Tricks Of The Trade: The Drawbacks Of “Free”

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the January 2011 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q I am looking for software that can handle tech scheduling, work order creation, and billing. Can you recommend a free solution?

Dan Kingsford
Facilities Director
Canyon Gate Real Estate Services
Albuquerque, NM

A There are many “free” work order applications out there, but this will mean limited use. You can try it for a little while, but you can’t save or print results. If you have an IT group, you may be able to tap into some of its resources. Spiceworks, for example, is a free IT management program which includes a work order system.

I am also a firm believer in user created databases. Microsoft Access comes with templates to create your own applications such as work order tracking, billing, and so on. Microsoft offers free templates online that are available to download.

What’s nice about Access is you can customize it to your requirements, including attaching photos, documents, and drawings to specific items. Access will export into SQL Server as the database grows, allowing further flexibility.

Access interfaces with Word, Excel, and Outlook, thus automating forms and invoices. It imports data from most ODBC compliant databases, which can help in retrieving information from areas such as accounting or human resources.

All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.