We have written blogs on many construction related topics in this series. We thought it would be good to answer a question we get asked the most.
Niall Brennan from LiveCosts shares his view on what LiveCosts does and who it was built for.
Now there’s an easier way to track costs
Livecosts is a construction cost management software. A simple solution to a global problem.
Myself and Ciaran have been a part of the construction industry since the age of 16. We are both Carpenters, and as the story goes, went through the ranks to manage construction projects small to large. We have been involved with our own businesses (some better than others!) from Carpentry Contracting to Building Contracting and a few in between.
We both spent some years in Australia and here we founded our own business in the outdoor kitchen space. I have always had a keen interest in software & technology, and given that the business was complicated with many moving parts we found it very difficult to understand if projects were profitable or not. We were constantly being meet with forgotten invoices at the end of a project that would destroy any margin we thought we may have, sound familiar?
After searching for a suitable software and trying accounting software we were still without a solution. Business was good and it allowed us time to try and solve the problem ourselves. We started to build our own internal website to solve our problem.
We completed our time in Australia in 2015 and headed home to Ireland. We both were keen to explore if our simple website could solve common cost problems for other similar businesses. We spent 2 years through many design iterations and feedback loops to arrive at a solution. It is not often in life that you get to think about a problem & solution for so long.
- How are materials ordered?
- What price do we pay for them?
- Where is this invoice from?
- Are the prices correct?
- Was this delivered?
- How much have we spent on this project?
- Did we make money on that roof?
Only some of a multitude of questions and processes that we needed to work through to find simple solutions to.
What Does it do?
Simply, it tells you if you are making money on your projects or not. We do many things along the way to make the processes more efficient, but ultimately in business we are there to turn a profit. Livecosts captures costs at the earliest opportunity, so at the end of each day you can get a true reading of where you are with costs. We capture labour costs and purchase orders from site so as we are spending money, we are also building our costs on the dashboards.
Most companies we speak to have these processes in place already. Maybe it’s Excel, paper softwares and most likely a combination of them all.
How does it do it?
In our research we put a lot of focus on the purchase order. Other softwares we found did manage purchase orders, but missed on the construction context. We needed to know what materials were being ordered, by who and at what agreed rate. We also needed to understand what the materials were being used for on each project.
- Who ordered this?
- From what project?
- From what phase?
- What was the agreed price?
Once we capture the info we apply a temporary cost to the projects phase. It’s temporary because we then need to know if we received all the goods at delivery and if the suppliers invoice matched the agreed amount.
We capture the delivery from the mobile phone also.
- Who ordered this?
- Who received the delivery and at what time?
- Upload the docket to the office.
- Capture any issues with photos and descriptions.
Bills are a problem. The amount of incoming invoices coming by post and email can take a huge amount of time to process. Through an Artificial Intelligence Technology, Livecosts reads the invoices from your main suppliers. This process finds the purchase order and will send the costs to the correct project and phase. It also will find the logged delivery for the order. An added bonus is, Livecosts will extract the material details and their prices, this can be saved and used to re-order that material again and to check the prices against your saved prices. Again all companies we speak to have this process whether in Excel or accounts, but it’s just not very efficient.
Who is LiveCosts for?
Livecosts was initially built for the small contractor or tradesman. But as we iterated through our research we found the same problem exists from a small builder / contractor right through to large commercial / housing developments.
Our current customers are
- Small Builders
- Trade Subcontractors
- Civil Contractors
- Fit out Contractors
- Quantity Surveyors
We have customers in Ireland, UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and recently the US.
Livecosts is in constant development based on a feedback loop from our customers. If our customers are all asking for the same feature, this is what gets prioritised. In the same way if a customer has a great idea it is added to our product roadmap. We have some big plans to connect with material suppliers in the future to further streamline the process.
We are releasing on a monthly basis at the moment. It’s exciting as the product is improving all the time.