Team building

Y2K issues, automated sales offices, accounting software, e-mail capabilities …

The technology needs seemed endless for Duffy Homes Inc., but the Westerville-based residential builder lacked the resources to hire an MIS employee.

Controller Chris Rupp nailed down a solution by using the services of Team ITG Inc., a local technology consulting firm.

“Like everybody else in the industry, we do not have computer experts on staff,” Rupp says. “Being a small company, it’s hard to justify the cost.”

Yet he knew addressing these technology issues could help the Duffy Homes office run more efficiently.

“The architect department prefers using a Macintosh software and the rest of the business needs to use IBM-based applications. So we were running, in essence, two separate networks in one office,” Rupp says.

Team ITG recommended an NT server, a Microsoft product, to bridge the gap.

“It’s a box you can put in place that’s kind of like the translator between the Macs, the PCs and the Internet,” Team ITG President and CEO Jim Kerr explains. “It provides file and print services and serves as the conduit to get all the information from one system to the next securely.”

That solved other problems for Duffy Homes, too, such as enabling the company to host its own Web site and provide e-mail to all employees.

Team ITG recommended that Duffy use Time Warner’s Road Runner service, which utilizes cable rather than phone lines to connect to the Internet.

While the Road Runner service could be slower than a T1 line that connects directly to an Internet service provider, it’s much more cost efficient, Kerr explains. A connection with about 10 computers costs about $500 per month with Road Runner, he says, while a T1 line can result in thousands of dollars in monthly charges.

Team ITG also conducted a technology audit that showed Duffy Homes’ former server, accounting system, some software and a printer were not Y2K compliant. Duffy has completed upgrades recommended by Team ITG to solve those problems.

Now, Duffy is in the process of working with Team ITG to connect its six sales offices to the main office through the Internet.

“When sales rep A is looking at the computer and working with a specific lot or customer, they are linked in. So if another sales rep is wanting the same information, they would be able to see that somebody is already interested in that lot,” Rupp says.

The consulting and upgrades cost Duffy Homes less than $15,000, an investment Rupp says, that pays off in cost-benefit factors. He would have to hire more employees if the company’s processes were not as efficient as they are with the automation, he notes.

“I’m getting more by hiring Jim than what it would cost me by not hiring Jim,” he says.