How Fulton Hogan saved $3 million by building an app

We’re always saying to the business ‘give us the money and the people, and we’ll deliver something that really makes life better’. This project proves that.”

Chris Strydom, Senior Systems Analyst, Fulton Hogan
 
 

Construction sites and faxes don’t mix

In the grime and grease of a Fulton Hogan construction site in 2017, waged workers build a bridge, a highway, a pipeline. At the end of the day, they dig around in their pockets for a slip of paper and a pencil, record their hours – and a few smudges of grease – and go on their way. 

At the end of a week, they’ll fill out a timesheet – and if they hold onto the slips of paper those timesheets will be relatively simple – to be verified one-by-one by the site foreperson and faxed to head office. There, they’ll either roll under a filing cabinet to collect dust or be passed to the payroll team, who’ll manually add the information to payroll platforms and Fulton Hogan’s ERP. 

“It was a very slow and cumbersome process, and errors were rife,” Senior Systems Analyst Chris Strydom says. “We had lost or illegible faxes, confusion about job codes, discrepancies in pay.” 

Waged workers make up 4,500 of Fulton Hogan’s 8,500-strong workforce, and many were left frustrated by delayed or incorrect pay, while the salaried workers in head office were spending valuable time on repetitive manual reporting. 

With no way to record data in a streamlined, unified and meaningful way, let alone integrate it with other systems, precious insights into resource use, health and safety issues, and staff feedback were being missed. 

Something had to change. 

 
 

Collaboration is key

Running focus groups with end-users and gathering a diverse array of people from across the business was an important starting point. The first whiteboarding meetings included people from IT, field workers, payroll and project coordinators. Later on, after the flows of information and steps in the process had been worked out, a developer and UX designer were brought on. Cross-functional collaboration would remain an important ingredient throughout the development process. 

Each iteration of the app would be presented to the project steering committee for review until the team finally got to the stage of building a no-frills prototype of the app that proved the concept could work. 

And because of the collaboration across departments, says Strydom, “we got the right outcomes from a technical perspective and the app is very sound and robust from a user perspective.”

 
 

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The power of the platform

Strydom explains that Fulton Hogan had initially chosen Salesforce as its platform to replace some access databases that could store information well enough but were not scalable or cloud-based - both of which were becoming increasing priorities as the need for flexible, real-time access to information grew with the company. 

“Then we realised the power of the Lightning platform,” he says. "Using Lightning Platform to build the eTimesheets apps meant it could integrate easily with other apps and our database of contractors." 

And because basic platform functionality like secure identity, synchronisation and user identity is built in, developers can spend time on more high-value tasks like developing business functionality and UX. 

While the eTimesheets app took approximately six months to develop, The Lightning Platform has allowed for a much faster turnaround on other apps - sometimes as little as a week. 

Reusable components - including regions and zones, contractors and departments - has been a key factor in ease of development and integration. 

“Our single biggest success story”

 

In IT we often talk about how we’re going to get user buy in and promote our apps,” says Strydom. “But we don’t have to promote this one because the benefits are obvious.”

  • Touchscreens and interfaces accommodate the gloved or muddied hands of construction workers, deliver accurate data to payroll and eliminate labour-intensive manual reporting.
  • Push notifications make it easy for the foreperson to respond to requests for leave or changes to shifts.
  • Work health and safety is made more robust by easily accessible and reportable insights into hours and shifts worked, meaning less opportunities for accidents and decreased likelihood of costly breaches of regulations.

IT: from cost centre to revenue centre

The success of the eTimesheets app transformed the way the IT department was viewed. This project flipped its reputation as a cost centre and showed that IT can be a source of revenue by identifying inefficiencies, digitising and appifying processes, and saving time and money. 

The proof, as the say, is in the sizeable pudding: timesheet data capture reduced from 30 minutes to 10 minutes, and delivered an estimated saving of $3 million.

“We’re always saying to the business ‘give us the money and the people, and we’ll deliver something that really makes life better’,” explains Strydom. “This project proves that.”

 
 

Recipe

 

App

eTimesheets

Ingredients

Salesforce Lightning

Business analysts

End users

Project coordinator

Project sponsor

Systems analyst

Front and back end developers

UX designer

Method

 

Preheat your innovation oven! Create a culture of innovation by welcoming ideas from team members throughout the company.

 

Sell the idea. This might be the toughest part – in Fulton Hogan’s case, it involved two rounds of external tenders and a six-month failed pilot of an off-the-shelf product.

 

Gather a group from different parts of the business: analysts, end users, field workers, the corporate payroll team, a business analyst, a project coordinator.

 

In whiteboarding sessions, map the flow of information through the app and integrated platforms.

 

Bring in developers and UX design.

 

Create wire frames and designs of how the app will work.

 

Build sponsor designs so people can click through and see how the app and UX will work.

 

Build, test and refine with users.

 

Roll out your app to the business.

 

Quantify and report impact and ROI.

 

Ready for a taste of what the Lightning Platform can do?

 

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