Productive Scheduling

Managing multiple projects can be a daunting task. Even worse — managing multiple tasks within multiple projects, especially when one starts before the last one ends. Remodelers who have nailed down this area of management have found sanity with scheduling software or project management programs.

While Excel and MicroSoft Project are still being used, the latest software applications are designed specifically for the remodeler, general contractor or builder. It serves as a central station for work order management, job management, service management, contact management, etc. Being able to control all of these functions in one program leads to the overall productivity of a company — productivity = profitability.

Scheduling Software
The benefit to having a master document is simple — better time-management. “Remodelers can waste a huge amount of valuable time faxing or e-mailing work orders to subcontractors or suppliers,” says Trisha Freiburger, marketing manager at VirtualBoss. “With the VirtualBoss program, remodelers can change/update work orders and within two clicks, the fax or e-mail is sent.”

VirtualBoss is a job scheduling, task management software designed for remodelers, contractors and builders. The program allows the user to track jobsite details that can easily be found with multiple sorting and filtering options.

Information maintained for every job includes:
• job number
• development name
• owner’s name
• owner’s phone number
• lock box combination
• directions to the jobsite and address
• special jobsite notes.

“This program keeps track of the “big picture,” says Frieburger. “Punch lists, service calls and to-do items won’t be forgotten or fall through the cracks; enter job pertinent data once and it is automatically reflected on all reports.

“All of this information is displayed on work orders, and saves time and money by saving the remodeler from answering the same questions over and over again,” adds Freiburger.

Most scheduling programs are based on a real-time basis, so the project manager always knows the exact status of any job. Assured Computer Systems has developed a job management and tracking software that does just that.

According to their Web site, when the job is entered, the software automatically builds the job routing, reserves the required materials and schedules operations. These items may be changed after the job is entered to accommodate for routing, material or schedule changes.

Employees are also able to clock-in directly on the specific operation for a job through the use of the Labor Collection system.

A ’suite‘ deal
For those who enjoy a fully-integrated business management software program, the options in the market are abundant. “Corecon 4.0 is our next-generation estimating and project management solution,” says Norman Wendl, president of Corecon Technologies, Huntington Beach, Calif. “It is a solution that provides everything in one package.”

Corecon 4.0 is designed for the mid-sized remodeling firm. The software addresses both estimating and project management as well as job cost control with custom solutions for contractors, subcontractors, home builders, remodelers and architects. Containing all of the features of Corecon 3.0, plus many more, Corecon 4.0 can be accessed from remote locations using a secure login ID and password. Users can also deploy Corecon on an ASP or “self host” the application on their internal server.

Offered by one of Intuit’s three businesses serving industry-specific, or vertical, markets, the new Master Builder Version 10 includes more than 60 customer-driven features and enhancements. Key findings from existing customers have created “must-have” product features in an all-in-one software package that handles estimating, production, accounting and business analysis.

Master Builder Version 10 includes new information-sharing capabilities, including the ability to export data to other standard business applications, and enhanced reporting features. Combined, these features allow remodelers to further analyze data to gain greater insight into business, financial and project performance.

Additionally, new communications features improve business productivity by simplifying and automating information flow with employees, vendors, subcontractors and clients.

The Master Builder construction management package links the four crucial areas of a contractor’s business — estimating, production, accounting and analysis — into one comprehensive, easy-to-use business tool. Among the customer-requested features included in Master Builder Version 10 are:

• Efficient estimating — With the click of a button, notes taken during the estimating process can be easily exported to critical Master Builder functions, including purchase orders, change orders, work orders and requests for proposals. Important specifications don’t fall through the cracks.
• Greater production — Expanded communication features allow reports and schedules to be e-mailed or faxed to employees as planning and budget changes occur. Everyone remains up to date. A streamlined setup process reduces the time needed for administrators to add new users or vendor data.
• Simplified accounting –— Contractors now have the ability to handle two-party checks and partial payments on the same invoice. This reduces the complexity of subcontractor and multivendor payments.
• Detailed business analysis — A new export feature allows contractors to easily send data from Master Builder to Microsoft Excel for in-depth examination to reveal excessive costs, revenue opportunities or both. Additionally, the software contains improved GAAP-based professional financial statements including balance sheets, income statements and statements of cash flow.

Education is key
“Easy-to-use” is not a common phrase that remodelers associate new software programs with. Today, software manufacturers are taking education far beyond the basics, but with a remodelers hectic schedule in mind.

All Corecon users can take full advantage of its technical support expertise either via telephone or on the Web.

“We offer 50 videos, between two and five minutes in length, on the support system site,” says Wendl. “We don’t want the software sitting of a shelf somewhere, we want our users to fully embrace everything this product offers.”

Corecon recently launched five Live Web classes. These take place Mondays through Fridays at 9 a.m. and each day showcases a different topic.

Built on the proven technology of Microsoft Office and QuickBooks, Construction Office is easy to learn and easy to use. The user guide included with the order provides detailed step-by-step instructions to help the user learn Construction Office. According to the company, within a few weeks to a month of daily use, most users will feel completely confident using Construction Office.

The mobile office
The new trend in scheduling software is making things mobile. These days, who doesn’t have a Palm Pilot or pocket PC of some sort. The Palm VirtualBoss brings the best features of VirtualBoss to the portable device.

“If you’re at the jobsite and need to make adjustments, you can make changes on the spot,” notes Freiburger. “You can add notes, make changes to your schedule and synchronize those changes with your PC.”

Freiburger also adds that VirtualBoss is working on developing relationships with other estimating software providers, adding higher levels of security.

Corecon 4.0 is an Internet-based software. Wendl states that the new trend in software programs, called On-Demand Computing or Software As A Service, will revolutionize the industry. “The idea is that instead of buying software from a big vendor and installing it on-site, companies simply pay a fee and access the software over the Web,” explains Wendl.

“Taking advantage of Microsoft’s .NET platform, we have developed a best-of-breed enterprise level solution for AEC companies that combines estimating, project management and job cost control,” adds Wendl. According to Wendl, 30 percent of Corecon users have already deployed the software for the Web using Citrix or Terminal Server. He predicts that in two years, all project management software solutions will be Web-based to meet the demands of AEC firms with multiple users, and multiple jobsite or office locations.

Analysts believe On-Demand Software is gaining traction with small businesses. Gartner, Inc. projects that 30 percent of small- and medium-size businesses will choose On-Demand Software to provide their enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management or supply chain management functions by 2006, up from 10 percent in 2003.