SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS who provide solutions for contractors are frequently among the early adopters of evolving computer technologies. Eager to expand their program capabilities, they often incorporate innovations that aim to improve computer-based business productivity, full speed ahead.
Corecon Technologies recently introduced Corecon 4.0: Subcontractor Edition,-a new Web-based version of a contractor-centric solution that is written on Microsoft.NET, a technology platform (or development language) that has been built into all Microsoft applications over the past two years or so.
The newly revised database software product handles estimating, contract administration including submittals, transmittals, RFIs, job cost control (though not scheduling) and integrated contact management. The data flows from estimating all the way through to project completion and the information can be distributed to any and all immediately.
Plumbing and HVAC contractors can either use Corecon through the developer's hosting service as an ASP offering (eliminating additional hardware and software costs as well as maintenance, essentially outsourcing the IT staff), or they can implement the solution within the companys own network.
If the solution is used in-house, the software resides on the contractors server, enabling different workstations inside or outside the office to access the program through an Internet browser.
The advantage of Microsoft.NET is that it uses the Web to link up programs that couldn't talk to each other. Microsoft.NET connects computer systems and applications through the Web so that unrelated programs that would not otherwise be able to communicate among themselves can share data over a network. It allows small enterprise-level solutions to combine portals, content management, collaboration and handheld solutions.
Corecon 4.0: Subcontractor Edition, which has a specially designed security infrastructure for keeping data private, encompasses estimating and project management and features a built-in interface to selected third-party accounting packages, including Quickbooks, GEAC StarBuilder and ComputerEase. Regardless of where the software sits, the accounting solution resides locally on an office computer and uses a special Corecon link from that computer to the server.
The customized program, which is suitable for small to medium-sized contractors with multiple users, and multiple jobsite or office locations, facilitates collaboration and efficient project management by eliminating double entry of data, capturing and sharing document information and aiding communication among parties on all projects.
Key features of the Corecon 4.0: Subcontractor Edition include multi-tier breakdown structures that provide drill-down capabilities to four levels of estimate detail division, major, minor and sub-minor; and flexibility in estimating, with markups, options and cost vs. sell price.
Several wizards streamline operation. The project management wizard transfers estimating data to job cost budgets, contracts and purchase orders with one click. The purchasing wizard populates purchase lists with estimate cost data, including manufacturer information and pricing.
Status reports and e-mail notifications identify the individual whose response is required on requests for information and submittals.
The information-at-a-glance screens show which tasks have been completed and what tasks still need to be completed and when they are due.
Currently, contractors can use R.S Means cost and assemblies databases, installed and maintained separately, as well as any custom-built database written in ASCII or Excel format from their office computers. In addition, Corecon plans to integrate during the spring of 2005 Web services that will enable subcontractors to access those databases as well as TRA-SER and other subscriptionbased price and product databases directly from Corecon 4.
Here's where Corecons data-sharing system really becomes useful. Web services are small, reusable applications that are written in XML, the universal language of Internet data exchange. The applications provide an efficient way for data to be called across the Internet or an intranet to swap data between otherwise unconnected sources, regardless of what operating system or platform they run on and what computer or device is used. The data sharing minimizes keyboarding and the chance of introducing error when entering data repetitively.
The developer can supply material or component databases that are shells without pricing that the contractor can fill in with items and assemblies and modify and update at any point.
Because Corecon is an application that incorporates data from various office employees who are performing disparate functions, the program can distribute up to 15 security roles individually, allowing entry only to those portions that the administrator deems appropriate.
Corecon 4.0 system requires highspeed Internet connection, preferably greater than 56K. User license fee for the subscription-based program is $50 per month per user up to 1,000 users per license. Visit www.corecon.com or call 866/258-6698 for more information.
Getting up to speed
If you dont yet have an Intranet or a local area network or are unclear how your Internet connection goes about various tasks, you can glean the basics effortlessly by perusing "How Networks Work," a paperback from Que Publishing. The book, by Frank Derfler Jr. and Les Freed and already in its seventh edition, uses many full-color graphics, charts and diagrams and layman's language to explain the history and mysteries of online communications, right through to today's latest offerings.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org