By BUILDER Magazine Staff. Back in 1999, Maronda Homes ran a legacy accounting, job costing, and estimating package from MISG Software Solutions that was essentially an old-fashioned IBM AS/400 green screen application. Now, Maronda uses HomeSoft, MISG's updated system that lets the builder run its business applications over a Web browser.

HomeSoft features sales front-end job costing and scheduling, along with task management, estimating, purchasing, and accounting applications. The system, which runs over an IBM iSeries 820 server, manages applications for 350 Maronda users in three states. Users run the system on a Web browser or as a Windows application over a TCP/IP connection.

"What we were looking for was an integrated solution that would let us run Web applications,'' says Mark Piccolo, director of management information systems at Maronda Homes, which builds several thousand units a year in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. "But when we looked around at different programs, we just found best-of-breed products for customer relationship management, estimating, and scheduling. They were all good products but to integrate them we would have had to write a custom interface for each one and maintain multiple databases and platforms without ever having true real-time data.''

No clear path

The story of how Maronda opted for MISG's Web-based approach offers some insight into what many small- and mid-sized builders go through when moving to Web applications. Like most other companies in the building industry, the executives at Maronda read about promising Web applications and were eager to modernize. However, Piccolo says when the company looked for new software, Maronda's IT staff found several Web applications, but no integrated product to run its sales, cost management, purchasing, and back-end accounting system.

Another important point to keep in mind is that Maronda's IT staff consists of Piccolo and two others. Not wanting to patch together custom software applications, Piccolo asked Bob Miles, president of MISG, if MISG could deliver an integrated system. Miles took on the challenge and the result is HomeSoft, a fully integrated system for builders that MISG built with Lansa's development tool.

HomeSoft can be used at the point of sale when a salesperson determines that a customer is interested in buying a house in a specific price range. The salesperson then enters the system and finds out which lots are available and if the lots meet code. The salesperson then works out options with the buyer, such as a screen porch or a swimming pool. When the buyer and the salesperson agree on a price, the system generates a sales contract and receipt of deposit. Since digital signatures are not yet legally binding in the building industry, an officer of the company must still review and sign a paper contract.

Once the contract is signed, the customer makes selections such as the color of the cabinets and carpet. A schedule is then set electronically and purchase orders are issued to Maronda's subcontractors. When Maronda is satisfied with a subcontractor's work, the super posts that the work is complete, and the subcontractor requests payment. This system protects the builder because the sub can't request anything that hasn't been posted. It's also good for the sub because once he requests payment, an invoice is generated that goes through Maronda's accounts payable system. Subcontractors are paid within a few days to a week, and in some cases the next day.

More with the same

Ron Wolf, president of Maronda, hopes that HomeSoft will cut $1,000 out of the cost of a house. His long-term goal is to do more with the same staff. "A competent super can build 50 quality houses a year," he says. "If I can get up to 60 or 70 houses a year, then I can pay my super well above the industry average without reducing profitability."

MISG will market HomeSoft through mass mailings and IBM solution providers from the computer industry's reseller channel. Pricing is under $20,000 for the full package, including the sales module, for one concurrent user. Builders should estimate roughly $100 per house for two to four concurrent users. For more information visit

Maronda Hits Home

Here are five benefits Maronda realizes from HomeSoft:

* Salespeople execute contracts in minutes instead of hours.

* Supers spend less time on paperwork and more time on product quality.

* Annual savings of $200,000 in postage costs.

* Faster payment means more loyal subcontractors.

* Increased data accuracy.