Silicon Valley Builders Group, www.svbuildersgroup.com, San Jose, Calif., a multiunit residential exterior repair and renovations company, has always been technology-progressive since the company was founded roughly five years ago.
“Even in the early days we had Websites, some pretty rudimentary stuff, but we put up a Website with some basic document-management solution—freeware type stuff,” says Shaun Coleman, CIO, SVBG (Silicon Valley Builders Group). “That allowed customers and employees to monitor projects.”
Now the company has moved its technology entirely to the cloud. Coleman says everything is in the cloud at the office and in the field. In fact, people don’t even have computers in the office and instead have thin clients. In addition, there are no servers in the office, as everything is hosted by Amazon. The company simply has a basic Internet connection to the office and 3G and 4G networks in the field to access everything virtually.
In the field, the company almost exclusively uses Apple’s iPad and iPhone for a number of reasons including it is easy to standardize on and customers and employees are familiar with the devices.
For this multiunit builder, it was not difficult to move processes to the cloud, as the company has always had some footprint on the Internet with documents. Also, the company has always been comfortable with the idea of using the Internet so there was no resistance to moving to the cloud, according to Coleman.
Coleman says, “We trusted that environment. So we didn’t have that barrier like a lot of legacy companies have of not trusting the Internet and the ‘cloud.’”
Some of the biggest benefits of the cloud for this residential company is it improves efficiencies and productivity of the employees. Additionally, the cloud provides information on mobile devices and in the office, allowing everyone to work off the same data. Coleman says another benefit is the cloud is less expensive.
“When we talk to other people and we talk to competitors or partners out there, the biggest thing we encounter is people are afraid of it. They think it is going to be more expensive when in reality it is actually less expensive. There is a capital expense to buy a lot of this stuff, but in the long term it is far less expensive,” says Coleman.
One of the biggest benefits of the cloud that the company wasn’t really expecting was getting access to customers so they could see project information in realtime.
“That is a huge benefit when you are working on these multimillion dollar projects. Anyone on the board of directors of an HOA (home owners association) can go in and log in and see progress in realtime. Change orders are being submitted. Design documents are being reviewed. Pictures are being uploaded. All of this realtime information would not be possible unless you have your data in the cloud,” says Coleman.
As for the software, Silicon Valley Builders Group uses BlueFolder, www.bluefolder.com, Colorado Springs, Colo., for project management and Soonr, www.soonr.com, Campbell, Calif., for document exposure and sharing. In addition the company uses Microsoft Project and Citrix, www.citrix.com, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Xen Desktop to access deskstops when they are not in the office—or even when they are in the office. That allows employees to access their desktop on iPhone or iPad, and the applications are on the desktop.
For residential construction companies, the cloud might still sound like a daunting step to take, but the outcome is reduced costs, improved efficiencies, and quality customer service.
Coleman says, “I would give this advice—don’t be afraid of this. This is the wave of the future and I think you have to embrace it otherwise you are going to be passed up. It doesn’t take much to go and buy these technologies and become very competitive.”