NOW THAT BUSINESS YEAR 2005 IS IN FULL swing, the odds are pretty strong that many builders will be in the market for some new software or other technology systems. Here are some tips for making sure this year's software doesn't become next year's shelfware.

  • Map it first. Sounds strange, but many builders don't understand how their company actually functions in the real world, especially if they've been on a growth spurt or have recently ventured into new markets. Process mapping is a fancy term for stepping back and drawing flowcharts to show how information (or work) moves through the company.
  • Think paperless. Just because the company distributes a paper report today doesn't mean that's how it has to be done with the new software. When considering technology, always think about how the company can produce less paper and convey the same information.
  • Don't wait for the next version. Always evaluate technology based on what's available right now, not promises of the next release. Even if the missing features actually make it into the software, they may not work as expected or could conflict with something else the company already uses.
  • Use trade shows wisely. While attending a trade show to look at software, don't plan on spending money that day. Preschedule some one-on-one time with key product development people before leaving for the show. Today's trade shows are about meeting people, not looking at product.
  • The biggest mistake builders make is buying the software first and then trying to pound their company into it. Follow these basic steps and the right software should almost select itself.

    Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Reach him at