How We’re Reclaiming Hundreds of Hours a Month with Quickbase Automations
In an interview with Chad Thomas, founder and CEO of ProjectsForce, an IT Service Provider for the construction industry, Chad discusses his experiences with our no-code platform and the new Quickbase Automations feature. Here’s what he had to say about how his business is using both to support over a million projects per year.
About 90% of our business comes from construction and home improvement industries. We help real estate developers leverage technology to streamline the building of housing complexes ranging from 200 to 600 units. We do similar work for big box stores, like Lowes, enabling them to coordinate the work of hundreds of subcontractors who install customer purchases like doors and windows. And we work with builders of all sizes helping them drive higher efficiency, service, and quality.
The Quickbase platform enables us to create easy-to-use custom applications that simplify and speed up tasks, processes, and workflows that are already in place. This has become a real game changer for both us and our customers. Adoption is a lot easier and time-to-value is faster. Once deployed, Quickbase is constantly on the job. It consistently delivers, it doesn’t make mistakes, and all the information—from project management to accounting to inventory—is current and where it needs to be, which is in the user’s hands.
We can also easily add new capabilities to Quickbase apps whenever and wherever they’re needed. I recently built an online order tracking system for a customer who does $150 million dollars in development a year—and I was able to deliver it in a few hours.
Making a good thing even better
This past March, we became early adopters of the recently released Quickbase Automations feature. When I first saw what it could do, I was excited because I’d be able to build the custom automations I wanted without all the time and cost to code them. It’s opened up a whole new way to drive efficiencies we didn’t think were possible.
Automating with clicks instead of code has radically simplified the way problems are solved and work gets done. But it’s important to remember that when you build an automation it’s going to do exactly what you tell it to do, so you need to think it through first. For example, if you put the wrong record ID number in the wrong spot, it will build records in the wrong table.
I find that with more complex automations, creating a roadmap beforehand is a good practice. You’ll also get help from the system when testing your automation. If it fails, you’ll get an email notification highlighting the point of failure, like mismatched record ID numbers, so you can see what needs to be fixed to make it work.
Done in an instant
The first automation we tackled was a tedious and repetitive project management task that had become increasingly frustrating for our staff as we grew. They had to manually compile and coordinate a step-by-step process to build each unit in each development project, which could range from an apartment building to a neighborhood of duplexes. Each unit set up took a half hour to complete and involved fifty standard activities and their scheduling dependencies—from pulling the permit and pouring the slab to a final cleaning before sale.
Now, as soon as a project is added, every step is instantly populated along with dates based on predetermined timeframes for each activity. For example, we know it takes a minimum of seven days to secure a permit. So, when the superintendent on the job schedules the survey in Quickbase, the actual dates are automatically calculated. If anything happens sooner or later, just that date needs to be entered and the schedule automatically readjusts for everyone involved in the build.
Stoking the efficiency engine
We’ve been expanding our use of Quickbase Automations everywhere we can, like in order and inventory management. Before, when someone requested supplies from the field, fulfillment staff would have to manually create different purchase orders for things like lumber or nails and email them to each vendor. Now, a button click automatically triggers a P.O. notification to the appropriate vendor for a specific product.
When an order is received, if it’s something we stock, the system will automatically allocate what we have in the warehouse to that job. With Quickbase, we know at-a-glance what we have in the warehouse, how much is allocated out to specific projects, and how much we expect to need in the future, so we don’t run out.
Another area where we’re using Quickbase Automations is in accounting. Right now, about 95% of the work that goes into invoicing and paying bills, for us and our customers, is automatically done behind the scenes. The system even sends out emails to those with outstanding payments due without anyone having to initiate them. All that efficiency is enabling Accounting to focus more time and expertise on activities that will help support and grow the business.
We also recently started using Quickbase Automations with an integrated telephone and text messaging software to help make communications more interactive. If a customer buys a door from Lowes, we coordinate the installation via phone and then our system automatically sends an email or text to the customer to confirm the date. And we just began an automation project that will simplify the submission of multiple documents, in the right format, from our digital measuring software to the Lowes portal for carpeting, tile, and hardwood purchases.
A happier and more productive work environment
When you first talk to someone about how you can simplify their tasks and processes with automations, the initial response is typically apprehension and fear. Then you flip the switch and they see everything change for the better. Next thing you know, you’re getting thank you calls because all those manual tasks that were weighing them down are gone. It’s a real morale booster for everyone.
Quickbase Automations have enabled us to reclaim hundreds of hours a month. And this has freed our team to spend more time working with customers, helping us and them efficiently deliver quality services and better outcomes to attract and take on even more business.