Firm improves service and reduces costs with Microsoft Office 365

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DeKalb Mechanical empowers employees with mobile access to the information they need to work more efficiently, thanks to Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based productivity services. Instead of waiting to receive information from the office, employees use tablets to retrieve mechanical specifications and equipment submittal data, which saves US $156,000 a year in lost productivity. Employees also use Office 365 online collaboration sites to automate project bids, saving $10,400 in annual printing and couriering costs.

Here’s what Stephen Doonan, president of DeKalb Mechanical had to say:

“By adopting a forward-looking cloud solution like Office 365, we’re able to compete more effectively in the marketplace. It’s like we invested in the future, and it’s already paying us back. After equipping 17 field crew members with tablets to access information from the cloud-based storage in Office 365 … we are avoiding approximately $3,000 a week, or $156,000 a year, in unproductive labor costs. We store the drawings and plans in secure online sites, and we control who has access to the information. Taking paper and courier costs out of the bidding process is saving us approximately $10,400 a year.”

Watch this video to learn more about how DeKalb uses Office 365:

These days, it’s easy to spot DeKalb Mechanical technicians on a construction site—just look for the people carrying tablet PCs. They use the tablets and Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based communication and collaboration tools to access the data that they need to efficiently install the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) elements for a new building. Tablets are also an essential part of the toolkit that DeKalb Mechanical technicians carry to residential jobs, where they use the devices to quickly retrieve technical information and customer service histories. These scenarios describe DeKalb Mechanical technicians’ everyday work lives, because company owner Stephen Doonan saw the productivity-enhancing potential of Office 365 to boost his company’s competitive advantage.

Doonan founded DeKalb Mechanical with a vision to partner with building owners and general contractors, providing fair, integrity-laden customer service that goes beyond the norm.

“I believe in empowering employees to make the right decisions, at the right time, with the right information,” says Doonan. “The more empowered an employee feels, the more engaged and insightful he or she becomes in finding ways to deliver great service. And every time our customer gets good service, our business benefits.”

Improved data access reduces costs

Dekalb 1Before moving to Office 365, Doonan was looking for a way to convey information to his employees who worked remotely. All of them had email, but it was impossible to digitally access the shop drawings, plans, specifications and material data that make up the information that everyone in the construction industry relies on to work productively. Employees ended up carrying around paper files, which were hard to keep dry in bad weather, calling the office to request that copies be made, and waiting for the information to be delivered.

“Every minute that an employee waits is $1.80 wasted for me,” says Doonan. “With labor being among the highest cost in my business, I want to do everything I can to reduce unproductive downtime.”

Doonan achieved that goal when Sundog, DeKalb Mechanical’s IT partner, suggested that employees use the cloud-based services within Microsoft Office 365—email, file sharing, online collaboration, 1TB of online storage, instant messaging and videoconferencing.

“I’m sold on a good idea, and Office 365 and the cloud are definitely a good idea,” says Doonan. “After equipping 17 field crew members with tablets to access information from the cloud-based storage in Office 365, we are saving at least three hours a week per employee. No one is waiting on a job site for information required to make decisions and get back to work. Today we are avoiding approximately $3,000 a week, or $156,000 a year, in unproductive labor costs.”

Streamlined bidding wins more work

DeKalb Mechanical is also able to bid for more contracts—and winning more jobs—by streamlining its response to requests for proposals. The company is channeling all communications about bidding for contracts through Microsoft SharePoint Online, the collaboration platform within Office 365.

For every bid, DeKalb Mechanical has to compile quotes from an average of 12 subcontractors. The company bids for four new jobs a week on average. Previously, this meant printing and mailing or couriering 48 sets of plans and specifications every week at a cost of US $12 per set—and then waiting for the subcontractors’ responses. Every bid is time-sensitive, and it was always a rush to review and choose the best quotes from subcontractors before DeKalb Mechanical could submit its bid.

Today the entire project bid process happens digitally. “We store the drawings and plans in secure online sites, and we control who has access to the information,” says Doonan. “Subcontractors instantly download the plans and specifications that they need to give us a quote. Taking paper and courier costs out of the bidding process is saving us approximately $10,400 a year.”

Virtual job coordination drives efficiency

DeKalb Mechanical is saving money on travel costs and improving efficiency through productive online videoconferences with subcontractors and remote employees on job sites. Today the all-important coordination meetings that happen at the beginning of a job are handled remotely, using a Skype for Business online videoconference.

“It is important to clarify responsibilities and schedules at the outset of a job,” says Michael Sneed, the IT Director and coordination point person at DeKalb Mechanical. “But now that I run the coordination meetings from the office, we’re finalizing everything quickly so we can begin work faster. Recently we had a person join using a laptop and a projector at the job site trailer in Chicago, and we had someone link in from Florida, and we were able to coordinate the duct work, the pipe work and the electrical. We made changes to the drawings right on the screen, shared those changes and finalized everything in one efficient meeting, which saved me four hours of driving time.”

Improved productivity enhances customer service

Now that DeKalb Mechanical service technicians are not waiting for information during service calls, they are completing jobs faster and increasing customer satisfaction. “If I have a technician who needs the specification for a furnace that he is working on in someone’s basement, and he has to wait for the office to get back to him before he can determine what needs repairing, he is also making the customer wait,” says Doonan. “Now everything a tech needs—including a customer’s entire service history—is stored online, and we can get people’s furnaces up and running faster, which is a real benefit in the middle of winter in Illinois.”

Doonan describes his experience with Office 365 as a gratifying ratification of his personal belief in the power of business technology. “By adopting a forward-looking cloud solution like Office 365, we’re able to compete more effectively in the marketplace. It’s like we invested in the future, and it’s already paying us back.”

To read the rest of Steve’s story and the stories of other small business owners like Steve Doonan, download our eBook, “What I wish I knew.”

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