1979 was the beginning for C/F Data Systems. We started as a small business intent on making a big difference for our customers. Over the years our company has evolved, but the mission has stayed the same: create integrated construction accounting software with excellent customer service. Step back in time with us and see how it all began.
C/F Data Systems was founded in 1979 by Dennis Coleman, a systems engineer previously employed by IBM. Initially, the company developed custom programs for different industries including law firms, trucking companies and electrical wholesalers. At that time, the company sold “turnkey” systems, providing software as well as hardware.
Later that same year, Coleman recognized a trend toward developing software for specialty subcontractors, one of whom was Broadway Electric, a company C/F Data is proud to still have as a client today.
C/F Data Systems’ first program was called Contractor Management System. The program consisted of five modules that we now refer to as the basic five: Job Cost, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, Payroll and Accounts Payable. These modules allowed our customers to handle most back-office functions much more efficiently than before.
The company grew at a steady rate in the 1980s, expanding its presence throughout Massachusetts. In 1985, Eric Goldstein was hired to expand the client base even further. At first, C/F Data Systems started marketing in other New England states, attracting a number of contractors in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
In the mid-eighties, one of our customers asked if we could develop a module for purchase orders. They explained that it was a lot of work writing Purchase Orders by hand and wanted to be able to track the committed costs on the job so they could avoid any last-minute surprises. So, C/F Data Systems created the Purchase Order module.
In 1986 we picked up a new customer on the Cape, Brewer Electric. The only remnant of that company today is Gary Brewer, C/F Data’s own controller and HR manager! Brewer was performing a lot of service work and needed a way to generate a Work Order to give to their techs, with job instructions and directions to the site. They also wanted an easy way to schedule their workers. The first iteration of the Work Order module was written specifically for them.
Not too long after that, we acquired another heavily service-oriented customer, the Max Sontz Company. Sontz was an HVAC contractor that also performed a lot of service work, but unlike Brewer Electric, they needed to track and manage service contracts as well as schedule preventative maintenance.
C/F Data Systems spent many months learning all of the nuances of their requirements and enhanced the Work Order module to include all of this additional functionality, making it one of the best solutions on the market today for managing a commercial service department.
In 1987, C/F Data Systems acquired our first commercial flooring contractor, Circle Floors. Circle needed to track and manage the rolls of carpet that were purchased for jobs, track the dimensions of the roll and track each individual cut that was made. Thus, the first generation of the Roll Inventory module was created.
Almost twenty years later, we would revisit this application to make hundreds of enhancements as we began to focus more intensively on flooring contractors.
In 1990, C/F Data Systems established a second office in Oakbrook Terrace, IL to attract new clients in the greater Chicago area. Very quickly they established their reputation in this market and added clients from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.
Around that same time, as the industry changed, so did C/F Data Systems. Open operating environments like UNIX were becoming prevalent in business computing environments so we converted our programs accordingly while continuing to maintain all of the functionality we had built into our initial product.
In the late 90’s, as networking PC’s together became more stable and was being adopted by more and more companies as a cost-efficient way to run office applications, we once again adapted to the changing technological landscape by converting our product to a Windows environment and renamed the product Structure.
The advent and adoption of the internet made it much easier for us to increase our visibility with companies across the nation and we started attracting contractors from all over the United States. The internet also allowed us to institute our online training program, which is still available today.
In 1991 the city of Boston began the most expensive highway project in United States history, affectionately known as “The Big Dig.” As heavy contractors benefitted by the billions in construction contracts, so did C/F Data Systems. Modern Continental, one of the largest contractors at that time, and Testa Corporation both purchased our software.
Because of their large investment in equipment, they needed a better way to manage the depreciation on these assets. But more importantly, they needed a way to track repairs, generate work orders and set up preventative maintenance.
One of our former programmers, Howie Kaplan, was able to leverage some of the same programs that he had written for Sontz to handle the equipment PM’s, and thus the Fixed Assets and Equipment modules were born.
By the early 2000’s C/F Data Systems successfully converted its character-based system to a Windows platform and renamed it Structure. Around this time, it was becoming evident that the accounting people were no longer the only users who were influencing the purchase of software systems for contractors, but also people in operations: project managers, service managers, purchasing managers and such.
In late 2004 C/F Data Systems partnered with Joe Annese, of Annese Electric, to develop the Project Management module. With Joe’s assistance, we were able to successfully create a program that would provide the PM’s with everything they needed to manage their projects without allowing them access to sensitive accounting data.
With PJM they can track all of their paperwork: submittals, transmittals, RFI’s, change requests, emails, documents and contacts, as well as their job-related financial information.
These days the Project Management module is purchased by every new customer that we bring on board. If you don’t already own it, you should find out what you are missing!
In 2005, as the operational requirements of construction software expanded, Terry Zine of Independent Flooring, now known as Congress Flooring, asked us to develop a scheduling system for him to be able to effectively schedule his construction manpower, and thus the Workforce Scheduling program came to be.
Also, around the same time, Andy DeCristoforo and Jim Burke of Allegheny Contract convinced us to develop a Quoting program for commercial flooring contractors. Although we were somewhat skeptical, it is one of the best decisions that we ever made. Since introducing the Quoting module, we have added almost one hundred commercial flooring contractors to the C/F Data Systems family!
Our next project was the introduction of BRAINS. BRAINS is an acronym for Business Reporting Automated Intelligence Notification Service. BRAINS allows you to set up scheduled tasks to be run automatically at prescheduled times, such as updating the Dashboard in the middle of the night, sending out invoices or direct deposit pay stubs via email automatically or creating reports to be sent to certain recipients at pre-scheduled times.
In 2007, several principals from one of C/F Data System’s largest clients, CAS, an ENR top specialty contractor, liked the company and product so much, that they decided to purchase the majority interest in C/F Data Systems with the intention of helping to fund future development and sales growth. CAS developed a product of their own called CASim which is based on the data coming from the Structure system.
Also in 2007, Apple released the first iPhone which changed the way our entire society operates. As more and more people started to replace their flip phones with smartphones, it was evident that these devices would allow the field to interact more effectively with the office. In 2010 C/F Data Systems saw an opportunity to begin our mobile development.
The first “truly” mobile app we deployed was TechLinc, which allows a service company to dispatch a mobile work order to their techs. Techs can update the status on the dispatch board, access service history, enter time and materials, capture a signature and close out the work order.
The second app we deployed was TimeLinc, which allows a field foreman or supervisor to enter the hours for their crew, as well as any equipment or stock materials used at the site. This application has saved many customers countless hours of duplicate data entry.
ChangeLinc is the latest addition to the mobile suite, thanks to input from Allegheny Contract. This program allows a field super to create an extra work ticket in the field, capture the GC’s signature and populate the JRE (change request) program in Structure Blue.
Our latest conquest is Document Imaging. This new application is one that comes free of charge. With Document Imaging, you can attach documents to any master file: employees, vendors, customers, etc., virtually eliminating the need for file cabinets. You can also scan in a batch of invoices to be attached to individual vouchers and cost transactions. We know this new feature will help to revolutionize the paper processes.
As you can see, C/F Data has come a long way since our humble beginnings back in 1979. We owe a lot of gratitude to all of the customers mentioned in this article as well as our customers who have provided suggestions for refinements along the way. Structure Blue wouldn’t be as comprehensive as it is today without their input. Our customers truly are our unsung heroes!