The construction sector is known for being notoriously slow to adopt new technologies, and for the most part, the fit-out sector is no different. But, as many organisations look to emerge from the shadow of a challenging few years, could technology hold the key?
Several companies, for example BW: Workplace Experts, Stortford Interiors and Corley & Woolley, are investing in new, or proven, technologies – such as Payapps – to adapt to the new working world. Already, many of these companies are reaping the benefits. In this blog, we explore how Payapps is already making an impact in the fit-out space.
Characteristics of the fit-out industry
Fit-out and finishing is a vital part of every building process. Whilst other parts of construction may only be required a handful of times – at a maximum – buildings will go through many fit-outs in their lifetime. Each one fundamentally impacts not just the way a building looks but also how it performs.
As one of our partners, The FIS, writes, ‘the importance of fit-out and finishing can be considered fundamental to the wellbeing, safety, comfort and productivity of all those that live, work, play and recuperate in a building.’
The sector has some specific challenges that make it relatively unique in the industry; fast-paced and intensive typically, it comes with aggressive timescales meaning some tasks and deadlines can quite easily be over-looked if they are not part of a specific well-thought out process.
Take applications for payment for example – the speed at which high volumes of these need to be created by the supply chain and assessed by the contractor can sometimes mean they are over-valued or missed. At best, this can cause delays which are ill-afforded given client demands and tight schedules. At worst, it can mean a subcontractor struggles to recoup payments for work done, or in the case of a contractor, an inability to recover over-payment.
Unsurprisingly, the fit-out sector has gone through a turbulent few years. With cancelled projects, staffing issues and stuttering profits, 2020 saw many firms close their doors for good. As tough times and work from home guidance washed over most of the world, well-known fit-out casualties included Styles & Wood, S&T (UK) and Paragon Interiors.
But, for those who remain operating, how do they navigate through these tough times? Innovation.
Take the processes associated with application for payment and certification for example, which have typically been incredibly time-consuming. For some, they still are, but this no longer has to be the case. Software such as Payapps can cut these tasks in half – and is already the standard way several top fit-out organisations operate.
Payapps and the fit-out space
Many well-known names within the interior fit-out industry have already started to turn to Payapps to improve their processes and make life easier for themselves. Recently, we published a case study looking at BW Interiors, who are just one of several organisations to benefit from adopting Payapps in their daily lives.
Boasting a diverse range of projects for the likes of Microsoft, Brookfield and Universal Music Group, BW continually strives for innovation and collaboration within the interior fit-out industry.
Turning to Payapps to improve communication between commercial and finance functions and ensure profitability within each project, we sat down with their management team to learn more. Here, Commercial Director, Kevin P’ng, joined us to explain the impact that Payapps has had on bridging the gap between commercial and finance processes:
“We can’t just rely on methods and processes that have been ingrained over the past decade or so – we need to embrace technology to speed things up and access up-to-the-minute accurate information.”
“I often mention Payapps to clients and consultants. I can say ‘All our processing is done in real-time. We can track our changes in real-time,'” Kevin continued, before going on to say, “Previously, it was all done retrospectively, but now the tools and reporting are available to allow real-time information and a forecasted view, so there is no need for retrospective action.
“A subcontractor can raise changes on Payapps and we can review them instantly. It’s so clear that I can sit in front of cost consultants and show them what we’ve already paid out. It’s very transparent; it’s real and live.”
The financial benefits of Payapps
Theo Riakiotakis, Financial Controller at BW Interiors, also joined us to offer insight on how Payapps helps from a different angle: that of a finance department.
“From a financial standpoint, I have clear visibility of our cash flow position, and there is no double-handling of data being sent to our financial system.
“The commercial department no longer spends an inordinate amount of time on admin. Instead, they have been freed-up to generate value and as much revenue for the business as possible.”
But, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted projects globally, some organisations struggled to keep operating. ‘Business as usual’ became a thing of the past and, with several government grants and incentives released, finance departments have quickly become overwhelmed.
For some, keeping track of their staff salaries, ongoing projects, and financial records has quickly become a headache. However, Payapps goes a long way to helping solve this issue. Theo explained more about how the service has helped him – “The fact that Payapps can be accessed from anywhere on any device for both the submission of applications and certification of payments means everything can run smoothly despite working from home.
“More detailed information is needed in the current climate in a bid to forecast future possibilities, so it’s good that we can interrogate Payapps to provide reports – and analysis – around subcontractor payments.”
Managing variations in the fit out sector
Payapps recently hosted a webinar discussion about managing variations in the sector and which explored the opinions of Iain McIlwee from FIS and BW’s Kevin P’ng.
It was very apparent that some variations are unavoidable due to supply chain, materials or labour issues. However some more common causes of variations are avoidable. Kevin pointed out that clients and end-users have the opportunity to play a part in helping to minimise variations: “More and more end-users are rushing to market and are keen to make a start for the sake of progress. However, if we give ourselves more time front-end to absorb and ratify changes or variations, it can help mitigate the volume of variations and the impact of them.”
Variations are clearly a widespread issue throughout the sector – indeed our webinar poll results showed that 64% of the audience thought variations cause payment delays ‘very often’ or ‘often’. Fitout businesses like BW, Stortford Interiors and Corley & Woolley have shifted away from the collation of disparate information from multiple spreadsheets, and use Payapps software to standardise and automate their variation process. Iain McIlwee commented, “Everybody’s got different systems and different processes. If we could bring more consistency into the industry, that would help – technology is a key driver to doing this.”
In the webinar, Kevin outlined why introducing technology was essential for BW, stating that,
“In simple terms, Payapps has allowed us to communicate to our supply chain more efficiently. Not only is Payapps simple to use and monitor, but the huge benefit has been the visibility it has afforded us. At any one time, management can dive into projects and see important information very quickly, or we can see there is a red flag. In the past, this was stuck in emails or Excel documents.”
The benefits of Payapps
At its core, the construction industry has been crying out for innovation – that’s no secret. It’s also why software such as Payapps can thrive.
As a system designed to manage the payment application process throughout the construction industry – both up and down the supply chain – Payapps enables applications to be prepared and submitted quickly and easily in a standard format. This makes the checking and processing of the applications simpler.
But, how else can Payapps help with a business? We posed the same question to Kevin and Theo to get real-world insight.
“Administration has always been an industry weakness, and I think even I was uneasy about evaluating and introducing a new system,” Kevin started. “The simplicity of Payapps meant that everyone, including our supply chain, quickly got used to it and now appreciate the value and benefits it brings. When you’ve got a workforce and industry used to working a certain way and resistant to change but easily using Payapps, it’s a testament to the product itself.”
Theo offered further insight into how BW Interiors has benefitted, saying, “With Payapps, our data is now available in one location; we don’t have to go hunting through inboxes or spreadsheets. So when a subcontractor calls and says, ‘They’ve not paid me for this,’ or the commercial manager’s actions are questioned, it’s very easy to look straight into Payapps and see the dates, comments and the full valuation.”
“It provides all of the key details around the payment, and the more information you have, the better – it’s based on fact rather than emotion,” he added.
Are you ready for Payapps?
Do you find yourself with a headache when it comes to audits, checking payment due dates or understanding the value of outstanding applications across your supply chain? Do you struggle to manage variations due to a lack of time and incomplete information? By turning to trusted solutions such as Payapps, you can streamline your processes and get instant access to data.
Hunting through spreadsheets, email chains and multiple payment applications can often be a recipe for a headache, but it no longer needs to be. Launched with the goal of making the complex simple, Payapps can help take your organisation to the next level and standardise tedious processes.
Reducing the time taken to deal with your financial processes, Payapps can streamline and boost visibility into your projects, and help you avoid common issues and delays.
Arrange a free demo with one of our consultants to see how Payapps can help you.