Archive for June, 2012
Sage Construction Anywhere (SCA), the cloud offering from Sage Construction and Real Estate has been a long time coming, but it’s definitely worth the wait, and will continue to get better as new versions are rolled out.
SCA was launched in May, 2012 and information from Sage about the product continues to arrive. Recently I participated in a webcast where Sage marketing executives related their plans for the product and gave Business Partners the green light to share them with customers.
The first release of SCA contains three components, a “connector” installed at the home office which links to your Sage construction accounting applications, Windows project portals running on Microsoft’s Azure platform, and access anywhere from a secure remote device. The portal is designed to run on a variety of devices including home PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It contains a flexible way to request and access reports from your back office system, project maps and all of the necessary security and housekeeping functions. The connector installs quickly on your server.
A compelling example in the area of risk management was given to illustrate the value of having this kind of access from the jobsite. A superintendent could easily check the insurance of an arriving subcontractor before allowing them to begin work.
The first release of SCA currently is available only for Sage Timberline Office/Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate. SCA will eventually link to all Sage construction applications and will provide access for project participants like owners and architects even if they don’t have Sage construction software.
Functionality to be added in the near future (some of it this year) is going to target the needs of specific roles in the organization. First up is the superintendent, with some functions applying also to the project manager. Here are the planned features:
- Project Document Access and Management (including file syncing)
- Remote Time Capture (job centric and employee centric)
- Jobsite Time Approval
- Daily Reports
- RFI Management
Some companies currently using VPN’s to access data from the jobsite will find that SCA gives them the same access with greater flexibility and control.
Service Technician Tools
The first release of SCA is a good start. More exciting is the fact that Sage is devoting some serious resources to SCA and knows where it’s going. Further down the road you are going to see Service Technician Tools which will include customer site access to service requests, status, and service history, with more functionality sure to come.
Facilitating an Increasingly Mobile Industry
Today’s decision making can’t be confined to a desk since managers and their teams are at job sites, with clients, and on the road. In order to keep projects on track and make sure everyone is in the loop, Sage Construction Anywhere places critical project data at management’s fingertips wherever they go. Sage envisions greater collaboration, faster communication and improved jobsite decision making, speeding up projects and changing the way construction companies operate.
Sage Construction Anywhere is an easy-to-use, cloud-based service that gives you instant access to real-time project information anytime, anywhere from web-enabled tablets, smart phones and other mobile devices. For more information on available cloud technology, mobile applications, and TimberCloud Hosting contact Ledgerwood Associates.
Founded in 1984, Timberline Landscaping installs landscape and irrigation systems, and has expanded into maintenance and snow removal. Jacob Busch, Accountant, implemented MyAssistant in 2008. He reports: “MyAssistant has delivered a lot more information than we were used to having. We knew that the information we needed was in the system and now with MyAssistant we get what we need automatically. We don’t have to worry about figuring out how to get it or just missing it.”
“We’re using MyAssistant to track our billing. We used to have a major problem with work being performed in the field but never billing for that work. We created a custom report that goes out every week showing cost in excess of billings. The report looks at the job’s last cost update and if it’s been more than one week it will show up on the report, which tells us that this job has either stopped work or needs to be billed. We just started doing that this summer [of 2009] and it’s helping keep control of what work we’re doing and making sure it’s getting billed.”
“We also use MyAssistant with Accounts Receivable. We use a default Task [a pre-built rule that ships with MyAssistant] for past due accounts, which I modified slightly to notify me immediately when invoices hit 30, 45, or 60 days past due. [MyAssistant] sends out an email with that information, including the customer’s phone number and contact, so we can get a call out to them.”
“Obviously cash flow is very important. Prior to MyAssistant, our aging report was typically only looked at once a month, so if an invoice was 29 days past due it would not show up on that month’s report. Now we know immediately as soon as someone is 30 days out; we can give them a call to make sure the invoice is in their system and they’re aware we haven’t received payment.”
“We’ve activated some of the MyAssistant project management Tasks, so now we can stay on top of documents. Our estimators and project managers know which RFI’s and submittals are pending and need resolution. We’re also notified if a job hasn’t had some kind of a transaction in the last month. That helps us close jobs so transactions can’t go against the wrong job.”
“The most important thing MyAssistant brings to me is making sure our jobs are getting billed. We can go out and do work, pay for all the material used on site plus the labor, but if we never bill for it—that’s hitting the bottom line. And even if we were to bill for it, [before MyAssistant] we were sometimes talking 30 to 60 days after the work’s been completed. That put a major strain on cash flow. With the help of MyAssistant our cash flow has increased.”
“What I like about MyAssistant is the amount of information I can get in a short period of time.
It used to take me hours to collect all that information from different reports. But with MyAssistant I can setup Tasks and I don’t have to worry about it—when I come in in the morning it’s done all the work for me and I just scroll through the list to see the information I need. It really is almost like having another person helping you. It’s been a major help.”
A new mobile app launched on May 2 by the toolmaker DeWalt lets contractors and tradespeople perform hundreds of calculations in the field, with instant feedback to show how the calculation was performed.
The free DeWalt Mobile Pro app for the iPhone, iPod or iPad has five basic calculations as well as the option of adding “packs” for hundreds of trade-specific calculations and reference materials at various costs.
The basic app includes a construction calculator for solving complex jobsite math, such as estimating the quantity of brick-mortar ties, the sand and cement needed for a structure with multiple walls, and gables and sloped elevations, says Greg Clayton, vice president of Delmar Cengage Learning, one of the app’s co-creators with DeWalt. The app also shows a running history of recent calculations and has a customizable list of favorite calculations. The results can be e-mailed.
Mobile Pro is distinguished from other construction apps by the add-on packs, Clayton claims. Packs for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, landscaping and finished materials will be released in the next three months, but five packs are out now at costs ranging from $2 to $10; they include carpentry, concrete, business and finance, sitework and construction math, which has numerous templates for calculations.
Bobby Person, Delmar executive editor, says the templates cut “the danger of errors” by reducing data entry, since formulas and other data embedded in the system are accessible via a pull-down menu, with options such as stairs, wall openings or roof underlayment.
Ben McKenzie, owner of McKenzie Property Management, Charleston, S.C., says the app is especially handy for area and volume conversion when calculating materials. “When you put in new drywall, it lets you choose the gypsum board size and calculates the total number of sheets for the room area,” he says. “It’s not always exact, since you sometimes have oddball cuts and pieces, but it gets you in the ballpark so you can start rolling without exact drawings.”
A Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) is a measure of risk often used by real estate lenders to assess the risk of a particular loan or portfolio of loans. A DSCR measures the ability of a real estate asset to cover its debt service requirement. The calculation is made by dividing the Net Operating Income (NOI) by the amount of the debt service. NOI is defined as the income generated from a real estate asset minus the operating expenses necessary to operate the asset, but before the deduction for debt service, depreciation, and taxes. Debt service is defined as the periodic payment to service the debt. If an annual NOI is to be used in the calculation, match the debt service by using the annual amount. Let’s take a look at the calculation (where N is the number of loans secured by the asset or portfolio):
A DSCR of 1.19 tells us that the asset’s debt service is being covered with enough income left over to cover an additional 19% of debt service. Notice that the monthly payment of Loan 1 was multiplied by 12 to arrive at an annual amount. The $23,250 of debt service for Loan 2 is already an annual amount. The NOI was also stated as an annual amount.
Let’s take a look at how DSCR might change over time. The chart below tracks the DSCR of a real estate asset that is secured by two loans. The first position loan is a constant payment with a fixed interest rate and a the second position loan is interest only payable monthly with a variable interest rate floating on Prime with a 5% floor.
Let’s see what we can learn from the chart.
- In the beginning of the year in 2008, the asset was not covering its debt service. There was not quite enough NOI to cover its debt service with a DSCR of about .99.
- As the Prime rate was falling during 2008, it began to better cover its debt service because the debt service on the 2nd position loan was falling inversely with Prime until the 2nd position loan hit its interest rate floor of 5%.
- NOI increased between 2008 and 2009 and the DSCR leveled off. It’s now barely covering the debt service with a DSCR of about 1.04.
The question is: Do you know the Debt Service Coverage Ratio for each of your real estate assets and for your entire portfolio of real estate assets? Calculating the DSCR for each of your real estate assets can be time-consuming and the calculation keeps changing over time as your debt balances change and the NOI changes. Fortunately, with loan software you don’t need to be a mathematician or hold an MBA to calculate your own DSCRs. Your loan transactions can be initiated from within the system and automatically imported into your other financial systems. By maintaining current loan balances and current interest rates in the debt management system, you can calculate the DSCRs for each of your assets and portfolio and much, much more at the touch of a button. For more information on loan and asset organization and Portfolio Debt Manager, visit http://www.portfoliodm.com/.
For additional information about this and other topics contact Ledgerwood Associates.