Construction industry update: advancements in second generation computer software. (The Practitioner & the Computer) (Column)by De Lorenzo, Paula
In the past several years, industry software has grown from an embryonic stage to adulthood. Software has become industry (and even sub-contractor) specific.
Initial packages could handle only a limited number of sub-companies. Today, the most sophisticated packages now afford the capability of processing up to 99 companies. Today's construction software also has the ability to combine or consolidate all or any selected portions of the separate companies.
Produces Detailed Analysis
One of the most sophisticated and powerful examples of the new generation of construction accounting software is The Construction Manager, from Software Shop Systems. With this software, each company can be departmentalized. This provides very detailed sub-ledger analysis. The features afforded by its Job Cost module further enhance the detailed analysis factor. Each job can be studied from the aspect of estimated versus actual costs in as much detail as management and auditors could ever require.
Detailed cost reports are another important feature of TCM and many other sec3nd generation software packages. The reports help identify potential problem areas early and allow management to isolate these areas and implement corrective measures. In addition, estimators rely on historical data to fine tune future bids for more successful results.
From an auditor's viewpoint, such systems can produce schedules of all kinds when balance sheet or income statement analyses are requested.
Although The Construction Manager comes with many pre-written reports, its custom report capabilities are invaluable. The accountant can pull data from any module (Job Cost, General Ledger, Accounts Payable, etc.) and combine it into any format necessary. No programing knowledge is needed to write these reports. They are very easy to create.
The Construction Manager takes networking beyond the typical installation by allowing more than one workstation to access the same company and the same module simultaneously. This feature greatly increases efficiency.
For accounting software to be cost effective, accountants need to make full use of the available features. Software must be user friendly so that the company can take advantage of what it's paying for. An easy to use system, such as The Construction Manager, provides pull down menu programs with "help" screens at each point of entry, a critical feature for users who are not computer oriented.
As software becomes more sophisticated, vendor support becomes more important. Look for companies that offer seminars and classes in all aspects of the system, from entry level to advanced. The vendor must also keep pace with the times, including advances in the system and updates for federal and state tax changes, AIA billing format, etc., as they occur.
Firms must assess the requirements of the lending and bonding companies they deal with regularly. Companies that can provide accurate and detailed information whenever it is requested stand a much better chance of negotiating their line of credit or qualifying for bonding capacity. A software system that can produce these reports can quickly pay for itself.
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