that will run for the next 5 years. This project team is responsible for pre-construction and operations for each project. Our goal was to get a complete understanding of how their cloud-based technology infrastructure was benefitting their job site team for pre-construction and project management collaboration.

We sat down with two members of the team that had built a document management folder structure on a cloud based program called Box. This solution included an extensive folder structure with access to information such as RFIs, Submittals, Progress Sets, and even bid documents for each project. They were accessing the information via their iPads and bringing up on dual big screen TVs in their job site trailer.

Read the interview below to see how suprised we were to see that this system has actually created bottlenecks in their workflow and actually decreased their efficiency.

NP: First, let's talk Pre-construction. One of our most frequently heard pains is that it simply takes too much time to contact the subs to find out whether they intend to bid a project. How do you solicit subs?

A: We add the subs email addresses manually to Box and send them a link to the project files.

NP: How many subs per trade do you invite?

A: We try to invite 5 to 8 subs per trade but have to make sure we can find that many. Often times because we are relatively new to the market we have to use other resources to find those subs.

NP: How do you know if a sub intends to bid a project?

A: We can see if they previewed the documents or downloaded them through the reporting in Box.

NP: If they've previewed the project, does that confirm that they are going to bid?
A: No, We have to call all the subs in the critical trades and most of the other trades depending on how our coverage looks already.

NP: How do you document bidding intentions in Box?

A: We track responses in Excel. We input the information manually.

NP: That sounds like a headache. How much time do you spend making these phone calls and tracking these responses?

A: On the last project we spent two weeks on the phone with subs.

Does this sound familiar? If so, check out our Bid Reminder Services at NextPlans. One easy set up allows you to send automatic reminders to your subs on any schedule you choose. Our tests have show that this service drastically reduces time spent on phone calls and increases response rates by as much as 500%.

We continued our discussion, moving on to their method (using Box) for project document management and collaboration.

NP: Your folder structure is very organized and detailed for storing documentation during the construction process. How do you use it to exchange information between project team members?
A: We actually just share information with team members through our site.

NP: Can those team members share information back to you through the site (Designers, consultants, subs, owners)?

A: No. Mostly information is sent to us via email from project team members and then we log it in Box.

NP: Is Box, then, more of an internal mechanism for you to store information?

A: Storing and sending out information at this point. We have been unable to fully collaborate through the system.

NP: Speaking of collaboration, can all participants annotate and comment within Box on project information?

A: No, we actually use Bluebeam to annotate. I am sure that others annotate within their own mark-up tools or mark-up hard copies.

NP: So, without a fully integrated file exchange system and a check-in/check-out annotation process because all project team members are using different annotation tools, you are not really collaborating in Box?

A: No, I think the benefit is more for us internally at this time.

NP: We noticed that you have standard sheet names on the drawings, do you have to keep a drawing log for the project?
A: Yes, we keep a drawing log and track the information in our Construction Management software.

NP: Who is responsible for the file naming of drawings and specifications?

A: We do that before we upload the information to Box.

NP: How much time does that take?
A: It depends on the amount of information that has to be named. The more documents, the more time it takes to name them.

NP: On a multi project contract, how do you anticipate managing all of this in addition to you other responsibilities once you have more than one active job.

A: We anticipate bringing in an Office Engineer or two if it becomes too much to handle.

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