A Cloud Integrator for the Construction Industry | Robert Hudman
A Cloud Integrator for the Construction Industry | Robert Hudman
“I don’t want the accounts team feeling like they’ve got to navigate through this world of construction software. We should have those two systems talking to each other, and quite literally the construction delivery teams; so your project managers, all those types of people; they shouldn’t only not know how to access the accounting system but, as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t even need to know what accounting system that business uses; it should just talk to each other. So, that’s where I tend to get involved. So, for the accountants that are working for construction companies or advising them, or providing some level of services; they might typically be involved in the selection process for the software with me, or even the selection process with potentially using my company or not. And obviously once we roll out some services, they’re a key point for advising in terms of, “All right, how should the chart of accounts in the accounting system talk to the cost centres in Procore, and what should the transitional rules be between those two be so we can really set and forget that?” ~ Robert Hudman Managing Director of Knight Solutions
Today I’m speaking with Robert Hudman Managing Director of Knight Solutions
In this episode, we talk about . . .
The benefits of a Digital Construction Strategy
The Toolbox of technology tools for the Construction Industry
The distinction between the operational and accounting areas of a construction business
Why Procore is his chosen platform for the construction industry
Using the in-house developed Procore Health Check to identify opportunities for improvement
The future of the construction industry
Heather Smith: Thank you, Robert, so much for joining me today on the Cloud Stories Podcast. I’m really excited to have you here. I know I’ve been trying to get you on the podcast for a few months now. So, I’m going to start by asking you a trick questions to throw you off a bit.
Robert, what’s your favourite movie, song or band from your teenage years and why?
Robert Hudman: Oh, look, it’s funny; I was talking about this yesterday. I’m going to go with favourite movie; favourite movie would be Heat because it contains two of the potentially best all time actors, so Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I think it was a mid-90s movie. I’ve played that more times that I care to remember so I’ll go with that one.
Heather Smith: Awesome. Great answer. Quick answer. You must’ve been prepping, as you said.
Robert Hudman: No, purely coincidental. I was actually talking about it last night, so definitely favourite all time movie.
Can you share with our listeners; our listeners being mainly modern accountants and bookkeepers, a bit about your background and what brought you to here today?
Robert Hudman: Yeah, sure. So it’s been an evolving background. I spent most of my career in construction, which was actually when I first met you, as you probably remember, so that was about 15 years in construction. And there was always and inkling for me that technology was a key piece to help construction. That inkling kind of grew and grew, and I ended up really taking on a lot of software tasks inside construction companies that eventually led me to work for a major construction management software company itself, and help their expansion here in Australia. And eventually that led me to start my own business, which is what we’re talking about now, and a key part of that was connecting the accounting systems to the construction management systems. Quite often they were very separated processes or they were compromised processes by trying to jam it all into one solution. So, for me it’s really about connecting the construction solutions with accounting solutions and the broader software ecosystem around construction delivery.
What are you currently doing within your new business Knight Solutions?
Robert Hudman: Yeah, great question. So, obviously the background leads me now to focus on construction software. I’m one of the first, what’s called a Procore Certified Consultant; so obviously Procore being one of the biggest construction management platforms around. So I’m a software consultant for them but more broadly I’m interested in coming and speaking to construction companies about how they can solve what I call digital construction strategy, which is really about thinking about the software that you have, whether it’s accounting software, construction delivery software, or the associated bits and pieces that you need. And being a bit more deliberate and intentional; hence the term strategy there. So I’m really interested in talking to construction businesses who often just buy software as the need arises. They need an accounting system; the buy one. They need a defect management systems; they buy one. And they end up with, fundamentally, a plethora of different applications, and I want them to be a bit more intentional about that and bring that together with a bit of a strategy. The cornerstone that… The key pivot point of that is Procore because it’s a platform solution, and then connecting things like accounting systems together.
Robert Hudman: So really being the guide for people there; helping them set it up and not just select it but seeing it through from a long term strategy as well.
Heather Smith: So, can you describe to me… You used the word construction but that can mean quite a wide spectrum of entities.
What does the ideal construction client look like that you would be talking to?
Robert Hudman: Look, the answer is actually pretty varied but there are some typical ones. So, if we looked at the three key construction verticals, I guess you’d call them, you’ve got typically building contractors, principle contractors, whatever you want to call builders. Then we also have the client or development side, so the land owners who are developing property that need the construction services, and also the sub-contractors, which is a very big part of construction these days. I’d say it’s a reasonably even mix. I’d say 60% of my customers are building contractors and they tend to be mid to larger side of the construction sites, so somewhere between 10 employees and up is typically where I start offering that value, but going right up to large ones. I’ve worked for a couple of development companies; ones who build data centres, so some pretty big stuff there, and also the larger sub-contractors who kind of fundamentally operate as building contractors anyway, just in a very specialised space.
Robert Hudman: But really looking for people in those three spaces who either are enthusiastic and ready to take that next step and recognise the benefit of technology, or who are, which happens a lot, just really confused and need some sort of guidance on what are those next steps. And quite often I say, “Look, I’m happy just to have a chat with you for 20 minutes and point your ship in the right direction and wish you the best. If you want me to come on that journey with you and help you, I can certainly do that as well.” So a few different profiles but generally it’s people, at the end of the day, who realise that technology’s a really strong tool that you can use to achieve those business objectives.
Heather Smith: Thank you for sharing that. I was keen for listeners to understand it wasn’t just the subby or the sub-contractor who was a single person; it’s particularly where we started talking about small business, that this is impactful.
Robert Hudman: Definitely.
What benefits can the construction industry recognise from adopting automation and integrated solutions through the development and implementation of a digital strategy, which is what you help them with?
Robert Hudman: Look, it’s a great question. I think one of the ironies of what I do, and I’m always pretty up front with people, is my primary motivation is to get you to use technology so that you use less technology. Which is kind of a bit of an oxymoron; a bit of a contradiction, if you will. But we’re seeing… And having spent many years in construction, it is such an intensive industry as far as administrative processes go. It’s very legally based as well, so spending a lot of time processing manual things, updating things, and consequently you’re losing significant portions of your personal time, your employees’ time, effectively your business productivity, on things that don’t actually produce your core business. So, if people are processing documents and doing administrative tasks, they’re not constructing things or managing the construction process, so the key benefit for me is, I want you to use technology more but more effectively, and the right technology and be trained in it.
Robert Hudman: Ultimately I am assuming that everyone is in construction just like I was, because you enjoy it, you love the build process, and I want to get people back to the construction and the building process more and having technology serve them, as opposed to the other way around. So that’s the key benefit and the motivation. The strategy, really, behind that, and the reason that’s important is, as I said before, people often end up with this whole mix of what we call point solutions, so things that do different things but they’re not ultimately chosen or selected with a higher level strategy, so how does this allow us to deliver higher quality projects of more efficient projects or safer projects? All these things are really important. So, having a bit more of a thoughtful strategy behind that, as opposed to just buying things instinctively and using them ad hoc. It’s just a much better way to get to the outcome, and ultimately do what you do better at the end of the day; so get back to construction is what I’m really focused on.
How receptive is the construction industry to embracing technology?
Robert Hudman: Look, it’s an interesting question. There’s two camps there. I think, traditionally there’s been a lot of people saying… and you’ll see it on lots of reports. Lots of industries have been really great to adopt technology and there’s little old construction, or big old construction, who is eight to 12% of the GDP, depending on what year it is, yet they’re one of the slowest to adopt technology. I think there’s some merit to saying that the industry is somewhat at fault on a long term perspective, but I sort of like to flip it on its head as well; that I don’t think the technology industry has been very good at serving construction in the first place. Because you’re taking an industry, being construction, which is very physical. You’re touching things, moving things, constructing things, and then you’ve got this tool, this technology, which is very… it’s digital; it’s difficult to put your hands on quite literally. So you’ve got two things which come from very different worlds, and I think there’s a little bit of blood on both hands, will probably be the best way to say it.
Robert Hudman: More recently, the last five years or so, I think construction’s definitely much more open and willing to adopt technology. We’ve seen more and more fresh blood, if you will, come into this industry with a generation of people who are expecting technology. They’re not learning about it; it’s just part of their life. And obviously more specifically, the last six months, construction has obviously massively changed its adoption of technology by force with, obviously, the pandemic and a few things. So, overall, the industry’s much, much more open to it and willing to have the conversation. There are definitely some pretty old school people in there but I always say you’d be surprised who the technology advocates are once you show them how it helps them. And forcing things down people’s throats is never the right way to show them; you’ve got to understand where their pain and problem is, and show them how you can help them. Once you do that, as I say, some of the old salt dogs in the industry will surprise you how much they turn around and jump on it.
Heather Smith: It’s interesting that you actually highlight that it was software needed to come to the party as well, and people who are providing the solutions.
Robert Hudman: Yeah. I think some… and we’re not really pointing out specific software or people or companies, but I think there was a lack of appreciation for the reality of actually being on a construction site. Sitting in an office in a perfect environment versus being on a site are two very different things, and I think they had to meet in the middle there to provide some, dare I say, more practical solutions. Everyone’s got busy days and dirty hands and they need to get through the work and not gin around with a complex system. But there’s been much more there, and it’s… Fundamentally, I don’t think I’ve seen a time where there’s more choice and more options for people to build that strategy around that construction business.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. The, “Can I use your software with my dirty hands,” is kind of…
Robert Hudman: Yeah.
Heather Smith: “Does it pass the dirty hands test,” is probably-
Robert Hudman: Yeah, or sometimes we call it the smoko test, so you should be able to do it while you’re having a smoko.
Heather Smith: The smoko test.
Robert Hudman: Yeah.
I recognise there’s a slither of a gap in the industry, and a real need, for what I refer to as a cloud integrator for the construction industry. I’m also keen for accountants and bookkeepers to know about what you are doing. To that, can you describe how you work collaboratively with accountants and bookkeepers?
Robert Hudman: Yeah. So I work with different roles in the choice and the finance, the numbers space, so that obviously particularly comes about when it’s a CFO position I might be coordinating with, or an external accountant that’s helping a business But obviously that tends to be when we’re talking about financial solutions; things like accounting systems, for example, Procore’s financial products. I tend to be more involved when it comes to how we’ve got an accounting system, depending what it is, and we’re looking for a hub, a construction delivery system, we need to connect those together. So that’s typically when the conversation with accountants and bookkeepers tends to come in. And what my real focus is, and most accountants and bookkeepers tend to pretty much be on the same page here; is that I say, “I want to get the accounting system back to what it should be, which is for the accounting, the bookkeeping team, and I don’t want the construction team in the accounting side.” And that often annoys the accounts team and the accountant itself.
Robert Hudman: And vice versa; I don’t want the accounts team feeling like they’ve got to navigate through this world of construction software. We should have those two systems talking to each other, and quite literally the construction delivery teams; so your project managers, all those types of people; they shouldn’t even not only not know how to access the accounting system but, as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t even need to know what… the accounting system that business uses; it should just talk to each other. So, that’s where I tend to get involved. So, for the accountants that are working for construction companies or advising them, or providing some level of services; they might typically be involved in the selection process for the software with me, or even the selection process with potentially using my company or not. And obviously once we roll out some services, they’re a key point for advising in terms of, “All right, how should the chart of accounts in the accounting system talk to the cost-con structure in Procore, and what should the transitional rules between those two be so we can really set and forget that?”
Robert Hudman: And, of course, every now and then we do unusual projects so if we needed to customise that for a particular project or two, how do we do that. So it tends to be where I’m involved. My first… When I started out, actually, in construction, as you know when we met years ago, originally on site as a construction labourer, digging holes and all sorts of fun things, and my first opportunity to get in the office was to actually come in and… I say be a bookkeeper or somewhat unofficially a bookkeeper, but bookkeeper/payroll person for the first 12 months. So, people tend to, once they find that out and we talk the talk a bit, they tend to be a bit more comfortable with it, so I can appreciate both sides as well, and try and be the bridge between the two.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for sharing that and, as you did mention, we did meet many, many years ago and it was always a pleasure working with you.
Robert Hudman: Yes.
Heather Smith: And sometimes when we go into these relationships, accountants and bookkeepers can be guarded about what the relationship is going to be like, but it’s always-
Robert Hudman: Absolutely.
Heather Smith: That’s really… I wanted to introduce you to the community so they knew that you are someone that they could work with and assist and support their clients with a digital strategy.
Robert Hudman: Yeah.
With respect to the construction tech stack, you prefer not to recommend a one size fits all. Why is that?
Robert Hudman: Look, I think that the view of software or, more broadly, technology, has gone through fair amounts of ebbs and flows over the year, and there’s always, at some point, someone thinking that there is a technology solution or a software out there, “I can buy one product and it does everything for my business.” I like to burst that bubble pretty early on, and it’s not because I’m negative; just that’s the reality of the situation. There is no business, construction or otherwise, that you can buy one piece of software and it will do everything. Businesses are complex, they do unique things, so there’s no one software that will do it all. I would highly recommend not building your own software, if anyone is thinking that. I kind of joke around and say, “Well, why don’t we get the software companies to start building buildings; it must be pretty easy.” It is a very difficult, complex world.
Robert Hudman: So, coming back to your point, we need to have a few different options for the software. We need to have those options in terms of what’s going to do the best job for the different processes you have in your construction business to deliver that product or service that you’re ultimately providing. So, what I recommend is using a strategy that involves a platform view. Obviously I state my business from Procore; I’m a certified consultant for them, but then taking that central platform and knowing that the other pieces that you have can actually connect into it. So that’s where the strategy piece is for me; you select that platform and you’re connecting the pieces together to make it work. You shouldn’t have 50 different pieces of software but you’re also not just going to have one, so there is a process of selecting those critical few.
One of the main technology solutions that you do work with is Procore, as you’ve mentioned a number of times.
Robert Hudman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Heather Smith: Can you share with our audience what it does and why you choose to work with it?
Robert Hudman: Yeah. Great questions. So I’ve worked on three sides of Procore, so I was originally a customer. I think I was Australian customer number five back in the day and I just went a decade using Procore. So I used it for about seven years in industry, and then I worked for Procore for almost three years, so that’s where we get to the 10 years. At a high level, Procore is a construction delivery software, so it works from the pre-construction phase, so design and tendering side, right though construction delivery and the hand over and the quality compliance there. It is an online cloud platform and it is designed to manage all those processes that happen throughout the construction project. So, as you might expect, typical things from drawings and RFIs and documents, right through to financial management, quality and safety and environmental controls. So it’s an online web platform, mobile web. It’s a major player in the construction space. Originally American and expanding internationally as of about five years ago.
On your website you list the other tools in the toolbox that you work with, so I’d like to go through them, and if you can share with me a brief synopsis of them that would be relevant for the accountants and the bookkeepers listening in.
Robert Hudman: Yes, well, I guess they’ve got to come up with some creative names at some stage, don’t they? Yeah, so pretty straight forward. Again, I mean, Procore being a platform technology, it’s still not going to be everything to everyone, so there’s very specialist applications which I have in the toolbox which are ones that I support. Now, there are about 250 to 300 integrations with Procore so these are a small selection of a wide range. Buildr specifically is for the dreaded handover manuals which most people in construction would be aware of. Those very complex, detailed manuals, once you’ve finished construction, you have to hand over and say, “Here’s actually what we built. These are the manuals, warranties and information if you need to check anything, do any renovations, or should something go wrong.” So it’s really digitising that process and automating it through construction.
Heather Smith: That’s interesting. Didn’t know that was something that was required.
Robert Hudman: Yeah. Anyone in construction who’s sat there and done handover manuals knows the days and days that they lost, and it’s quite a mind numbing process.
Robert Hudman: Yeah, Acuite’s actually a local…. or, actually I should confess it is originally New Zealand, but there’s a lot of great software, like Xero, that’s come from New Zealand. So they are a data and analytics software, so one of the key things with Acuite is, basically it’s going to bring in all the data from Procore, but you can connect other solutions so bring in data from Procore, from your accounting system, from your HR system; whatever you’ve got. And then you can see the data in that business so you can start to understand how the business is trending, what’s going well, what’s not going well, and start making decisions. So it’s an analytics and data platform that brings in information from multiple sources.
Heather Smith: Does it have its own built in dashboards or do you customise the dashboards?
Robert Hudman: Both. So it comes pre-built, it’s very construction centric. The two people that started it are both ex-construction people like myself, so they have basically plug-and-play data ready to go in dashboards, and then obviously you can also customise that specific to your needs as well.
Robert Hudman: Yeah, so a very specialist area of construction. Anyone that’s been involved in construction; the old site inductions and other processes, so basically knowing who’s on site, what they’re doing, when they came on site, making sure they’re aware of any alerts or issues. And, of course, in the event of an emergency, knowing who is on that project, and then to get them off. So it’s really around site attendance and management there and neatly works with geofencing as well, so once you’re signed in once, your phone will tell you if you’re on or off the site. So, really good to know who’s on your site and make sure everyone’s safe.
Heather Smith: So it’s actually built into the person’s mobile device?
Robert Hudman: Yeah, so it’s project-wide, geofenced, and automate with the worker’s phone automatically.
Heather Smith: Does it feed into the payroll?
Robert Hudman: It feeds into Procore’s site diary which documents hours, which does integrate into payroll in different systems like Xero and MYOB. So, yes, you can collect those hours and automate that payroll time sheeting process.
Robert Hudman: Oh yeah, FileBound. Well, I’m a Brisbane local and happy to give a shout out to FileBound, who are also in Brisbane. FileBound basically build custom integrations with a range of different systems. They work beyond construction as well. But if you need to integrate various different systems, if you have a custom workflow requirement, they do a lot of document workflows; they can build pretty much anything. One of their more recent ones that they’ve done, as an example, is really a specialist APSO accounts payable automation. So invoices come in, it gets read automatically and routed correctly to the right people, then integrated to the accounting system and potentially financials like Procore as well. So they do a lot of flexible things around that area.
Robert Hudman: Yeah. Well, everyone in construction knows how we love our forms and we’ve go so many. So GoFormz is a highly specialised forms tool. Procore has its own forms tool but this ones very, very specialised. And basically it’s digitising your existing forms, so they’ll look like your forms but they act like smart forms, and the benefit of that is you can build in certain workflows and reporting. And GoFormz can talk to other software as well, so you can say, “If I tick this box in a GoFormz form, automatically create this action in Procore,” so it can automate integration between different systems just on filling a form. So really useful to have, and obviously on site there’s a lot of forms, particularly in construction, that we need to fill in day to day, and this really automates and puts some smarts in those forms.
Robert Hudman: Yeah, Interfy. It is a bit of a tongue twister sometimes. So, look, not all software is Australian. I do try and pick as many locals as possible. Interfy is down in South Australia, down in Adelaide, so another local. They have been around for a while. They’re an IT company as well but Interfy specifically builds cloud based integrations for construction, so I work with them a lot. I’ve got three customers at the moment who I’m working with, and one of the key things they do for Procore customers is, they’ve got a product called OneCore, and OneCore will integrate Xero or MYOB AccountRight into Procore’s financials. So this is very much one of those examples where we have the accounting team in the accounting system and the project team in the project system, and the information flow between the two is automated with companies like Interfy.
Heather Smith: Okay. Sounds like all of those solutions that you’ve mentioned… Just listening in, I can see that they could create some massive time savings in the business. But, as you did highlight, let’s have less tech, rather than more tech, but get the right ones in.
Robert Hudman: The right technology, shall we say.
Heather Smith: Yeah, the right technology in to save our time and embrace efficiencies within the construction industry.
One of the things that you’ve developed is a Procore health check. Who is that suited to and how can people who are listening in access it?
Robert Hudman: Yeah. So this is one of the original services and one of the things that inspired the business starting up in the first place. I was a Procore customer for, as I said, about seven years before I joined the company. I think it was a backhanded compliment; one of the guys used to call me very thorough. So I was very, very inquisitive and I wouldn’t let a product suggestion go unheard. But over that period of time I realised that there was a lot of depth inside the product, and I’m using the example of Procore specifically but I’m sure it applies to other software. So I came up with this check list based upon working with Procore for about a decade, that said, “All right, if I’m going to go and check out your use of these products…” Let’s make the analogy of a mechanic. You’ve bought a new car, you take it to the mechanic, you say, “Tell me how this thing is running?” I did the same process with your Procore account.
Robert Hudman: So we have about 250 check points that we go through, so we literally check every single configuration. It’s quite a task but obviously after 10 years I’ve kind of built in that knowledge intrinsically. So we go through and we look at how your accounting’s configured, we look at how you’re using it on a project example. So we’ll go through and say, “Are they using it correctly, are they missing stuff,” and fundamentally what we’re trying to do here at a baseline is find out where you can extract more value. And our typical Procore health check score… we do give you a score… is averaging between abut 35 to 45%, so there’s upwards of 60%+ there of additional value. We also go to Procore, of course with your permission, and we request what we call back end analytics, which is actual data that is actually going to be pulled out to show who’s using the tools, who’s not using the tools, what tools are getting used or what projects are getting used in certain ways.
Robert Hudman: And it gives us a bit of vision, combining that usage data with the configuration of the account, to really give you that full health check process. The outcome of that process is roughly a 20, 35 page report; it’s quite thorough, and we give you a list of recommendations. And those recommendations are averaging between about 80 to 120 recommendations, so a pretty big slice of stuff you can do. Now, some of those are very straight forward recommendations, like we suggest you change this configuration, this is why, through to bigger questions about, “We think you need more training here. Here’s some suggested integrations.” And we present that to the client, walk them through it, and say here’s a list to really improve the value of Procore for you. The underlying message there, and I don’t know if Procore want me to say this or not but, is we want you to get more from Procore without paying more money. That’s the fundamental thing to start with. We can grow from there.
Robert Hudman: And then I just leave it with the clients. I say, “Would you like me to help you with some of these? Are you comfortable? Do you have the resource and knowledge?” And if they’re comfortable I let them do that thing and I’m there for a phone call or a chat to help them, but a lot of clients ultimately see that massive value that is not being used by you are paying for it; Procore is quite a premium product. So we jump on board and work with optimising that account, training the staff, and really extracting that value. And it’s really great to come back three, six, 12 months later, and do another Procore health check and go, “Oh, you went from a 35, 40% up to an 80 or 90%,” and we can really show that value and that return on investment for them as well. And then hopefully that also makes them more efficient, more capable of taking on more work, or just overall, like I said before, getting more focused back on construction and less on tapping screens and keyboards.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And, like you said, you’re not sure whether Procore are happy about you saying that or not, but the reality is that someone’s who’s now getting 80% usage out of a solution is far stickier than someone who’s-
Robert Hudman: Definitely. And that was definitely said a little bit in jest. Procore are fully aware of what I’m doing and they, of course, certified with a particular Procore health check. Customer retention is number one for them. As with them and most software companies, they’re a SRS, so self registered service. They are 100% built on return customers. That’s it. If you buy a SRS solution you don’t like or you don’t renew that’s a problem, and it’s very expensive to get new customers, so retention and stickiness, as you said, is very important. And definitely coming back to that digital strategy; a big part of the health check is to find those correct integrations for you because it makes you more successful once you have your software talking to each other as part of that, and that’s a key message that Procore’s trying to push as well.
Heather Smith: So, for the accountants and the bookkeepers listening in and for the other software developers listening in, that might be… offering a health check service may be another service offering that you can put out there in the market, that you replay or recur, circle back to them every so often to see where the improvements are and identify what the opportunities are there.
Robert Hudman: Yeah.
Heather Smith: Do you offer the training? So it did seem that you were identifying, through that health check, that training was needed. We’ve got usage data and Jeremy’s not logged on ever in six months.
Robert Hudman: There’s nowhere to hide when the data’s out there, that’s for sure. Yeah, so training would definitely be part of that. I mean, broadly speaking, our services really fall into two buckets; one is implementation, so it’s… well, we could also separate a third one and say strategising it and then choosing and then implementing it, but let’s just say starting out the software journey, so implementing that software. And the second bucket is you already have that software, and maybe there’s some tweaks or not but it’s about optimising it like we talked about; gleaning out more value from it. And the optimisation within that, definitely training is a big component. So we do a lot of training. We deliver, obviously… It’s one of the services that in person really counts. I think that the current situation means that we’re all getting very good at virtual training, so of course we offer that and always have. We obviously offer training where we are in South Easy Queensland in person, and as soon as everyone’s moving about a bit more we’ll expand that.
Robert Hudman: But we do a lot of live training in person or online. We also do custom video production, so we will produce custom training videos specific to your business inside your Procore account, for example, with all the professional voiceovers and all of that, so you actually have training contact that’s for you, that you can start to build up an onboarding process. So when you have a new employee come in, you’ve got the training videos, the content, all that sort of stuff, including standard operating procedures that we can produce for you, and you can onboard those new staff or up skill those existing ones pretty quickly. So we offer a pretty wide range from how to use Procore through to how to connect to integrate in the systems like accounting as well.
Heather Smith: That’s quite impressive that you offer really, sounds like, quite professional training videos for your clients.
Robert Hudman: I’ve always liked making videos. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in Hollywood but I like making software training videos. It doesn’t sound as exciting when you say it out loud but I seem to enjoy it so we do a fair bit of that.
Heather Smith: We’ll have to get you to do some Al Capone… what was it? Al Capone and Robert De-
Robert Hudman: Oh no, I don’t do impressions.
Heather Smith: Impersonations.
Robert Hudman: I’ll work on it for next time.
Heather Smith: Those could be the side videos.
Robert Hudman: The B-roll.
Heather Smith: Do it as Robert De Niro.
Robert Hudman: The out cuts or the B-rolls.
Heather Smith: Yeah. They could go viral.
Robert Hudman: Hopefully for the right reasons.
How do you foresee the future of the construction industry? What does it look like in your mind?
Robert Hudman: Look, one of the reasons I liked construction; it’s very tangible, and I think that part of it is never really going to change. Driving past a project that you’ve built and being able to literally say, “I helped build that,” or, “I built that.” There’s a physicality to it that I think a lot of people haven’t experienced construction or haven’t experienced some time of physical work. It’s difficult to explain but once you’ve been involved with it, it’s something you always want to be involved with. That physicality is never going to change and I think that’s one of the things that separates construction from a lot of other purely service based businesses particularly. That’s never going to change. We see these brick laying robots and all these sort of things that come out every now and then. Yes, when every project is a perfect controlled environment inside of a testing warehouse, yes, that might work, but for the foreseeable future there’s going to be the rough and tumbles and physicality of construction.
Robert Hudman: So I think that’s always going to be part of it, but I think what the industry is going to do is getting better and better and better incrementally at managing those physicalities, but the way that they will do that is by having technology support them in that process. And I think technology needs to recognise that it is a supporting mechanism in construction, not the driving force. So I see technology as literally; you have that toolbox and you’ve got the hammer and the drill, and technology is one of those tools inside that toolbox. So I think construction will get smarter and smarter about how to use that technology and I think one of the key things that we’ll see, which we are seeing worldwide; Singapore and the UK are kind of leaders in it; is having a fully integrated process inside construction, based upon BIM design. So having proper design done early on that transfers all the way through the build process, because traditionally the build process is design a really great thing and then just print it on 2D paper and good luck building it.
Robert Hudman: But having everything integrated through the entire process and being able to design it in 3D, hand over a 3D handover manual so you can walk through, you can walk through your completed building and find all the information; I think that’s the place where construction is ultimately going to go, and technology is one of if not the key tools to help them get there.
Heather Smith: I’ve never heard of brick laying robots.
Robert Hudman: Oh, you can look it up. It’s quite impressive.
Heather Smith: I’ll have to go on YouTube.
Here’s a robot laying bricks I found on YouTube!
Robert Hudman: And then you go drive past a construction site and realise it would never actually work on a real site. But we’ll get there eventually but I think, for now, I think the biggest risk technology-wise is maybe 3D printing, but I think that’s… It’s a little way off being practical as well. Right now we still need the men and women of construction to physically get in there and build it for us. But interesting to see where it goes. I think there’s a few things up for grabs and a few things obviously I can’t crystal ball, but it’s going to be an interesting future.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I used to work in the construction industry in Singapore, and exactly what you said; it’s actually really nice to go around Singapore and know that I was involved with the building of some of the major and significant buildings there, every time I pop back there. And as you mentioned, they are always very forward thinking when it comes to evolving their businesses and best practise, so even back in the early 90s when I was working there, they were trying to embrace everything.
Robert Hudman: Yeah, they’re definitely leaders in a lot of areas in the build environment, for sure. Design, as well, they’re really advanced. It’s amazing that so many innovative things come out of what is physically a very small country.
Heather Smith: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Robert Hudman: But yeah.
Heather Smith: They would have, in the construction industry, a very… I imagine it will still be the case that their workforce would still be very much from all different countries, and thus a very cheap labour force.
Robert Hudman: Yes. Yes, those were… I haven’t worked in Singapore myself but that’s what I’ve heard.
Heather Smith: Yes. So I imagine that is still the case in the construction industry. It was when I was there in the firms that I worked with.
Robert Hudman: Yeah.
You’re almost on the start of your journey with Knight Solutions. What do you foresee over the next few years for yourself?
Robert Hudman: Look, it’s an interesting question. It’s a question that I ask myself. I’m nine, 10 months in. It’s early stages. It’s just me at this stage but I’ve very quickly realised that I’ve obviously got a service that is helping people because I have maximised myself out. I’ve got a bit of a lead time to get booked in so, for me, it’s what’s that next step on the journey in how do I be able to help more people. I’m not entirely sure what the answer to that question is, although I have a few things that I’m really working on. I think one of the things is being able to provide a… Well, two things. One being able to provide some more standardised service offering. So, to date, everything’s been pretty well custom for each customer, so there’s a custom scope of work and exactly what that service engagements going to be, but I think also some more standardised productised services, if you will, that will allow the price point to be a bit more attractive to a wider range of people.
Robert Hudman: And sort of give somewhat of a a la carte menu of option that they can have a look at without having to get engaged with me directly, and pretty much pre-order them and get going. The other one which we really want to get out there is building more knowledge in the industry, so we’re looking at doing training courses. Online ones so you can actually… on demand as required and also putting some of that knowledge out there in written format as well. So those are a couple of areas that we’re really looking at, at the moment. Of course, time is of the essence, so I’ve got to pick my priorities and get working on those, but I think over the next six months we’ll see a lot more expansion in those areas as well from Knight Solutions.
Heather Smith: Well, all the best with that.
Robert Hudman: Thank you.
Heather Smith: I’m sure it will be very successful because you have such a wide spectrum of knowledge and experience from the industry and all the different areas of it, so I’m sure there’ll be a demand because I don’t see many other people… I don’t see anyone else in the industry doing quite what you’re doing with the experience that you have. So thank you very much for joining me today,
Robert. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners? And how can they get in touch with you?
Robert Hudman: Yeah, look, I think one and the same. I think one of my favourite things I always say, as I said earlier I’m always happy to have a chat and point the ship in the right direction for you. So if you have some questions, I enjoy chatting to anyone connected to accounting, bookkeeping, construction; that whole sphere, so if you want to reach out and have a chat and you’re just not sure where to start, or even if you just want some names and numbers of who you should speak to in other areas, I’m always open for that conversation. Best way to get in contact is just jump on the web site, which is knight with a K, so the knight in shining armour.
Robert Hudman: So, knightsolutions.com.au, the contact page, and just reach out. There’s my email, phone and a form there, and, yeah, happy to jump on a call and have a chat with, really, anyone and help out. If that’s something that leads to business with my business; great, but otherwise I’m also happy just to generally have that conversation. We all learn from those engagements, anyway. So, yeah, I’m open to the chat.
Heather Smith: Thank you so much, Robert, for sharing your insights, experiences and perspectives with us today. I’m sure the accountants and bookkeepers listening in will have benefited immensely from that. And I really appreciate your time.
Robert Hudman: Thanks, Heather. Good to see you again. Enjoy your weekend.