Total Office Manager field service management (Aptora, www.aptora.com) is an enterprise solution designed specifically for service contracting business. With modules related to numerous specialty functionalities, the software handles complete accounting, CRM, dispatching scheduling, payroll, inventory control, service agreements, flat rate pricing, marketing, sales lead management and field service management, including a mobile field service app that supports business management from mobile devices in the field.

For example, the Sales & Accounts Receivable module includes several features for managing sales leads, creating proposals, invoicing clients and mailing statements. The module also supports change orders and progress billing.

Specialized features that can aid in management of service contractor daily business include callback tracking, warranty tracking, client equipment lists, catch credit card and ACH payments, bar coding, departmentalized financials and job costing. Users can also instantly look up customers and history with the addition of the optional Caller ID system. With a few clicks, a user can enter a phone message, sales lead or appointment, and send it to a sales person's phone as an e-mail or text.

The graphical drag-and-drop scheduling and dispatch board displays both work orders and appointments, helping expedite management of service calls, installations and service agreements, and also shows and controls sales leads. Hovering over a work order onscreen will elicit a popup display of important information that, when double clicked, reveals further details.

Work orders and appointments can be color coded and can have several statuses, including scheduled, enroute, working, complete and cancelled, with status changeable at any time. Completed work orders feature a line drawn through and can be dropped off the board.

The Technician Skill Check feature looks at a predefined skill set and compares it to what is needed to perform a given work order. A dispatcher is warned if he or she attempts to send the "wrong" technician. A user can also set a red flag alert when clients are past due, exceed the credit limit, or need special equipment or service.

All the modules feature a true multiple document interface, which is keyboard friendly with auto-fill and proper tab ordering. Several dozen reports (most customizable) are available and can be converted into PDF, Excel, Word, HTML, Crystal Reports and other popular formats.

Technicians in the field can run a full copy of Total Office Manager on a laptop or can take advantage of the Aptora Mobile module.

The Aptora Mobile v3 for smartphone field service management software app (additional purchase price and annual fee, 5-user minimum) allows users to fully manage work orders and enter timesheet information using a smartphone.

Anyone equipped with the module (and given clearance to do so) can make customer, vendor and employee info updates in real time without need for synchronization. Total Office Manager users toting an Internet-enabled iPhone, iPad, Android or Blackberry mobile device can update work orders, process credit cards, manage daily timesheets, view sales leads and manage contacts. Other dashboard items include customer history, customer equipment with history, vendors with history, appointments, reminders, phone messages, mapping, one-click e-mailing and calling, and Banking/Chart of Accounts. Information is live and shown in real time.

Management controls who can log in and what information each user can access with server side software installed on your company’s server, enabling control and customization to match the capabilities and security of each smartphone. For example, on an iPad, the software takes advantage of the large screen size and performance and increases font size and width of lists and adds additional menus, lists and fields. Anything that users do remotely is fully logged in the Total Office Manager audit trail.

Duct sizing app
With iPads proliferating in use among home service companies, including HVACR contractors, we will surely be seeing a plethora of niche apps in the coming months, many targeted to specific task technicians perform in the field.

For example, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America recently released its first app developed exclusively for the iPad, ACCA Ductwheel (for iPads using iOs version 4.2 or higher, $19.99 at Apple's iTunes store, instruction guide included).

DuctWheel is a mobile version of ACCA’s Duct Sizing Slide Rule, widely used to determine proper sizing of residential duct systems in accordance with Manual D. Utilizing the DuctWheel app instead of the standard duct slide rule, users can lock the wheel in place, zoom in for easier reading, flip between two wheels for different calculations, or take a screenshot of the wheel in position.

The app, which features the same familiar wheel interface, can be used to size metal ducts, line metal ducts duct board airways, and wire helix flexible ducts; convert round shapes to equivalent rectangles; correlate available pressure with total effective length and friction rate (Manual D sizing calculations); convert velocity into velocity pressure and vice versa; and correct for altitude and temperature.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at: productpad@yahoo.com.