AirOps Consulting

SK Collaborative: Real-Time Project & Financial Reporting System Inside Airtable

“We had pretty specific needs. We came with spreadsheets and asked you to build it. You guys have been great, and really responsive and helpful throughout the development process. The system works very well for us. It exceeds our expectations.” SK Collaborative

Introduction: SK Collaborative

In the field of eco-friendly building design, SK Collaborative stands out for their notable achievements, overseeing a vast array of over 40,000 multifamily housing units across 18 states and territories. Their specialization in multifamily homes, single-family residences, and small-scale commercial ventures has established them as trailblazers in the area of green building certification.

When SK Collaborative reached out to AirOps, the management team was struggling with their project reporting system. Their system was an intricate web of various technologies — Trello for project management, Copper for customer relationship management, Google Docs for data analysis, Harvest for time keeping and project budget tracking, and QuickBooks for accounting. All of which were strong technologies with good processes behind them, but the tools were interconnected through a labor-intensive framework of manually created spreadsheets and reports that handled all critical aspects of their business, including project tracking, invoicing, billing, and assessing project-level profitability.

Keep reading to learn how SK Collaborative adapted to bring Trello, Copper, QuickBooks, and Airtable into one cohesive system and build a foundation for internal reporting that blew the management away.

The Problem: Navigating the Data Quagmire

As a contractor that manages over hundreds of active projects, the team at SK Collaborative juggles a myriad of tasks – from scheduling on site inspections and testing, preparing field reports, creating computer energy models, collecting documentation and submitting projects to various agencies for certification.

Their operations not only result in vast project data, but substantial processes related to managing the invoicing, billing, and time management of those projects. 

Readers Note: 
In the construction industry, projects are often billed on a % complete basis, and the financial health and success of a business are inextricably tied to accurate and timely billing of projects. 

One challenge almost all companies face is the tracking of project progress against invoices, and managing the difficult task of not over-billing before work is complete.

Overbilling a client can temporarily inflate bank balance, creating an illusion of financial robustness. The bank account may look flush with cash, but if internally you’ve lost track of your status of your invoices or the actual % completion of the project, a business can find itself at the end of a project in a huge cash crunch. –

Needless to say, in the construction industry, a robust project reporting system is not just beneficial but essential.

Fortunately for SK Collaborative, their old system was working; it was just becoming incredibly labour intensive to maintain. 

Their system was an intricate web of strong technologies — Trello for Kanban Management, Copper for their CRM and Sales, Google Docs for data analysis, and QuickBooks for accounting. Unfortunately, there was a missing link – the system (although it had some automations and connections) was largely interconnected through a labor-intensive framework of manually created Excel spreadsheets and reports, which was the ultimate source of information for the critical aspects of their business (project tracking, invoicing, billing, and assessing project-level profitability.)

“We had good procedures, but we were quickly growing past what our spreadsheet based system could handle. We had too many multiple entries, and too many opportunities for errors. Our Accountant was calling me 3-4 times a week. Asking to see specific data points on a project. We knew we needed something different.”

SK Collaborative knew it was time to move their data out of spreadsheets, into a single  robust solution. 

 

Discovering Airtable: The Turning Point

“We’ve been thinking about migrating to a database for over 6 years before we reached out to AirOps. We knew it was a priority, we just hadn’t found the right system or partner to make it happen for us.” 

It was through the recommendation of a nonprofit that SK Collaborative is involved in, that they first learned about Airtable. 

“I was a board member of Concrete Jungle (another of AirOps’ past clients) – and I saw what your team did for them. I saw how happy they were with their final solution. So you were my first natural call. 

The Solution: A New Operational Framework

With AirOps Consulting as their partner, SK Collaborative embarked on a journey to architect a new project and cost reporting framework using Airtable.

The transformation of SK Collaborative’s data management system began with the strategic integration of their CRM tool, Copper, with Airtable. This crucial first step ensured that all client and project information was automatically funnelled into Airtable’s comprehensive base architecture, marking the beginning of a new era in data handling.

Next, we established a connection between their QuickBooks account and Airtable. This integration meant that any payments recorded in QuickBooks were automatically updated in Airtable, linking them to the respective clients and projects. This synergy between financial and project management tools significantly enhanced the accuracy and timeliness of billing and payment tracking.

With these integrations in place, Airtable was already becoming a powerful hub for insights into project billing histories and the company’s overall financial performance.

The project then continued onto developing the custom functions and formulas to achieve the specific financial metrics. Through a combination of management discussions and reviewing the past reports and outputs of the old excel system, we collaborated closely with SK Collaborative to develop rolling averages and estimated contract values per quarter.

The Result: Architecting a New Operational Framework

SK Collaborative’s transition to Airtable marked a pivotal shift from their previous, spreadsheet-reliant processes. Tasks that once required hours of manual effort were now automated, freeing the team to focus on strategic initiatives and client engagement. This newfound efficiency was not just a step forward; it was a leap into a new era of operational excellence.

The new system offered a unified, dynamic platform for data management, significantly reducing errors and improving data integrity. This transformation allowed for real-time updates and access to information, streamlining workflows and enhancing decision-making processes.The platform’s real-time data updating and comprehensive reporting capabilities provided an unprecedented level of insight and control. 

The Impact

“It’s been great.  Our team can now easily keep visibility on the high level picture of our project finances. And honestly, Airtable has more reporting ability than we ever expected. Because of the new system, we’re able to completely manage our 250 projects with our management team and we’re able to operate with zero additional admin staff. Which is very different than many businesses in the construction industry. Everyone is pretty happy about it. 

This project was able to save a lot of costs in perpetuity. It reduces the number of people needed to manage our systems and errors have practically gone away. My accountant who was contacting me 3-4 times a week, now is only asking questions about  once a month.

Experience Working With AirOps: A Synergy of Expertise and Innovation

This synergy between financial and project management tools significantly enhanced the accuracy and timeliness of billing and payment tracking.

From the outset, AirOps Consulting demonstrated a strong understanding of SK Collaborative’s unique challenges and aspirations. Their approach was not just about implementing a new system; it was about creating a solution that resonated with the firm’s specific needs and growth objectives. AirOps provided a blend of technical expertise and strategic insight, ensuring that the transition to Airtable was smooth, efficient, and tailored to SK Collaborative’s operational dynamics.

Reflecting on the experience, SK Collaborative’s leadership emphasized the value of choosing Airtable and partnering with AirOps. They lauded the platform’s flexibility and the consulting team’s expertise in harnessing its full potential.

“We had very specific needs. We came to you with our spreadsheets and our system and asked you to build it out. You guys have been great, and really responsive and helpful throughout the development process. The system works very well for us. It exceeds our expectations.”

This chapter in SK Collaborative’s story underscores the power of strategic partnerships and innovative solutions in driving business transformation. The experience with AirOps Consulting was more than a successful project; it was a partnership that equipped SK Collaborative with the tools and insights to continue thriving in the competitive landscape of green building.

Key Takeaways: Innovative Financial Reporting with Airtable

The successful implementation of Airtable has not only solved SK Collaborative’s immediate reporting challenges but also laid a solid foundation for future growth. With a more robust and flexible system in place, SK Collaborative is well-positioned to adapt to the evolving demands of the green building industry, pursue new opportunities, and maintain its status as a leader in sustainable practices.

 

This project resulted in: 

  • Integrated Database Solution: Comprehensive revision of the Airtable base to integrate data from Trello, Copper, Google Docs, and QuickBooks, creating a unified system.

  • Enhanced Project-Level Data Analysis: Implementation of project tracking in Airtable, providing detailed visibility into costs, expenses, and other critical metrics for each project.

  • User-Friendly Forms and Interfaces: Development of intuitive forms and interfaces within Airtable, facilitating easy, real-time data entry and access for all company members.

  • Insights into Business Impact: Availability of diverse, automatically synchronized data, offering a realistic and current view of the business’s performance.

  • Boosted Productivity through Automation: Significant time savings with the automation of monthly expense reports and other processes in Airtable, enhancing data accuracy and efficiency.

 

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