Archive for December, 2011

How to Avoid Mistakes Loading the Sage Timberline Office 2011 Year-End Update

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“What could go wrong?” I ask. Three hours, two do-overs, and a desperate appeal to the software gods later I get the answer. I didn’t carefully read all of the instructions and supporting material and guessed wrong when I wasn’t sure.

InstructionsI’m the kind of person who frequently gets into trouble when following instructions. Assembling household items rarely goes right for me the first time. Often it’s because I fail to clarify a vague or confusing instruction. Other times I simply assume that I know what I’m doing and find out later that I don’t.

Even though I’m not an expert on Sage Timberline Office, I’d like to help you avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Judging by the complexity of the “9.8.0 Update 2” instructions, here’s what I would probably do wrong:

Make an incorrect assumption - I assume that Update 1 is a prerequisite to Update 2. Later I read the “Release Notes for 9.8 Updates” and find out that I could have skipped Update 1. That’s a few hours of my life that I will never get back.

Do it the hard way - After spending 7 hours updating the 14 workstations in the office, I go back and read the “Notes” near the top of the page and find: “you can use Sage Installation Manager to streamline the installation of updates on your Accounting server and workstations.” Arrrgh!

Misinterpret the big warning - Instruction 4 clearly states “Double-click 980AccUpdate2.exe only once.” In spite of the warning, I start the update application twice, either because the server is set to use single-click, or by realizing too late that the note to instruction 6 is a repeat of the instruction 4 warning.

Not allow enough time - Things would go wrong then I wouldn’t get the software back up before it’s needed by others.

No one likes to experience problems with an update. Here are three things you can do to avoid making mistakes like the above:

    1. Read all of the instructions and notes before you begin. Just like in the sixth grade exercise where the last instruction tells you to do only the first of several complex instructions, reading everything is probably the best way to avoid pain and embarrassment.
    2. Ask for clarification of vague instructions (even if you are male).
    3. Don’t blindly follow someone else. Ask why a colleague or support person’s directions differ from the written instructions and be sure you are doing it correctly before proceeding.

If you still get into trouble, call Sage Support or one of Ledgerwood’s excellent consultants
who have many years of experience with the software behind them.

Good luck with the Update.

What do you do to avoid these kinds of problems with an update?

Will Tax Law Changes Help or Hurt My Construction Company?

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Last week I traveled the 120 miles from Phoenix to Tucson to attend the CFMA 2011 Tax Update presented by Beach Fleischman, a Tucson accounting firm. Although taxes are important, I have to admit I wasn’t crazy about the topic.  Tax seminars are comically used as an example of dull and uninteresting, but to my liking, the session was engaging and informative.  I was amazed by the volumes of information construction companies are expected to know about taxes.

TruckKim Paskal, the presenter from Beach Fleischman, covered more than 60 changes in the tax code including tax credits for employees hired in 2010; 2011 expense rules for SUV’s, Trucks and Vans; and an increase in the Social Security wage base for 2012; all of which  could impact a construction company’s bottom line.

Personally, I found the lengthy discussion on cancellation of real property business debt to be very helpful, having experienced my share of real estate investments gone South.

Ms. Paskal was well prepared and knowledgeable.   Having been a business owner myself, I know that relying on a tax expert like Kim is essential, especially if you are in a complex industry like construction.  It could mean real savings in your tax bill.

Talk to your tax advisor to get more details about how recent tax law changes might affect your business. If you need a good tax accountant I recommend calling Beach Fleischman.

For more information on this topic contact Ledgerwood Associates, the #1 Sage Timberline Business Partner in the Southwest!

How to Win the Spreadsheets vs. Estimating Software Battle

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You fear that your worst nightmare as an estimator is about to come true. 
Spreadsheet argument
Management is siding with a small group of estimators who want to throw away your estimating software and standardize the production of all estimates using only spreadsheets.  They believe that it’s an easier and cheaper solution.  You know they are taking 2 steps backwards to get 1 doubtful step forward. How can you convince them that estimating software is better than using spreadsheets?

Here’s some ammunition to help you win the fight and win more bids:

Accuracy Minimizes Risk: Estimating software separates the database from the estimating functions.  No more complicated, hard to remember formulas inside of your database.  Forgetting to include a formula, item or decimal point on a bid can be a costly mistake. Estimating software standardizes the bid process across multiple estimators without forfeiting individual styles and flexibility.

A Knowledgebase to Share:  A common database of materials, pricing and productivity rates can be shared and used by the entire company.  You can build the intelligence of your most Senior Estimator into the estimating database and have less experienced estimators create the same fast and accurate bids by accessing that intelligence with the software.

Better Organization:  Estimating software organizes the entire estimating function better than any spreadsheet can, making it easier to schedule, communicate and confirm all project details across your team. Data can be shared across estimating, job cost, and accounting functions – with no data re-entry.

Digital TakeoffGreater Speed:  Takeoff time is slashed by 50% or more compared to spreadsheet methods. Built-in efficiency tools like smart assemblies, reports and markup tables can generate estimates faster and more accurately for getting more work with the same number of estimators. Final proposals and reports are produced in seconds.

If these reasons are not enough to convince skeptics that an estimating program is worth the investment in time and money, a simple return on investment model will reveal how inefficient spreadsheets can be when compared to using an estimating program. 

If you need to dig a little deeper, send me a reply.  I would be glad to help.  

Daren Baldwin

For more information on this topic contact Ledgerwood Associates, the #1 Sage Timberline Business Partner in the Southwest!