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  • | 10:00 a.m. March 20, 2015
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David Diamond faced a technology crossroads of sorts a year ago.

The president and co-founder of DeAngelis Diamond Construction was looking at a $90,000 bill to upgrade the aging and unreliable computer servers at the company's Naples headquarters. “There's got to be a better way,” Diamond recalls thinking.

Diamond, who also is an active angel investor in technology companies, turned to experts from Silicon Valley to help him move the company's information technology to the cloud. “We wanted to be able to work anywhere on any device at any time,” he says.

That's become even more critical during the economic recovery. DeAngelis Diamond has projects as far away as New Mexico and the Cayman Islands. “We've become an international company,” Diamond says.

Initially, the company budgeted $100,000 for the transition. But Diamond says it ended up costing three times that sum in new hardware, software and consulting fees. “We had no choice,” Diamond says.

More specifically, DeAngelis Diamond moved all its files to servers belonging to a company called Box, which charges $25 a month per user. Diamond says he's satisfied with the company's security and reliability. Indeed, General Electric and most Fortune 500 companies use Box today, Diamond says. “Now it's not so scary,” he says.

Today, DeAngelis Diamond has no servers and no desktop computers. Everything is stored on the Box cloud and every employee has a laptop that can access files from anywhere. “It's more secure on the cloud than in your building,” says Diamond, who noted that the old DeAngelis Diamond servers routinely crashed, creating headaches for the company's 140 employees. “More than half the company is remote,” he says.

That's especially important for employees in the field, who can now access their files while walking around a construction site on their mobile device, for example. “He never has to go back to his trailer to send an email,” Diamond says.

To help it make the transition, the company hired Benissimo, a San Francisco-based consulting firm that helps companies move to the cloud. “We did it within a few months,” says Diamond.

Diamond's son Brett Diamond also became the company's chief innovation officer to steer the shift. He coordinates teams of employees that review technology to make sure it fits three criteria: the technology must provide a better experience for the customer; it must give DeAngelis Diamond a competitive advantage; and it must make employees more productive.

On the software side, DeAngelis Diamond now uses Microsoft Office 365, which provides a cloud-based suite of Office software such as Word and Excel. The software works seamlessly with Box, Brett Diamond says.

The company has also adopted new software for its accounting office and field employees. For example, Textura construction-management software automatically handles payments for subcontractors as they finish their work. “It saves our accounting department a lot of headaches and time,” Brett Diamond says.

Another tool is PlanGrid, an application that allows employees in the field to review blueprints on an iPad and make and upload notations for architects and engineers to review if there's something wrong. The program is so intuitive that even older supervisors who are used to paper blueprints find it easy to use, David Diamond says.

To test new technology, the company formed teams of employees with fun names like Team Spidey, Team Superman and Team Genius. For example, Team Ring is now exploring a voice-over-internet phone system. Brett Diamond doesn't want to be the one to order the use of new technology: “Then, everyone hates me,” he laughs.

Once the company adopts new technology, employees are trained inside a large bright conference room in Naples dedicated to training dubbed DeAngelis Diamond Academy. In addition, groups of people who use the same technology get together regularly to share tips on how to use it more effectively. “They train each other,” Brett Diamond says.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

 

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