Rapid rise in take up of contract management software
23 May 2016
Rick Stoor, MD of Templa, looks at recent developments in integrated business software for cleaning contractors
The adoption of contract management software has really gathered pace in the last year, with the majority of the UK’s top one hundred companies now running their businesses with the help of a cleaning industry specific contract management system. From what clients tell us, the reasons are clear. Despite economic growth, margins in cleaning are still under enormous downward pressure from clients demanding cost efficiencies. Combined with upward pressure on costs due to both the National Living Wage and the steady introduction of the Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage, it’s not surprising that contractors are looking to technology to do two things: reduce their overheads and improve their chances of retaining contracts by upping their client service levels.
Software developing to keep pace with market trends
If the early development of contract management software was about pay, billing and accounts, the last couple of years have focused on new processes designed to enhance the end user’s, i.e. Facilities Manager’s experience. As a result, modules such as Quality Auditing, Customer Service, Client Portal and, most importantly, the Mobile Application have appeared. An advanced Mobile App is the key to client service delivery. Not only does it permit the efficient auditing of site activity - including cleaning standards and health and safety - it empowers operations managers to complete admin tasks on site that they would have previously undertaken back at the office - for example starter and termination forms, stores ordering or variation work requests.
No integration – no benefits
However, to stand a real chance of reducing costs and benefiting from the flexibility of the Mobile App, contractors must ensure the software they purchase is a properly integrated package. In a truly integrated system, data entered once into a single database is used interchangeably between different areas of the business without the need for staff to re-key data from one area to another, or to export data to other systems. This is supported by an internal ‘workflow’ system that distributes requests for action or authorisation and alerts users when their attention is required to move a task to the next stage.
By comparison, in the absence of true integration new modules are often ’bolted on’ to each other and key activities still require data to be exported in spreadsheets for action or analysis. As a result a contractor won’t realise the benefits that integration is designed to achieve, i.e. a reduction in administration cost, the elimination of errors in invoicing and the delivery of increased client satisfaction by the accurate and timely sharing of contract data.
The acid test of any contract management software is improved financial performance and this year has seen three of our own clients publicise the direct financial benefits of integrated software.
Regular Cleaning Services of Lewisham have held central overheads constant despite a 24% increase in revenue, proving that with the right system contract growth does not automatically mean increased admin cost.
Using CMS Customer Service, DOC Cleaning of Epping have dramatically speeded up the contract mobilisation process. They now fire off thirty different action requests simultaneously to staff and suppliers, alerting them to put their piece of the mobilisation jigsaw in place – a task that used to take half a day. The module tracks and traces every action request, reassuring the new client that the contract will start smoothly.
And Nviro of Portsmouth have used the CMS Quality Audit module to produce a highly bespoke audit for a major NHS client, helping to retain the business and keep the client happy.
Whichever way you look at it, Facilities Managers can no longer make the age old claim that cleaning is a low tech industry. Cleaning contractors are proving that given the IT tools, they can deliver financial efficiency and client satisfaction without compromising the cleaning service itself.