Picture this.

Your desk is covered in papers, with folders stacked on top of folders with sticky notes stuck in between, and reminder notes strewn beside the phone.

The phone rings.

You pick up.

A frantic homeowner is on the line, asking what’s happening on her property and why she hasn’t heard from you. You stare at the whiteboard on the wall, and can’t tell whether the scribbled name says Johnson or Thompson. You search through the files on your desk, hoping that specific folder isn’t in an estimator’s truck out on a job, or on a random chair around the office, or under a pile somewhere… Feeling Stressed?

Probably, because most restoration company owners and managers know a little too well what it’s like to be in that situation. It’s the nature of the industry; you have a hundred things going on at one time, and you love it that way.

However, you would definitely breathe a little easier, and get your jobs finished in a fraction of the time, by eliminating stress and ending poor communication. Implementing job management software is the key to streamlining your operations. But while some contractors are extremely technologically savvy, many see computers as the necessary evil of the 21st century. That’s why it’s so important to find software that fits your company and works for you, rather than the other way around.

Getting Started

Do your research and take the time to test your final choices. There are many options to choose from, and the process can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 6 things to remember when looking for job management software:

User-Friendliness

This is your saving grace when it comes to software of any kind. Developers are wising up and realizing that contractors need something easy to use – so they are creating it.

Make sure you’re paying attention to how intuitive the program looks. If you’re a visual person, find software that presents information in a visual manner. Are the buttons well-labeled and easily identifiable? Is there an easy-to-follow pattern from the start of a job to close? Remember, user-friendliness will determine how many of your employees feel comfortable using it, which could be the key to finding a successful program for your company. It doesn’t matter how good the software is if no one will use it.

Web-based vs. Desktop-based

There are pros and cons to both options, so just be sure to understand the difference and figure out what works best for you. Here are some differences to consider:

Desktop-based programs are those that are installed directly onto each computer.
Pros: Your information is all stored right at your office, you can work on your jobs even without the internet, and anyone that is on that computer will be able to access the information.

Cons: You can’t access your information unless you’re in the office. Updates can be expensive and difficult to obtain.

Web-based programs are accessed through a browser, which means information is available from multiple locations and updated on each person’s account.
Pros: Information is stored on a separate server and accessible anywhere there is Internet access. Each person has login information, and updates are automatically added onto your account. Employees can update information from the field, and everyone in the company has access to the exact same information at any given moment. Cons: The Internet is essential to your information access, and someone else is storing your data.

Program Integration

Chances are, your company is already using multiple programs for other office needs. Email, accounting, estimating, scheduling… it can be exhausting! While this isn’t as important as some of the other features of your job management program, it’s still good to understand what your software can and cannot work with.

If it’s important to you, ask if the program will integrate with:
  • Accounting software
  • Estimating software
  • Scheduling systems, etc.
Note: occasionally, software may be marketed as compatible with another program, but the interaction is minimal. Consider your company and situation when finalizing your decision: you may find that it is worth some duplicate entry in multiple programs if it means avoiding costs and maintaining ease of use.

Training and Technical Support

Even assuming you did your homework and found a user-friendly program, you’ll still need training and technical support. Some companies can do remote training, and some will fly out to do in-person training. Some even have videos for you to watch on your own time rather than scheduling any live training. Find out which method works best for you, and find software that offers it.

Ask how much the training will cost and how long it will take. A long, intensive training could be exactly what you want. For others, something short and to the point is the best option. It’s also smart to find out what happens down the road when you hire new employees, as well as how any future questions or problems are handled. Ask, ask, ask! The last thing you want is to invest money in software and then get blindsided by three weeks of training that makes your employees already hate using it. Or – hasn’t this happened to everyone? – you have a small question and end up waiting for two hours on the phone to get a simple answer.

Cost

This is the big question. How much are you supposed to pay for software? The answer is different for every company. Some programs cost tens of thousands of dollars annually; others are less than $200 a month. Look for the price that fits best with your company. Typically the more expensive software options offer a larger variety of features. If you’re a mid-sized or smaller company, however, too many features may be overwhelming and unnecessary. That’s where less expensive software with fewer features could be the answer.

Don’t be fooled by low prices, however. Some software vendors offer low monthly pricing, but charge a “per user” fee on top of that, ultimately doubling or tripling the original cost.

Other hidden costs to look for:
  • Per user price
  • Per transaction fee
  • Set up fee
  • Training fee
  • Technical support fee
  • Cancellation fee
Also ask about billing cycles and contracts. Some charge monthly fees, others offer yearly or quarterly billing. Ask about the length of contract you’re getting into as well. Some companies only offer 12-month or longer contracts, while others offer contracts as short as month-to-month.

Features

Today’s job management software offers a variety of features. Choose those that are important to you, and find software that is the best fit. It might be tempting to choose the package with the longest feature list, but unused features may mean extra money needlessly spent.

Overall, the biggest key to success in finding job management software is buying the program that matches your company. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, shopping will be hard! (And you’ll probably end up spending way too much money.)

Before you start looking, sit down and figure out what you want and about how much you’re willing to spend to do it. Then start making some calls, viewing demos and participating in free trials. Using the programs will be very telling in whether or not your company will benefit from the software.

Here’s to the end of file-chasing and sticky-note writing, and to the beginning of organization and profitability!