It’s a textbook example of irony: a business revolves around leveraging the latest technology to empower people to live better–yet goes about its own business in a very antiquated way. A company that’s moved beyond a mastery of touchscreens to the frontiers of voice control–yet still tracks business with pen and paper. Sound familiar?
Well, hopefully not the “pen and paper” part. But if you’re like most businesses, there are probably a lot of aspects of your work that could benefit from more streamlined management. And good news: There’s never been a better time to start using the plethora of software tools available to run your smart home business smarter.
BidMagic helps integrators create professional proposals that provide accurate calculations of all of the design elements, pricing, accessories, wiring, and specific labor to accomplish the job.
“At CEDIA, we spoke with many companies who clearly need direction and the right software tools to take their business to the next level,” said Rich Riehl, founder of BidMagic. “Many are limping along with Word, Excel, or QuickBooks for proposal creation, which were never designed for that purpose.”
Because you can’t do any work without winning the bid, BidMagic helps integrators create professional proposals that provide accurate calculations of all of the design elements, pricing, accessories, wiring, and specific labor to accomplish the job. It also has a dashboard to show the status of bids, jobs, and service tickets, increasing visibility of completion and payment status.
D-Tools’ new Customer Portal enables clients to review, comment, approve, and e-sign proposals, contracts, and other project documents in real time.
Another company that puts a lot of emphasis on helping to win bids is D-Tools, which just announced its cloud-based Customer Portal. According to the company, it’s designed to enable users to publish client-facing documentation to the web so their clients can review, comment, approve, and e-sign proposals, contracts, and other project documents in real time. “Next up, the redesigned Mobile Quote 2.0 iPad companion app makes it easy for salespeople to walk prospective clients through available technology options, generate a scope and budget, and collect a design retainer–or even get a contract signed on the spot during the very first client meeting,” said D-Tools CEO Randy Stearns. “The objective is to eliminate the competition and shorten the sales cycle by eliminating the need to waste valuable time on proposal revisions.”
With a proposal in place, you need to order your product. This is where Portal really looks to make its mark, with the aim of consolidating all product data for the industry, including pricing and availability, and presenting it in a web catalog where dealers can manage their purchasing from multiple vendors. Next up for Portal is Portal Select, which it has dubbed the “Amazon Prime for the Industry.”
Domotz enables integrators to remotely monitor and manage systems proactively, resolving issues before they become problematic–so the client will never experience interruptions.
“Products labeled ‘Portal Select’ are guaranteed to ship for free, arrive within three business days or less, and in most cases, pay additional rewards via Portal’s industry-wide rewards program,” said the company’s VP of dealer happiness Josh Willits. “Portal Select is designed to reduce the friction between suppliers and dealers and make it easier to do business in the industry.”
ProjX360 is designed to streamline the process of managing large installations by providing a platform where all documentation for a project is accessible in one place by any team member, at any time.
When it comes to large installs, keeping everything accounted for (and all team members on the same page) can be problematic. ProjX360 attempts to streamline this process by providing a platform where all documentation for a project is accessible in one place by any team member, at any time. “We are a complete software solution designed specifically for the custom integration industry, by a seasoned integrator who still owns an integration company. That allows integrators to manage their projects from the sales process to creating proposals, to project management, and into service,” said CEO and founder Dough Greenwald. The platform also has some major overhauls on the way, including a UI update and reporting engine coming this month.
They say practice makes perfect–and practice takes a lot of repetition. So, to optimally run a business, it’s important to document proven processes and procedures, according to Brian Good, VP of sales and marketing at iPoint. “Creating a scalable, repeatable process is critical to continued growth and without a documented process it is hard to achieve scale,” he said. “A platform like iPoint provides exactly that. We organize the integrator’s universe by providing the right information at the appropriate location within the software to streamline communication and allow for internal transparency and accountability.”
iPoint, which positions itself as a comprehensive, any-device, anywhere management platform, offers integrators the ability to document best practices and procedures for repeatability.
iPoint, which positions itself as a comprehensive, any-device, anywhere management platform, is working to improve its platform with a forthcoming commission-tracking and payment system, integrated email marketing with newsletter builder, and a client portal.
Jetbuilt identifies affordability and “un-intuitiveness” as barriers to adoption of business management solutions, with business owners resorting to band-aiding together platforms built on a combination of Excel, Word, Acrobat, and other programs.
Jetbuilt makes dealer pricing accessible to an entire team over the web for quoting, allowing them to create advanced proposal packages with as much or little detail as they desire.
“Jetbuilt provides a cloud solution accessible to their entire team through the web,” said founder Paul Dexter. “Their dealer pricing is put in front of them for quoting, allowing them to easily create advanced and winning proposal packages with as much or little detail as they desire. Dealers can then push the project to their books, and create the project’s purchase orders with a single click.”
In terms of team management, Dexter said that dealers can assign installation tasks to each item in their project, and the software will automatically populate each future project with that information.
Simply Reliable has been making refinements to the way it enables companies to track their businesses and get paid, such as its new ePayments feature.
Simply Reliable, another software designed to assist on the entire process from first contact through final invoice, has been making refinements to the way it enables companies to track their businesses and get paid. At CEDIA, it introduced an ePayments feature, which is designed to allow integrators to collect from clients more quickly and better manage communications with their customers. It also added Control4 to its wide list of software integrations, which includes Crestron, Google Apps, Portal, QuickBooks Online, Savant, and TRXio. According to the company’s president and CEO Tom Coffin, “Control integration for Control4 starts with a highly curated Quickspec (proposal tool) that allows the Control4 dealer to create simple to sophisticated digital proposals, instantly turn them into a Composer .c4p file for programming, and produce documentation and drawings automatically.”
In today’s world, a finished installation job is hardly the final step; the key to running a successful integration firm is in the quality of service that you can provide. “Cost-effective delivery of post-installation service and system maintenance is certainly a major challenge for most integrators,” said Clark Roundy, CEO of Domotz. “It is inevitable that issues will arise, and it can be very costly to dispatch a technician.”
Domotz enables integrators to remotely monitor and manage systems proactively, resolving issues before they become problematic– so the client will never experience interruptions. “We also have a customer-facing app that lets installers offer their customers the ability to monitor and manage aspects of their own network, including security and parental controls, empowering end users and enhancing the relationship between the integrator and his customer.” Roundy said.
Ihiji’s new software platform, ProVue, is a refinement of its Invision and ServiceManager platforms, and aims to offer a new approach to remote systems management (RSM) and long-term client care.
No discussion of service would be complete without mention of Ihiji, a pioneer in that space. “Returning from CEDIA, the theme that has been building over the past few years is that AV integrators are busier than ever, yet are finding it hard to hire and develop talent,” said VP of product Michael Maniscalco. “Ihiji provides solutions that help the dealer tackle this issue by bringing more efficiency to their service department.” One such solution is its new software platform, ProVue. According to Maniscalco, it’s “a re-imagination of Ihiji Invision and Ihiji ServiceManager, which is taking a new approach to remote systems management (RSM) and long-term client care.” And with successful long-term care, he points out, comes more referrals and repeat business.
And when those referrals come streaming in, hopefully you’ll have one (or several) software tools at your disposal, so you can handle them as easily as an RS-232 command.
Matt Pruznick is senior editor for Residential Systems and Systems Contractor News. Follow him on Twitter @Pruznick.