One-Touch Data – For Control and Simplicity

Companies are still trying to manage large projects with multiple spreadsheets. With 4castplus the need for re-keying data is all but gone and users can achieve One-Touch-Data simplicity – the world of project management is now easier, more efficient, and far more powerful.

At 4castplus, we talk about One-Touch Data. So what does that mean, and why does it matter?

Still today, many major projects are managed and controlled using a big stack of spreadsheets. This is a big problem. People spend more time managing spreadsheets than they spend managing their projects. They waste hours copying data around just to get a simple status report. And then cross their fingers that they’ve used the latest versions of the spreadsheets. Errors. Wasted effort. Frustrations. Cost overruns. All very common.

But there is a better way. With 4castplus the need for re-keying data is all but gone and users can achieve One-Touch-Data simplicity – the world of project management is now easier, more efficient, and far more powerful.

One-Touch Data – For Control and Simplicity

A key element to one-touch-data, is that every piece of information that goes in or out of 4castplus is connected to everything else.  Nothing is in isolation. 4castplus has been built from the ground-up to maximize the relationships that exist between the many moving parts of a project. It’s about much more than just tracking costs. It’s about more than just a good estimate. And it’s far more than just a rich procurement system. Because these things are highly connected, related and dependent on each other – both in real-life and in the software. A software solution that is designed to understand and leverage these relationships, can give the user a tremendous amount of power. More than just power, the user gets meaningful workflows. Workflows that navigate back and forth seamlessly between these critical elements. Workflows that share data so that the user doesn’t have to manually copy that data around.  So, 4castplus is a lot more than just a procurement system, or just an estimate, or just tracking or just forecasting, or just change management. It’s been designed from the beginning to exploit the connections between all these things and build a multi-dimensional powerhouse of information.

One of the biggest challenges people face with using spreadsheets to represent a complex thing like a construction project, is that spreadsheets are two dimensional: there is a row and a column. The content of a spreadsheet cell has no relationship to anything else. Aside from being part of a sum or other formula, that cell is merely a place to stick a data value. While it’s true, a link can be established between cells of multiple spreadsheets; most people opt-out of that idea after it all goes sideways when something changes. God help us if something changes.

Nothing in real-life is 2-dimensional of course, so project managers and engineers are left to stitch spreadsheets together – by copying data around – just so that they can manually create the idea of data relationships. The long and short of it is, data in spreadsheets is essentially isolated.

In 4castplus, by contrast, nothing is isolated.  The whole system has been designed to consider every element of data as part of something much bigger; and to surround that data with rich and meaningful relationships. In 4castplus, information goes in once, and is used and re-used in many places.  As an added bonus, the influences of space and time are also factored into data relationships. In other words, all critical project data is not only represented in the present; but is also there in the past and forecasted into the future. Try that in a spreadsheet without crying.

To see how this plays out, let’s take the example of a Change Order. Changes on projects happen all the time, and they can cause all styles of havoc if they’re not managed well. When using multiple spreadsheets and systems, it becomes a tremendous effort to manually tie a change order together with everything it effects. It’s such a hassle, that people often end-up not bothering to make those connections. Of course, they pay the price later.

So, to simplify the whole process of managing project changes, a 4castplus change order has relationships to almost everything. All the user has to do is create the change order. And the rest just magically happens in the background – because the system already understands these connections. Here’s a snapshot of what a change order is related to:

  • A change order is connected to the Budget. In fact, when the change order is approved, the budget/estimate is re-baselined and the change order becomes the audit-trail for the new version of the budget. This is all invisible to the user of course, all they see is a historical account of approved and auditable changes to the project over time.
  • A change order is connected to the Work Breakdown Structure. Well, of course it is. A change order is applied to one or more cost codes on the WBS so that tracking, reporting, invoicing, etc. are all allocated to the appropriate places.
  • It’s connected to the Cost Breakdown Structure.
  • It’s connected to the Schedule. Almost all change orders have an influence on the schedule, and 4castplus tracks those adjustments. Change order modifications can be synchronized with scheduling tools like MS Project.
  • It’s connected to Procurement. An approved change order can connect to a Purchase Requisition and from there, the equipment, materials, services, etc. can be added to new or committed purchase orders. These items can also be added to RFQ for bidding. 4castplus invisibly keeps track of all the underlying relationships so that auditing, controls and reporting clearly distinguish which work is related to the original committed PO, and which is related to a change order.
  • It’s connected to project tracking. Project managers need to know how manyhours & costs went to this or that change order versus which hours were allocated to the baseline. All 4castplus tracking modules are tied-in with change orders so that cost and time are allocated to the right places.
  • It’s connected to a forecast. Change orders and forecasts have an important relationship as they provide key trend information on project progress, EVM metrics and performance.
  • A change order is connected to customer billing. It’s key to be able to provide clients  with invoice backup that organizes & identifies which costs were applied to which change order or to the baseline.
  • A change order is connected to vendors. This is maybe obvious since the change order is connected to the purchase order – which is of course connected to the vendor. Reports can be run that link these together.
  • A change order is connected to labor, equipment and material resources. Detail resources, quantities and rates can be estimated on a change order and then tracked.
  • I could go on. Like for example: documents, customers, organizational hierarchy, etc.
  • And on top of everything mentioned above, 4castplus is a multi-user system that connects the many people on your project and in your organization together. Even for something simple like a change order, many hands can be involved – so keeping track of who did what is critical.

These data relationships can take on additional levels of connectivity when 4castplus is integrated with other enterprise systems. Like, for instance, accounting. Since this is such a natural integration, 4castplus has been designed from the start with a built-in interface to seamlessly and electronically move data back and forth with enterprise financial systems. Again, try that in a spreadsheet.

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