By Charles Wardell. When customers go to a builder's Web site to choose options, their choices trigger a chain of behind-the-scenes actions. These need not be done by an expensive piece of custom software.

Instead, different applications from different vendors can do the job together like members of a framing crew raising walls and roofs. The builder pays a fee to the company that manages it all.

The example shown here is of someone upgrading a faucet. The process is managed by, which provides a Web-based options selection tool. When the customer asks to see the faucet, Builderfinish fetches the needed data from various databases and applications, and then displays it on the builder's Web site. The data can also be shared with back-office applications such as BuildSoft. Of course, the vendors shown here aren't the only possible choices, but the drawing shows how any set of applications might work together.

Note that the drawing is conceptually simple compared to what goes on at a technical level. Orchestrating the different players to create a seamless customer experience is a complex task, and the managing vendor needs to understand the technologies used by the various players, as well as home buying and home building.