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Conjure in your mind a typical bookkeeper or finance professional. They’re probably button-down, detail-oriented, always in blue (if one believes stock photography), and, more than likely, look a bit exhausted.
Work for construction finance professionals piles up quickly. And much of it is working in the business not working on the business. They are crucial, must-have financial processes but, for various reasons, aren’t being used strategically.
Time is a big reason. Bookkeepers can only do so much so fast. The volume of activity, much of it manual and repetitive, that must be performed takes most of their time, slowing down reporting. So does the waiting game for others during the workflow.
While this might have worked in the past businesses today need the information they are relying on to be faster and more accurate.
Now, imagine if the busywork of data input, capture, and collection weren’t done by that same button-down professional you pictured, but invisible bots behind the scenes. Short for robots, this piece of AI software performs automated tasks usually performed by a person. It can run repetitive and routine tasks in mere moments and eliminate the need for manual work.
In addition to speeding up reporting, bookkeeping bots provide several benefits.
Streamlining financial data collection and processing
Unifying financial data is game-changing for construction businesses. A single source of truth provides the big picture view needed to make better business decisions, budget appropriately to avoid profit fade, and more.
Unfortunately, this is a struggle for many. Industry-standard work silos, technology sprawl from requiring multiple systems and solutions, and outdated bookkeeping practices mean financial information is spread out across the enterprise.
An AI-powered automation system changes that, simplifying data collection and distribution across these multiple systems and various sources such as expenses, invoicing, and payroll records. Again, because this is being done by bots it is fast and more accurate since it eliminates human error — which repetition contributes to — and long delays.
Real-time financial insights
The speed at which reporting can take place adds to the accuracy of that financial information. After all, a report generated in real-time, rather than weeks or months later, is a more accurate representation of what’s really happening.
The faster the right people have access to the right information the more quickly they can turn that information into valuable insights. They can use those insights to react to issues and openings and adjust course, capitalizing on opportunities and reducing losses.
Projects change rapidly with change orders and new expenses coming frequently, and today’s market shifts at breakneck speeds. The more vital real-time information at leaders’ fingertips the better they can make critical decisions, assess risks, change budget, or shift focus where needed.
Real-time reporting is the difference between knowing what’s needed today or next month when it may be too late. (It’s worth noting, by assisting with audits and maintaining timely, accurate, error-free financial records, automating financial reporting also improves compliance.)
Cost tracking and expense management
In an industry with razor-thin margins, managing spend is crucial. Construction has countless variables and moving pieces and tracking costs and managing expenses related to them manually means that inevitably things get missed.
Once again AI helps by ensuring accuracy and timeliness, doing the grunt work around AP allocation to increase productivity, speed, and accuracy. With bots automating the tracking of costs, budgets are kept up to date, avoiding situations where contractors miss an expense because it was tied up or an invoice came in months after closing. How can you know if you’re on track and on budget, if you don’t know — in real time — what you’re spending?
Tracking and expense management are also conducted more efficiently through AI. Take Briq customer Elder Construction for example. The company used Textura for payment management and ProContractor for project accounting. Every month a finance clerk would spend hours routing invoices and once approved manually inputting the data from Textura into ProContractor. Now that’s done behind the scenes by bots, saving time and money.
Redefining financial analysis and forecasting
With all that data collected by bots, AI can take things a step further, improving planning and forecasting. AI models can analyze historical data to create more accurate financial forecasts.
Where the amount of data — often unstructured — that a contractor has at its disposal would be overwhelming to human employees, handling data is one of the things AI does best. AI can take the historical data the business has spread across the enterprise, unify it, and then look for patterns and anomalies, giving greater visibility into actual financials and a more realistic picture.
Armed with a clearer view of company financials and improved forecast accuracy thanks to AI, business leaders can consider multiple scenarios and determine the optimal path forward, confident that it’s being made based on solid information.
AI fears and uncertainties
Many are still reluctant to embrace AI. It’s natural with any new technology, and AI raises several challenges and concerns: how is my data going to be secured? How do I know the information is accurate? Will it make me redundant?
As powerful a tool as AI is for transforming construction businesses, it’s still in its early stages. It requires human accountants to work alongside AI bots. People still need to validate the accuracy of AI-gathered information and, importantly, people make strategic use of it. AI can’t replace well-earned business instincts, and it doesn’t do critical thinking for you.
In fact, AI gives employees more time to engage in strategic, higher-value activities. When Elder Construction turned to Briq to help them, their finance teams were spending too much time on repetitive data entry and chasing people down for reviews. It was slow and inefficient, but it also wasn’t giving them time to do the work they loved (or were hired for.)
Linda Sterrett, Controller at Elder Construction spelled it out well in a recent webinar.
“We hired people for their intelligence and for their willingness to learn something new and to grow in their position,” she said. “Well, if you've got them doing just mind-numbingly boring things like just data entry, they're not as happy.”
“So, we think of [using Briq automation] as partly, yeah, it's really nice to be able to transfer data, but it's also nice to be able to give our employees the time to grow in their jobs.”
Want to learn more about how Briq can help you improve money workflow at every stage of a project's life? Talk to the Briq team at briq.com/demo