Oct 2005


By Bill Allen

This is the first article of the nine-part "Tech Talk" series.

Many home builders and remodelers research new technology options by "seeing what's out there," and then seeing if it makes sense for their companies. Some hear about the software package XYZ building company uses, and figure it will work for them, too. Does this sound like you?

Neither of these strategies works because they take a "back end first" approach to technology. Such strategies look at ultimate results and assume all the contingent steps to make those results work will fall into place. That's about as logical as Boeing making a new airplane, and, without testing it, holding a raffle for the first airline and load of passengers to try it out.

Software operations are nothing more than manual procedures made more efficient and put into repeated, seamless practice. If those procedures are inefficient, the software will be, too-no matter what package you run. For example, if a sales office processes contracts inconsistently, it's pretty difficult to implement an automated sales office system.

I've developed the Tech Talk series of articles to give you a road map for plotting your short-and long-term information system needs. I'll discuss eight functions of a home building business where technology can play an important role. You'll need to consider the opportunity cost of not applying technology to each of these areas. You'll also need to consider whether or not to use in-house or contracted systems and expertise to implement a given solution.

It doesn't stop there. Before you can apply a technological solution, you need to map out the process controls achieved with the solution. From there, you need to figure out how to train your staff to work with the new technology, and to determine the culture change involved. Change, however gradual in nature, will cause a reaction. Anticipating that reaction and dealing with it openly and positively is the starting point of implementing technology change.

This type of breakdown may seem exhaustive for a small-volume builder. After all, what culture change is involved if you employ only three or four people? Whether or not you use a computerized solution to better control one of the processes we'll examine in this series, what will you do to better control that aspect of the business? Focus and change can be organizational-even if the "organization" is one person.

Regardless of your company's size or volume, technology represents the biggest revolution in the last 50 years and it shows no signs of letting up. It puts a lot of power in a builder's hands; without it, you can't effectively compete. Incorporating technology into your business is not a matter of "if," but "when."

Note:Various software products are mentioned throughout the Tech Talk series. The intent is not to recommend these products as being right for you, but to identify some fairly known players and to note a few new ones. My apologies to vendors who aren't mentioned-the omission was not intentional.

Bill Allen is a member of NAHB's Business Management & Information Technology Committee and is president of W.A. Allen Consulting ( The Redmond, Washington, company provides information technology consulting services and process management assistance to the home building industry. Contact Bill at 425-885-4489 or via e-mail at

For more information about this item, please contact William Heslop at 800-368-5242 x8472 or via e-mail at

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