Making QuickBooks and MS Office builder ready. By Joe Stoddard Most small- to mid-sized builders use QuickBooks Pro for accounting and Microsoft Office for creating and managing documents and spreadsheets. But most lack the time or inclination to cook up the dozens of documents and accounting configurations--purchase orders, change orders, and other forms--needed to make these two programs construction specific. So they struggle along, never taking full advantage of either. If you're not ready to step up to an enterprise solution such as BuilderMT or MasterBuilder, the best solution I know of is BuildWorks by Synapse Software in Henrietta, N.Y. In fact it's the only real contender. This middleware program has none of its own executable files; instead, it's a collection of forms and templates designed to work with QuickBooks Pro, Word, and Excel (see "Purchase Points"). It puts a construction-specific framework over a generic foundation. I recommend this program for builders who have fewer than five people accessing their accounting files. It's also meant to be used by companies that build in one geographical area; someone with three sales offices would find it impossible to synchronize, a weakness it inherits from QuickBooks. Setup also takes some work, but Synapse has excellent technical support.

BuildWorks users are greeted by an Excel-based navigator, which provides links to dozens of pre-formatted document and estimating templates, as well as export features to QuickBooks Pro and user-defined documents. BuildWorks is available in six versions, starting at $750. Most home builders opt for the builder version, which costs around $2,000 (which doesn't include Office or QuickBooks). Joe Stoddard ( is a technology consultant to the building industry, and publisher of the Construction Business Computing newsletter. Purchase Points Here are some of the construction-specific capabilities BuildWorks adds to QuickBooks and Office.

  • Full cash or accrual accounting with detailed financial and job cost reporting and analysis
  • Pre-configured estimating spreadsheets (including a quick quote that leverages historical data for fast, accurate preliminary pricing)
  • Production management documents (requests for quotes, purchase orders, change orders, and job log reports)
  • Management and accounting reports (budget export and detail reports, progress statements, time cards, and subcontractor agreements)
  • Sales and service documents (specifications, options and selections management, client interview, and punchlists)