MICS — Builder Information System

From the July 2009 Review of Construction/Contractor Accounting Systems

Builder Information System (BIS) offers construction-focused businesses a solid and completely integrated suite of accounting and business management applications. The Standard Edition core program modules include General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll, Job Costing and Job Billing. Union, Bank Reconciliation, Subcontract Control and Password modules are also available. In the Professional & Enterprise Editions, in addition to all the modules above, other modules available include Document Link & Imaging, Document Manager, Equipment Control, Inventory, Purchase Orders, Report Writer, Job Scheduling and Report Server. Also available are methods for customizing drilldown functions to link to other supporting documents in the program.

The Report Server module allows prescheduled printing and/or emailing of single or groups of reports to one or many. The Document Link & Imaging module allows users to attach any image or document file to a job or many other records within the program. BIS is offered in three versions: Standard, Professional and Enterprise, with pricing for the Standard system starting around $4,000, and it will support up to three concurrent users. The other versions offer more advanced capabilities and module options, along with support for up to hundreds of concurrent users.

Learning Curve/Ease of Use:
The BIS program includes 6 months of unlimited Support. Help functions also assist in initial setup tasks. The program opens within an interface that offers multiple navigation options, including a left-side vertical menu for accessing several program functions and user-customizable features, such as the My Desktop, My Favorites, My Workspaces and My Dashboard screens. All of these interfaces provide friendly navigation, making it easy for users to find the program functions they use most often. The My Desktop view provides users with a three-paneled screen that includes the system menu with links to various program features, along with a customizable area in the middle for accessing key tasks, and a reports field on the right.

The My Dashboard screen also provides good management features, providing an overview of jobs and key business stats, with quick access to underlying factors, such as job status, equipment usage, labor, scheduling, billing, reports and client histories. In addition to the customizable “My” screens, the system offers many other user-controllable options, including the ability to create several custom data fields in all Master Records.

Data-entry screens appear in subwindows that provide tabbed forms for grouping categorical information, with entry fields providing lookup options and selection lists. With BIS’s Document Link function, any file or document can be attached to many records within the system, including images, invoices, spreadsheets and other items. The system maintains a full-time audit trail and has a feature that, if a user makes changes to an existing transaction, automatically creates and posts an appropriate adjusting entry.

Key Modules & Management Tools:
The job costing functions in BIS allow for user-defined codes of up to 10 characters in length, while the system tracks and offers report options for all costs incurred on client jobs, whether a single house or job at a time or for large developments. Costs are broken down by codes, change orders and cost types, which can include labor, material, subcontractors, equipment and other direct costs. BIS offers a separate module for job billing, which enables invoicing by lump sum or “cost plus.” Billing forms follow formats approved by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), such as change orders, continuation sheets and payment certificates.

BIS’s Drill Down+ feature gives users the unique ability to customize the drilldown action on reports and other screens, allowing them to link to supporting information elsewhere in the program by simply right-clicking and selecting from various source information. The program’s Job Scheduling module provides advanced tracking and calendaring of jobs, following the critical path workflow model that includes duration, percent complete, start and finish dates, budgeting, and equipment management. It also provides billing scheduling and free format scheduling, and offers daily, weekly and monthly tracking of budget cash flow and billing cash flow. Inventory management features automatically update data based on purchase orders, invoices and adjustments.

The system also contains compliant GL, AR and AP modules. The Payroll module handles certified payroll and direct deposit, supports all states taxes, and manages workers’ compensation and all the necessary wage reporting worksheets and forms. For those with Union needs, the Union module supports an unlimited number of user-definable company and employee contributions and works in conjunction with the Payroll and Job Cost modules. Using Form Editor, a user can modify many forms within the system using word processor-like editing tool.

Depending on the Edition, BIS can offer more than 400 report options that include job costing, billing, financial reporting, payroll management and more. Users can also create self-designed reports using the Report Writer module; for full featured reports, a custom report writing service is available. As noted, construction-focused reports follow AIA guidelines. The system’s new Report Server provides even more extensive output capabilities, including the ability to preschedule reports and output or save reports into Word, Excel, PDF, HTML, TIF and text formats. Since BIS is ODBE compliant, data can be read by other report writers such as Crystal Reports.

Data moves automatically throughout all of BIS’s integrated modules, providing real-time management of business processes. BIS offers importing services for Master Record data to be brought over from QuickBooks and other accounting packages and, in addition to the reporting output options noted above, can also export raw data into Excel, Word and Access. BIS also offers export of job scheduling information into Microsoft Project.

Support & Training:
The BIS system provides outstanding customization options that will ease management processes as users grow more familiar with the program. Additionally, assistive features such as right-click menus and guides help users with specific tasks. Technical support and training is offered through many plan packages. The vendor’s website also offers access to self-help resources, downloads, supplies and training options. A library of user guides and reference manuals is included on the program CD and on the BIS website.

Relative Value:
Builder Information System provides a strong and scalable business management system to construction firms from small to very large, allowing all entities to easily add additional modules or users (where available) or to grow into the more comprehensive advanced versions of the program.