The commercial director and financial controller of BW: Workplace Experts discuss the evolution of assessment and payment practices.
Boasting a diverse range of projects for the likes of Microsoft, Brookfield and Universal Music Group, BW: Workplace Experts continually strive for innovation and collaboration within the interior fit-out industry. With turnover growing fast over the past 4 years to £200m in 2019, it is their ambition not to be the biggest but to be the best in the sector.
Excellent communication between commercial and finance functions is vital to ensure profitability within each project and the overall business. This is why BW: Workplace Experts introduced Payapps into the business; an innovative online platform for receiving, managing and approving payment claims.
We asked Financial Controller Theo Riakiotakis and Commercial Director Kevin P’ing to explain the impact that Payapps has had on bridging the gap between commercial and finance processes.
Enhancing visibility and accessing data
Payapps has really helped BW: Workplace Experts to improve our governance and visibility of data relating to payment claims – it’s clear, it’s transparent and the notifications are really useful. Information regarding the payment claim and their progress gets lost on email so tracking and organising this detail is a major weakness across the industry. Someone could hypothetically get hit by a bus and then we wouldn’t have access to any of the detail or information.
Yes, we had a commercial manager who had been taken ill and hospitalised at a key point in a project and at that point we realised we didn’t have full visibility of our colleague’s work or records; whilst we encourage people to save things centrally, there is always information lost in email s and on desktops. Being able to continue processing payment claims effectively in that scenario, plus recording payment practices and payment time, is incredibly important.
Modernising the industry for one version of the truth
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. Using Payapps, the data is easy to understand and archive, and accessible if we need to refer to it later.
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. 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.
Sometimes you don’t realise something is problematic until you find a solution for it. Looking back, I can’t believe we tried to manage payment claims using spreadsheets and paperwork – in terms of administrative efficiencies, we’re saving around £100k a year now. The methods of working need to be less ingrained in this industry. With the introduction of solutions like Payapps, the pace of change and innovation can rapidly snowball.
Being able to access and log everything digitally from any location and at any time of day is the way forward, giving us one version of the truth. When auditing someone else’s project we no longer have 15 different versions of the same spreadsheet which would be extremely time-consuming and inefficient. We now have one digital version of the truth showing exactly what has happened. That’s a massive advantage for us.
Supporting the new employees in their introduction to Payapps
The training and support provided by Payapps is second to none, making it quicker and easier in fact for someone joining the business to learn Payapps than to understand how to do the same thing using paper or Excel forms. We no longer have to talk through internal processes, which are different for every business.
Payapps standardises processes across the business – all departments access a single system which means use and training is consistent. The Payapps support team are great and really do set the benchmark across the software industry. Payapps actively engage and provide good business partnering, which is what we’re all about.
Payapps vs spreadsheets – how does it compare?
Prior to Payapps, the typical application and assessment process necessitated butchering of spreadsheets by adding additional columns, and needing to ensure everything summed correctly. There was a lot of admin in converting to PDFs, or printing and scanning annotations etc. Whilst it doesn’t sound too arduous, we now realise that this process took probably double the time in comparison to Payapps which is very quick. With Payapps, we can focus on the core task at hand, and all the information we need is there. If I look back at all the steps we had to take for each application for payment, I can see so much time is now being saved.
Previously, the subcontractors would not have necessarily used the updated version when sending their next application. You needed to structurally check it every time to be sure it all added up and would often require revisions. All the new time savings relating to sign-off of payments add up, for me and the commercial directors.
From a financial standpoint, I have clear visibility of our cashflow position and there is no double-handling of data being sent to our finance system. The commercial department no longer spend 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.
Using Payapps remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic
Luckily, having introduced Payapps, we have been able to request that payment claims are not provided via post during this time but are all submitted via Payapps. This prevents any risks associated with the handling of paperwork and eliminates any delays in the receipt of payment claims. The fact that Payapps can be accessed from anywhere on any device for both submission of payment claims and approval of payments means everything can run smoothly despite working from home.
Without Payapps, with a higher number of people off work than usual, we might have had to piece together information that hadn’t been filed properly, spending a ridiculous amount of time sifting through emails looking for one bit of crucial information. More detailed information is being requested in the current climate in a bid to forecast future possibilities so it’s good that we can interrogate Payapps to easily provide reports and analysis around subcontractor payments.
There was a short scramble for payments in the early days of COVID-19 especially with some projects being paused/delayed and furlough across the supply chain so we were glad of the Payapps technology which helped us to assess the payment claim quickly and efficiently with up-to-date-information.
An ever-improving, easy-to-use platform
In our selection of a suitable solution we came across some platforms that are dated, clunky to use and haven’t evolved to suit the needs of the industry. Payapps is always improving, yet the team continues to focus on the core features – payment claims and payments. This means it’s simple and intuitive to use while modern in its look and feel. When you’ve got a workforce and industry used to working a certain way and resistant to change but easily use Payapps, it’s a testament to the product itself.
We’re looking forward to a continued partnership with Payapps and being able to collaborate more effectively with our supply chain by sharing this innovative platform.
Book a demo today to see how your business can improve communication between finance and commercial functions while enhancing collaboration with your supply chain members.
The importance of Construction Act compliance
Previously, the nearest thing we had to a system for managing payment claims was a manual check. We had some very diligent commercial managers who would always do their payment notices, and then there were others who didn’t know how to write a notice. Payapps now streamlines the entire assessment; we rely on it to tick that box and keep us in check with deadlines. To do it manually or any other way, just means double-handling which takes time and is prone to error.
Payapps is integral to ensuring we access payment claims and pay on time, providing real-time transparency and compliance with the Construction Act. For these reasons investing in Payapps was always going to be a sensible business decision.
Using technology to adapt and improve working practices
Administration has always been an industry weakness and I think even I was uneasy about evaluating and introducing a new system. But the simplicity of Payapps meant that everyone, including our supply chain, quickly got used to it and appreciates the value and benefits it brings.
It’s now a lot easier to audit and to check dates to see where payment is due, is late or is early in the cycle meaning our suppliers can be provided with a clear date and fixed amount for payment. We didn’t have that visibility previously; we had to rely on tracking everything in spreadsheets and there was a heavy emphasis on looking backwards in the process to question people, which is time-consuming. Payapps has streamlined this process and the data is instantly available. No longer having to manually hunt for payment claims saves our commercial team around 5% of their time.
The 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 detail around the payment and the more information you have, the better – it’s based on fact rather than emotion. Full visibility of the incoming payment claims and any upcoming or overdue actions takes away the risk of missed payment claims in individual mailboxes.
If you would like to learn more about Payapps, request a free demo or a brochure today.