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Synergy2014 – another year, but not just another event

Another year, another event… or was it?

Synergy2014 took place last Thursday (27 March, 2014) at the Australian Technology Park, Sydney. With over 100 attendees from around Australia, the event offered a jam-packed day of insight and information on Synergy, business technology and the AEC industry.

50 per cent of attending clients came from interstate, so an extra big thanks to everyone from QLD, SA, WA and VIC who made the journey!

Synergy2014 is an exclusive, client only event. Having surveyed our clients last year about the content they wanted to hear at the national conference, we searched hard for people who could bring relevant and original insight and experience to SME practices in the architectural, engineering and construction design industry. The event content was based entirely on client feedback – each presenter was brought in to talk about a unique point-of-view or share singular expertise.

Synergy2014 at the ATP

The morning sessions


Following a welcome address from Total Synergy CEO Scott Osborne and housekeeping notes from communications manager Jamie Millar, the first Applied Synergy segment was on stage with client presenter Colin Nicholson, chairman of Jones Nicholson.

Colin discussed the importance of data integrity based on 30 years’ experience in project engineering and business management. After going down the cards-in-a-box, excel and custom software routes, Jones Nicholson came across Synergy in 2004 – “… it was if it had been written for us,” Colin said.



On stage after Colin was ‘What’s new in Synergy’ with eLearning specialist Melanie Bunting and services manager Jon Devine.

Melanie took the audience through the new features brought to Synergy in the 4.8.5 and 4.8.7 releases, including document register and transmittals, connect for Xero, updates to controlled documents, document preview and the Outlook plugin.

Melanie also presented the updates to Synergy Cloud Services from the last 12 months including social login, updated time and expenses and support access – all via Synergy cloud app.

Jon Devine took the stage for a TED-talk-esque presentation on what’s about to be released in 4.8.8, currently in beta trials.

Updates due to be released in the coming weeks include updates to project phases, project status, resource management, a new accounts connect for MYOB AccountRight Live, and lots more.


Following the first morning break for coffee (barista coffee sponsored by industry partner Revit Technology Conference Australasia 2014) the Synergy2014 audience heard from our second client presenter Philip Parker, practice director with Hames Sharley.

Philip introduced how Hames Sharley’s national practice is structured between portfolios and services, and how they manage and report on portfolio performance – compared against practice, regional and national perspective – using Synergy in conjunction with BI tools like excel.


Total Synergy product architect Greg Swanson took the stage after an introduction from CEO Scott Osborne to tell the audience about where Synergy is going in the future.

Synergy version 4 will continue in development with new features and improvements outlined for the next 12 months of releases. Greg also covered ongoing updates to Synergy Cloud Services including added functionality for Synergy Enterprise clients.

The big news was the first sneak peek at Synergy version 5, Total Synergy’s full cloud-based, device-responsive application – the software will work on any computer, tablet or smart phone with a web browser. In development with a new team dedicated to cloud products, version 5 will be launched later in the year offering practice, project and business management solutions for individuals and SMB’s in the AEC industry. The new cloud application features a unique design, the ability to share files and can be used in-full, on the go.

“Ooh, aah,” said the audience.

Future Synergy


In the final presentation before lunch, business cloud specialist and publisher and editor Sholto Macpherson presented a talk on cloud for business and professional services.

Sholto talked about the basics of what cloud really is, how it’s enabling small businesses to create sustainable efficiencies and competitive advantage along with actual situational analysis following Synergy client interviews.

The afternoon sessions

Following a lunch of sushi, Mexican and gourmet sandwiches (and more coffee) the afternoon sessions split into two streams – Executive Insights and Synergy Training.



Those keen on Synergy training headed upstairs to a classroom with Melanie and services consultant Anne Thompson. Topics covered in training included a round of Jeopardy based on credit notes and pre-billing, followed by in depth insights on fees, budgets and forecasts.


Downstairs in the theatre, Scott Osborne presented a session on cloud for AEC – dispelling the myths.

Scott described Total Synergy’s journey to becoming a cloud business and the challenges, changes, risks and learnings from the journey so far. Part of the outcomes experienced by Synergy as a business were mobility of workforce, how it has allowed the company to be more family friendly, a reduction in IT and hardware costs and the ability for the company to become operating system agnostic (yes, we even have some Macs now!).

Scott also set out to dispel some for the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) surrounding cloud and, ultimately, how there’s no avoiding it as a business that wants to compete.

The second Executive Insight session featured Jon Devine and the evergreen Greg Hill (client services consultant extraordinaire). Jon and Greg role-played a scenario of Greg consulting with a business director who didn’t feel he needed to use Synergy as he spread his work across the organisation as an overhead. This ultimately skewed the performance of people and projects depending on how much help and support said director was lending.

A humorous sketch, Jon and Greg were compared to no less than Smith and Jones, the Two Ronnie’s, Statler and Waldorf (grumpy old Muppets), Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. Comedy greats…

Synergy2014 Smith and Jones


Following the mid-afternoon coffee break, the third Applied Synergy presentation was given by JBA urban planning services CEO Ian Robertson.

Ian’s perspective talked about a cycle of business and measuring productivity. JBA’s methodology of using Synergy allows them to plan resource availability and highlights the critical importance of keeping timesheets up-to-date. On this point, there’s no easy solution, staff just have to be harassed.


The final presentation of the day was the keynote delivered by Sue Holliday. Sue Holliday is an economist, city planner, urban strategy consultant, professor of practice planning at UNSW, and former director general of planning for NSW. She also sits on the High-speed Rail Advisory Group and chaired the Built Environment Industry Innovation Council (BEIIC) from 2008 to 2012.

Sue provided some sobering thoughts about drivers of change faced by the built environment globally – climate, aging population and urban growth were global drivers, while the rise of Asian influence was a critical factor in the Australasian environment.

Sue discussed the findings and recommendations from the BEIIC and how innovation and technology were critical to maintaining sustainable businesses in the future.

The key considerations she outlined were to create businesses that are open to new opportunities and adaptable to change. To do this businesses need to have clear vision, skilled people, good advice and great partners, and the courage to lead.

Synergy2014 Sue Holliday


The conference content ended with a panel discussion – including Sue Holliday, Colin Nicholson, Philip Parker, Ian Robertson and Jon Devine – giving the audience the opportunity to ask some questions on what they’d heard during the day.

Standout questions for the panel included one for Colin Nicholson about his experience with Synergy since 2004, and one for Sue Holliday on how Sydney is likely to develop as a city given the projected growth to 6.5m population by 2050.

Final thoughts...


Overall, the feedback from the event has been fantastic and of note was the feedback of the venue, the Australian Technology Park. Chosen for its rich heritage (it was formerly the Eveleigh railway yards) and industrial ambiance, the location seemed to appeal to most.


Congratulations to our prize winners from the day:

First event registration – Stuart Wright, SOTO
First tweet – David Yeates, Liquid Blu
Most drenched on arrival – Kyle Oxley, Oxley and Co.
Office 365 subscription – Robert Weiss, Engineering Partners
Office 365 subscription – Glen Wright, KHA Development Managers
Last client standing – Chris Howard, RMA Engineers


The national format was a winner, based on initial feedback, and one we’ll look at continuing as it broadens conversations past state boundaries, as well as providing a sense of the wider Synergy community.

We’re already considering heading our beyond the NSW doorstep for Synergy2015, with locations such as the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or Melbourne as early frontrunners.