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Dexter + Chaney, Inc. — Forefront Construction Management Software

From the April/May 2006 Review of
Construction Accounting Software

Forefront – Version 12.5 from Dexter + Chaney is a scalable product designed
for medium to large construction-related companies. With industry-specific modules
designed for construction, electrical, heavy/highway (H/H) and material management,
Forefront can fit the needs of a variety of companies. And with ODBC capability,
Forefront can also be scaled down to work for even smaller companies.

Bill Zobel of Banks Construction Company, a heavy/highway contractor that
has provided asphalt and grading services since 1948, says: “Forefront
provides a tremendous amount of integration between the financial requirements
of construction accounting and the job cost management reporting used by our
project managers. We are a quantity-based contractor, and we measure our productivity
in units. With quantity tracking, Forefront allows for us to determine and compare
our actual cost to our projected costs. This allows us to calculate costs to
complete and profit gain or fade on a job.” The company has approximately
250 employees.

Zobel says his company selected this package based on customization towards
H/H contractors. He appreciates the user interface and its ability to make each
data entry and reporting field similar. “It met our needs for scale ticket
interface with our asphalt plant and equipment cost accounting,” he says.
“I was also impressed that the support staff consists of prior users and/or
practicing accountants.”

New users don’t actually do the installation of Forefront; rather, they
utilize a system where a member of the technical support team will dial into
your system and install the software for you. All you have to do is insert the
CD into the drive. The main screen of Forefront contains a drop-down menu at
the top of the screen with various system functions and also provides access
to installed modules. A vertical toolbar to the left of the screen provides
a list of all installed modules. Tabs provide access to module functions such
as Maintenance, Data Entry, Inquiries, Reports, Period End and Utilities. This
common-sense approach means that you won’t have to spend time wondering
where to perform certain tasks. An excellent Help function is provided with
Forefront and offers an overview of the system, step-by-step procedures and
a host of interactive links. Most modules contain user-defined fields for program
customization, and you can change the look and feel of the program by customizing
the interface.

Data-entry screens are well organized and contain a series of navigational
tools including options to move back to the previous screen, forward to the
next screen, view a history of all screens visited, open a navigational toolbar
or view current session information. Fields contains a lookup option for speedy
data entry, and, when completed, you can choose to save the entry, cancel it
or update it as needed.

As noted earlier, Forefront offers industry-specific software for a variety
of construction- related businesses including General Construction, H/H Construction,
Mechanical and HVAC, Electrical, Utility Construction and Materials Suppliers.
Modules available include AP, AR, Cash Management, Payroll, Document Imaging,
Equipment Control, Equipment Tracking, Esti-Link, Fixed Assets, GL, Human Resources,
Info-Link, Inventory Control, Job Cost, Order Processing, Preventive Maintenance,
Project Management, Purchase Order, Remote-Link, Sales Analysis, Scale Interface,
Service Contracts, Small Tools, Time & Materials, and Work Order.

The Job Cost module contains four pricing methods: Fixed Bid, Time & Material,
Cost Plus and Unit Cost. Phase field lengths can be up to 12 characters long
and alphanumeric. The phase fields are also user-definable. You can easily track
actual against estimates, and, when setting up a new job, you can enter estimates
manually or import them using the Esti-Link function. You can also set up draw
requests, enter either standard or special billing rates for each job, and track
all job and phase activity. The Project Management module lets you create team
lists that pertain to that particular project and track the employees who will
be used on that project. The Directory File Maintenance feature lets you maintain
a directory of vendors, subcontractors and architects for easy reference or
quick contact.

The Equipment Control module lets you track usage and costs against any piece
of equipment in your inventory, maintain maintenance schedules, and depreciate
equipment using a variety of methods. The Esti-Link module lets you import estimating
data from third-party applications. The Remote-Link lets you stay in touch with
those in the field. Multi-state payroll is easily handled, and you can import
payroll information directly using a variety of methods.

Forefront is a completely integrated system. You can purchase the modules that
fit your company type, and additional modules can be added in the future as
needed. The Info-Link module provides access to Forefront data using third-party
applications such as Microsoft Excel, Access and Word, as well as Crystal Reports.
You can also export reports to a variety of applications by clicking on the
export button found in the reporting screen.

Upon purchasing Forefront, a conversion manager is assigned to you who will
assist you with setting up the information you need to get Forefront up and
running. Training is available in one-week blocks, and supplemental telephone
training is also available. Dexter + Chaney will also provide consulting for
your business. A variety of product support and maintenance options are available
once you purchase the product.

Extensive reporting options are available in Forefront. Reports can be run from
each module, with a list appearing when you click on the Reports tab. The reporting
toolbar is found in all report setup screens and contains a variety of options
including preview, print, filter and setup. The preview screen in Forefront
provides you with several additional options including the option to export
the report in a variety of formats including HTML, *.PDF, ODBC, and several
others. You can also export reports to Crystal Reports for further customization
and e-mail, or fax reports, as well.

Forefront will run approximately $50,000 for an eight- to 12-user system, which
includes all software upgrades and annual maintenance costs for one year. Dexter
+ Chaney offers an excellent system that can easily scale up or down, depending
on your situation. It contains possibly every feature that you would need to
run your construction or industry-related company knowledgeably and efficiently.

2006 Overall Rating — 5 Stars