It’s almost trade show season again, and you’ll be met with all kinds of “integrated” software packages promising to “do it all” for remodelers. But will they?

Let me put it this way: I’ve worked with companies that spent millions of dollars implementing true “do-it-all” enterprise software, such as SAP, but they still had to occasionally fire up a spreadsheet to analyze data. Outrageous? Well, a reciprocating saw, in theory, can cut any material on a jobsite, but would you want to use one to rip plywood?

“Ease of use” is nice, but the reason you automate is to generate meaningful management reporting to help make better business decisions. If that requires you to supplement your management software with a couple of spreadsheets or a third-party reporting tool, so be it. The right information at the right time is more important than saving keystrokes. Here’s my “starter set” of critical management reports for remodelers:

Sales pipeline and marketing analysis. These reports show if your marketing efforts are generating enough qualified leads by ZIP code/product type/buyer demographic to meet your monthly/quarterly/annual sales budget, and which types of marketing are performing the best/worst in which markets.

Without it, you’re spending marketing dollars blindly. Reporting starts with your customer relationship management and sales system but may require a spreadsheet for analysis.

Sales-starts-completions budget vs. actual. The only way to know if you can keep the doors open this year is to know how many jobs and/or how much dollar volume you need to sell/start/complete for the period and at what gross profit percentage, and to then compare that with what your company is actually doing.

Again, you may need to use a spreadsheet because these reports will require you to combine information from several systems.

Financial reports in “management reporting” format. You need these to determine, with certainty, which categories of work (decks, basement remodels) are most profitable, by separating the pure materials and labor (direct job costs) from murkier job-related “period” expenses such as Dumpsters and even supervision.

But many accounting systems are set up for GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) reporting only, so you may have to do some “remodeling” of your own to get management reporting out of off-the-shelf accounting systems.

Cash flow/cash position. These reports allow you to see trend lines in time to act. The reports may require a hybrid of your job costing and production management systems — again, spreadsheets to the rescue.

Warranty liability and customer service. Here, a third-party customer satisfaction vendor such as Guild Quality ( can provide you with the customer’s opinion, but the warranty dollars will have to come from your accounting system.

—Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant serving the building industry; reach him at