How Safety Management Group kept their project pace during the pandemic - an Acumatica use case

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed November 25, 2020 Audio version
When you serve essential businesses, you can't afford pandemic downtime. Safety Management Group faced this exact situation - and put their Acumatica cloud ERP platform to the test. Recently, their CFO told me the full story.

Rebecca Ogle, Safety Management Group
(Rebecca Ogle of Safety Management Group talking shop)

What happens when you're hired as CFO, and find yourself face-to-face with seven different business applications to do your job? Well, you change things up.

At least that's what CFO Rebecca Ogle did, after joining Safety Management Group in April 2018. As Ogle told me:

It's quite unreal at times, when I think back on first few months with the company, as I tried to learn all the different software my predecessor was utilizing in order to go from collecting time and expense from our advisors, to running that through our accounting software, and being able to invoice our clients, pay vendors, create financial statements, and the like.

"We've been able to hold our own through the pandemic"

If there's one thing I've learned through eight years of use case analysis at diginomica: you don't have to be a large enterprise to have complex software requirements. So it is for the Indiana-based Safety Management Group,  which provides workplace safety consulting, training, and safety program planning and implementation services.

In the pre-pandemic days, the need for mobile apps at Safety Management Group was already strong. More than two hundred team members were already working from mobile devices on job sites. When Safety Management Group moved to Acumatica, moving off seven different business apps was part of the mission. In fact, it became the project title. Ogle:

[That's why] the Acumatica launch initiative for us was called "seven-to-one." That we could do all those things I just described, and bring that into one cloud-based software that backs itself up, that's just an incredible thing to think about.

The decision held up well:

You also have to appreciate that right now, we're 217 people still. We've been able to hold our own through the pandemic.

The need for remote/cloud ERP access was a big factor in the Acumatica decision. It sure looks like the right decision now:

We have about 25 of us in our Indianapolis location - or we used to - but the rest of our advisors are all over the country. And so the cloud-based functionality was a must for us. We had to be able to deploy the software out to our advisors, some of whom operate completely out of a truck as they travel from different construction projects.

Remote managers need ERP workflows too:

We also have some managers who needed to be able to have that same remote office right in the cab of their fleet vehicles. They need to be able to approve time and expense, for example.

Streamlining ERP data into role-based dashboards

Another benefit of seven-to-one: streamlining the data platform. Ogle continues:

Previous to Acumatica, I had no visibility to any data for our divisions, or clients that managers were responsible for. So being able to not only streamline all seven different packages to one, but being able to add features for different levels of associates within our company has been incredible.

Role-based dashboards bring daily clarity:

Within Acumatica, we've got a manager dashboard where they can see in real-time what's going on with their projects and their direct reports, in terms of billable hours, and other key metrics. Then we've got a fantastic dashboard which is the landing page for our executive team.

Our president, our vice president and myself, we are constantly on that page, looking at the different KPIs we have set up.

Next on deck? Acumatica CRM.

We are almost done rolling out the CRM, which was an additional thing that, previous to the list of seven, we hadn't really been using. I wasn't using a competitive product; it had long since been mothballed before I got there. And so being able to have the CRM integrated is just one more icing on the cake, if you will. We went live in October of 2019 [with Acumatica ERP], and I've never regretted the switch.

The pandemic put everything to the test - every business, system, and relationship. Safety Management Group was not exempt. As March 2020 came to a close, Ogle was helping her team wrap the year-end financial statements. Meanwhile, the pandemic news got more and more grim. Suddenly the question popped: "How long would it take to get your team remote?" Her answer?

Within an hour - we just need to drive home.

It wasn't quite that simple. Some team members needed bigger monitors; laptop upgrades were sometimes needed. Bottom line - Safety Management Group kept the focus on customers, not their own scramble.

Acumatica proved genius with everything else we had done to that point. Literally, you took your stuff home that night, and then you just started working from home.

This might not change:

That's probably where we're going to stay, as we reconsider expenses for office space, and the ability for me and my team to be efficient from home. Our accounting team will stay remote, with just a landing spot in the office for each of us, a couple hours a week where we would go in the office. Acumatica really makes it very efficient for us to work from anywhere - so that I can sit here, and maybe I didn't go crazy the last six months. Somerset [the implementation partner] has been fantastic - so it's been good.

Given their specialty and industry focus, Safety Management Group was basically an essential business. Ogle explains:

We provide technical safety consulting and oversight, primarily for construction and manufacturing, but across different industries: automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and utility is also a major piece of our business. Almost all of our clients deemed our work essential, because we were supporting essential work for their own business.

After a couple of "nerve wracking" weeks, Safety Management Group was able to get on track. If they were still on seven software systems instead of one, you wouldn't like their chances.

The wrap - on pricing, KPIs, and what's next

During the first part of our interview, Ogle hit on their need for cloud-based ERP. Yet, there are a number of cloud ERP solutions for companies of that size (though some are what I'd call "faux cloud" hosted solutions). So why Acumatica?

Ogle explained: their criteria was not just about cloud. They needed deep project accounting functionality. Stacking up their functional requirements against the cloud ERP options, "the list got really short really quick," recalls Ogle. Then there was Acumatica's different approach to pricing, which is about as close as you'll get to consumption-based pricing for ERP right now. Ogle:

I was like, "Wow, this is the price point for this?" And the way they structure their pricing. I shied away from pointing that out, because I don't want them to change it... We were able to save, the first year, $50,000 - just by the software licensing alone.

Not to mention, if you compare the pricing model of competitors, for the same kind of access and availability that we have to different modules in the system, throughout our 200+ associates, that could be an exorbitant cost that no small company could afford... I don't think that's a decision I would recommend to my owner group if the pricing weren't what it is.

We talked about the art of role-based dashboards. For the executive team, the Acumatica dashboards form a landing page, which provides at-a-glance info, such as their cash position, AR over 60 days, and the amount of unbilled WIP (work in progress). Ogle tracks the team's field utilization:

I like to monitor the productivity of my team: how much are we billing every week? Are my folks getting through their workload? And I can see the billable hours by department.

Soon, the CRM dashboard will show opportunities in the pipeline. They keep adding more:

We've added a few other things, just because the system allows us to do it. We've got revenue-by-class. We have seven divisions. Inside those divisions, we have different customer classes. And so it's a different way to slice our P&L data, without changing our P&L structure.

Ogle knows there is plenty of work ahead - we aren't getting out of this economy anytime soon. But she likes that there is plenty still to add - and refine.

We're learning how to better report out of that - classes are a feature we haven't had before. We're refining that as we get another year under our belt. It's an expansive software. There's so many things you can do.