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Streamlining Admin Efficiencies with WorkflowMax at Chester Consultants [User Story]


User Stories is a regular column here on the WorkflowMax blog. Here, we get a company to walk us through their workflow process. Every company is different, and every firm has different methods and processes for managing their projects. Our hope is that by studying what others do, you can find techniques to improve your own workflow.

Today we talk to company director and senior engineer, Steven Rankin from Chester Consultants, a well-established Auckland engineering firm.

Tell us about your engineering firm, Chester Consultants:


We’re consulting engineers. We do multi-discipline engineering design - so we do fire engineering, civil engineering and structural engineering. Staff-wise, I think we are about 19 at the moment. That’s 2 admin and then 17 technical, whether they be technicians or engineers.

We’re about to open a third office, so we’ve got one remote office, our main office in Birkenhead and then we’re about to open an office in Fiji.

We go through a large number of jobs. Some firms might work maybe on a handful of jobs. Where, at any one time, we’ve probably got a couple of hundred jobs open, that are at various stages. Some may be in design, some may be at consenting stage, some may be in council, some may be under construction, so there’s a host of statuses associated with a large number of jobs.

What kind of clients do you work with?:

Our client base is pretty diverse. Clients typically range from private individuals, businesses as well as local and national government - whether that’s council or Ministry of Social Development.

What tools do you use to manage your engineering firm?

Our financial advisor recommended that we go to Xero, and we made the switch to Xero at the same time we moved to WorkflowMax. We’re also about to bring Ferret on board. Ferret actually works with WorkflowMax. So once we load a job on WorkflowMax, that populates the Ferret database - that’s record storage - so that stores all our emails and documents, and things like that. WorkflowMax offers us that integration, which is really good.

What challenges were you facing when it came to your workflow?

We were using an Australian-based system called JobBag. The issues with JobBag were, it wasn’t cloud-based, and it was a DOS-based system, so it was quite hard to use. We weren't invoicing and quoting out of the same program. It was pretty inefficient.

WorkflowMax has increased efficiency, compared to what we used to do, it’s far more efficient for quoting, invoicing and finding data. Just being able to look at a quote and then look at time, and then assign individuals to a job. Before, we didn’t have the ability to essentially allocate a job to staff, and then have that come up in their list, whereas now, obviously, we can do that.

Our previous software was just hideous to try and actually find anything on a client, or find something on a job. Whereas with WorkflowMax you can interrogate from a number of paths, rather than having that set route that you have to take.

Walk us through the life of a project:

How we’re using WorkflowMax is, we will set up a job and then assign tasks. So depending on the style of work, for example it could be a fire report, a structural design, a civil report. We’ll assign a budget and then do a quote out of WorkflowMax based on that. Then all our timekeeping and invoicing is out of WorkflowMax. Other jobs may just be time and expenses, which again we invoice out of WorkflowMax based on individuals’ time logged against the job. Plus any other costs, whether it be disbursements, or travel or Certificates of Title, that sort of thing.

We’ve got a number of project managers and they’ll quote the job, put in the task, and invoice themselves, all out of the job. That invoice is linked through to Xero. Everyone does their timekeeping in WorkflowMax and that talks to our payroll program.

What do you love most about WorkflowMax?

That would be in the integration - so with Xero, with Ferret and with our payroll system. Also that it’s mobile. And the ease of use in terms of being able to find information. The other thing is probably to document a process, so when people go into a job, they know what their task is, and they know what their budget is. Then they can see the description of what they need to do. It means I can allocate staff jobs, and then I don’t need to go and talk to them. They can actually see their budget, and their brief on the computer, rather than relying on that being communicated through some other means.

Thanks Steven! If you’re running a company using WorkflowMax and want to talk workflow with us, then drop me a line at monica.shepherd@xero.com and we can interview you for User Stories.

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Monica Shepherd
Monica is a marketing copywriter for WorkflowMax, creating content for the website, blogs and ebooks. Having run a copywriting business helping a wide range of businesses create stand-out marketing and website content, she has a thorough understanding of the challenges business owners face. By sharing this insight at WorkflowMax she can continue to follow her passion for helping small businesses punch above their weight.

Monica Shepherd