We all know the best part of being in the CI industry is that we get to design and build these amazing home cinema systems and superior smart homes. We did not sign on to fill out spreadsheets, manage inventory, and get bogged down by all those other, not-building-theaters things that have to be done to keep the business humming.
Fortunately for CI dealers, there is a lot of help out there in terms of dedicated business software and services. Here, we provide a rundown of some of the available offerings and look at their recent upgrades and announcements.
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UPDATE FROM PORTAL (July 17, 2020)
With its focus on user interface design, Portal comes pre-loaded with a catalog of every item (complete with images, descriptions, and dealer pricing), allowing dealers to get up and running in minutes, with zero setup. Alongside the Proposal and Catalog functionality is its Orders module, which allows dealers to convert proposals to purchase orders with a single click. Portal is optimized for mobile with its device-responsive design and it fully-functional native iOS app.
New to Portal are many improvements to its proposal module, including ‘Nested Items,’ which allows dealers to bundle accessories with larger items for a cleaner client presentation. Its new ‘Optional Items’ feature allows integrators to present good-better-best options that clients can choose in real time. Portal’s QuickBooks Online integration underwent a complete redesign and now allows dealers to push accepted proposals into QBO as line-itemed estimates, instantly.
Coming in August 2020 is Portal’s newest module and most advanced improvement to the proposal process, ‘Payments.’ Payments allows dealers to accept a credit card or bank transfer from their clients at the time of proposal acceptance, when the client is most motivated to pay. It aims to save dealers from having to chase their clients for down payments, allowing them to order parts sooner and start jobs faster.
D-Tools System Integrator
D-Tools is regularly updating its System Integrator (SI) software, with version 13 on display at ISE 2020, and version 14 previewed at InfoComm Connected 2020. New features in v14 Include Gantt charts that allow SI users to better manage resources, as well as customized checklists that can be attached to projects, tasks, and Service Orders. New and expanded capabilities enable SI users to build queries across projects, clients, purchase orders, tasks, service orders, and service plans for creating their own key performance indicators (KPIs), and to view data that is specific to their role within the organization. Version 14 users have the ability to create purchase orders for multiple vendors, for multiple projects, at one time. Finally, D-Tools has an improved user experience throughout the application with the addition of new icons and redesigned ribbons throughout SI.
iPoint software is designed to optimize audio/video workflow for businesses organized by the iPoint modules. Currently available modules include: CRM, proposals, sales orders, inventory, purchasing, projects, work orders, assignments, calendar, autos, time clock, invoicing, RMA ticketing, reporting, and marketing. The iPoint software mobile features integrate with your iOS device (iPhones and iPads) to access most of the platform’s modules without limitations for a truly on-the-go experience and reduce paperwork, improve customer service, and react faster to contingencies.
ProjX360 management software was developed for the CI industry by a veteran integrator with over 20 years of experience. With ProjX360, users can manage all aspects of a project from the sales process and creating proposals through project management of the project into completion and service. ProjX360 can integrate with QuickBooks Online to sync clients, products, proposals, purchase orders, service invoices, suppliers, and time tracking.
You do not have to be a Control4 dealer to use Simply Reliable’s software, which, at last year’s CEDIA Expo, introduced features that include new reporting functionality, time tracking, and payroll management, inventory management, deep integration for QuickBooks Online and Desktop, but if you are, the company says it can save you two days’ work with its Ci4C4 Process.
Starting from the point of product data, smartDATA, Simply Reliable’s designPARADIGM adds phase, labor types, and time to the manufacturer’s data, as well as icons, task descriptors, and even the Control4 driver. Creating a proposal in smartOFFICE for a potential Control4 prospect takes minutes with the customized quickSPEC and proposal process. Purchasing is simplified by the PO export, which is uploaded directly to the Control4 cart. Once the proposal is exported to designMACHINE, the user can assign drivers and create a Control4 ComposerPRO file ready for implementation. designMACHINE can then automatically produce the necessary documentation such as wiring diagrams and cable schedules.
The CEDIA Designer
The CEDIA Designer allows integrators to enter in room dimensions and materials, equipment choices, and placement, producing a client-ready 30+ page cinema design proposal. Users are guided through the design process and the resulting design report is complete in minutes, not hours or days. At the end of last year, CEDIA introduced new features that include documentation reports that can now be generated in Spanish; soundbar products can now be specified within the tool; and a new Project Progress feature.
At ISE this year, Jetbuilt announced Funnel, a lead tracking platform that helps turn leads into opportunities and revenue. In essence, Funnel follows a lead from the moment it enters the top of the funnel and flows through the various stages to become a contracted project. Emails to and from leads are synced to Jetbuilt and archived within the Funnel platform, where developing conversations can be viewed, monitored, and replied to by all sales reps and management. Tasks for appropriate action are assigned and scheduled to ensure valuable leads are not lost or forgotten.
The Funnel main page quickly provides a high-level view of leads and their progression through the color-coded stages of the sales funnel. Teams can track closes against the number of leads and proposals for any period, company-wide or by sales rep, see a quick-list summary of relevant information associated with every lead and filter, and sort that list by a variety of criteria.
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Parasol provides a 24/7/365 remote support subscription service sold by the integrator to the homeowner, with the homeowners getting unlimited access to qualified technicians. Late last year, Parasol introduced its standardized system blueprint, which prescribes how home technology systems can be designed, connected, and labeled to deliver 5-star customer service.
Parasol’s system blueprint enables dealers to deploy their systems using a rinse-and-repeat process, saving costly repeat trips, customer confusion, and driving up employee happiness across 150+ custom installation businesses throughout the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
OneVision Resources, providers of a comprehensive service and support platform, recently announced the availability of a set of comprehensive, industry-specific resources to help home systems integration firms deal with the coronavirus pandemic. To help the integration community strategize effectively, OneVision Resources has developed an online “Data Room” full of detailed COVID-19 resources geared specifically for the systems integration business. Available guides address everything from financial preparedness to customer engagement, regional considerations, and more.
The COVID-19 resources are available to not only OneVision partners but all integration firms and are divided into three main categories: Client and Contractor Relations, Internal Policies, and Economic/Financial Risk Mitigation Strategies. Focusing on both short- and long-term initiatives, the Data Room will be updated regularly as new information is acquired and analyzed
One Firefly is a marketing agency that caters to custom integration and security professionals. Its Mercury Pro website construction product features a wide array of customizable theme options; carefully crafted, industry-focused copy designed to speak to specific buyer personas; compulsory SEO configuration; and access to One Firefly’s exclusive library of photos and videos. With Mercury Pro, One Firefly aims to help custom electronics professionals present their brand message to the world through mobile-first web design that features the industry’s best luxury lifestyle video, imagery, and messaging.
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