Dan Houghton, co-founder of BuilderTrend, in Omaha, Neb., says that the company tries to offer tools and features that users can include or delete to customize the program to their needs. “One builder might want to look at 20 jobs at a time for a week; others want to see two jobs over two months,” he says. The company is working on two new features that will be available within the next few months.
The program will incorporate purchase orders and change orders.
Users will be able to import estimating spreadsheets and create subcontractor work orders.
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A few years ago, Joe Levitch, president at Levco Builders, in Boise, Idaho, was using Sage ACT to track clients and leads and a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for project scheduling but wanted to find a way to coordinate and access all of this information in one place. In Washington, D.C., Ken Sugarman, managing principal at CMG, was using Microsoft Outlook, email, and “a lot of yelling and screaming” to keep track of his company’s clients and projects.
Both remodelers sought a Web-based solution to provide their teams with access to project information and schedules. They chose BuilderTrend Web-based project management software. “The fact that I can put a tremendous amount of information on it and anyone can look at it — including subcontractors and clients — is a huge advantage to me,” says Levitch, who made the switch in August 2011.
Sugarman creates a profile for a client and adds schedules, drawings, specifications, and other documents. He provides different levels of access to subs and homeowners. The software ensures that all parties have current information, saving the project manager from having to send individual email messages to update the team. Sugarman’s PMs have laptops on site and his carpenters have smartphones, but, he points out, “we’re not generating documents from the field, we’re just looking things up or updating the calendar.”
Levitch says that the software allows him to be more effective — when he thinks of a particular job detail, he can quickly add it to the site so it’s not forgotten. And it has helped him do more projects simultaneously.
Getting up to Speed
The initial training on the software is done over the phone using a screen-sharing tool. “I found it easy to pick up and incorporate into our operation,” Sugarman says. Levitch would have liked more training and didn’t think the program was particularly intuitive. “It doesn’t automatically come organized,” he says. “You have to do a lot of work to make it a great tool for you to use.”
BuilderTrend charges an annual subscription, paid monthly. The cost structure is based on how many projects a company completes each year. Sugarman pays a few hundred dollars per month for his 20 projects and says he gets more than his money’s worth.
Levitch points out that lead carpenters must be computer-savvy and willing to spend time documenting job progress. As with any software, success depends on users actually using it. “You can’t do it half-heartedly or just dabble,” Sugarman says, adding that, once he got staff buy-in, BuilderTrend became the “go-to” for everyone in his company. The slight push-back he received from some older staff who were uncomfortable with typing disappeared when they saw how the communication process improved.
• Interface is customized with the remodeling company’s logo and color scheme.
• Improves communication throughout the remodeling process. Homeowners can check the site whenever they want to get job progress updates, which decreases anxiety. “I am light-years ahead of my competition when it comes to interaction with clients,” remodeler Joe Levitch says.
• Has added a lead management module to help remodelers track leads.
• BuilderTrend app makes it easy for users to add photos and update the daily log using a smartphone.
• Cost of the software includes unlimited service and support. BuilderTrend tries to assign one support person per client so that he or she can become familiar with that particular business.
• Is geared to new-home builders, allowing them to create templates for specific project types. “With remodeling, every project is different,” Levitch says, “so I create [the template] from scratch.” The site does allow users to create selection packages.
• Existing BuilderTrend schedule only allows for listing full-day tasks, not tasks for smaller time segments.
• Remodeler Ken Sugarman asked for and received a more customizable Daily Log so that his field crew would be prompted to fill in the information he wants to collect. The feature is now part of the program.
• Levitch contacted BuilderTrend about providing more flexibility in organizing the information he sees on the screens. The company is working on this.
• Levitch would like more interactive initial training provided.