Frank J. Borkowski

On the surface, cloud-based applications and services offerings can look similar, but the devil is always in the details. Are you a production-oriented higher-volume operation? Or a custom remodeler doing fewer but more-detailed jobs? The type of company you operate and the kind of work you do should guide your choice of these applications/services.

Two such offerings, CompuTool  and BuildTools.com, are similar on the surface. Both make good use of the Internet, have a “dashboard” where a user can see what he “needs to do,” and have contact management, estimating, scheduling, and warranty-service capability. But how these features are implemented differs.

CompuTool: Originally developed for Long Island–based Alure Home Improvements, CT is a Web-based management system for home improvement contractors with multiple salespeople using a standardized price book and who may be supported by telemarketing efforts. CT includes modules for lead/pipeline management and sales automation through production and warranty-service.

It is primarily intended to be accessed by company employees and is production workflow–oriented. After qualifying a lead, an assigned salesperson can quickly build an estimate from a stock price book. That same estimate drives automatic creation of a job schedule and other controls such as quality-control checklists needed for job production. The strength of the system is an “enter once” workflow where the same data is captured and moved down the line all the way to warranty service.

BuildTools.com: Focused on the communication needs of smaller-volume contractors doing less-standardized, longer time line one-off projects that require more hands-on attention, BT, like CT, has a customer relationship management module and basic ability to build and track a sales pipeline. There’s also a scheduling module.

But, unlike CT, BT allows customers and subcontractors to log in and view or manage their projects.

Where CT’s strength is enforcing a pre-set workflow, BT’s strength is in encouraging and capturing more free-form project communication between stakeholders.

BT features document and photo libraries where project documents can be uploaded. Alerts can be set so that the necessary parties are made aware of any updates or changes, and email regarding projects can be captured in the project, creating complete end-to-end incidence reporting for the job. BT can be used equally well for custom remodeling projects or new custom homes.

Instead of a fixed-price book, BT provides a mechanism to solicit, secure, and manage subcontractor bids. Bidders can be notified with automatic reminders as the bid due date grows close.

Similarly, the BT selections module assumes the custom contractor is starting with “the universe” of available products versus CT’s standard price-book approach.

—Joe Stoddard is an industry consultant helping remodelers be successful with their technology. twitter.com/moucon; jstoddard@mountainconsulting.com