November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13
By Lindsay Baillie
In keeping with the growing computing demands of small and large businesses alike, technology companies are developing a host of cloud-based software programs and systems. The primary goal is to provide their customers with improved data sharing and security, better user access, easy upgrades and software fixes.
While there are multiple differences between a cloud-based system and an in-house program, one of the most significant is the fact that a cloud-based system is not housed within a customer’s desktop computer. This allows the user to access specific programs anywhere as long as he or she has Internet or browser access. What’s more, because cloud-systems do not require direct changes to a user’s desktop, updates and software fixes are more easily implemented and can often be customized for each user.
Following are some of the industry’s top cloud-based software systems and their recent program updates:
American Business Software
ABS offers FloorPro, a cloud-based software that often looks different for each customer. According to Joseph Flannick, ABS president, the software consists of 400 to 500 programs depending on how it is configured for a specific customer. In addition to a customized system, updates—which are delivered through the cloud—are also specific to a user and dependent on his or her needs.
A key feature of the system is its versatility. “Not everyone gets the same thing at the same time,” Flannick explained. “Across the course of a year there are generally 150-200 new updates and a lot of stuff are things people have requested. Our software is developed for cloud-based operation, so it works extremely fast in a cloud-based environment.”
Comp-U-Floor has offered its ERP software as a cloud-based option for more than 10 years. The company currently has thousands of users accessing its cloud services from the U.S. and Canada.
“Our Comp-U-Floor ERP software has been redeveloped under a web and mobile platform,” said Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager. “What this means to our clients is the software is no longer based on a Microsoft Windows platform, which limits the type of devices that are used to access the software. Users can now access the Comp-U-Floor ERP software on any device with an Internet connection and web browser. This allows users to be completely mobile and still have access to the software.”
FloorSoft’s cloud-based software for measuring and estimating was developed in 1998. Since then the program has grown to include more than 1,500 users in 46 states and Canada.
“When we started our program we didn’t really have a development partner,” said John Petrel, president. “Now that we have a product we found users have a lot of ideas and they’re willing to tell us how to make it better.”
According to Petrel, the company collects suggestions and puts them on an issue list. Then every two weeks FloorSoft has a meeting and reviews all of the issues and suggestions. These ideas are then put into production. “Once we deliver them to production we put out a notification to all users and we acknowledge the person or persons who had the idea,” Petrel explained.
What’s more, the company has developed a system to assist users who might have to use the program in areas without Internet access.
“Even though we are cloud based, when you are in the field measuring you don’t have to have Internet connection,” Petrel explained. “Before you go out into the field to measure, you contact the cloud and the system takes all of the information about the job and downloads it to the client. Later, when you reconnect, you can bring the data back to the cloud so anyone on the team can access the data.”
Measure Square currently offers cloud-based software through its popular FloorLink CRM system. Recent enhancements have improved efficiencies for users across the system.
“In our most recent update of the FloorLink CRM, we have added a dashboard function that makes it easier for administrators to keep track of various aspects of the sales and installation process,” said Darienne Jordan, office coordinator and marketing manager. “As well, we have added a job funnel to keep track of job progress with all installers and estimators. This updated version is designed to make it easier to keep track of and follow up with customer management for those utilizing our software.”
One of the biggest benefits to using cloud-based software is the ability to see and share projects amongst a group of users. “This makes for more effective management of projects and saves time when having to access product databases or needing to make changes to a takeoff for an existing project,” Jordan noted.
NivBen’s Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 is a cloud-based software program that can be used for residential projects and new commercial buildings. The software includes other programs such as proposals/samples, schedule measure request forms, a roll manager and an instruction manual to help streamline processes.
“Bidding on projects big or small can affect the bottom line if not done right,” said Dennis Benton, president. “The use of computers has helped me and my company fix ‘miss measures’ or math mistakes. You are able to estimate showing master cuts and fills with all seams showing. Proposals can be made much faster because all quantities are transferable over to the invoice.”
The Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 draws from the PDF layout provided by the architect all the products that are being specified for bid. These take-offs separate each product needed to be estimated and supply the user with all of the quantities for that layout.
PacSol Cloud, the company’s browser-based system, allows users to check customer and vendor information as well as work orders via an Internet browser.
“We’ve had a cloud-based system for years because our technology runs on Apple products,” said Bob Noe Jr., president. “The downside is it only works on the IOS system, so we have started writing some modules.”
According to Noe, converting to cloud is something that takes time and requires knowledge about what platforms a company is developing for. “Converting to cloud for us is building the very best solution so when users access it through any device it rocks. To make the software really right we have to think: What does the user need to see when she looks at this program on her phone? If we were to jam every feature into the Android phone that’s on a desk platform it would be overwhelming.”
QFloors offers two types of cloud software technology: QCloud, which has been around approximately 15 years, and QPro, a new product that was developed over the past few years.
QCloud gives users access to their complete QFloors system through servers stored on the cloud. Customers access their QFloors software through an icon on their desktop. QPro is based on web browser and mobile app innovations. This type of system is accessed via any type of device with a web browser and removes the expense of paying licensing fees to third-party companies.
“You are not required to download or install anything, and you can use whatever brand or type of device you wish as long as it has a web browser,” said Chad Ogden, CEO and president. “Once the users log in through the browser, they can then access their QFloors system and data.”
Eventually the full QFloors system will be converted to this new QPro technology, beginning with QPro POS+, which is expected to be released by the end of 2017.
RFMS offers numerous cloud-based software and services—a web-based hosting service and several mobile applications. With the hosting service, RFMS users can access the company’s business management software using the Internet. All the software is in the cloud, which means the RFMS user no longer has to worry about system updates, hardware maintenance, backups or operating system updates.
“We also offer two distinct products that use cloud technology to streamline the way the sales process works in the flooring operation,” said Maria Cauchon, media services director. “With these two applications, a salesperson can estimate, create quotes or orders and post payments using any mobile device. RFMS Mobile allows orders and payments, product look-ups and more while in the field or in a customer’s home. The information then connects to the cloud to sync up with the database, updating the main RFMS system.”
Measure Mobile 3, another RFMS application, lets users draw rooms and apply RFMS product information to create a quick estimate. “RFMS Mobile is undergoing a soft rollout and we expect to see many features and upgrades in the next quarter,” Cauchon said.
RollMaster software is delivered one of two ways. The first is via a secure cloud-based server that the company hosts and protects; the other is via a user’s own installed server. Regardless of how the user chooses to set up the software, the program can be accessed from anywhere at any time with Internet access on a laptop or desktop computer. “We are moving in a very mobile-friendly direction with the software,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator. “This means several browser-based and mobile phone applications can access key data from the system.”
A couple of these products include the RMMobileSales app, which allows for outside salespeople to look up customer data, product pricing and inventory availability. The RMWeb Installation Calendar app connects floor layers in the field with the scheduling and installation component of RollMaster software. The company’s new API Integration allows for non-flooring-specific business features to interact with RollMaster data. This includes features such as Testimonial Tree to gather and post online reviews, marketing integration and CRM platforms.
Surge1 is a fully scalable, cloud-based platform designed to provide office automation for installation companies. Surge1’s product provides a complete, standalone solution that also integrates easily with existing systems.
“Our solution was designed from the ground up by installers,” said Jacob Myatt, CEO. “Our installation specialists work with our development team each day to create the best solution for office, field and warehouse.”
The company is working on several updates including its offline mobile app, which is expected to launch in the first quarter for Android and Apple products. This will allow flooring installers to see their schedules, pay sheets and measure diagrams when they travel to an area outside of cell service.