Photo courtesy Aquacade Pools

There are scores of programs on the market tailored to streamline your scheduling, create dynamic backyard designs and organize your firm’s business operations.

But choosing among the numerous software options can be time-consuming. To make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of the leading programs that many in the industry have found useful. Do note, however, that the following selection is by no means exhaustive. If a program you find useful is not included, please send an e-mail to poolspanews@hanleywood.com, and we’ll share the details.

DESIGN SOFTWARE

With the latest design software, salespeople can create pool mock-ups in front of prospective clients and quickly adjust the details. The real-time results often help these pool pros close deals faster. Additional benefits include the ease of making changes promptly and the ability to generate more accurate price estimates.

• “PoolDraw”

by Constructive Software Solutions

What it does: “PoolDraw” is considered by some to be a stripped-down autoCAD program. Users “drag and drop” various backyard elements to create a design. The system can be customized to reflect only the products and/or materials a company uses. There’s also a feature that helps calculate estimated costs. On the 3-D version, designers can incorporate multimedia, such as photographs and videos, to create an interactive slide show.

Cost: $1,249 per user for one desktop and one laptop for “PoolDraw XML”; an additional $699 per computer for “PoolDraw 3D.”

More info: www.pooldraw.com

• “Pool Studio”

by Structure Studios

What it does: With this program, users — even those with minimal computer skills — can follow the menu’s step-by-step prompts to create a finished drawing. Once the two-dimensional illustration is made, it can be quickly converted to a 3-D presentation, giving customers a virtual tour of their transformed backyards. The 3-D screenshots also provide designers with a chance to red flag potentially tricky features that may require more skill to construct. This “heads up” is designed to save the builder time and money by avoiding costly mistakes.

Cost: Subscribe for $95 a month or $995 per year. Cost includes software, technical support, training and updates.

More info: www.structurestudios.com

• “Pro-Suite”

by ESI Corp.

What it does: This program contains hundreds of drag-and-drop pool features that automatically scale down to the project’s specs. Designers also can print out thorough layouts of subcontracting work, enabling everyone to quickly coordinate their efforts. Plus, the 3-D presentation and photo-imaging software create a virtual video tour of the pool project, giving customers the sensation of walking through the job site.

Cost: Ranges from $495 to $795.

More info: www.pooltemplates.com

• “The Suite: ImageWorks, SplashWorks, QuoteWerks”

by Pool Design Software Inc.

What it does: “The Suite” consists of three separate programs. With “ImageWorks,” designers use a photo of the customer’s yard, then switch out various options, from a pool and spa to landscaping and decking, to create a custom project. The “SplashWorks” drafting program takes it

a step further, enabling users to create unique or templated designs, detailed scale drawings, and working blueprints. “Quote-Werks” deals with the financials and features a product database for each vendor. This allows builders to generate estimates, invoices and purchase orders for each job.

Cost: “The Suite” costs $1,199. The programs also can be purchased separately, from $300 to $800 each.

More info: www.pooldesignsoftware.com

MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

These in-house systems are designed to coordinate sales information, monitor inventory needs and generate more effective marketing campaigns.

• “CounterPoint”

by Radiant Systems

What it does: “CounterPoint” is designed to handle point-of-sale, inventory management, customer tracking and purchasing. It also can be used to coordinate Internet commerce, create labels and logos, and serve as an employee time clock. At checkout, it gives cashiers vital customer data so they can initiate a firm’s loyalty program or issue gift cards. The “Sales Dashboard” tracks key performance indicators, and creates customizable reports.

Cost: $1,190 for a one-user, one-location system, with prices that go up from there.

More info: www.counterpointpos.com

• “Evosus”

by Evosus Inc.

What it does: “Evosus” tracks financial data, from point-of-sale features to inventory management, accounting and more. The program, which contains centralized control and reporting, can be especially useful for retailers with multiple locations. Its lead-generation tool provides employees with access to customer-purchasing information, allowing for add-on sales opportunities, special discounts and targeted marketing services.

Cost: Depends on the scale of a business, ranging from $4,500 to upwards of $150,000. Monthly fees run from $85 to more than $5,000.

More info: www.evosus.com

• “EzPOS”

by Systems West

What it does: The “EzPOS” line is made to run all aspects of a pool and spa business. The point-of-sale software includes color-coded windows to make it easier to monitor seasonal purchasing levels, multitiered pricing, customer data and reporting. Add-ons include features that keep tabs on employee work times, track inventory, and create and print coupons. The program also interacts with various water-testing systems, and its “EzScheduler” add-on helps streamline the management of employees on the work site.

Cost: $795 for the first license, $395 for additional licenses per store. Various add-ons are extra, from $199 to $1,695. Support plan costs range from $299 to $499 annually.

More info: www.systemswest.com

• “Pool Pro Office”

by Pool Pro Office Inc.

What it does: A custom-design of the popular “FileMaker Pro” program, “Pool Pro Office” integrates builders on site with the salespeople at headquarters. The program has been tailored to handle a variety of pool-specific tasks. Users can click on the side navigational tabs to go from tracking permits to writing up change orders to creating a custom newsletter to dealing with leads and more. The program also features an archive function that provides information on property appraisals, permitting data and maps of job sites.

Cost: $9,495 for a base package of five clients and one server (price includes “FileMaker Pro” software). Application service provider fees start at $1,995 to set up one to five users; monthly fees begin at $325 for one to five users.

More info: www.poolprooffice.com

• “The Pool Program”

by Wise Software & Computer Products Inc.

What it does: “The Pool Program” has been designed to unite just about every aspect of a pool and spa business, from retailing to construction to service. It can be integrated with distributor catalogs for easy ordering and inventory control. Users can log into the program from any computer, allowing for remote monitoring. The system includes a variety of letter templates to aid in marketing efforts.

Cost: From $439 for the limited package to $1,935 to run up to 10 cash registers per retail location.

More info: www.wisesoftwareinc.com

• “RB Control Systems”

by RB Control Systems

What it does: This comprehensive software package is made to manage a company’s inventory, track customers, monitor the service department, organize construction schedules, and streamline inter-office work and communication. The system deals with much of a company’s paperwork; users type in the relevant details to produce store-specific chemical maintenance calendars, troubleshooting handouts and targeted mailing items. The software can be used among several store locations. The service vehicle software and remote licenses assist users when working in the field or out of town.

Cost: Packages range from $2,560 (plus $790 for each additional site) to $4,980 (plus $1,150 for each additional site). Monthly fees range from $55 to $115.

More info:www.rbcontrolsystems.com/pool

• “ScheduleViewer”

by ScheduleViewer

What it does: Designed for pool construction and repair pros, the program was created to handle project schedules, and help users maintain a solid line of communication with their subcontractors and customers. With the software, companies also can develop project proposals that include costs, markups and profit margins.

Cost: $95 per month; longer-term licenses are available.

More info: www.scheduleviewer.com

SERVICE PROGRAMS

Many software programs have been designed specifically to cover the unique, in-the-field needs of pool and spa service technicians. Most handle the challenges of coordinating routes and scheduling appointments as well as the core business-management features these firms need.

• “ESC 9.0”

by dESCO

What it does: The “Electronic Service Control” program provides tech firms with a way to compile customer contact and billing information, set up service calls, dispatch technicians and generate financial data. The latest version includes inventory and invoicing capabilities.

Cost: $2,495 for the single-user deluxe option; fees increase for additional users and other options.

More info: www.coastalcomputercorporation.com

• “In the Field”

by Arrow Storm Corp.

What it does: With this Web-based program, service techs can manage day-to-day operations from their PDAs or laptops. All they need is an Internet connection to coordinate route scheduling and mapping, customer billing, inventory tracking and more. The technology also allows customers to make payments securely online.

Cost: $39.95 per month.

More info:www.arrowstorm.com

• “ServiceCEO”

by Insight Direct

What it does: This customizable software’s features include the ability to organize customer data, coordinate projects/service calls, schedule technicians and follow-up appointments, and deal with a company’s financial needs. It also can track equipment used in the field, as well as the warranties provided to customers. It’s designed to be easy to use.

Cost: Varies, depending on the size of the company.

More info: www.insightdirect.com

• “The Service Program”

by Westrom Software

What it does: This “QuickBooks”-compatible program allows service firms to plan routes, manage customer information, schedule calls, track leads, stay on top of equipment rental fees and materials used, send out correspondence, and more. The industry-specific program is designed for mobility; it can be used on a PDA out in the field.

Cost: $4,250 for the standard edition, which supports unlimited users. Additional plans are offered at various price points.

More info: www.theserviceprogram.com