How Buro Four maximized profitability, improved agility and thrived in uncertain times
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Many firms working in project-based industries are used to dealing with disruption and unpredictable operating environments. But even then, the global pandemic pushed one company’s agility and resilience to the limit.
Buro Four, an independent project management firm focused on the built environment, also found itself in uncertain times when lockdowns and new remote working requirements were introduced.
An employee-owned firm, Buro Four takes both its operations and the wellbeing of its people seriously. The company focused on protecting its workforce and its profitability during the first and most disruptive stages of the pandemic by tapping into a vast, visible bank of operational data.
“We’re a people-based business,” says Steve Slade, Finance Director at Buro Four. “Our success comes down to how busy our people are. And how do you keep your people busy? You monitor the data and keep a close eye on how you can make the most of your team – something you can only do with the right ERP.”
Of course, having the right data is one thing. But you also need to use it in the right way if you want to thrive during a time of widespread disruption. Steve shares their best practice advice for other project-based businesses looking to maintain profitability during challenging times.
Industry Best Practice Guide for Financial Management
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Here are the four lessons to learn from Buro Four
1. Spend less time processing, and more time analyzing
Having a reliable, comprehensive ERP with industry-specific workflows was crucial to Buro Four’s ability to respond to change at speed. But it isn’t that Deltek’s ERP technology helps Steve spend less time on that data – it means his time is more focused.
“I’ve spent the same time with the data as I always have, but while in the past I’d have spent several hours collecting and processing data, that’s now done in a fraction of the time. It means I can spend that time in a more valuable way: interrogating the data, comparing it to other business insights, and coming up with a comprehensive, properly informed plan.”
2. Balance profitability and people
While the finance team at Buro Four was focused on shoring up profitability to see the firm through a challenging year, it never lost sight of what truly makes the company great: its people.
“We made sure to use our Deltek ERP data to understand when people weren’t being utilized enough, but also to see when things were running too hot. As we could see when people were at risk of being overstretched in near real time, we could quickly move resources around or turbo charge our hiring efforts to spread the work more evenly.”
"The crucial ingredient to our success was our Deltek ERP because we could pull this report together in about an hour. That speed meant we could stay up to date and agile. The pandemic really showed us how important this kind of flexibility can be. But you need the right tools in place to work this way. Thanks to Deltek ERP, we can move forward focusing entirely on our staff and our clients – and we know the reports will take care of themselves."
3. Share insights with your teams – but avoid data overload
Steve and the Buro Four finance team knew they’d need to keep an eye on data from all over the business to make the most informed decisions. But they also recognized sharing this data with the wider team could quell anxiety around the firm’s financial health – provided they didn’t drown anyone in data.
“We found people were naturally paying attention to what we were monitoring in finance, and often they were keen to know more about how the business was performing. Rather than hide this from them, we were able to set them up with their own dashboards.”
“They could see the data that was relevant to their part of the business, without being completely overwhelmed. And in finance, we can still keep an eye across the entire business to maintain oversight of our strategic direction. It means everyone gets the insights they need, without compromising their focus.”
4. Look to the past to inform your future
When March 2020 arrived and brought significant disruption, Steve and his team realised they needed a clear plan for the future if the company was to maximise profitability.
“One of the first things we did was run a report to review every project we worked on between 2016 and 2020. We looked at profitability across different sectors and geographies to work out where our ‘financial sweet spot’ was. Once we knew the types of client, job size and sector that would yield the most profit for us, we were able to position our business for maximum success.”
“The crucial ingredient to our success was our Deltek ERP because we could pull this report together in about an hour. That speed meant we could stay up to date and agile. The pandemic really showed us how important this kind of flexibility can be. But you need the right tools in place to work this way. Thanks to Deltek ERP, we can move forward focusing entirely on our staff and our clients – and we know the reports will take care of themselves.”
The right data, and the right actions start with the right ERP
Following these four steps is only possible for finance leaders that can get full visibility of their operational data. This demands a powerful, flexible ERP solution; one that’s tuned to the needs of your industry.
As a long time Deltek customer, Buro Four has been able to make the most of their Deltek ERP solution designed specifically for project-based businesses. With actionable insights and high-level visibility of profitability and utilization across all teams and projects, Buro Four had everything it needed to meet the disruption of the pandemic head on.
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