One of the 20 largest electrical contractors in the United States, The Truland Group designs and buils complex electrical systems for government, institutional, and large corporate clients. Looking to replace its aging project- accounting system, Truland initially decided on an enterprise resource planning system from a large vendor but then halted the project due to reservations about the deployment approach. After a thorough total-cost-of-ownership analysis, Truland decided on Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX. By working with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Hitachi Consulting, the company implemented the solution at its largest business benefits unit and is in the process of rolling out the solution to other divisions. Truland has already realized significant business benefits, including better cost controls and 30 percent faster billing. Situation The Truland Group, which ENR ( Engineering New Record ) ranks as one of the top 20 electrical contractors in the country, is growing domestically and internationally from its historical mid-Atlantic base in the United States. The group comprises 15 different companies that design, build, and maintain building systems. These include Truland Systems Corporation, which is a design-builder of large, highly complex electrical systems; TECH Inc., an electronic security and voice, data, and video company; Truland Service, which specializes in electrical-systems maintenance; and Reliatech, which offers professional services such as commissioning, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems design, engineering studies, and construction management. " Truland can send a technician out to install a generator in a government office building, or we can deploy 600 professionals to build the largest data center on the East Coast," says John Jordan, CFO of Truland. " Over the past few years, we've been able to establish ourselves internationally in several locations in Europe and the Middle East, and we see that expansion continuing." Like other professional services firms in the construction industry, Truland succeeds based on its abllity to control project costs. Says Jordan, " Our project managers need up-to-date information on labor and materials costs so that they can preserve margins on our projects." As the company's operations expanded, Truland found its industry-specific project-accounting software too limited. " We were outgrowing the COINS solution that we had used for 12 years," says Jordan. " That package is fine for a smaller cotractor, but it was not flexible enough in terms of reporting and used older technology, which limited what we could do with it," Over time, the company added many customizations to the solution, which made it more complex and expensive to maintain. For example, to create a new report, Truland needed to bring in a contracted developer who charged approximately U.S.$200 an hour. In addition, Truland had acquired one business that used the StarBuilder construction accounting software from Infor. Consolidating financial and project reports from this and other systems complicated corporate reporting processes. Thinking about its future needs, Truland wanted to equip its project managers with the flexible, real-time reporting capabilities they needs to preserve project margins. And, from the corporate side, the company wanted to standardize the way its 15 affiliate companies reported financial information so that executives coulds accurately gauge the performance of the business. The company decided to deploy an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from a tier-1 software vendor but halted the project after just a few weeks. " We had some problems with how the partner and the vendor were handling the project," says Jordan. " At that point, we thought it would be best to take a closer look at other options available to us." Solution Truland compared several ERP solutions targeting the construction ondustry, including Timberline, Deltek, Computer Guidance Corporation, and Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX. The company judged its options based on the flexibility of the solution, the ability to accommodate international operations, and the solution's technology road map. " We evaluated the competing solutions based on an estimated total-cost-of-ownership over 10 years and detemined that Microsoft Dynamics AX provided the best long-term value," says Jordan. Standardizing Financial Reports Across the Company Not content to accept business processes as dictated by a software vendor, Truland saw the ERP project as an opportunity to review and optimize how it ran its business. Stakeholders from across the company held meeting to determine best practices for reporting project financial information and critical, nonfinancial project data, such as human resources and safety information. " We wanted to standardize the procedures and reports used in our 15 affiliate companies and then implement those processes in Microsoft Dynamics AX," says Jordan. The company also wanted to account for is multicompany, multicountry operations and the impact that had on its accounting and payroll processes, in addition, because Truland does significant work on federal government projects, it must be able to demonstrate compliance with govenment contractor financial-reporting regulations. Truland worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Hitachi Consulting to mpdify Microsoft Dynamics AX according to its new best practices and payroll requirements. " We appreciated the openness that our partners at Hitachi Consulting showed in this project," says Jordan. " They took the timeto understand how our business works and adjusted the solution to fit our company rather than fitting our processes to the solution." Incremental Multicompany Deployment To focus its resources for a smoother deployment, Truland decided to implement Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX at its largest business unit before deploying the solution to its affiliate companies. From a technical standpoint, the implementation was easier because Microsoft Dynamics AX worked on employees'existing PCs and with the company's existing Citrix virtual private-network technology. In addition, the solution actually had lower hardware requirements than the previous system, which let Truland decommission some of its servers. The company waited until one year after the initial company implementation to begin rolling out Microsoft Dynamics AX to its affiliate companies, using lessons learned and experience working with the solution to speed the additional deployments. Even as it adds companies, The Truland Group maintains a single instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX. Meeting Complex Payroll Requirements The Truland Group and Hitachi Consulting worked together to simplify the company's payroll processes by using Microsoft Dynamics AX. Payroll at Truland is a particular challenge because of several factors: Weekly pay periods for nearly 1,600 employees, meaning that payroll processing is a continuous activity. Varied requirements for laborer payroll, resulting from agreements with a number of different union jurisdictions. Government contracting rules that require spectific data presented in certified payroll reports. Significant amounts of business in the Washington D.C. area, which means that employees may work in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in the same pay period. Truland tackled some of these problem by taking advantage of prebuilt functionality in Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX, such as union payroll rules and certified payroll reports. Truland also linked the solution to its time and attendance system so that hours entered flow directly into the project and service modules in Microsoft Dynamics AX. Real-Time Project Financials for Everyone Truland uses the solution to track all financial aspects of a project-everything from accounts receivable and payable to billing and job costing. This information is immediately recorded and visible in the solution, as opposed to being held in queue until a nightly batch occurs, which was the case with the previous systems. In addition, project managers access their dashboards from worksites by using laptop computers. They can personalize their screens without requiring help from the IT deparment so that the information and functionality available. Employees record time in their timesheets on a daily basis by using a mix of paper-based and electronic processes. Drawing on the same information stored in Microsoft Dynamics AX, executives at Truland use reports to track key performance metrics. Says Jordan, " Labor costs are our most significant financial exposure and are also the most variable. We can use Microsoft Dynamics AX to track labor rates and utilization in real time and make adjustments to maximize profitability." Benefits By standardizing its financial management on Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX, Trulands has gained better visibility into the business, strengthened cost controls, and taken advantage of a more flexible technology foundation for international growth. Improved Visibility with Standardized Reporting As it deploys Microsoft Dynamics AX to the rest of its affiliate companies, Truland is well on its way to achieving its primary goal for the ERP project: up-to-date and accurate information about business performance-profitability and labor utilization, for example-across the entire company. Already, the new project-accounting system and standardized reporting procedures have helped the finance department close monthly financial accounts 50 percent faster, from approximately 45 days to 20 days. " In general, our financial accounting is greatly enhanced," says Jordan. " Not only do we receive information faster, but we also have greater confidence because of the enhanced data structure and tigher security in Microsoft Dynamics AX." Better Control over Costs Equipped with real-time financial information about their project, project managers can gain faster, more detailed insights into committed costs so that they can make necessary adjustments to protect margins on a project. " With Microsoft Dynamics AX, we have comprehensive cost accouting, which lets us identify areas that need attention sooner and prevent overruns," says Jordan. The flexibility of the new system also enables the purchasing department to integrate purchase orders across different projects more effectively, saving expense by consolidating orders and negotiating better pricing. More Working Capital Because information flows faster with the new system, Truland shortened its billing cycle by 30 percent on average, from approximately two weeks to just 10 days. " By billing clients sooner, we're able to increase our working capital and invest that money back into our business," says Jordan. Empowered People People who use the project-accounting system at Truland are empowered to get more from the data stored in the solution. " When comparing ERP systems, we liked how Microsoft Dynamics AX worked well together with Microsoft Excel so that managers could easily get data in and out," says Jordan. " Employees can do a lot more with the new solution themselves. Our controller experiments with the reporting functionality, creating new reports to investigate various scenarios. With our old system, we had to get a database administrator to modify reports, but now wa can do it faster by ourselves." Gary Bonuso, a Controller at Truland who helped lead the implementation, says the new solution is especially helpful for project managers. " Most of our project managers are extremely seft-sufficient in retrieving data from the AX system," he says. " By utilizing the filter and sorting functionality of the software, they can often find the data necessary to answer questions or make decisions without ever running a report." The new system also helps the payroll staff members at Truland keep up with demands as the business grows. Because the solution is easy to navigate, enter data into, and pull reports from, these employees spend less time pulling together information to meet differen payroll reporting requirements. A Foundation for Continued Growth In 2007, the first year with Microsoft Dynamics AX implemented at its primary business unit, Truland's revenue grew 36 percent. Although this growth is not attributable to the project-accounting solution, it is indicative of the type of rapid expansion that the company anticipates in coming years, domestically and abroad. Equipped with Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX, Truland requires far less time and effort to meet complex accountinf needs, such as compliance with government contracting rules, foreign-currency conversions, and multicountry and multicompany accounting. " Our aim to grow internationally was one of the factor that drove our decision to deploy Microsoft Dynamics AX," says Jordan. " Not only does Microsoft offer a solid technology road map for the software, but it also operates globally, so we were confident the solution could support us as wa expand to places like the United Kingdom and the Middle East. When deciding on a solution, we looked at where we wanted to be a decade out. We believe that Microsoft Dynamics AX will help us get there." Additional Resources Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX white paper Professional Services for Microsoft Dynamics AX-Architects and engineers fact sheet Microsoft Dynamics for Construction website Microsoft Dynamics Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what's most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.