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From Melbourne to Chile – how ATC Williams finds more time in the cloud

ATC Williams is a consulting engineering firm working in the mining industry. A Synergy Practice Management client since 2009, the company has just under 100 employees across offices in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Chile and Peru. ATC Williams adopted Synergy Cloud Services earlier this year, we interviewed Synergy administrator Elaine Fisher about how the cloud is making a difference.

Total Synergy first launched its cloud services add-on product in 2011. It was designed to offer Synergy Practice Management users the option of keeping a back up of their Synergy data in the cloud, and provide an online application for staff to enter timesheets and expenses. For users, this meant having the ability to use smartphones, tablets or any internet connected device to enter time and expenses, look up contacts and project notes, and it also afforded businesses the peace of mind knowing their critical project financial data was backed up. This was, and is, a free service for Synergy clients.

We’re now about to reach the point where 50 percent of Synergy clients use Synergy Cloud Services. That means over 200 architecture and engineering businesses – approximately 5000 users – have added cloud to their business technology mix.

We wanted to dig a little deeper into the motivations and benefits in adopting Synergy Cloud Services and spoke to ATC Williams' Elaine Fisher – the only person we know with "Synergy" in her job title (Synergy Administrator), which is pretty cool – about how it had made a difference.

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WORKING WITH SYNERGY

ATC Williams is a consulting engineering firm working in the mining industry. A Synergy Practice Management client since 2009, the company has just under 100 employees across offices in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Chile and Peru.

ATC Williams uses a number of elements of Synergy Practice Management – including timesheets, expenses and the Outlook email plugin – but their main focus with Synergy is tracking project costs relying on earned valuation (understanding how much projects have earned including both invoiced work and the projected value of uninvoiced work completed to date). Elaine says she has spent a lot of time creating custom reports for individual project managers so they have their own important information in their dashboards. Working closely with directors and project managers to keep on top of invoicing, project budgets and reporting, she also chases late timesheets and expenses, and ensures all project related costs have been entered correctly within the relevant billing periods.

Like many professional services businesses, an area the company had been struggling with was in getting the project teams to put time and expenses into the system. Elaine said one of the biggest issues in this regard had been relying on a VPN which continually had connection issues.

"The connection to our VPN was often slow and intermittent," she said.

"The guys would end up emailing or texting their timesheets to me and I'd have to manually enter them to ensure we got it into the system.

"Having the cloud app has really helped everyone to ensure they can enter their own timesheets and expenses – along with accompanying notes – on smartphones, iPads or laptops in site offices. We've found that the younger staff find the web application more intuitive.

"As long as there's an internet connection they can easily get in through a browser. It's also been great for the teams in Peru and Chile."

ADOPTION CONCERNS

Elaine said there were some minor concerns in the company about adopting cloud, but these were overcome quite quickly once the benefits were made clear.

"Because of the different age groups, some of the older guys who are a bit more set in their ways perhaps had a bit of fear and uncertainty about the new technology and level of security," she said.

BENEFITS ONLINE

Another area where the cloud has helped ATC Williams is in the help files and training webinars.

"[Synergy] is such a brilliant package with so many features that you just can’t possibly teach everyone what they need to know in a couple of days," Elaine says.

"One of the problems I have is trying to communicate all the new things that are continually developed in Synergy out to the team. But we've found the online webinars and videos in the help files have been extremely valuable... I get new staff to watch them, so they can get their grounding in the basics, then they can come and see me for for training on how we use the software internally in each office. The webinars are a fantastic resource."

 

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THE FUTURE OF CLOUD

Elaine says the key benefits of using Synergy Cloud Services at ATC Williams have been mobility, ease of access and time saved. So does this mean the company is focusing on cloud for the future of the business?

"We had, and have, all of the usual concerns about cloud, like where the data is stored, security and so on," she says.

"I think it's unlikely we'll be putting the company financial data in the cloud any time soon... personally, I think going further into the cloud will just be an evolutionary step in the business. There's definitely an interest to understand how all of our technology can benefit the company, and how we can get the most out of it.

"We even had concerns when first looking at Synergy on desktop in 2009, so it's really just about becoming aware of how much easier it would be in using the right technology for the goals we have and how it will best work for us."