Quick: Do you know when your roof is due for an inspection? Where the warranty is stored? The last time routine maintenance was performed on the roof? If not, you would probably benefit from a roofing asset management software program. These programs are increasingly being used by savvy building owners to help them store, manage, and access important information so they can make more knowledgeable decisions about their roofing systems.
Before purchasing a roofing asset management program, however, be sure to ask the following questions:
Who is using the software?
Make sure that the program is used by a large number of professionals in a wide variety of disciplines so you can easily share files with users such as roofing consultants and contractors. You wouldn’t invest in a word processing program that very few people use; the same should hold true for an asset management program.
How easy is it to enter information?
Does the program offer the ability to copy data from other files, or does everything have to be entered manually? Can items be scanned into the database? Are there “wizards” to guide new users through the data entry process? Look for a program that integrates with external programs such as a roof inspection program. All of these features can streamline what might otherwise be one of the most time-consuming tasks associated with the roofing asset management program.
What features does it offer?
Some valuable features to look for include the ability to attach external files, such as CAD drawings; programs for roof maintenance and roof inspections; and compatibility with different kinds of hardware, including laptops and notepad computers.
How do you export information and in what forms?
Make sure the asset management program has a high-quality report generator to produce professional-looking reports, complete with photographs and roof drawings. The ability to generate PDF files is also an important asset. Don’t limit your focus to paper outputs; you should also find a system that is Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) compatible, and that can export data to XML files.
How flexible is the program?
Does the asset management program offer a PC version, online version, and/or web-based applications? Programs that only offer one version might become very restrictive down the road.
Is the software producer committed to the technology?
Some asset management programs are produced as a sub-component of another business; for instance, a roofing contractor offering this software as a sideline. If this software is the main focus of a company’s business, however, the company is more likely to be committed to continuously expanding and upgrading the capabilities of the software, and offer experienced technical help when needed. Finally, make sure the company is viable and will be around to support the software for many years to come.
All technology purchases can be risky. However, by choosing a roofing asset management program that is a proven, feature-rich application with an established user base, building owners can ensure that the program that meets their needs today will still be doing the job tomorrow.
Steven James is president of Toronto, Ontario-based, Digital Facilities Corp. (www.digital-facilities.net).