BuildIT Software Update - version 4.9 update (April 2010)

Construction Scheduling Just Got Easier!

This release is all about better scheduling: giving you better visibility into your projects.

Most folks come to BuildIT looking for a scheduling solution and we strive to deliver powerful (yet easy) tools for managing your projects. A good old fashioned calendar is still a common, understandable tool for seeing what happens when, and how tasks relate to each other - and now you can work with your schedule in a calendar view!

Here's how to view your schedule in a calendar format:

1. Click the "schedule" tab.
2. On the left menu, choose between "calendar:start date" or "calendar:due date" of "calendar:all dates".
3. Presto: you have all the controls you had with the Gantt and List views, but in a familiar Calendar format.

:: You can go to a specific month or go ahead or back in 1 or 4 week jumps.
:: You can set the default to the number of weeks you would like to see at a time in the task preferences.
:: Create a task for a specific date by click on the respective "new" button.

See your tasks in a familiar calendar view, along with the status of each task indicated by the appropriate color. This color status is now a new option in the "list" and "list and details" view of your tasks (you'll need to go to your task preferences to turn it on).

You can still view your tasks by clicking the "calendar" tab, and see how your tasks relate to your calendar appointments. More options. More power. Better visibility. All translates to better scheduling.

Since our last user update, here are some highlights of what we've added:

:: Favorites/Shortcuts: on the Files tab, you can create favorites that can appear as job files, task files, send as "sharing links", and more. Want your installer to see video on how to do the job "right"? - just add the favorite as a task file!

:: PDF letterhead, automatically generated from your company information in SETUP - to view, click the "docs" tab, then click "letterhead settings" in the lower left - then click the buttons to the right of "view generated letterhead". If you want a more customized letterhead, let us know.

:: On the Job List you now have the option to default your job list to Current And Future jobs - no point in seeing all your PAST and LOST jobs all the time - just display what's hot.

:: Easily send email to one contact who may have 2 or more email addresses - just edit their contact info and add additional email addresses separated by a semi-colon ";" This same method can be used to create "group contacts", allowing you to send one email to many, just by clicking one contact.

:: Recurring appointments: simply create a calendar appointment, and then click the appropriate "SAVE AND CLONE" button as many times as you need duplicate appointments.

A huge range of professional PDF documents are coming up: The existing text-based BuildIT document generator has served many of our customers well over the years, generating nearly 100,000 documents to date! These new "super docs" will merge contact, user and project information to customized PDF documents, along with your letterhead and logo, giving you a huge step-up in presentation.

We'll be releasing a host of standard PDF construction docs (change orders, contracts, invoices and far more). Plus, as a BuildIT customer, you can have your own construction documents converted over to "super doc" format. Save time, be more consistent and professional.

Need a schedule in PDF format? More and more first time BuildIT users are asking for PDF schedules - for their clients, design professionals, bankers, and so on. Just a reminder, BuildIT is here to help with this, and we can quickly convert your schedule in BuildIT to a PDF, in the smallest size paper that will suit that particular schedule. And, if need be, we can "tile" the schedule, and have it print to a number of standard sized sheets, that you can piece together like a puzzle.

Check it out a small sample PDF schedule at this link:

https://www.builditsystems.com/Features/SampleSchedule.pdf

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

BuildIT's Top 10

It struck me the other day...

BuildIT has been around for almost a decade - and I've been with BuildIT since the beginning.  Over the years, the questions I get asked by prospective customers (and new ones) are basically the same.

Here are the top 10 questions, in no particular order, with our carefully prepared responses.

1. Is my data safe and secure? And what happens to my information should you go out of business?

A: Absolutely, your data is safe much safer with us than on your own laptop. Our servers are located in a large professional hosting facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our customers' data is stored on servers with RAID (multiple redundant) hard drives, immediately backed up to other servers with RAID hard drives, and regularly copied offsite to increase redundancy of backup protection. For more information on the security of your data, click here.

We understand that anything is possible. We want to assure our customers that they own their data. So at any time, their data can be downloaded off our server, and copied over to their computer. We can also do a "data dump" of all customer data, burn that to a DVD, and send it to a customer.

2. What does "area" and "code" mean when you create a new scheduled task?

A: Area and Code fields are for customers that wish to further differentiate/sort their tasks.

Imagine you have 100 tasks, and you want to filter out just the 8 tasks that are related to "inspection". Type in "inspection" into the "Area" field. Now, this value "inspection" will be available in the picklist for future tasks.

When viewing your schedule, you can adjust the filters in the left margin. One of those filters is "Area" - you'll see the value "inspection" there. Select, and refresh your list, and the view of those tasks related to "inspection" will display.

Those fields are really user defined. "Area" could mean 1) area of the project, 2) geographic area (SW, NE, County), 3) area of responsibility (financial, preconstruction, warranty).

"Code" could mean 1) CSI master format division code, 2) accounting code, 3) PO number, etc.

3. What is the difference between a "to do", a "note" and a "task"?

A: "To do's" are like virtual Post-IT notes. They are related to a BuildIT user, and can be connected to a job. They allow you to deal with the slippery items that if not "written down", cost you time, money and aggravation in the end. One BuildIT user can create "to do's" for him/herself and for other users.

"Notes" are related to a BuildIT user, can be connected to a job, AND can be connected to ONE contact in your database. Use "Notes" to log conversations, verbal commitments, and any potential litigious situations. Remember that a short "digital" pencil is better than a long memory!

"Tasks" are the individual elements of a "schedule". Like "notes", "tasks" are related to a BuildIT user, can be connected to a job, AND can be connected to ONE OR MORE contacts in your database. Tasks can be displayed in LIST view, GANTT chart view, and CALENDAR view.

4. How many customers do you have?

A: For competitive reasons, we can't disclose any numbers. But we can tell you that we've been in business for many years, and have enjoyed building a customer base, and a valuable application that solves real problems for real construction professionals. Each of our customers has a contact database of their customers and business associates, and each of those has access to a free website from BuildIT that allows for collaboration between our customer, and our customer's contacts. And many of our customers have multiple users in their company that access the system. So when you add all those up, the number gets quite impressive!

Really, the question reflects the concern of the prospective customer - he doesn't want to be the first guy taking the plane up into the sky on it's maiden voyage. No worries there, we welcomed our first retail customer back in 2002 - I was there when they delivered the cheque... it was a great day at BuildIT!

When we hear this question, we realize the underlying question is "If I choose BuildIT, will I be in good company with other customers like me that are finding success with the program?".  The answer is a resounding YES.

5. Are you the only one who answers the phone?

A: Most of the calls get sent through to my line — I like to talk!  And it frees up the rest of the team to focus on development of the application, and other corporate stuff. But with a simple, easy to use application, online help system and online video tutorials, most folks get up and running with BuildIT wil very little input from our tech support line. Still, we encourage you to call !

6. How do you print out a schedule to send to a client/builder/subtrade?

A: You can print from your browser, or from the yellow "do this" control in the top right. If you want a PDF of the schedule, you'll need a PDF driver on your computer. If you don't know what that is, call, and we'll help you create a PDF at our end.

Alternatively, you can share the schedule in real time with anyone in your contact database. The big win here is that you're online schedule is "real time", whereas a printed schedule gets out of date quickly which can be a pain in the pocketbook when someone builds the wrong thing from the old printed schedule.

7. Do you have linked tasks / Critical Path?

A: Kind of. While our scheduling system is simple, and we haven't complicated the task editor with "linkages", we do have a simple way to create a Critical Path... so when you make a change to one task, that has a cascading effect on the rest of the schedule from that point forward, then yes, we have a way to do that. More on that at this link.

8. What happens when the Internet goes down (or I don't have access to the Internet)?

A: It's like asking what happens when you're car runs out of gas? We find another way to get to our desitination, or we don't go anywhere. The same could be said of BuildIT's "web-based" application. Being "web-based" means just that. Without access to the Internet, you can't access the application. However, the benefits of having 24-hour access – even while on vacation – easily make up for the other possible problems like being unable to get back to your office, fire, theft, broken computers, etc.

For most BuildIT customers, Internet access is ubiquitous - it's everywhere, available 99%+ of the time. So it's really a moot point for them - but they have asked the question too!

For you iPhone and Blackberry users, you can access your BuildIT email right from our server. And version 5.0, being worked on as I write this, will give you mobile access to optimized screens of the BuildIT application - expect this in early 2010. 

9. What is your pricing?

A. Low. Way less than most comparable construction software products – and reasonable.  With BuildIT you easily achieve a rapid return on investment, literally within weeks of getting up an running with the system. For current pricing, check out our pricing page. We'll help you determine the optimum number of user accounts to get started with, and the subscription plan that best suits your budget. 

10. How do I organize my contacts?

A: There are a number ways to organize contacts in BuildIT: by job, by contact group (client, contractor, subtrade, design professional, etc.), by user defined fields in the contact record, and alphabetically (by First Name, Last Name or Company Name). BuildIT's "contact picker" allows you to select contacts for assigning to jobs, tasks, notes - and for sending out email, web faxes and text messages. Each customer has unique contact organization needs - we'll help you with that as we configure your account to suit your unique business requirements.

Didn't get your question answered? Well, it may be in the Top 20 or Top 30 list. Or it may be an original. Give us a call. See if you can surpise us with a "never before asked" question, and put our customer service to the test!

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Does BuildIT have a Critical Path?

"Does BuildIT have a Critical Path?" — we're often asked that question.  First, some background:

Critical Path (also known as Critical Path Method, or CPM) is a scheduling method for dealing with multiple activities (or "tasks" as we call them) required to complete a project. The duration of the project is the sum of sequential tasks, with each task having it's own duration.

The relationship between tasks is such that a change in a critical task will most likely change the overall construction timeline, either shrinking it, or extending it. I say "most likely" because in construction, scheduling tends to be more of an art than a science, and often there are negotiated activities that take place to ensure the project is kept "on track", like doubling up of trades, working on non-working days, and working longer hours in the day.

CPM is taught at the university level as part of construction project management. Tonnes of books are written on it. Thick ones, expensive ones. There is a Project Management Institute that teaches and certifies project managers. There is a science behind CPM, and some big words /phrases that come along for the ride:

  • predecessors/successors
  • resource levelling
  • sequential dependencies / linked tasks
  • float
  • crashing / fast tracking

BuildIT made the decision years ago to provide a better solution to small to mid sized construction professionals, many of whom are artisans, business owners, and do too much without enough hours in the day. We saw the landscape of software available to this audience, and quite frankly, it was way too complicated and costly for the majority of the folks we had interviewed, and continue to speak to on a daily basis.

There is not a week that goes by that we don't hear from someone that "we tried software X for scheduling, and it was way more than what we needed". How can that be if it had all the bells, whistles, buzz words, fancy computer algorithms and a printed Gantt chart that would make any Ph.D. drool!?

There is enough complicated, complex, "enterprise level" software out there for those of you that need it. Call me and I'll make some recommendations if you feel you need more than what we offer.  One project manager quipped that "you could run a small country with [Microsoft Project]" – but that's not what our customers are up to!

The fact is, we wanted to offer a simpler scheduling solution that gets the job done without a bunch of overhead.

Consider a simple schedule with a dozen or more tasks. All tasks are displayed in chronological order based on start date. That's how most of you would view a schedule.

Now say that something happens which affects the schedule. There is a delay in a shipment, the crane broke down, someone forgot to show up on Monday, AND you forgot your wife's birthday – all throwing a wrench into the system.

You have some options:

1. Modify one task, independent of the rest of the schedule

2. Modify a selection of tasks, independent of the rest of the schedule

or what I refer to as our Critical Path option:

3. Select a task, extend or reduce its duration, and choose a function to change ALL SUBSEQUENT tasks by the same number of working days.

Presto, you essentially are saying that the entire schedule from that point forward is "critical", and all tasks are bumped (accounting for non working days such as weekends and stat holidays).

There are also other strategies for effectively managing critical paths within a BuildIT schedule.

For instance, say you had 100 tasks for a project, and 70 of them were critical (the other 30 were there, placed appropriately in the timeline, but were not tied to the critical path in any way). You can assigned those tasks a CRITICAL code, then just filter on that code to view the critical path, and adjust as necessary.

For more help with how to use BuildIT to accomplish your scheduling goals without the nightmare of task linkages, sequential dependencies and arrows all over the page, call BuildIT support.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1