21 May 2019

Interaction- Lalu Varghese, Director, CCS's India Operations

Our business model is very adaptable for clients

 

 

 

With over 35 years’ experience in providing specialised software solutions for the construction & engineering industries, Construction Computer Software (CCS) has built an international reputation for excellence in doing just that. In a recent development, the company has brought advanced versions of its software- CCS BuildSmart and CCS Candy. In an exclusive interview, LALU VARGHESE, DIRECTOR, CCS’s INDIA Operations speaks to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES about the latest trends in the PMS industry, the main challenges, strategies to overcome them and the future outlook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Briefly give us an overview of the construction & project management software industry, the latest technology trends, and the business drivers?

 

Software solutions play a critical role in cost control to ensure that cost overruns on projects are avoided and where possible projects are even delivered under budget to the benefit of the contractor and all stakeholders. Cost control is a process that should be continued throughout the project life cycle from first estimate to final account sign-off to ensure that the cost of a project is kept within the agreed budget. Integrated software solutions that span the project life cycle, that integrate budget and actual cost and provide real-time analysis are key differentiators to contactors in a high risk, low margin industry.

 

Construction Computer Software (CCS) has been developed by contractors, for contractors to provide specialist software solutions to the construction industry – and has been doing so for over 35 years. With a global presence of 12 offices in 9 countries and an extensive network of distributors and call centers worldwide, over 1400 contracting companies and 40,000 users are serviced and supported on a daily basis. Users, from small and medium construction companies to some of the largest construction entities in the world have implemented CCS solutions on some of the biggest and most prestigious projects on the planet.

 

Having spent many years in construction, CCS has defined and refined a computerized construction management solution that allows construction organisations to evaluate, monitor and control their spend in real time – effectively integrating their cost management and reporting with their books of account. The solution makes use of the web to allow for the accumulation of daily costing data, from remote locations to a central server. The information gathered is used to compare with budgeting information prepared during the bid phase of the project. The distinguishing factor separating the CCS system from others is the fact that the software has been produced by construction professionals, was written specifically for the industry and addresses all the budgeting and cost elements in the course of the construction phase of projects.

 

 

 

 

Tell us about the solutions offered by your firm in the Construction and Project Management space? Briefly talk about your main software solution, its applicability to various areas of construction, infrastructure and real estate, and its advantage to users?

 

Construction Computer Software (CCS) provides comprehensive software solutions to the construction and engineering industry, including civil, building and MEP contractors. CCS has two software solutions, Candy and BuildSmart.

 

CCS support contractors in their work by providing the software solutions to enable cost management throughout the project life cycle. Our CCS Complete Solution, comprising Candy and BuildSmart provides an interactive link between estimating & project control and enterprise accounting & operational costing tools that improve cost and schedule performance and certainty, increase productivity, enable growth in financial returns with lower volatility and enable proactive management of project risk. They provide a single point of truth, enabling management of the complete construction process & lifecycle.

 

Candy consists of integrated and highly scalable modules for estimating, planning, forecasting, cash flow, on site valuations and Earned Value Management.  Seamless integration of analytical estimating and critical path planning generates estimate forecasts and cash flows, while the Valuations and Earned Value modules track and monitor progress and performance of the contract for the contractor. CCS Candy estimating and project control solution is an essential software application for the estimation, management and planning of all construction projects, from estimating through to tender award and ultimately, final account. At the office or on site, Candy streamlines all construction related processes, providing the accuracy and increased productivity required by construction professionals to improve margins, minimise risk and deliver on time.

 

BuildSmart is a web-based ERP construction accounting and costing business solution, comprising integrated procurement, accounting and payroll modules and a host of added features to cater for the specific needs of contracting companies, including plant, yard and store management, subcontract management, document control, business intelligence, HR and Time and Attendance.

 

In essence, CCS provides the complete construction enterprise solution through adopting a “best-of-breed” approach by integrating the essential elements of budgetary or allowable control and cost accounting to provide contractors with real time, reliable, auditable, accurate and activity based comparative analysis of costs and allowables, the essential information that determines the success or failure of a construction venture for the contractor. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are the USP’s of your productsVis-à-vis competition

 

CCS is designed and developed within the construction industry and the software, CCS BuildSmart and CCS Candy, is an outcome of the combined efforts of over 800 years of collective construction experience. Working with CCS means collaborating with experienced construction industry professionals.

 

We do not just estimate. What we provide is end-to-end control for our clients. Our work begins from the moment the client comes to us for help. We start from estimate and all the way through the project cycle.  That, we believe, is an edge over other software providers. All that we have designed, does not stop just at the projects. We also simplify work for our clients at Head Office level. Our software, BuildSmart has been designed with all the necessary functions. Best practice contracting business processes are embedded in our solutions requiring limited customisation, ensuring clients and their teams benefit immediately from the very latest software, features and functions. In industry, there are a lot of companies who promise to offer what we can do. In our case we know what we have done in the past and what we will be doing and presenting to our clients. Our support teams have first-hand experience of the challenges and requirements they face daily in the field, combined with uncompromising deep solution specific knowledge and understanding

 

 

 

 

Tell us of the role played by your software in bringing time cost and time overruns in projects with examples from some projects?

 

Control is at the heart of profitability when it comes to construction considering the number of variables, changes, people and equipment involved to undertake any construction project.  Construction performance and progress cannot be monitored on financial data alone and engineering information is just as, if not more, critical. Engineering control includes generating and managing allowable and actual quantities of resources, wastages, man-hours of labour, production of equipment and time for construction activities. 

 

Historically, information has been late or nearly impossible to compare, as it comes from independent “silos” of information in the group.  Estimators and Accountants, after all, do not speak the same language.  CCS solutions allow both to do their work in the language that is meaningful to them, and still produce the real time reporting, comparing actual to allowable, that management needs.

 

Without digitization, you have no clear indication of the actual status of the contract. The critical touch points between Candy and BuildSmart allows accurate comparison of what is actually happening on a project to what was expected – all in “real time”.  This is because BuildSmart’s architecture allows all cost information (payroll, plant, stock, yard stock, MRP, etc.) to be entered once where the information is first produced (site, head office, yard, etc.) and then to be managed through a single database for full integration and real time analysis. Our extensive international exposure has allowed us to stay abreast of local and international trends and accommodate these within the solutions.

 

 

 

 

Could you talk of the challenges associated with convincing clients of the efficacy and profitability of software solutions and services offered by firms such as yours?

 

A construction company’s financial sustainability is often determined at the time of tendering when the projects they decide to embark on are least well defined and numerous uncertainties exist. In order to protect their margin and financial sustainability, contractors need to undertake comprehensive feasibility studies to answer the key question all contactors should be asking: “Should we proceed with this project and if so, how will we manage our risk, cost and time?” The key elements to be considered in this process are the scope of the project, the maturity of design, the supply chain and sub-contractor competency and readiness and the various project specific risks. Collaboration between owner, designer and constructor is key to improving the feasibility process, where an open exchange of information is encouraged so that contractors can more accurately estimate the time and budget to complete a project resulting in more certainty to the owner and enhanced financial sustainability of the contractors.

 

Our business model is very adaptable to the construction industry which is volatile. Construction companies need the control that our software brings. As a matter of fact, we are one of the few companies that have penetrated the market during its down turn. CCS Candy allows for this as it is on a rental model and scalable to the amount of work a contractor may have. If you have a lot of work require more licenses and as you complete projects, you relinquish a few.  It is case sensitive. Depending on the market situation, we have a certain flexibility in the way we price the products.

 

 

 

 

Please provide details on your emphasis on research, design and innovation? 

 

CCS products are continually evolving in line with industry and technology trends. Candy, the Estimation & Project control software offering, is not sold but rented on a monthly basis and new releases and upgrades are made available free of charge to users on a regular basis. BuildSmart, the Construction Costing and Management solution is web based and regular upgrades are made and done centrally on the client server. CCS has a rather unique approach of adding modules or enhancements to the existing software rather than developing and releasing separate “new” applications. The company has an active development and research team of highly qualified construction industry experts concentrating on producing focused and tailored products that ensure the integrity of data in all phases of the construction process and beyond.

 

CCS prides itself as being a “one stop shop” for contractors and considering the interconnectedness of all the processes and functions within a contracting organisation is essential. The company’s products and solutions are designed and developed from the bottom up and continuously updated. It may well be said that users constitute our  R&D - listening and interacting

with them, evaluating their requirements and enhancing or developing the software accordingly, leads to shorter implementation times.

 

 

 

What are the main challenges to your industry and what are your strategies to overcome them and expand market share?

 

Cash flow is one of the key challenges facing construction companies in the region at the moment due in part to contractors and subcontractors unfortunately not always receiving payment in a timely fashion for their completed work. This is further amplified by project delays often caused by change orders to design related rework and changes in scope. From the beginning CCS has catered to the infra and the construction industry. We have always been a perfect match when it comes to managing resources and getting projects completed.

 

Since establishment, we have looked to expand & cater to all geographies possible. India, is a huge market in which we see a lot of opportunity and are planning to make the most of them. There are many pending projects that have been set in motion by the current government and all these projects are of massive magnitude. Hence, the entire construction and infrastructure industry will be in need of a system that will help the projects to complete on time and within budget. This is not just an interim requirement, the need for project management software will only increase with time and we will be here to provide all the necessary help. As such, the market for us today is full of opportunity to flex our muscles.

 

 

 

 

Future outlook for the industry and from a company perspective

 

The future of the construction and project management software market is incredibly positive. While we cannot say where the industry will be in the next five years, a few years ago, nobody thought that the industry would make use of the cloud computing or similar mediums for the construction industry. There was a time when people used to hide data and there was not much awareness that sharing data could be helpful. Today, data is being shared at frantic speed. The Bill of Quantities (BOQ) concept is slowly fading away and making way for an integrated and co-operative environment. The future looks to focus on integrated platforms and other similar ways that will make the project management software sector more user friendly and simple.

 

CCS is growing fast, improving on what we have, every day.  As part of our global expansion strategy, we’re actively engaging in new markets and at the same time supplementing our own human capital and capacity to deliver new and exciting developments, enhancements and requirements faster and more efficiently to our ever-growing and changing Clientele and industry.