{SAW} Software Mill

SAW Software Mill

{SAW} Software Mill helps contractors better manage projects with the new Sage X3 Construction platform.

By Alan Dorich

Construction projects have become more complex, and builders need better tools to bring those jobs to completion. Specialized Application Workshop ({SAW}) and Software Mill LLC helps them do that, with software that allows clients better insight to their projects.

For example, with the Sage X3 Construction software, builders can perform a cash flow analysis. This allows them to look at “what happens if I make a change versus if I don’t make a change,” CEO Chris Wiener says.SAW Software Mill box

Wiener co-founded the Asheville, N.C.-based company, with Abel Lineberger, two years ago, when they realized there were product capability problems in the platforms available. This occurred for the founders personally when they worked on building Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi.

Several firms were involved in building the port, the onshore island and nautical systems for the project. Wiener worked for “the special system integrator that tied in all of these third -party systems at one time,” he says, noting that it was challenging to estimate, and controlling contract changes and documentation flow.

But {SAW} Software Mill aimed to eliminate such complexities when Wiener and his partners started the company. “One of the first things we identified was that there was a big gap between project lifecycle management tools that run construction, and the financial management systems that run the companies,” he recalls.

He and his partners sought to bridge that gap. “We recognized that there was a fundamentally different model for how software should be developed,” Lineberger recalls.

The partners decided to collaborate with The Sage Group plc, an U.K.-based software company. “They do a wide variety of solutions,” Wiener says, noting that the Sage’s client base ranges from mom-and-pop-sized firms to mid-tier enterprises.

A Perfect Platform

{SAW} Software Mill had its eye on Sage’s X3 platform, which is used by over 5,000 organizations globally. “The majority of the install base is currently retail or manufacturing,” Wiener says, adding that {SAW} Software Mill wanted to bring Sage X3 to the construction world.

“It was a perfect platform to customize for construction, because whether we like to admit it or not, construction is actually discrete manufacturing,” Wiener says. “When we went to Sage and said, ‘We want to build a construction solution on X3,’ they said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

The partnership was beneficial for Sage, Wiener says, because it allowed the company to enter an underserved market. “We also knew the requirements for that market and secured the funding to build the products,” he recalls. “Collaboratively, we brought the X3 construction [platform] to market.”

Changes were made to Sage X3, including the addition of project management modules that understand project flow. “These are modules that understand the relationship of risk to commerce,” Wiener says, noting that {SAW} Software Mill also added cash flow analysis.

“We also added things like treasury modules, so we understand the relationship of a project within a company,” he recalls. “If a project is a business unit, that’s a fundamental shift in how you think about a project.”

X3 also has an understanding of contractual relationships, Wiener adds. Although {SAW} Software Mill and Sage have not completely bridged the gap, “We’ve certainly eliminated some of the holes,” he says. “When I was a project manager, that would have been nice to have to be able to do change management and understand those changes within the financial management system.”

The software also is very flexible, Wiener adds. “It can do just about anything you want and it’s entirely web based,” he says, noting that X3 is one of the few ERPs that started as a web application. “It’s very easy to develop in.”

Today, the X3 platform not only provides procurement but also performs sales across multiple currencies, unit of measures, and legislative reporting requirements for its users. “We refer to it as the most ‘multi-multi-platform’ out there,’” Wiener declares.

The product has proved useful for {SAW}’s customers, including one client that is based in the United States but physically operates in Dubai on U.S. government projects. Thanks to Sage X3 Construction, Wiener says, the company can have a multinational presence, buy and sell, and make measurement conversions from feet to meters.

{SAW} Software Mill also has clients in South East Asia that use the product. “This solution is designed for companies that do long, protracted projects,” he says, noting that these clients usually do five jobs a year at the most. “The value of these projects is large,” with project values in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Adapting and Adjusting

{SAW} Software Mill has coped with challenges since launching Sage X3 Construction, Wiener admits. “One big thing is probably the fact that the international construction companies we designed this for don’t operate the same way as domestic construction companies,” he says.

{SAW}’s main client base often takes on jobs ranging from $10 to $100 million, but domestic firms “do a lot of 10’s to 100’s of thousand dollar jobs,” he says. “One of the things we’ve had to do is we’ve had to adapt the solution to cater to that in the North American market, based on customer feedback,” specifically to accommodate the small job component of the domestic construction companies.

While Sage sells the product to the client, “We maintain a relationship with the customers,” he says, noting that {SAW} Software Mill will accept suggestions from clients and then add those features. “We do a quarterly iterations of new feature sets.”

This March, {SAW} Software Mill and Sage launched version 1.25 of X3 Construction. “We also just shipped a solution for the U.K. market, because they have special tax withholding on subcontractor labor,” Wiener says.

Model of Excellence

{SAW} Software Mill has assembled a team that includes experts from such corporations as IBM Corp., Microsoft, General Dynamics Corp. and other Fortune 500 firms. “One of the things we talked about when we set up the company was we wanted to create a model of software company that you would find at the bleeding-edge companies like Google,” Wiener recalls.

The company has accomplished this with a modestly sized 100 percent U.S.-based team. “We have 28 people on the payroll right now,” he says. “Twenty-five of them are developers so we’re a very thin organization.”

But the company also has nurtured a family-style workplace. “We take it very seriously,” Wiener asserts. “We look after our employees and our peers, whenever something happens internally.”

For example, {SAW} Software Mill recently celebrated the graduation of four interns that have been promoted to full-time employees. “At any given time, our full-time staff will have between 4-8 interns from local and regional colleges and universities,” he says, noting that this reflects the company’s belief in community support.

“Corporate social responsibility starts in the local community by reaching out, finding talent and giving them a place to work,” he says. “Our recruitment also has pulled people in from all over the United States, including Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama.”

{SAW} Software Mill has earned interest from many looking to join the company. “I get hundreds of applicants every month,” Wiener says. “We have a huge waiting list of people wanting to get onto the company books.”

He praises his development team, which includes Matthew Alverson, Michael Bell and Trip Lineberry. “These people have been instrumental in bringing the product to bear,” Wiener says.

“We went from people that had never touched or developed on the Sage X3 platform to [producing] in 18 months,” he recalls, noting that the team has earned awards for its work, include the 2017 Sage Development Partner of the Year – Enterprise Division Award.

Adding Extensions

{SAW} Software Mill plans to grow its team as well as add extensions to its vertical solutions, Wiener predicts. “[We’ll be] adding things like service management, equipment management and equipment leasing into the tool,” he says.

“We’ll also be extending the platform beyond just the construction space into the real estate and property side of things,” he says, noting that {SAW} Software Mill has already built in front door and back door feasibility models for property developers. “[They] are now part of our development roadmap for this year and we’re looking into additional verticals.”

Putting X3 to Use

Sage X3 Construction users include construction project managers, site supervisors, and construction and quality field team leads who will use it to cost, plan and report construction progress, {SAW} Software Mill says. “Vendors and subcontractors will use the product to submit estimates, review scheduling and submit change requests,” it adds.

“Back-office account managers, A/R, A/P and payroll clerks will use the product to account for income and expenses against projects over time, and report on the profitability of the works,” it continues. “Project managers, senior management and potentially clients will use the product to view the status of ongoing projects and compare them against planned values and view the status of potential projects and model them against historic data.”

Delivering Experiences

Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, The Sage Group plc says it provides businesses with the information, insight and tools they need to succeed. “We combine social, mobile, real-time technology to put live information at [their] fingertips so [they] can make fast, informed decisions,” it says.

“Everything we do starts and finishes with building customers for life by offering them choice, support, expertise and innovation,” Sage continues. “That means championing their causes. It means offering them choice rather than forcing change upon them, and letting them know we’ll be ready to go when they are.”

Sage focuses on building trust with its customers and being a go-to source of advice for small and medium businesses. “We also recently created the Sage Foundation and through it launched a bold new 2+2+2 model for corporate philanthropy,” it says. “We are creating a high-speed, high-performance culture, and becoming One Sage – a single organization that delivers the same outstanding customer experience the world over.”

 

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