Explorer Software Group is a global provider of enterprise software solutions for construction accounting and project management. Founded in 1984 by Jim McFarlane, the Vancouver-based company has grown both organically and by acquisition. Today, there are three operating groups under the Explorer umbrella.
The Explorer Software Group in North and South America has a 14 percent market share in its geography. RedSky IT, acquired in 2007, has more than 60 percent market share for construction solutions in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with six offices in the United Kingdom and Dubai. The April 2011 acquisition of CSSP and Kensington Computer Services enabled the company to expand into the Asia-Pacific region, with offices and companies in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. The three operating regions employ 250 people worldwide.
From its initial focus on North American heavy/highway construction and civil engineering, Explorer has expanded its footprint both vertically and geographically. The customer base now includes general contractors, specialty and service contractors, HVAC, home builders, architects, engineers, and consultants. While deep-domain expertise and industry-specific functionality gave Explorer its initial lead in global markets, McFarlane, who serves as CEO and president, intends to increase it by keeping up with technology. Right now, that means transitioning the applications to smartphones and tablets.
Compact ERP solution for project estimating, costing, and management
Explorer Software Group’s Pivot provides general ledger and project-management functionality with an integrated database (much like its Contract Manager software, except that it does not run in the cloud). It tracks job revenues and costs, and tracks change orders, but on a project scale and complexity more suitable for smaller contractors or subcontractors.
The ezDocs document-management system automatically indexes many types of documents, allocating them to specific projects; for example, an invoice can be assigned to a particular job for a particular customer. McFarlane acquired it to be integrated into other products, such as the CSSP line; it is also sold stand-alone to customers. It is very flexible and easy to install.
Project accounting, project management, and dispatch
This solution was developed by Bob Shafer, an HVAC contractor who couldn’t find software to run his business. Today, Explorer continues to invest in R&D for it. McFarlane says that Shafer told him, “If you see a truck driving down the road with a ladder on the top, they should be a customer of ours.” The competitive edge of Shafers is dispatch: A dispatcher can send a truck out to fix a boiler, for example, and immediately route it to an air-conditioning job on another site. The dispatcher is able to track the truck on a map en route, and at the site the service tech can check inventory, order parts, and invoice the customer. It is mobile to the extent that it runs on a laptop.
Full ERP solution for project estimating, costing, and management
The award-winning Contract Manager software appeared in 1984, when the PC was new and industry-specific PC software was hard to find. At that time, Contract Manager gave contractors an enormous competitive advantage by automating and integrating their accounting and project-management data. Users could do unit-price costing on a daily basis, which helped them manage on budget and understand their cash flow. Over the years, the product has been continually enhanced. Users now have a choice between installing Contract Manager in-house or running it in the cloud. By accessing both the application and the data from a web browser, hardware and IT costs are reduced. McFarlane says that Contract Manager will soon be available as an iPad application as well. An add-on and a time-sheet application are already available in Apple stores.