I recently took an in-depth look at Compu-Tool, one of the most focused “front-end” systems — not surprising, because it was developed largely for Alure (www.alure.com), one of the largest remodelers in the United States. If you're ready to step up from ACT! or other stand-alone sales or estimating systems, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Some highlights:

Customer relations management: Compu-Tool streamlines call-taking, lead qualifying, and marketing automation. It produces a true cradle-to-grave incident log for each prospect or customer. A unique “future needs” feature helps you turn lemons into lemonade by finding new reasons to contact a prospect.

Estimating: Compu-Tool uses HomeTech estimating data but does it one better with dual descriptions (short for sales, long for construction), the ability to embed photographs with every item, and the ability to insert one-off items anywhere in the quote (instead of lumped in a “Misc” category).

Sales: Compu-Tool works in “online/offline” mode. Salespeople can use a laptop to generate proposals while in front of prospects and synchronize with the network when they return. If the sync hasn't occurred within a pre-set time, data on the laptop is nuked, making it tougher for rogue salespeople to shop your jobs elsewhere.

What's missing: Compu-Tool does have some basic scheduling/production/warranty management tools, but it can't create (or track) purchase orders; it's not an accounting package, and it's not a document management system. It will, however, share data with common accounting systems such as QuickBooks.

Pricing: Compu-Tool is meant to be installed on your Windows network, but it can also be hosted by the company and accessed remotely using Citrix (Terminal Services). Base price is $4,495, which includes setup/customization, plus $350 for each concurrent user and $700 for each mobile user.

Find more information at www.computool.com. —Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Reach him at jstoddard@smaconsulting.net.