Introduction to Construction Clouds


Transcript: Introduction to Construction Clouds

This video tutorial offers a guide to the basic features and capabilities of Construction Clouds and is designed to get you familiarised with the look and layout of our system.

We have found that once users have a basic understanding for the system and its interface they can continue to learn the more advanced  features and functionality on a either a self teaching basis or by going on to watch more of our online video tutorials.

We are going to take a quick look at the following topics in very short detail:

  • Logging in to the desktop version
  • The concept of visual perspectives for staff members
  • The layout of the visual perspective and its key components
  • A look at the key business objects that you can manage inside Construction Clouds

If none of this makes any sense at the moment, don't worry, by the end of the tutorial you will know what we're talking about and you would have started to grasp some of the concepts that we often refer to during other tutorials and online guides.

Logging In

Ok, so let's get started by looking at how you can access your Construction Cloud.

When you register for Construction Clouds you will be provided with a login page and the web address to access that page. Essentially it is just a login form and will include your company logo and company branding.

For an extra professional look it is also possible to have the login screen incorportaed in to your own corporate website. To find out more about this please contact our support team who will happily provide you with the neccessary code.

In the video tutorials that are posted online we will always be logging in to the sample cloud and as such we will use the sample cloud login page.

It looks a little different to the page that you will use to login yourself but in essence its the same. We can enter our credentials and the construction clouds web application will load in a new chromeless browser window.

Indecently, we would encourage you and your organisation to use the sample cloud as a kind of playground and training environment when you are learning about the system or trying something new.

So lets login. On the sample cloud login page you can see that there is a login form on the left hand side and some pre-defined login buttons on the right side. If you click on to one of the pre-defined logins, a new window will open with the application for that particular user. This is a quick way of logging in and will also nicely demonstrate the different visual perspectives available for the different user roles within the system.

For now I am going to use the login form on the left side and enter a username of nick and a password of password. If I then click the login button you will see that Construction Clouds application is opened in a new full screen window.

Visual Perspective Concepts

When the application loads you will notice this pop up box that contains a welcome message. It lets us know about unread emails, new alerts and the number of appointments you have been allocated this week. You can turn this message off in your staff member record if you wish.

Behind the message is what we refer to as the visual perspective. It is essentially your home screen and the beginnings of all of your working within the cloud.

The visual perspective will change dependant on your access level and will present information relevant to your role within your company. If you want to take a look at some other perspectives just use the pre-defined logins that we discussed a short while ago.

Here you can see the visual perspective for the office manager. The main difference is that it has a list of all staff members which indicates how many appointments each of them have for today, ...tomorrow ...and a total for this week.

The staff members that appear in green text on the list are those that are currently logged into construction clouds. Those that appear in green text and have a green background are currently logged into the system and are also clocked in.

The visual perspective shown for a staff member that has an access level of site operative looks like this. You can see how much more simplified the whole screen is. The working area contains a list of appointments and those appointments are shown along side the list when clicked.

Notice how the menu is very short? This is because a site operative has no need to edit the system settings or create suppliers and subcontractors and other such things.

For now we are going to concentrate on the visual perspective that is displayed for nick - our project manager in the sample cloud.

Visual Perspective Layout

There are a few main areas of the perspective to take note on. These areas are common to all visual perspectives, regardless of your access level.

Firstly is the title bar. The title bar will contain your company name. The time and date as well as a dropdown menu that contains options for clocking in and clocking out.

Just below the title bar you will notice the main navigation tabs. The tabs that are displayed here are always loaded each time you log in and they can't be closed. When you begin to work with the system you will notice that new tabs are opened along side these. The new tabs that open are closable. The tabs in this area provide a convenient way of switching between the different business objects you are currently working on, this is very similar to having various tabs open when browsing the internet. We refer to these tabs as the main navigation tabs.

As you move along the tabs you will notice that the content of the area below changes. We call this area the work area.

On the left you will notice the main navigation menu. This menu is broken down into various categories or business objects as we call them. If you click on to a particular category you will be presented with various options relevant to that particular business object. For example: If I wanted to create a new staff member I would simply go to the staff dropdown and click new staff member. This would open a form and allow me to enter all of the details for that staff member. Notice how doing this has opened a new tab? I am going to leave that there, but will come back to it in a moment.

Right at the very bottom of the screen is the status bar. It gives us information about which user is logged in and which company they are logged in to. The status bar is also used to display system messages and you will probably notice these as you start to use the system.

As you navigate around the system you will begin to open multiple tabs.

We have created a convenient way of closing all tabs and refreshing the visual perspective back to the same state as it was when you first logged in. Simply press the reload button at the top of the navigation menu.

 

Understanding Business Objects

You may have heard me talk about business objects.  Business objects is a term we use to describe all of the different kinds of records you will hold on the system. It would include records such as staff members, suppliers, properties and subcontractors. It also includes the not so obvious ones such as invoices, quotes, job costings, appliances and gas safety certificates to mention but a few. These are all types of records that we can create, search, list, edit and generally work with and we will refer to them as business objects when we are not specifically talking about any particular one.

Some business objects such as a suppliers or purchase invoices will be created by you and the other staff members that use your Construction Cloud. Other objects such as timesheet entries are created automatically by the system in response to the activities and actions of the users within the cloud.

However all business objects share a few common attributes.

  • You can search for them
  • You can view multiples of them in a list
  • You can view individual instances using a form
  • You can edit them dependant on their status and your user access level
  • You can export them and you can import them

For example I could create a new subcontractor and it would be stored with all the other subcontractors within the system. I could then search for subcontractors based on their location or trade and the system will display a list of all matching subcontractors. I could pick one of those subcontractors from the list and it would be displayed on the screen in a form in which I could then make and save my changes.

There are also sometimes relationships between different business objects. If you can begin to appreciate and understand these relationships you will be well on your way to navigating and using the system efficiently.

A simple example of a relationship would be the relationship between a job and its invoices. If I wanted to find a particular invoice and I understand the relationship, I know that I should first find the job and then I can navigate to the list of invoices for that job. From that list I can then find, view and edit the invoice I was looking for.

Another example would be printing my timesheet for this week. If I first find my staff member record I can then go to the list of timesheets and from there I can open and print my timesheet.

When we look at an individual business object it will open in a form in the main work area or it will open in a pop up window.

There are a few areas of a form to take note on. Here, you can see the form for an appointment but in essence it's the same as all other business object forms.

At the top you can see the operation buttons that provide specific functionality to work with that business object. Two common buttons are the reports button and the documents button. These buttons allow us to produce documents based on the information stored in the form. You can print or save the documents in PDF, MSWord and other formats.

To the left of the form you will see the form tab navigation. These tabs are similar to the main navigation tabs apart from they are specific to the business object we are viewing. They will allow you to move between the various sections of the form.

It is also possible to re-order the tabs by dragging and dropping them. When you are happy with the order you can click this icon in the bottom right corner and construction clouds will remember your preference the next time you open an appointment.

The main part of the form is where the data is displayed pertaining to the record we are currently viewing. Its contents will change dependant on the form tab we have selected.

At the bottom of the form, you will usually find a save and cancel button. If you make changes to the form just click save to save them and click cancel to close the form and return to the previous screen.

 

Key Business Objects

So let's now take a look at some of the key business objects that we can create, store and manage within constructionclouds.

Staff Members

First up is one of the most important. The staff member. Staff members are quite self explanatory but they are special inside construction clouds because they become the main users of the system. As such it is possible to assign an access level, username and password when we create each new staff member. The access level you give to each new staff member will be the one that most fits with their role within your organisation.

You can also store their personal details including a signature, address, telephone numbers and email address.

You can see a diary that stores all of the appointments for this staff member.

A list of allocated jobs, managed jobs as well as a list of jobs that have been surveyed by this staff member.

A list of timesheets and below that, details of hourly rate, overtime rate, usual start and end times and paid leave allowances.

You can see a list of all communication with this staff member including incoming and outgoing email, letters, text messages and phone calls.

A list of alerts can be seen. Alerts are either automatically created by the system or manually by other staff members. They act as reminders to complete certain tasks or actions.

Details of all the vehicles, tools and plant that the staff member is responsible for.

A list of qualifications held.

Tracking details which will allow us to find out the current and previous locations of the staff member.

And finally a tab which allows us to set the email defaults, reminder defauls etcetera

 

Agents

You can store details of the agents that your organisation works for. Agents represent the councils, estate agents, property management companies or other companies that look after or own the properties that you work on. When you create an agent you can then assign properties to them. Therefore an agent provides a way of grouping properties together.

If we take a look at the agent form you will notice that you can store contact details in the main tab.

You can view a list of properties that belong to this agent.

A list of jobs that are assigned to its properties.

And just like the staff member record, you can see a list of all communication including incoming and outgoing email, letters, text messages and phone calls.

A list of schemes is available and we will explore this, in detail, in another tutorial.

Again, email settings are available on the final tab.

 

Properties

Properties are the places that you carry out jobs. A property could be a domestic property, school, public building or commercial property - if it has an address and you complete work there then it is a property.

You can store all the usual details for a property such as the type, name of the occupier, address and contact details.

You can also record details of the gas appliances installed at the property and maintain a log of all gas safety inspections that your organisation carries out.

There is a list of all jobs at the property.

A list of communication with this property.

A list of plant and hired goods that, have been at, or are currently at the property.

You can create notes about the property and you can even have those notes pop up when someone loads the property form.

You can see a list of invoices and account balances.

View a map showing the location of the property.

And again, email settings.

 

Jobs or Projects

Jobs, or projects as you might call them, are probably the most significant and central part of the whole construction clouds system. They are what tie most other objects together.

Jobs are specific to properties. That is to say that you must have a property in place before you can create a job.  If you want to create a job, you need to find or create its property first.

The information that you enter on to the job form will vary dependant on the type of job you are dealing with. We are going to take a look at the form of a building project.

In here you can see that we have a fair few tabs, that hold lots of different information about the project. The tabs are ordered to coincide with the normal sequence of the project lifecycle. As describe earlier, it is possible to re-order the tabs if you wish.

You can use the first tab to enter all of the main details about the project.

The job costing tab allows you to price or cost the job.

You can enter details for, and produce a written quote based on the job costings or manual pricing that you may have done.

Use the confirmation tab when the client gives you the go ahead.

Create extras or variations once the project is underway.

View and print a financial statement and keep a track on invoicing.

Look at the profit and loss and print reports.

Produce job site health and safety risk assessments and other paperwork.

Store and view pictures of your project.

Create job based notes and indicate a staff member so that construction clouds can automatically issue reminders and track task completion.

View a Google map of the site address

Store project documents such as drawings, specifications and alike.

The history tab automatically displays a list of changes made to the project.

 

Suppliers

There are several different typ es of supplier that you can create and manage in Construction Clouds. They can be normal suppliers, such as a builders merchants or hire shops. Local councils. Architects, engineers or subcontractors. Subcontractors are quite special and unique in the UK construction industry so we will discuss them separately.

Here, you can see the business object form for a normal supplier, Harry's Building Supplies.

You can store contact details such as name and address, telephone and email.

View a list of communication.

Create and store quotes to use when pricing jobs and projects.

Record purchase invoices and cost them against jobs when tracking profit and loss.

Keep details of the resources they supply you such as materials and labour rates. Use those resources when pricing jobs and projects.

View a google map

And again store email defaults

.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors share a lot of similarities with suppliers and staff members. As such you will notice that they share many of the same tabs as you would find in those business objects respectively.  We are not going to run through all the tabs this time but we will take a quick look at the two that are specific to a subcontractor.

The first shows construction industry scheme details which allows you to store and manage all of the details in relation to the special way that subcontractors are taxed.

The other special tab is the tax summary. This tab shows details of all tax deductions and will enable you to print monthly or weekly subcontractor statements. It will also aid you in the submission of your monthly CIS returns.

 

Appointments

Appointments are another key business object which tie together most of the other objects we have already discussed. It's possible to create appointments for things like meetings and then assign those appointments to a particular staff member or subcontractor.

The system will create appointments for the workforce when jobs or job surveys are allocated.

You can also create appointments that represent paid or unpaid annual leave.

The appointment form is quite simple on the face of it, but it's very powerful behind the scenes.

Depending on the type of appointment you can have Construction Clouds send out automatic email and text reminders to the staff member, subcontractor, property occupier and the agent.

Appointments can be viewed in many ways such as on an individual's diary or a companywide diary. However, one of the most intuitve ways to view and manage appointments is by viewing them on the company planner. The company planner displays the appointments in a scheduler format and makes it easy to spot gaps in an individual's day.

 

We hope by now that you have begun to understand the basics of Construction Clouds and you have started to realise its power and potential to streamline your business activities.

We would encourage you to continue learning in the sample cloud and also go on to watch more of our video tutorials.