Jim Campbell headshot

Construction Industry Payment Automation Q&A: Jim Campbell  — Part I

After graduating from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Jim Campbell began his professional career in 1979 with Timberline Software Corporation, a pioneer in the development of application software for the construction and real estate industries.

After serving in various roles, Jim was appointed to the executive team as Vice President of Sales in 1996. The company was purchased in 2003 by Sage Software, and Jim continued in his senior management role there until 2005, when he became President of CIS Consulting Group, Inc. in Charlotte, NC.

In 2010, CIS was acquired by Viewpoint Construction Software, where he served as Channel Sales Manager for North America until joining AvidXchange as Vice President of Construction Sales in March of 2016.
Jim is a native of Concord, NC, and resides there with his wife Margie, who is a partner at Stocks, Smith, Campbell and Dendy, PA, a local CPA firm.

They have three children and four grandchildren. He is a Lifetime Honorary Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club of Cabarrus County, having served in several leadership capacities there and at his church, Central United Methodist. He is a current board member of Uwharrie Capital in Albemarle, NC, the holding company for Uwharrie Bank.

When you joined Timberline Software in 1979, how did that software benefit the construction industry?
It was really all about construction accounting. This thing called “jobcost” was emerging, which was originally handled inside the general ledger system, but it was more than the general ledger could handle – it was a special, subsidiary ledger that budgets, revisions, actuals, and projections, all needed to be pledged against, so it turned into jobcost. Today we call it project management.

Construction accounting (cost management) was produced out of the accounting systems at the time. Computer hardware was coming down, so prices were coming down. Packaged software was becoming en vogue, which helped drive software costs down and made it more appropriate for vertical markets, like construction.

What was the AP process like back then? How has automation changed it?
The idea of cost control (i.e. ‘committed costs’ or ‘purchasing’) wasn’t all that well developed, so the process was about entering invoices into an integrated system that connected accounts payable, job costs, and general ledger. It was quite the paper shuffle.

Checks were loaded into dot matrix printers, then the checks were printed in three copies, signed, mailed for delivery, and filed. One copy would go in the job file, and the other copy would be filed with the vendor. There was a lot of paper and labor-intensive processes, and not a lot of efficiencies to be found.

With automation, getting rid of paper creates efficiencies. Construction companies can focus on front-end cost control and subcontracts. With electronic routing and approval, companies have so much more control (and visibility) over their payables. An invoice is easier to find when it’s in an integrated accounting system instead of stuck in the sun visor of a pickup truck. Make no mistake about it, the paper chase is for real in the construction industry! In an automated system, you know when invoices come in, which balances are outstanding, when payments are due and who hasn’t approved invoices and payments. You’re also alerted to compliance infractions, like if the certificate of insurance expired for an employee’s workers’ comp or liability insurance.

The most important part of AP is a proper approval and coding process – making sure those costs show up where they’re supposed – so your comparisons to budget/estimate are in line. That’s how construction is managed at the cost level – did it end up costing what we said it would cost? That’s accomplished with proper coding. Automation makes coding and approval easy!

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