By Joe Stoddard. Q: I just finished a $6 million 11,500-square-foot home. We plan to do two more in succession, running them as separate timelines, from land acquisition through permits, and hearing to certificate of occupancy. For our task/time needs we use Microsoft Project, which works well for us. For these projects, however, we need an integrated task/time and accounting package. Any suggestions? For now, we've defaulted to Microsoft Project and Excel, but as they are not integrated, we ran into trouble keeping them both current.--Paolo Tiramani, 500 Group, Stanford, Conn.
A: Because you are a custom builder looking for some scheduling/accounting integration, there are at least three packages you should put on your short list for evaluation. CDCI (www.cdci.com), BuildSoft (www.homesphere.com), and Master Builder (www.masterbuilder.intuit.com) will let you click your schedule ahead by approving purchase orders or work orders on the accounting side. CDCI recently released a slick Palm OS interface that will let your production people do it from the jobsite.
Please note that despite what salespeople tell you, any integrated software will require a good dose of elbow grease to get it up and running on your projects and will probably require you to modify your business processes somewhat. To ease the process, try to find the piece of software that will most closely adhere to what you're already doing. There is no magic bullet, but there are good solutions if you're willing to take on the effort.