Good software and hardware often turns into "shelfware" because you bought it to address the wrong problem, or because your company just wasn't ready for it.

I call a remodeler's potential to successfully use technology his "TQ" — Technology Quotient. Here are some tips that will raise your TQ and ensure that your next technology purchase succeeds.

Mission control. A well-written mission statement can help guide every technology decision you make. For example, if your company's mission is to provide "design/build services," then CAD might be a key component; for a handyman company, it might be just a distraction.

The lead pencil test. You wouldn't refinish an entire kitchen just because of one sticky drawer. Ditto for technology. Think of the evaluation process as rubbing a lead pencil over a high spot so you know where to sand. For instance, keeping better track of your sales process probably requires a copy or two of ACT! ($249 MSRP) and a little training; you don't need a new network server and live-in consultant.

Get on schedule. Tech improvements are a project. Like any project, they require a schedule. If you're setting up a new estimator, this month tackle the price book; next month test the program on past work; in month three, use the system on a "live" project. Your target dates may be arbitrary, but it's better to shoot for something than just muddle along.

There's no "I" in tech. Successful technology projects require a serious dose of team-building. Unless you work by yourself, whatever you do with technology is going to affect other people. Handing your 50-something lead carpenter a PDA for scheduling won't get you squat unless you're also willing to train him to use it effectively; and even the best purchase order system will be a waste of time without your subs on board.

Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. For private help contact him at