You have standard technology tools in place for things like estimating and accounting. You want to invest in some new solutions for project management and job costing. There is nothing that says you can’t mix a bit of old with the new and create a powerful system in the end. In fact, this is a very effective method for staying on the leading edge of technology, while not breaking the budget in the process.

There is reason such tools as Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks from Intuit, www.intuit.com, Mountain View, Calif., have been so successful in construction. Beyond the comfort many builders have developed for using such systems, they have proven to be highly effective for the building environment. Many technology vendors know this to be true and are creating new products that integrate with these tools.

Take HomeDev Production and Job Costing System from Constellation HomeBuilder Systems, www.constellationhb.com, Markham, Ont., a job costing and project management system aimed at both builders and remodelers. The product was built with idea of being engrained within a Microsoft workflow for customers. For instance, the HomeDev product uses Microsoft Excel, MS Project, and Outlook to manage data collection and presentation and Microsoft SQL to manage the data. When it comes to collaborating and sharing documents from vendors and trade contractors, the product leverages SharePoint and email technology as well.

But the familiar workflow environment associated with HomeDev isn’t limited strictly to Microsoft technology. The product also integrates with QuickBooks, among other accounting systems, which extends that familiarity to the financial side of the company as well.

The product itself provides some rather robust functionality for a job costing and project management system. HomeDev features trade comparison and purchasing components, and helps manage the construction process using management-by-exception reporting features.

The trade comparison function can be particularly useful in helping to manage costs. For example, the feature can allow for a true comparison of bid requests. Automated workflows automatically generate and send bid requests to selected subcontractors, and once a winning bidder is chosen, a purchase order is created and sent off.

The integration with QuickBooks is becoming quite handy for builders. The fact is, during the recession many builders scaled back their investments in certain areas of technology and those using comprehensive accounting systems found much value in going back to such products as QuickBooks. At the same time, many others builders never left QuickBooks, making this product one of the highest used systems in the homebuilding market today.

As a result we continue to see technology providers across the board tout integration with QuickBooks as a primary benefit to their particularly solutions. Take Smart Contractor, www.smartcontractor.biz, Ashland, Ore., for example. This production management software suite automatically shares customers, vendors, employees, the chart of accounts, and all accounting transaction data, including job deposits, bills, checks, credit card purchases, cash purchases, labor hour time sheets, invoices, and payment receipts with QuickBooks. According to the company, data can be updated in realtime or batch mode.

While research shows the construction industry is investing a bit more in technology these days, the standard systems are still a critical part of operations for many builders in the market. Investing in new solutions will add some new functionality, but if these new systems don’t integrate with existing products then you may want to rethink your investment.