Choosing the Right Software for Your Bail Business - Part 2
Writing bonds for thousands of defendants over the course of several years, then tracking those bonds and dealing with the forms and documents associated with the bonds ... well, it can get complicated without an extremely organized system. Many software companies have introduced their versions of these bail-specific systems, giving agencies a quickly growing selection that can prove difficult to choose from.
In the first part of our series covering bail bond management software, we examined some of the features that help bail agents manage their day-to-day business. These time- and money-saving features included bond writing and tracking, court date tracking, arrest record monitoring and accounting. We supplemented the story with a brief survey to find out more about our bail industry readership's software demographics.
In part two of the series, we'll share findings from our survey, hear from software providers and users, and give you tips on how to choose the software that's right for your business.
And the survey says ...
One of the first things we wanted to know was whether the people surveyed used bail bond management software. Our results showed that 24 percent of respondents don't use software, 22 percent use custom software and 54 percent of the remaining people were split between a variety of commercial software products.
We also asked which software features would help bail agents manage their businesses, and we presented 12 options to choose from. The top three features chosen -- in order -- were court date tracking, bond tracking and "Do Not Bond" list sharing. Also high on the list were background checks/criminal records, daily arrest reports and bond writing.
Survey takers overwhelmingly pointed to mobility as an attractive software feature, with 94 percent saying it would be useful. With wireless Internet, smartphones and other technology making life on the go a reality for bail agents, it makes sense that software should come along for the ride. Many programs are moving in this direction by offering web-based applications, or "cloud computing," which means the program can be accessed anywhere with an Internet connection.
According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents' surety companies do not provide agents with bail software. With today's software making it easier for agencies to reduce costly problems by tracking court dates, tracking bonds and quickly finding background information on defendants, more and more surety companies may look into the feasibility of providing software for agents as a way to mitigate risks and save money.
Jeff Kirkpatrick, PBUS Vice President and a 30-year bail software user, cautioned that bail agencies should consider one important detail before using software provided by surety agencies.
"If an agency only uses one insurance company and never changes sureties, then I think it works well," Kirkpatrick said. "However, I think it is a disadvantage for agencies to use software provided by their surety company unless there is a easy method to extract the data from the program should they switch to a different surety."
Choosing the software that fits your business
Bryce Anderton, owner of Smoother Solutions, LLC, said that in his opinion, "efficiency" is an important keyword you should keep in mind when examining software.
"Efficiency is the key to any industry," he said. "With efficiency, you capitalize on the personnel you have. And with the right tools you mitigate business risk, which thus maximizes business profitability. By 'babysitting' a bond, you're more likely not to pay (or file a payment for) a bond that you've written."
According to Anderton, the more time you free up by using software, the more time you can dedicate to customer service.
Anderton also suggested that bail agencies should take a look at the areas of their business where they are losing money, and then find a software that eliminates those losses. Examples of areas where agencies tend to lose money include inefficiencies in internal processes, underestimated collateral, bad bonds and a need to prevent them, underestimated collateral and inadequate skip tracing tools, Anderton said.
Kirkpatrick explained that when comparing and contrasting products, the buyer would do well to examine the product's development history.
"Many programs are custom programs that were written for a specific bail agency and then that agency tries to sell the program nationally. This does not work; a good software package must be designed from the ground up to provide the various features needed by agencies across the country. The software provider must be continually update their program and incorporate new features as suggested by their customer base," Kirkpatrick said.
Some questions to ask before buying bail bond management software include:
- How long has this company been in business? Do I feel confident they will be around next year or five years from now?
- Is the set-up and usability intuitive and user-friendly?
- What kind of training do they offer?
- What kind of support do they offer?
- If I am not satisfied and want to use a different software application down the road, how do I get my data?
- If you are looking at web-based applications: How do they ensure that my data does not get compromised or lost?
- Is this company forward-thinking? How are they changing as the business landscape changes?
Lineup of bail software companies
AboutBail.com compiled a list of bail software companies to give readers a large sampling of the products that are currently on the market. We are simply presenting this list of software companies as a starting point for your software research. Some companies on this list opted to pay for a comprehensive summary of their business and products, and we have included basic summaries for others. Without further ado, here is a look at some of the bail software products available to your business today.
Featured Company: Bailbooks
Company/Product Summary: Bailbooks offers online bail bond management software, meaning users can access the program from anywhere with a web browser and Internet connection. The Bailbooks software allows users to enter and track client information such as financial status, references, physical description and more. Bailbooks software will also alert the bail agent if the client has a prior failure to appear, as well as show upcoming court dates.
Featured Company: Captira Analytical
Company/Product Summary: Captira offers software modules including Defendant Management, Office Management Tools, Inventory Control, Bookkeeping and System Manager. Captira also helps bail agents quickly conduct background checks, check criminal backgrounds and credit reports for a modest fee, and monitor important data relevant to court appearances. Captira software allows users to work from anywhere because of its web-based design.
Featured Company: Bail Bond Software Solutions
Company/Product Summary: Bail Bond Software Solutions markets its flagship product called Bail Bond Tracker. The company, started in 2005 and based in Tennessee, is focused on providing state-specific software to bail agencies. Bail Bond Software Solutions develops its products on a Microsoft framework in order to make them compatible with Windows operating systems. Bail Bond Tracker software features a variety of modules to manage business components such as accounting, 'Do Not Bond' lists, reporting and sureties.
Click here to see a full profile including product features for Bail Bond Software Solutions
Company/Product Summary: BailData says it provides bail businesses with benefits such as simplified client acquisition and management, better bond inventory management, simplified reporting and an integrated accounting system. BailData says its software is also easily accessible from any computer.
Company/Product Summary: The makers of BAILWARE says that although it is not a web-based application, it is 100 percent web-enabled so that people can access it from anywhere with an Internet connection. BAILWARE has unlimited data collection, a variety of skip tracing tools and a bond wizard that simplifies the bond creation process for bail agents. BAILWARE offers several versions and scalable payment options to suit your business model.
Company: Creative Software Solutions, Inc.
Company/Product Summary: Creative Software Solutions has been in the bail software business since 1996. The company's products include Bond Tracker, GA Tracker, Surety Tracker, Telephony, Fingerprint, Custom Paperwork and Data Conversions. Creative Software Software Solutions customizes products for businesses, as well as offers technical support with an online support log and knowledge base for people who are using or evaluating products.
Company: Data Automation Services International (DASI)
Company/Product Summary: DASI is the provider of The Bondsman, a Windows-based software solution "designed to track and keep all records necessary to meet state requirements for the bonding industry." The Bondsman tracks powers/bonds, defendant information, premiums, indemnitors and collateral and more. The Bondsman also supports multi-office locations.
Company: M.K.M. Technologies
Company/Product Summary: M.K.M. Technologies markets their product called IBOND. IBOND gives bail agents comprehensive bond tracking capabilities and reporting tools. Bail agencies can choose from a version of IBOND that allows a single agent to write bonds from a single computer, or a networkable multiple-agent version that can be used on up to 20 separate workstations.
Company: The Bond Detective
Company/Product Summary: The Bond Detective enables agents to assign powers, create forms, be reminded of court dates, track forfeiture/judgment due dates and more. The Bond Detective also offers a feature that allows for quick and easy tracking of daily arrest reports. Another benefit emphasized by the makers of The Bond Detective is that users save tremendous time with the software's automated form completion features.
Company: Trackum Software
Company/Product Summary: Bailbond Professional, sold by Trackum Software and first introduced in 1999, is a bond tracking software that is "simple enough for a single agent and complex enough for a large agency." The software has features such as court date reminders, defendant check-in management and full support for reports in all 50 states.
Company: Watchdog Bail Bond Software
Company/Product Summary: Watchdog Bail Bond Software makes a product that helps agents manage clients from intake through discharge by tracking aspects such as client history, employments, financial background and prior criminal background. The software can be installed on one workstation or networked through multiple workstations depending on your number of agents.
Disclaimer: AboutBail.com does not necessarily share the same beliefs, nor support the claims, of these companies.
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