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A custom conundrum

November 7, 2014 -  By

One landscape professional skips out on off-the-shelf software programs to develop a program exclusively for his business.

THE CATALYST. Jay Murray, president of TLC Landscaping, created a custom software program for his business.

Jay Murray, president of TLC Landscaping, created a custom software program for his business. Photo: TLC Landscaping

Impatience got the best of Jay Murray, president of TLC Landscaping in London, Ontario, when two years ago he made a sizable investment into a custom-designed software program.

Murray hired a team of software developers to create a time-keeping platform to manage the whereabouts of his 110 employees. A $10 million company, TLC focuses on maintenance and design/build services.

Referred to as “the app” around the office, the software manages production, in addition to time keeping, scheduling and routing. Plus, it has GPS capability, providing “accurate real-time info” on what the crews are up to.

“We envisioned what we wanted and told these tech people,” Murray says. “The big advantage of building your own stuff is it’s exactly the way you want it to look.”

Therein lies the biggest payoff, Murray adds. When crew leaders compliment the software, he says, “That’s music to my ears.”

The development process wasn’t cheap. Murray dished out $75,000 to build the software.

Now, he describes the investment as “folly” because programs currently exist that deliver the same features as “the app,” such as Landscape Management Network/LMN, he says. “We just needed it (at the time).”

Still, “the app” isn’t without flaws. It doesn’t integrate with TLC’s accounting program, Sage 50, and it could cost up to $250,000 to add the feature, Murray says.

He’s faced with the decision of whether or not to switch to another program entirely or make the investment into the custom program.

“The trend is that most landscapers under invest in IT; even we’re guilty of that,” he says, but asks, “Am I out of my mind?”
Regardless, integrating TLC’s production software with its accounting program is a must, Murray says. He estimates it would eliminate up to 50 hours of administration work per week.

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About the Author:

Former Associate Editor Sarah Pfledderer is a West Coast-based contributing editor for Landscape Management.

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