NSR Management was established 10 years ago to publish, market and sell the National Schedule of Rates, a standard pricing system used by companies and public bodies to maintain, renew and refurbish built assets – including most building types such as schools, offices, houses, civic buildings, and also highways, pavements and external landscaped areas. The Schedules it publishes and sells are an industry-standard series of pricing and payment mechanisms used in term maintenance contracts.
The business was initially formed through a partnership between the Construction Confederation and The Society of Chief Quantity Surveyors (SCQS) which published the first National Schedule of Rates in 1982. Its client list includes major organisations ranging from the Ministry of Justice, NHS Trusts, Network Rail and numerous local authorities, to contractors large and small. NSR Management provides three distinct offerings to these clients: subscription-based software; publications; and consultancy services.
The reliability, functionality and professional appearance of NSR Management’s bespoke software is paramount. Clients rely on this to price and estimate work accurately. They pay to have access to the system and the data contained within it. Many of these clients are blue-chip organisations or substantial public sector bodies, with high standards and expectations. As Managing Director David Fairbrother explains, “Our clients are accountable to their shareholders, and in the case of local authorities and Government departments to the public, so they have to be rigorous and transparent about their spending. They look to us to provide reliable information.”
The National Schedules provided by NSR Management are highly detailed, breaking down each job into constituent tasks and lists of materials: a requirement to refurbish a bathroom can be stripped back to the individual costs for fitting taps and so on. The data sets required to compile all of this information are large and complex.
“There are around 50,000 rated items across the library of schedules, all of which are updated from the bottom-up each year, material prices come directly from suppliers, and the Joint Industry Boards and wage setting bodies provides the labour rates for the individual trades – for carpenters, electricians and plumbers for example.
NSR Management had developed four pricing and payment systems for managing the workflow needs of its clients and the use of their data. These had been built by independent developers over a period spanning many years. “The technology was either old or had limited functionality,” Mr Fairbrother says. “It had got to a point where we needed to consolidate everything on to one versatile platform and drastically improve the functionality.”
A powerful software system which allows each client to access the National Schedules they subscribe to, and build estimates and quotations, process work orders, and raise invoices.
NSR Management decided to invest in the development of a new system with an intuitive interface that belied the complexity of process. The main aim was to make the pricing and payment aspects of contract administration far more efficient, streamlined and integrated.
“With our existing systems, clients could access pricing and compile estimates, but there was no integration between the parties for supporting documents to be uploaded or for the supply chain to be included,” Mr Fairbrother says. “We wanted something that bridged the essential processes for pricing and payment that was robust, auditable and simple to use, and which essentially acted as an integrated solution so that clients could clearly appreciate the value being added.”
As a small business NSR Management did not want to engage a large IT company, but nor did it want to revert to using freelance developers. After some research it identified a selection of SME software companies, from which it chose DCSL Software. DCSL worked with NSR Management to develop a detailed specification for the new software. The Process included needs analysis and early prototyping so that the company could visualise the system that would eventually be developed. “I loved the way the prototype was produced and how I was able to edit certain functions myself on the prototype” Mr Fairbrother recalls.
The new system is a powerful piece of software which allows each client to access the National Schedules they subscribe to, and include bespoke schedules if necessary, and build estimates and quotations, process work orders, raise invoices and create reports. The contractual adjustments agreed as part of the Term Contracts are automatically processed once configured at contract set-up. Contractors can add their supply-chain and subcontract elements of the work to their second tier seamlessly.
I loved the way the prototype was produced and how I was able to edit certain functions myself on the prototype.
This was a complex project. It has achieved the business objectives set by NSR Management – for a robust, intuitive-to-use, professional-looking system that integrates the respective parties, which NSR Management can sell to clients.
Numerous client organisations are already using the new bespoke software, including a number of local authorities and health authorities. Other existing clients have all now moved across as the time came for them to renew their subscriptions. They can see the added value they’ll be getting and we are pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve had to date.”
Mr Fairbrother says, “moving forward, we have already engaged DCSL to create a new module for compiling the schedules to replace the old existing one which out of date and not functioning correctly, this will link with MTCQS creating an all-encompassing piece of software for managing our core business.