Topic Thread

1.  I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 10 days ago
Good morning,

We are in the process of developing a 3-5 year Strategy for our Information Technology (I/T) department. We are a $300M General Contractor based in Louisiana w/ approximately (135) Staff Employees. We would greatly appreciate any insights similar sized GC's can provide in terms of the I/T department structure within your own organization. We are interested in the layout of your I/T department staff - quantity of staff, general responsibilities for each and reporting structure.

Again, we greatly appreciate any feedback you can provide. Thanks! Be safe and have a nice start to your week.

------------------------------
Donald Broussard
CFO
The Lemoine Company, LLC
Lafayette LA
(225) 776-3865
------------------------------


2.  RE: I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 9 days ago
Donald,

As someone responsible for the IT Department, I can give you insight into our environment.  We have myself, plus a full-time and soon-to-be part-time support person.  We're about $140 Mil.  I've been able to justify a part-time person based on ticket count.

Unfortunately, there's no hard rule.  I view makeup as, if the economy tanks what is the bare minimum to sustain operations.  For that size, maybe 3 full-time plus a contractor and some project support (cover skill gaps).  This is an estimate and would vary based on number of apps, on-prem vs off, how many SAAS, number of help desk tickets (your analytics), as well as anticipated projects.  Finally, comes down to budget.  Usually that's 1-3% of Gross Revenue, though construction industry is usually below the 1% mark.

Hope this helps and I'd be happy to answer any further questions!

------------------------------
David Schultz
IT Manager
Anslow Bryant
Houston TX
(713) 979-1841
------------------------------



3.  RE: I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 8 days ago
Donald,
We have been overhauling our IT setup as well,  We are a smaller organization than you have, but i think the general rules should apply.  How you either staff internally or outsource IT depends largely on whether you are continuing to maintain an onsite server-based ERP or whether you are committed to cloud solutions.  Up until recently we have hosted nearly all programs on our own server,  We have managed this situation fairly efficiently with a 3rd party vendor with some minimal in house ability to set up devices and some low level trouble shooting ability.  We have recently started moving away from the server, with our files, PM software and are soon to have our ERP web-based.  While these solutions can be more expensive than hosting servers, we have found that our IT trouble shooting has been reduced, and the main issue is making sure we have fast and reliable internet as well as plenty and well placed WAP's.  I have found that i do want the key accounting folks to be hard-wired due to the unforgiving nature of accounting programs when connectivity gets interrupted during a posting.
If we were maintaining a server based IT function, and were scaling up to your size, I would definitely have one person as a dedicated trouble-shooting expert who can save money setting up devices, knocking out issues like virus prevention updates, printers not working, etc.  I would partner that with a third party resource to support the network, disaster recovery, etc.  If going the web-based route, you can probably get away with a combo office manager\IT person to setup devices, etc and have more of a limited 3rd party resource available who can dial in and address issues with your internet and office wifi.
I hope this is helpful.

------------------------------
Patrick Lloyd
Golden & Associates
Birmingham AL
(205) 322-7726
------------------------------



4.  RE: I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 8 days ago
Hi Donald,

It seems like a big consideration is the ERP that your company is using, and if for any reason (technically, politically, etc) it needs to be hosted locally. Using cloud providers to host the physical part of your infrastructure seems to be a growing trend, which gives internal IT staff the ability to concentrate on local computers, accessories (monitors, printers, etc) and internal networks.

We've decided to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host Vista by Viewpoint for our internal bookkeeping. Much of what our IT staff does (which is an exaggeration-"staff" is really just one guy) is service oriented or permissions oriented--helping people with small tasks like getting new computers connected up, or helping new employees get the right permissions to begin working.

It has also helped to use Dropbox for Business instead of an internal file sharing, and I've heard equally good things about Box, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive etc.

We're excited to give Vista's new remote link a go, sparing our employees the need to log into a remote server.

More generally, my opinion is that "information technology" should really fall under the CFO's management--financial information just part of the information that has to be delivered to the right people at the right time. The director of IT, however you style the title, should report to the person that's ultimately responsible for the accuracy and the timeliness of that information to management.

------------------------------
Michael Kelley
President
Silvertrek Systems LLC
Battle Ground WA
(360) 667-3340
------------------------------



5.  RE: I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 7 days ago
Donald,

The comments above all have good insights and are valuable consideration IMO. We work with hundreds of contractors and the question you ask is a recurring conversation. I believe it comes down to defining a target end goal relative to how much of your IT you actually want to "own". In today's environment it appears that third party hosting and Saas solution are offering very robust platform that reduce your IT ownership relative to your in-house services.
The role of your IT team/ person will drastically evolve based on the the end point you target. It will therefore require you to hire a different set of skills. When using third party PM for example your IT person will likely evolve to be partly operational as they will look to optimize features within the software with current workflows and design training around those specific concerns in tandem with you service provider.
We see budgets  being impacted by third party service providers with less capital investment and more recurring expenses. All in all the net value to the organization should be a strongly positive impact to the bottom line. Plenty of case studies support the view that it is ultimately most cost effective to leverage third party providers.

I would not be surprised to see the IT line item in your budget grow and savings as a result of optimization showing elsewhere. An example would be using less paper by using PlanGrid... The IT department will therefore need to work with their partner to document key metrics and I suspect that a small IT team could be one of the single most effective lever towards increasing profitability for contractors in the years to come.

Hope this provides some good thoughts to work with along with the comments above.

Regards,

------------------------------
Fred Guitton
Chief Revenue Officer - Redteam Software
(407) 781-1500
fguitton@redteamsoftware.com
------------------------------



6.  RE: I/T Strategy for Future

Posted 3 days ago

Hello Donald,

Developing and maintaining a 5 year Information & Communication Technology (ICT) plan was one of my responsibilities as a former CIO of a $800M Mechanical Contractor.  Currently, I serve as part time CIO and Co-Chair of Business Information Systems Steering Committee for one of my clients.  As most have pointed out, your ICT structure and budget is dependent on the business model and long-term vision of your organization.

Through my conversations with CFOs of construction companies, I have learned that delegation of responsibilities greatly vary from one company to the next.  For example, one large sub-contractor has 15 employees in their billing department, while another (of similar size) has only 2.  In the latter company, the employees are billing data entry clerks while PMs or Project Accountants prepare most of the billing related documents (schedule of values, CO, etc.).  The  one with staff of 15 believes in shifting overhead related costs to office staff and keeping PMs focused on execution of construction projects.

Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing hardware and server equipment does not substantially reduce ICT staffing requirements.  Benefits of such outsourcing must be measured against cost of capital, hardware space requirements, clean and secure server room, power consumption, cooling needs, etc.  Computer Equipment are far more reliable than they were about a decade ago, therefore, most of the work in ICT is software related (both O/S and Application).

I highly recommend using an ICT ticketing system.  In addition to organizing tasks in ICT, the management reports will help you plan, monitor, budget, and allocate ICT expenses.  JIRA Service Desk is a low cost hosted solution.  SpiceWorks is free, however it does collect information about your infrastructure and uses it to solicit products and services.

Following are some comments and question that may help with development of your ICT structure:

  • Technical Support (Workstation, laptop, network, mobile devices, phone, etc.).
    • What is the level of service that your computer users should expect?  The level of service will have the highest cost impact on your budget.  Will your users be responsible for O/S patches, system troubleshooting, new system deployment, connectivity, etc., or would a dedicated staff assume the responsibility?  There is no doubt that those who consistently perform such tasks will be far more efficient than ICT users who would rely on search engines.
    • How are costs allocated?  Is it part of general overhead, or will each department and job pay for their own support requirements?
    • How often are computers updated, patched, backed-up, etc.?
    • How many office locations & Job sites would need technical support?  What are the plans for the next 5 years?
    • What are the traveling challenges (Distance, traffic, etc.)?
    • Who will assume responsibility for internal and external networks and communication?

For your immediate need, I would recommend a 1 to 2 person team internally, with part-time support from trusted local vendors as needed.

  • E-mail & Cloud Storage.
    • While with my former employer, I moved over 2,000 e-mail accounts to Google's G-Suite.  In addition to immediate cost saving, the longer term objective was to reduce the number of systems that were being maintained by ICT by as much as 40%.  Ancillary systems & services that were needed to maintain an in-house e-mail system included; Spam filtering, user mailbox storage management, mobile e-mail syncing, user mailbox backup & recovery solutions, e-mail virus protection, e-mail group management, cloud storage, file sharing, e-mail archiving & e-discovery, collaboration tools, etc.
    • Unfortunately, with Office-365 most of the above e-mail support work will remain within ICT, or they come at a higher cost when outsourced.
    • At one of my clients 25% of the support calls are e-mail & outlook related.
    • If you have an internal e-mail server, or wish to go with Office 365 then I would recommend an additional person.
  • Operating System & Software License Management (Windows, iO/S, Linux, Servers, Office, etc.)
    • This responsibility can either be outsourced to a trusted local vendor, managed by an experienced technical staff (Network Administrator, Technical Support Supervisor, etc.), or a combination of both.
  • Business Software Application Support (ERP Super-User)
    • I feel this position is better suited for someone who is not an ICT staff.  The position should be assigned to an individual who reports to the department that uses the particular application.  For example, someone within the engineering department should be responsible for the CAD application.  Equally, someone within the finance department should assume the responsibility for all accounting & ERP applications.  This individual can also become a backup for anyone within the business application user group.
  • In-house Custom Applications
    • Does your ERP meet all of your business needs?
    • Are there any custom solutions that have been developed exclusively for your company?
    • Larger organizations generally find it necessary to customize their ERP or have custom applications built for them. In such cases someone outside of technical team (above) needs to assume the responsibility for managing and maintaining these customizations.
  • ICT Manager, Director, or CIO
    • Does your company need a full-time ICT Manager/Director or a CIO? If so, or if the need is not clear, then the responsibilities and expectations for the role must be clearly identified.
    • A CIO's role is strategic in nature; having this position report to a single department will limit the CIO's ability to be visionary.

Best of Luck,
Varoujan Adamian
Principal Consultant
Noravand
Burbank, CA 
(818) 201-5111
vadamian@noravand.com




'