Canadian Utility Construction

Canadian Utility Construction (CUC) provides a complete range of underground construction services, specializing in construction and maintenance services for utility companies throughout Western Canada.  Focusing primarily on natural gas, CUC also works within the power, electricity and telecommunication sectors.  CUC prides itself in the safety and quality of its work, ensuring customers are always taken care of.

Situation

In 2007 CUC implemented Microsoft Dynamics NAV financials as their accounting solution and for the first few years Dynamics NAV operated ‘good enough.’  Then, business started to change for CUC.  The utilities industry had a significant backlog of infrastructure upgrades that needed to be completed.  CUC found themselves in the unique position where utility companies could no longer delay these upgrades and as a result, opportunities started to flow in at a rate that CUC had never experienced before.
CUC’s business processes needed to mature quickly.  While in business since 1991, it wasn’t until 2009 that the company had grown to a point where a formal budget process was required.  Additionally it needed to keep on top of weekly reporting and  billing.  Added to the challenge was CUC’s mobile workforce that needed to be able to work on line as well as off line.

Business continued to boom and CUC was on track to double in size in the next few years.  Financial planning was being done in a 30MB spreadsheet filled with macros.  Estimating was being done outside of Dynamics NAV, as was project management and fleet management.  “We had this enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Dynamics NAV, and we were using it as only accounting software. I looked at it and said to myself, ‘this can’t be it. There has to be more ways to leverage this software.’ But, we continued to do many processes outside of it,” stated Mike Sherwin, Financial Planning and Operations Finance Manager, at CUC.

“We needed to figure out how to use this software more efficiently. I continued to say to my organization, ‘We have a tool that we aren’t using to its full potential. We need to invest time and money to look at our processes and see where the technology can help.’  For a long time there was a resistance to do that because things were working well enough,” says Mike.
CUC’s initial plan was to start looking at additional solutions that could help automate their processes.  CUC attended Microsoft’s Convergence, the annual Microsoft Dynamics conference, and became educated on the many Independent Software Vendor (ISV) products available.  They were keen to start solving several critical business challenges with a number of different products from different vendors.  As they discussed their challenges and potential solutions with Encore, Encore helped educate CUC on the importance of considering the bigger picture.  The solutions they were looking at were piecemeal fixes, not holistic system solutions.  There was not one common business solution blueprint.

Solution

Having worked with Encore closely for the past two years and valuing them as a trusted partner, CUC agreed that a cohesive blueprint was needed for their business systems.  This was an opportune time to invest in a Business Systems Strategy Review. A Business Systems Strategy Review would first map CUC’s current processes.  From there, a scalable business systems strategy would be developed based on a sustainable technology platform.  The best use of current and planned systems would be identified.  A prioritized systems roadmap would be developed from process improvement opportunities, and the net result would be a planned solution architecture.

“Being a contractor organization we are cost conscious.  At first it was difficult to get approval to spend money on a nontangible outcome,” says Mike.  However, as CUC continued to grow, processes continued to get more complicated.  It was becoming increasingly difficult to know what was happening within the organization.
“The need for information shifted our thought process, and we needed to know what was happening quicker. We were moving so fast as an organization and needed to start integrating information,” states Mike. CUC knew that they needed to better understand their processes and better capture information.  Simply put, the team at CUC knew they could do all of it more efficiently by better utilizing Dynamics NAV ERP under the guidance of Encore.

“This is what ultimately allowed us to approve spending the money on the Business Systems Strategy Review.  We needed to determine if there were solutions that we could implement to help us.  Or, more importantly, were we already sitting on the solution that could do that. Was the answer in the existing ERP?” claims Mike.

The Business Systems Process review was completed onsite over approximately 15 days.  The methodology consisted of five deliverables.  First, the existing business environment was reviewed.  Several key employees were interviewed to understand the current utilization of the systems and processes, the desired long term processes, KPI requirements and organizational direction and objectives.  Then the current state – the systems, integrations and data flow – was documented.  Next, high-level requirements to meet long term growth were determined.  These requirements were the building blocks for the next step – mapping the target state.  This deliverable helped identify opportunities for improvement and only aligns with solution requirements not specific solutions.  Finally, solution recommendations were identified.

Benefits

One of the big takeaways for CUC from the Business Systems Strategy Review was a change in mindset for those outside finance on Dynamics NAV’s capabilities.  Mike claims, “As an organization the finance function has dominated Dynamics NAV so much that many people think it’s just the accounting system.   We branded it wrong internally.  I have been able to start talking about it in a different way to really help people understand that, yes it does accounting, but it’s not for accounting exclusively.  People have been really open to that.”

Through the Business Systems Strategy Review, CUC now has a clear outline of their business processes throughout the organization, and an outline of the business systems needed to cohesively support these and future processes.  “The review has allowed us to get support, both budgetary and support from inside the organization, to move forward with the development,” states Mike.  With a Business Systems Strategy Review, CUC is now confidently moving forward with the solutions they need to support their current state, and have assurance that they will be equipped to make future solution investments at the appropriate times to support their anticipated growth.

The Business System Strategy Review has also helped CUC mitigate risk.  “There are some really good third party solutions out there but it still doesn’t solve the fundamental issue – how will we ultimately interact with the rest of our information. This has always been an important consideration.”  Having a solution blueprint allows CUC to understand the touch points and interactions.
Along with mitigating risk, the Business Systems Strategy Review has helped save CUC money in the long run.  Rather than investing in several one-off solutions that may not integrate in the future, the organization is planning on better leveraging the solutions they have already invested in.  While additional investments will need to be made, they will be made wisely based on the solution blueprint.

Final Thoughts

“I think what happened in our organization is fairly common.  Often it is Accounting that gets converted to the new ERP system first because you are implementing it for that function. They become your strong users and drive the development. It’s important that the whole organization realizes it is more than accounting.”

Mike and his team at CUC are currently working with Encore to roll out a detailed solution plan based on the Business Systems Software Review’s recommendation. From there, they will start to implement against the plan and truly start to realize the benefits of an integrated solution across the organization.