Contour Consulting Engineers, a 15-year-old consulting practice, follows a well-established tradition of service-oriented client focus with an impressive amount of professional energy invested in their customers’ projects.
When Crystal Cook joined Contour in 2018, she found that the firm’s dedication to their clients and the quality of engineering left them with very little time to devote to business management, resulting in project financial management taking a backseat to service delivery.
“There was an area of the finance side of things missing, and I guess the majority of our people lacked the understanding of the importance of that within the business — particularly our staff,” recalls Crystal.
Though Contour had been utilising Synergy’s original desktop software for about 15 years, Crystal found it was only used for time-sheeting and invoicing.
Crystal Cook was brought into the business to create change within the business’s finance and project coordination/ management processes for projects; Contour’s use of Synergy was central to that journey of change.
“Our Synergy systems were very basic at that point — we were only invoicing once a month when I came on board. It would take the better part of a whole week to do that every month.”
The monthly invoicing practice was due to paucity of time.
“The directors didn’t have the time. The finance manager didn’t have the time. But what we were finding was, by the time you had four weeks roll on, the WIP (work in progress) on those projects had significantly increased,” Crystal says. “And realistically, the way we work is to use invoicing as a time to also analyse how the project is running financially — doing that once a month just wasn’t enough.”
Contour needed someone to come in and not only shift their accounting system from MYOB to Xero, but also help them migrate to Synergy cloud. She wanted to maximise the use of Synergy’s features and functions and implement them across the board.
Working with Natalie, Crystal changed the system to fortnightly invoicing, with the cloud version of Synergy allowing them to reduce the time taken to complete the process, which enabled them to invoice twice as often.
On-premises to cloud migration - The benefits
The older version of Synergy covered time-sheets, ran the WIP reports and did the invoicing. The invoices would then be re-entered into MYOB, which was extremely time-consuming. The invoice would be recreated from there in a Word document as well.
Now, with Synergy cloud, Contour’s project coordinators raise invoices from wherever they are, and their project managers review and approve them. There’s no room for double and triple entry.
The invoicing at Contour now happens every second Wednesday, says Crystal.
“We went from analysing our projects once a month to analysing our projects twice a month.
“The Synergy ‘budget versus actual’ report has been a game-changer for us. It’s meant we utilise the tasks in Synergy. We have our stages and then within those stages, any resources that are on there have budgets attached to those stages. And anyone working on a project can see them. From wherever they’re working.
“On a weekly basis, those tasks are sent out to the resources on a Friday with their budget versus actual — so that they’re analysing all of their tasks, budget against actual, and then they need to report back to the project coordinators who then report back to the project managers. Then, on a Monday, we send out stage budget versus actuals to the project managers so they can see how those stages are running.”
That stage-level review now happens on a weekly basis at Contour, ensuring up-to-date visibility on project performance. Engineers can now look at how they’re tracking on their budget against their actual spending all the time.
How Synergy changed their working lives
This visibility on the performance of task, stage, and project levels of work is probably the area of most impressive improvement for the consulting engineers, says Crystal.
“It’s about really being able to harness what we wanted out of our KPIs for our staff.
“Now that we’re running the reports and we can see how clean the data is, it works beautifully.
“There’s transparency and we can actually see exactly what’s going on. And that goes for both the higher-level managers, and also the staff. I’m a big believer in having transparency and having buy-in from everyone so that we’re all working towards the one goal.”