Alston Construction provides general contracting, construction management, and design-build services for an array of industries and projects. In the last decade, they’ve grown from roughly $200 million in revenue to over $2 billion today and are, as they state, a “must consider” firm for anyone building industrial warehouse and distribution centers anywhere in the US.
As Chief Financial Officer Adam Nickerson says: “It’s been quite a ride!”
Nickerson, and Alston, trust Oracle Textura Payment Management Cloud Service to help keep that ride running smoothly, when it comes to construction payment management. He joined Alston in January 2012; soon after, under his leadership, Alston moved to a project accountant model.
Each project accountant is responsible for all AP/AR (accounts payable and receivable) activities for one or more projects, as opposed to a shared-services model where a group of accountants service all projects. Nickerson’s vision was that the project accountant role would become one of true partnership with the project manager and team.
That meant the grunt work of an AP/AR clerk had to disappear, to free up time for far more valuable contributions to the success of each project and, ultimately, the company.
Enter Oracle Textura. Nickerson had used the Oracle solution in a previous organization and began implementing at Alston in 2013. Once the software was implemented, the once-manual pay application processes became automated, as did the verification and approval processes.
The owner draw process got streamlined. Payments moved from paper to electronic ACH (automated clearinghouse), and that opened the door to the electronic exchange of current-period unconditional lien waivers, eliminating yet more manual steps and stacks of paper.
By removing friction, Oracle Textura enabled each project accountant to take on more and more projects, to match the accelerating growth.
“If we went back to the old manual system, I estimate I would need 3 project accountants for every 1 now. As fast as we’re growing, that’s a lot of hiring and related expense that we can avoid,” said Nickerson.
Now, project accountants can partner with project managers and be an early-warning system for potential financial issues, as well as managing job cost status reports, making sure projects stay on track and contribute to the bottom line.
Project accountants like Karen Dean, who has worked at Alston for 21 years, and experienced first-hand the transition to Oracle Textura in 2012. A remarkable stat is that even with the 10X growth in revenue, Alston has slightly fewer project accountants now than they had AP/AR clerks then.
Dean is responsible for eighteen projects on average. Each project at its peak might have 20 subcontractors billing every month. That’s 18 owner draws and well over a hundred subcontractor pay applications (projects don’t all peak at the same time).
Dean can handle this because of the efficiency boost Oracle Textura delivers from ERP integration, streamlined workflows, and process controls that virtually eliminate human error.
“Before, about a third of my subcontractor bills, on average, needed a correction, and that problem is now gone”, said Dean.
"My subcontractors tell me they find Oracle Textura easy to use. And of course they love the quick ACH payment. No more overnight deliveries of checks!"
Through the years Dean has made good use of the ever-expanding capabilities in the solution that are the result of Oracle’s ongoing investment in product innovation, as well as calling up Oracle Textura Client Services whenever she needs to.
“Oracle Textura functionality has expanded dramatically over the years” said Dean “I couldn’t be more pleased with it and I love the interaction I have with the client services group who are always there when I need them.”
Before a payment can be made either from the owner to the general contractor or the GC to the subcontractor, a wide variety of sometimes complex paperwork must be completed.
The Oracle solution facilitates the secure digital exchange of current, unconditional, e-signed lien waivers for automated clearing house (ACH) payments; automates payment holds for lien waiver or compliance deficiencies; enforces the use of standardized forms; and prevents unauthorized or fraudulent change orders and payment activity.
“The way Oracle Textura manages compliance docs and lien waivers protects the company and it protects the owner”, Nickerson says.
“My project accountants might have 15 projects with 20 subcontractors each, plus all the lower tiers. It sometimes feels like stacks of lien waivers are flying at your desk. With Oracle Textura, we don’t worry—everything is accurate and where it needs to be.”
In the first few years of using the Oracle tool, Nickerson made a deal with the subcontractors who were used to the old paper-based system and hesitant to paying to use the cloud-based software. If a subcontractor got to the end of the project and didn’t like the system, Alston would reimburse them for their usage cost.
“It never happened. Not once. I’ve never had a subcontractor say it wasn’t well worth it,” Nickerson says.
“Once they see how much easier it is for them to complete the pay application, and how fast they get paid, they’re great with it. Plus, when they’re bidding on a project and they’ve got a GC that pays slow and a GC that pays fast, the one that pays fast gets a better number and a better service.”
To help get those subcontractors and Alston’s project accountants up to speed, the Oracle tool provides each customer a dedicated support team during the implementation that stays on as long as the customer continues to use the solution.
"Working with Oracle Textura over the years has made accounting more effective. It has shortened my monthly close by a week, so I can produce the financials and get them to the people that need them more quickly," Nickerson said.
“Plus, my project accountants are happier today because we got rid of the parts of the job no one liked, like checking math, and chasing after signatures and paperwork.”
In its 35+ year history, Alston has achieved substantial revenue growth. Our client list is perhaps the greatest tribute to the professionalism and performance of the company. We are proud to perform work for owners with whom we have developed lasting relationships, deriving roughly 80% of our work from repeat clients. A privately-held company, Alston has worked on projects ranging from $250,000 to more than $150+ million. Alston’s overall goal is to provide quality, cost efficient projects that leave a positive experience for our clients. Alston has offices located in Allentown, PA; Atlanta, GA; Boise, ID; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Edison, NJ; Houston, TX; Irvine, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Memphis, TN; Miami (Sunrise), FL; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Park City, UT; Phoenix, AZ; Reno, NV; Sacramento, CA; San Jose, CA and Tacoma, WA.
Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data; empower better decision-making; and synchronize activities across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.
Lucie is an experienced technology marketing professional with a current focus on payment and cost-related products in Oracle's construction and engineering global business unit. At Oracle, her work in product marketing is centered on customer engagement and creating the right content to support our customers.
She has over 20 years experience in engineering, product management, marketing, project management, and sales. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MBA, from McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and can be found most nights at the dance studio, prepping for her next ballroom competition.