Better Building speaks with Tim Hassett, of Spence Construction, about how digital solutions are enabling his organisation to continue working and remotely manage sites across Victoria.
Spence was a growing company when Tim Hassett joined, and it was soon decided a digital solution was needed to help manage the company's 90 workers on 18 sites in Victoria. Today he holds the title of business manager. Here, he fills us in on how digitising construction management has enabled scaleable growth in times where remote management are more important than ever.
BB: What was your introduction to Spence Construction and the Procore system?
Tim Hassett: I had a fair bit to do with the Spence Construction guys through local footy and, with my joinery background, was asked to go down with a proposal about doing some work with Spence in its joinery department. Spence was struggling with systems and processes and a whole range of inefficiencies. So I went down there and ended up accepting a full-time role as its business manager.
Part of the scope of my role, initially, was to really look at the way we did things from systems and processes, and how we'd share information and collaborate across a range of platforms. That took us through Spence's existing program, Workbench, which was based more around the financial management of the business, rather than the project management and the efficiencies. That led us into exploring and challenging those platforms to a point where we felt there was maybe something better out there that would give us a better outcome, from a business sense, in regards to collaboration and the sharing of information.
This then took us on the search for software packages that were available. It was ultimately a Google search that resulted in the Procore platform coming up. There was a Groundbreak video that came from that, explaining how Procore was built built by construction for construction, which then led us into a deep dive into its capabilities and what they meant for Spence.
How have you been using it since then?
The Procore team came down and did some presentations around its capabilities and what they meant for the business. We then went away, did a bit of research around what fit – what advantages it would bring to the business. Given our previous platform was based around financials, we weren't comfortable at the time that Procore met all the requirements from a financial perspective. But on the basis of the way it did project management and the collaboration and all the synergies it created for us, we felt that we would move forward and start the implementation of Procore within our business.
The other thing that really resonated for us was Procore's ability to look at the systems, its integration and its ability to to adapt and evolve based around our changes. It gave us the confidence in the financials that, although it didn't meet our requirements right there and then, with the team of developers, it would certainly meet our requirements down the track. We've been working with Procore for three years and I can't speak highly enough of the way the platform works and, more importantly, how the team works with us to meet our outcomes.
Spence Construction has about 90 staff working on around 18 sites at any one time. Are they all interacting with the platform? How do you use it to manage the team statewide?
Our business has probably doubled in the time we've been with Procore. I've been with the business five years now and initially, when I joined, it was 35 to 40 staff. In the last three years we've essentially doubled that. It means more users; we've lost the ability to have face-to-face meetings with a lot of the guys to work through the program. Being able to have Procore there, we've been able to bring the team closer together from farther away – through the daily diaries, a typical process, from our toolbox meetings.
Historically, to meet our compliance requirements in a typical day, the guys would fill out a piece of paper, they'd capture the minutes of the meeting, they would then scan that, email it through to our occupational health and safety coordinator, who'd then take a copy of that and file it away. Whereas now, the guys jump on. We can see, in real time, the guys that are meeting their requirements. We do a monthly report based on the real time statistics, the guys that are getting the data and, fundamentally, if the guys are not meeting some aspects of that, we're able to jump in and provide the necessary support, which we wouldn't have been able to do previously.
That would come in handy in times like these, where everyone's looking for ways to eliminate face-to-face interactions and manage teams remotely.
It has been a real challenge. Six months ago we weren't considering looking at Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings. A lot of our inspections were face-to-face, on-site. The times have changed a bit. Through the Procore platform we've really been able to streamline the way that we do our business. We've been able to become more efficient – we can have virtual tours of sites, with owners and architects. We've been able to do visuals with photos across the platform, we've been able to give that visibility to owners and clients and architects. There's a bit of confidence, from a visual perspective, that their project is progressing and we're meeting all the requirements.
From your experience, what should people working in construction be looking for in software solutions?
Fundamentally, it's the ease of use. We're really conscious that a lot of the inputs we require on a daily basis are coming from our skilled carpenters and our site foremen. Their priority is obviously to create the build and make sure that aspect of the project is moving ahead. IT, in a lot of senses, is not their core business. It's not their core skill, so one thing I've been really impressed with is the ease of use with Procore – whether that's in the desktop module or the app. It has been able to deliver a platform for which the ease of use across our industry has been second to none. We've been able to roll out new initiatives. If you look at the correspondence tool, or the way it gets integrated and the ease of use for the workers who have real data in real time? It has been been a significant advancement in technology within our industry.
The key takeaway for us is the accessibility. The ability to evolve and for the platform to grow. Quite often, with software experiences, 'it is what it is' out of the box. But one thing that has been unique with Procore, in our experience, is if we wanted to be able to work a little bit differently, then the ability to adapt the tools to meet our requirements has been really impressive.
And then there's the real time data. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. What Procore has been able to do is give us that data so we can make better informed decisions in real time.