Online resource finds, compares software

With a database of nearly 10,000 software vendors, Capterra's interactive marketplace, at www.capterra.com, is an easy-to-use online resource that can help companies find and compare software solutions for broad or specific business applications. (While the software is free for potential software buyers, it carries a Pay Per Action because even though vendors can list for free, they do pay a small

With a database of nearly 10,000 software vendors, Capterra's interactive marketplace, at www.capterra.com, is an easy-to-use online resource that can help companies find and compare software solutions for broad or specific business applications. (While the software is free for potential software buyers, it carries a “Pay Per Action” because even though vendors can list for free, they do pay a small fee each time a visitor is interested enough in the product to click to a demo on it).

Users can browse the database by industry (including construction, maintenance and service), department (e.g., accounting and finance, customer service, marketing, operation, procurement, sales, IT); software function (e.g., CRM/front office, dashboard/reporting, ERP/back office, purchasing, service and management); or alphabetically. Each category is broken down into easily navigable sub-categories.

Under industry, contractors can click on Construction and explore choices within 13 sub-categories — accounting, design, estimating, management, field service management, fleet management, inventory management, mobile, payroll, scheduling, time clock and web collaboration.

Each category and subcategory offers one-click filters to help winnow the list by capabilities. Users can start at just about any place and very quickly generate a listing that satisfies 100% of the criteria. For example, a new search in Construction Estimating (under Construction Industry) offers the opportunity to filter the search by clicking one or more of the 10 “popular features.”

Clicking on customizable fields (available in 31 programs), customizable reporting (ditto 31), quote management (30), building product database (28) and interface to construction accounting (28) brings up 14 construction estimating packages. Three are “featured” solutions, which offer paragraph-length descriptions and the options to visit the developer/seller Website directly or to request more information. The rest sport one-sentence descriptions, web addresses and an option to click for more information.

Another search by industry — this time under the category Maintenance and sub-category HVAC — using the filters for service call management, customer database, customer/location service history, dispatch integration and preventive maintenance scheduling pulls up 16 programs. Add appointment management and the number drops to 14.

A third search option enables a potential shopper to request free quotes from multiple vendors for software that matches the program user's keyed-in criteria, which includes clickable number of employees, number of users, annual revenue and software budget along with a brief or detailed description of what the software capabilities should be and a listing of features desired.

Contractors also can start a search by industry, where HVAC is one of the seven sub-categories under Service Industry. Six are featured solutions that offer users an option to visit a Website directly or request more information.

Because the software solutions are cross-referenced several different ways, site users are likely to generate well-winnowed lists of options regardless of how they start a search.

Job and expense tracking

The program prolinQ Total (www.interlinqsolutions.com, 407/444-4922) is Web-based mobile software that provides real-time job and expense tracking and invoicing services to field service businesses. The solution consists of two modules (each available solo): prolinQ jobTrac, which is the typical construction industry daily job report moved to a web platform, and prolinQ Service, which handles billing for work performed in the field by allowing service technicians to create invoices at the job site from easy-to-use client and material drop-down menus. Material, employee and client databases can be uploaded into prolinQ.

The software is subscription-based and invoiced monthly per user in the field. For full applicability, each job foreman or service technician in the field needs a laptop, a printer with mounting capability, a scanner and a wireless Internet connection.

The program prolinQ jobTrac keeps track of payroll hours of each crew worker with daily job reports and automatically produces a timesheet for each employee that associates the hours worked to specific jobs. Employees do not have to return to the shop or fax or email in timesheets.

To ensure that all job costs incurred in the field are accounted for, users can scan and upload expense receipts for tracking. Users also can upload permits, pictures and other files that would support the daily job report, both for in-house historical reference and for documentation that is easily accessible in a payment dispute or other situation where supportive details may be helpful. If the office manages multiple worksites, a job foreman can create a daily job report onsite that automatically generates employee time sheets and expense reports.

The software prolinQ Service enables a technician on a job to immediately create a professional looking invoice with a logo from easy-to-use client and material drop-down menus. The technician can then hand deliver it to each customer immediately upon job completion. The invoice tallies both time and all parts used. Instant invoicing reduces the billing cycle and allows administrative resources in the office to be redirected to other tasks.

Invoice data can be automatically uploaded into QuickBooks, eliminating time and mistakes associated with keying of hand-written work orders.

With both modules in action daily, senior management has the ability to monitor field service technicians from any computer, any time, and spot trouble or trends more quickly than if monitoring through traditional paper-based processes.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].