From the April/May 2008 Review
of Contractor/Construction Accounting Systems
In mid-2007, Dexter + Chaney changed the name of its premier construction
software (Forefront) to Spectrum in order to better represent the direction
the product has taken in recent years. Designed for all types of construction
businesses, including general construction, material management, electrical
and highway management, Spectrum includes several new features alongside its
new name designed to increase system functionality even more.
Learning Curve/ Ease of Use — 5 Stars
Spectrum’s Menu System contains a drop-down menu at the top of the screen
and a list of module categories to the left. Clicking on a module category will
then display a list of modules found within that particular category. Function
tabs are found directly above the expanded module list and include installation,
security, utilities, updates, upgrades and year-end. If using multiple companies,
users can toggle between without logging out of each company. Customized headers
can be added to the navigation pane to provide quick access to frequently used
functions. Links can also be added to various system files for one-click access.
Navigating the data-entry screens is easy. All module entry screens contain
drop-down list boxes and numerous tabs for easier data entry. The new Document
Imaging Search function allows for searching and accessing necessary files.
Spectrum’s Job Cost module allows the choice of four different job pricing
methods: Unit Cost, Cost Plus, Time & Material or Fixed Bid. Job phases
can be created for each job, and estimated costs can be tracked as each phase
is completed to ensure that job progress is satisfactory and on budget. Phase
field codes are user-definable, and can be up to 12 alphanumeric characters.
An excellent equipment module allows for tracking equipment usage, recording
depreciation and monitoring employee equipment usage. Spectrum makes extensive
use of system function keys and also contains a variety of keyboard shortcuts.
The online Help feature is available throughout and can be accessed from any
Modules & Functionality — 5 Stars
Numerous modules are available, including AP, AR, Cash Management, Payroll,
Document Imaging, Equipment Control, Equipment Tracking, Esti-Link, Fixed Assets,
GL, Human Resources, Info-Link, Inventory Control, Order Processing & Invoicing,
Preventive Maintenance, Project Management, Purchase Order, Query & Dashboards
(NEW!), Sales Analysis, Scale Interface, Service Contracts, Small Tools, Spectrum
Mobile module (NEW!), Time+Billing Materials, and Work Order. The Query &
Dashboards module allows users to view scheduling, project and cost information,
choosing the level of detail desired. The Dashboards function provides a customized
view of vital data. Specialized dashboards are included with Spectrum and are
geared toward executive, financial and operations personnel. The newly released
Spectrum Mobile module allows users to utilize portable devices or laptops to
enter and save vital information, and then later transmit that same data (such
as field reports, completed work orders or payroll information) to the home
office in a timely manner.
Productivity Tools — 5 Stars
The Document Imaging module allows for scanning and attaching documents to corresponding
files. Invoices, work orders or estimates can also be submitted electronically,
which can help to reduce stacks of paperwork and eliminate lost documents. The
Project Management module allows for the monitoring of all projects from beginning
to completion. It allows users to check the progress on contracts, record and
track project changes, and enter contractor and subcontractor information into
the directory. The Resource Scheduling module allows for scheduling both employees
and work equipment more efficiently. The Service Contracts module allows users
to maintain the billing and scheduling for all service contracts being administered.
Warranty details can also be tracked, including expiration dates. It allows
users to check the profitability of current contracts now and enables adjustment
of data at renewal time. The Task Management feature allows users to organize
tasks, attach relevant files to data, set the task priority level and add the
percentage of the project that has been completed. The Work Order module provides
comprehensive management of service calls and technician dispatching, allowing
users to track employee labor costs and productivity while ensuring rapid response
Import/Export/ Integration — 5 Stars
Spectrum is a completely integrated system, with all modules designed to work
together seamlessly. The Info-Link module allows for easy access to various
third-party applications, including Microsoft Excel and Word or reporting programs
such as Crystal Reports. The Esti-Link module also allows for linking to popular
third-party estimating programs. Spectrum also offers the Scale Interface module,
which provides a bridge for accessing scale software applications.
Reporting — 5 Stars
Spectrum contains excellent reporting capabilities, including easy integration
with Crystal Reports. All reports can be displayed on screen, printed, or saved
in PDF, ODBC or HTML format. Reports can also be exported to various applications
as well as faxed or e-mailed directly from the print screen.
Support & Training — 4 Stars
Product support is available via telephone or fax during regular business hours.
Spectrum also provides all users with access to the Spectrum Knowledgebase and
product user forums. An excellent Help function is found throughout Spectrum
and provides context-sensitive Help. The online Help function provides more
extensive solutions to problems, and product manuals can assist new users with
product setup and navigation.
Relative Value — 5 Stars
Spectrum is a sophisticated program designed for large construction-related
companies. No matter the sub-specialty (homebuilding, electrical, equipment,
etc.), Spectrum has a series of modules designed to work with a business. Ranging
in price from about $50,000 for an eight- to 12-user system, Spectrum offers
an extensive list of modules, excellent scalability and integration capabilities,
and an easy navigational interface that belies the strength of the program.
2008 Overall Rating: 5 Stars