IT Strategy, Dynamics NAV, SharePoint and Support for Building Consultancy Firm
Doig + Smith is a consultancy firm specialising in serving the building, construction and property industries. Core services include quantity surveying, cost management, project management, building surveying and principal designer.
About to celebrate their 80th birthday, Doig + Smith was founded just before the Second World War. It was mothballed whilst its creator fought in the battlefields, and following the conclusion of the War he came back to grow the consultancy business across the UK.
With a mission of providing a first class service to high end clients, the company grew organically from the 1940s. Doig + Smith now employs 79 people across four offices including Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, and they most recently opened an office in Aberdeen in October 2014.
Despite the economic downturn and the effect that had on the construction industry, the firm has driven forward a consistent growth strategy for the past 6 years whilst maintaining their tailored, dedicated, and passionate philosophy. One of the keys to this plan was (and continues to be) to recruit the very best people in the industry.
They have been awarded the Investors in Young People accreditation, the first consultants to attain this. There are now 6 equity directors on the board, and 4 salaried directors.
Doig + Smith is behind a vast amount of high profile construction projects in the UK. For example, following the 2007 terrorism attack at Glasgow Airport, a series of security measures were introduced which resulted in a confused and unattractive terminal forecourt. However, a £2M development by Doig + Smith enhanced access, eased congestion and improved passenger safety.
The company was also responsible for some major expansions to both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, as well as hospitals across the UK, and refurbishments of historical sites including the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, a 1793 ‘A’ listed building. They also provided full cost planning and cost advice for the overall redevelopment of Parliament House in Edinburgh. These are just a few examples of a vast portfolio of successfully completed projects.
TSG has been working with Doig + Smith for over 10 years. In the beginning we were primarily asked to provide a high level of IT Support through our SystemCare service.
Doig + Smith wanted to work with a firm which could provide nationwide support, without having to subcontract. TSG has offices across the UK and dedicated field and desk based support staff to provide a very localised level of support to our customers. SystemCare is a powerful software solution which proactively monitors IT equipment to keep businesses safe and productive. It is complemented by a team of highly skilled support experts.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV
Having proved ourselves on the IT Support front and created a very good relationship with Doig + Smith’s Business Manager Lesley- Jean Shaw (responsible for managing all in-house and external resources,) we were invited to tender for some bespoke work on Doig + Smith’s Microsoft Dynamics NAV system.
Lesley-Jean says, “We knew how good TSG were when it came to IT Support. We were sitting on a very complicated, aging Microsoft Dynamics NAV system which wasn’t supporting the business or the future growth, so we invited them to review NAV and provide some recommendations.”
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is much more than a finance tool – when used correctly it’s a fantastic application which allows businesses to make data driven decisions.
At the time, Doig + Smith was working with a very old version of Microsoft NAV and it was becoming time consuming and inefficient to work with. TSG helped Doig + Smith upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015, whilst transitioning many of the legacy modified elements that their NAV system already contained.
The benefits of Dynamics NAV 2015 include being able to design invoices and other documents in Microsoft Word, and allows users to work with familiar tools to access advanced features such as Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map. In addition, the new bank data conversion service enables automated processes for electronic payments and bank reconciliation, and users can access critical business data through the Dynamics NAV home page.
TSG also assisted with the modified code from the old system, and ensured Doig + Smith’s processes complemented the business’ overall growth strategy.
This was completed alongside an upgrade to Microsoft SharePoint - two absolutely crucial systems for Doig + Smith.
Whilst many believe that SharePoint is simply an intranet that can be used to update staff with key information, the reality is on a far grander scale than that.
Whatever is on your ‘if only we had something to…’ business wish list, the chances are that Microsoft SharePoint – or rather one of TSG’s skilled and experienced SharePoint professionals – could help.
For Doig + Smith, this meant ensuring that SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics NAV were constantly talking to each other, for the benefit of streamlining their back office processes.
Working on major construction projects meant that a lot of Doig + Smith’s data was captured in the form of drawings, photos and emails. By capturing this information in SharePoint, this enables the business to have a real time view of everything that is going on with a current or past project, and controls are in place to ensure everybody is working with the latest information, essential to meeting the requirements of their accreditation to ISO9001:2008 Quality Management system.
The key is linking this data to Microsoft Dynamics NAV so that there is single, knowledge-based information. Doig + Smith was already benefitting from this integration before the upgrade – during the course of the project, TSG improved this even further by reviewing and sanitising the fields to be integrated.
Integrating NAV with SharePoint lets Doig + Smith take advantage of the business productivity and administration benefits in Microsoft SharePoint, including workflows, business connectivity services, workspaces, SharePoint authentication, and scalability.
It would have been very tedious and time consuming for Doig + Smith to manually add their data to one system, never mind two. So TSG helped them to upgrade both their NAV and SharePoint from old versions to a more modern platform, ensuring no data became tainted and no downtime was endured.
The challenge came when the amount of data to upgrade through the different SharePoint versions vastly exceeded the maximum allowed values, so a data restructuring process needed to be implemented, with multiple year-based databases being used instead of one per region.
TSG also designed a level of integration with external data where automated processes were implemented using Nintex workflow, web services and powershell to create SharePoint sites with unique structures, including pre-configured document libraries with incoming email addresses.
Scope of the Project
Lesley-Jean admits, “I had real concerns and was very apprehensive during the data restructuring process. We have very high end clients who trust us completely with extremely important information. There can’t be any downtime, and there can’t be any mistakes with the data. I have a Board of Directors I report directly to so the responsibility was entirely mine if anything went wrong.”
“I placed the same amount of trust in TSG as our clients do in us, and this was proven to be the right philosophy. I was proactively kept informed of every single part of the project. After we had agreed the plan we were able to follow it and deliver the project on time with lots of effort from our internal team and support from TSG.”
“It was a huge project (we were testing 280 separate items at one stage!) and it affected every part of our business. But everything went very smoothly and that’s thanks to TSG’s meticulous planning and sheer depth of knowledge - I can’t praise TSG’s project team highly enough.”
From a consultation point of view, TSG provided a very transparent, structured, and detailed overview of the project through our formal Guru process. This outlines the timescales, plan milestones, key players, dependencies and customer responsibilities which have been agreed upon to ensure a successful project outcome.
It’s also very important to us that our customers understand any potential risks to any project, which is why we always carry out a risk control assessment for potential or specific issues, such as the plan being based on the contribution of specific team members who later become unavailable.
Doig + Smith is now benefitting from a highly functional Microsoft Dynamics NAV and SharePoint system which is allowing them to best serve their clients’ needs.
And with the data now carrying an efficient structure, future upgrades and migrations will not be an issue which perfectly matches their growth trajectory. The latest version of SharePoint offers enhanced services, such as search with its own office web apps server; functionality which the staff at Doig + Smith are very much enjoying.
Lesley-Jean continued, “It’s really important that our staff are comfortable using the technology, and like it. The new SharePoint and NAV systems are far more intuitive and easy to use, so we have gained a lot of efficiencies - for example we have halved the number of steps it takes to produce a single sales invoice.
“We also trust the systems we have. Our clients demand a first class service and therefore it is unacceptable if we have IT issues so obviously TSG must support us to ensure we meet their expectations.”
TSG has also been instrumental in Doig + Smith’s expansion into new offices, and in making sure they are working with a modern infrastructure, and using modern devices.
Of course, this is all protected by TSG SystemCare which is running 24/7, always on the lookout for anything that could potentially hamper Doig + Smith’s systems.
Most of all, TSG enjoy a very open and honest relationship with Doig + Smith, helping them to achieve more by using technology in a way that’s right for them.
Lesley-Jean agrees “TSG took the time to understand our business and then advised us on the best course of action."
“Our market has and is going through lots of change. In the next four to five years we will be adapting to changes within the industry and therefore we’re looking at the bigger picture , and TSG are helping us to build and prepare for the future.
“One of the things they are currently helping us with is how we can utilise more Cloud technology with Office 365 and improve our communications infrastructure with Skype for Business.”
“I see TSG as ‘future proofers’ – we are on a proactive growth strategy and we need a technology partner who can think ahead and make sure our systems can cope with growth and innovation from a company such as ours.”
“We have built a very strong relationship with TSG and absolutely trust their technical expertise to support us.”