2020 was a year of major disruption for all. Like many businesses, the pandemic posed a number of challenges for Graham Simpkin Planning Ltd and with our offices closed for most of the year, our staff were forced to adjust to the new norm of working from home. However, we also recognised that there was an opportunity to review our working practices.
Multiple Separate Systems
The business was using multiple popular IT programs that were not designed to work with each other. Different forms were being used to manually input the same data at different stages of a project. Paper files were being used as a backup log, for example, of invoices, expenses and annual leave.
Particularly with the office closed, staff were finding it difficult to keep track of much of the administrative side of work, from enquiries and quotes, to time recording and invoicing, as well as an ever-increasing amount of email traffic. From a management perspective, there was no one place to find the information required to ensure that work was not being missed. In terms of communication and connectivity between all staff on projects and other matters, we had to rely on phone calls and emails throughout the day, which was not only time consuming, but often distracting.
“It soon became clear that Graham Simpkin Planning Ltd needed a single integrated cloud-based system that could automate a lot of this work, leaving administrative tasks to our office staff and the professional work to our planners and architects, with the hope that this would also free up more time for our professional staff to take on additional instructions.”
Consolidating Everything Into PlanMan
We started using PlanMan in January 2021 and it has already had a profound positive effect on the efficiency of our work. PlanMan can be accessed via any web-enabled device with a simple log-in – so for staff this means no longer having to rely on work machines and installed software. PlanMan project notes can be added whilst on site. Time recording can be added on the go.
Notifications can alert staff to new work. Stages of projects are invoiced individually and upon completion, improving cash flow and reducing work pressures often felt at the end of the month. Custom permission groups are used to allow access to only the parts of the system that are relevant to our planners, architects and office staff. Reports make it easier, for example, to keep on top of work projections and invoicing.
For clients, enquiries can be submitted via our website, which automatically feed into PlanMan. Reviewing, allocating and responding to new enquiries is all done in one place, and can easily be monitored to ensure that no new work is missed.
Clients can have their own login with many already commenting on how easy the system is to use with 24/7 access to their quotes, documents, plans, invoices as well as any communication with staff. Clients can also choose to receive automated notifications on updates to their projects.
Despite our use of PlanMan being in its infancy, the benefits of using PlanMan are being realised with more time available for professional work, a more efficient administration and management system, less paperwork, faster access to projects, improvements to staff connectivity, improvements to file management, improved business development, 24/7 client access to projects, and ultimately greater client satisfaction, and all at minimal cost to the business.
Our view is that planning, architectural and technical consultancies of any size should not hesitate to sign up to a free trial of this new system.