Founded by a York University computer science professor, CMiC spent its first decade customizing businesses’ software systems.
The custom nature of the business ensured its customers would be forever in need, but keeping each system modern and updated was a hamster wheel with limited scaling potential. So when now-president and CEO Gordon Rawlins joined CMiC in 1986, he brought in a big idea.
“I decided to take the best of all those custom systems and create one that would work as a commercial product,” says Rawlins, who looked first to the manufacturing world.
“They’d have orders, materials, assembly and schedules all together on one system, because it had to be on time for delivery.” Without time for inefficiencies between departments, manufacturing was an early adopter of integrated software known as ERP solutions (that’s “enterprise resource planning,” if you didn’t know). So was the shipping and distribution industry. Not yet on the ERP train, however, was construction.
For many reasons, digitizing and modernizing the construction world would be far more challenging. “Construction is a more complicated process with more variables, and every project is different,” says Rawlins. But the biggest companies in Canada and single independent contractors had enough in common.
“Everybody’s doing different projects, but underneath it’s the same language: orders, contracts, quantities, budgets, materials. It’s all the same language, and we speak it,” he says. The move paid off: CMiC is currently used by a quarter of the 400 largest construction companies, representing more than 10% of commercial construction in North America.
CMiC’s ERP standard software merges multiple processes—“finance, payroll, cost control, billings, project management, scheduling, workflow”—into one database. Every client’s software is customized to their needs, but CMiC is no longer jogging on that hamster wheel. “We take what they suggest and improve the standard product. So the next person gets that too, and our product just gets better and better, and that’s what keeps us on the cusp.”
Two hundred and fifteen employees at the Toronto-based CMiC are, as always, bracing for expansion: Rather than buy the whole licence, users can now subscribe instead via a newly launched cloud version. Soon they won’t even need a computer—CMiC is currently going entirely mobile.