In an innovative move for the home building industry, Dunmore Homes in Roseville, Calif., is one of the first builders to successfully deploy business intelligence software, which lets users make database queries over a Web browser and view the results graphically or in a data format.
Dunmore is using software from DimensionalBasix (www.dimensionalbasix.net), a software maker based in Albuquerque, N.M., that has done numerous database management and Web development projects for builders. The software lets Dunmore's senior management, office, and field staff run queries against a series of databases that delivers up-to-date information on the status of the company's projects. Dunmore employees can make queries and view data by specific lot, project, and when the houses were released for construction and sale.
The DimensionalBasix software runs across the Dunmore Access Network (DAN), Dunmore's corporate intranet. Users access DAN via password on the company's intranet and run the application over a Web browser. Each user can customize a home page based on the information that's pertinent to him or her. For example, supers may want to have a weather link, while salespeople would want to see the past week's or month's sales results.
Kathy Mortensen, Dunmore's director of information technology, says the new system gets Dunmore away from storing information in 30-plus Excel spreadsheets scattered in the hard drives of desktop computers across the company.
"In the past, one of the secretaries would fax out the previous week's Excel spreadsheet, then the supers would handwrite the changes and fax them back to the office," says Mortensen.
"The secretary would then key the changes back into Excel, and by the time she got it done for all 12 to 14 projects, another week would pass,'' she says. "Construction and sales would come to meetings with two different spreadsheets that didn't match.''
Mortensen estimates that this closer communication between the field supers and sales could result in a cycle-time gain of about five days. She says the ability to deliver real-time information is a giant leap forward for Dunmore Homes, which hired Mortensen about a year ago to revamp the company's computer systems. Mortensen says when she came on board, Dunmore had two small servers running separate applications for sales, purchase orders, and accounting--and no easy way to query and analyze the data.
Over the past year, Dunmore migrated off the old systems, standardized its basic business processes on NewStar, a construction management system from Dallas-based Realm Business Solutions, and deployed the DimensionalBasix software as a tool for analyzing database queries. Mortensen says Dunmore Homes upgraded its technology infrastructure to equip itself to grow from 800 closings in 2003 to more than 1,500 by 2009.
One of Mortensen's first steps was to work with DimensionalBasix to build a data warehouse of the company's important business data, such as sales, accounting, and lot information--data that users can view over DAN.
The data warehouse stores and manages information in a way that can be easily distributed and accessed by the company's workforce. Building the warehouse was a good way for Dunmore to organize its data so users could more easily make database queries over the intranet.
To build the data warehouse, Dunmore defined all the stages a lot travels through during the construction process. Examples of information that were classified and stored are: the status of framing and permits; whether the unit is a spec home; if the home has a buyer; and when the home is scheduled to close.
Mortensen says it took about 60 days before Dunmore had enough data collected so its employees could start making meaningful queries. Dunmore's next step is to give suppliers, subcontractors, home buyers, and bankers access to DAN.