“Integrators need to know their profits on a project throughout the life of the job,” Marks said. Fifteen years ago, managers relied on spread sheets. At the end of a project, they added the numbers to see if they made money. “A five percent swing in labor revenues on a large job can cost you your profits,” he added.
Software today schedules labor by task within each phase of the job. Rates for CAD engineers, designers, pre-wiring, installation and trim-out can be computed. Most integrators offer clients a flat rate fee for a job. While the customer knows the project will cost $125,000, for example, the integrator needs to know how much each phase costs and account for resources as they are used. This helps with the current job and also with future projects. After any call, the business owner can see in real time exactly what the scheduled call cost and what it returned to the bottom line.
Knowing your work backlog is important, too, Marks added. “If you have 10 installers doing 40 hours work every week, and you have 4,000 hours of work pending, then you have a 10-week backlog,” Marks computed. Software will break that figure down by skill sets and resources.
Who can afford such a program? “The tipping point for an integrator is about $5 million a year,” Graham said.
Return on investment
A company that invests in software and follows it up with solid policies and procedures can reap sizable benefits. However, as Marks noted, the key is making use of the software on a daily basis and using its features as part of the company’s regular operations.
Dove Net’s “Kall Scheduler” sets up reminders about whatever event an integrator wants to schedule. “I have clients who use this to schedule maintenance contract visits,” Nasca said.
Returns can be substantial. One integrator that went to full-featured software for its technicians went from 3.2 service tickets per day to 4.1 service tickets each day. Not only does that mean one more happy client served by each technician every day, but it means a $50,000 annual return on investment. That figures to a 500 percent on the $10,000 spent on software with remote tracking and GPS.
Another $8 million integrator rolled out a $75,000 software package to its 15 technicians using Q360 from Solutions360 and added $150,000 to the bottom line the first year simply by tracking time spent by the technicians and billing clients more efficiently.
At the upper end, an integrator that automated accounts payable saved $24,000 a year. Technicians were able to bill as they left the job site, speeding cash flow by two weeks and eliminating “Oops, I forgot” or “We don’t remember that call” pitfalls. Paper invoices too often end up in truck gloveboxes rather than on the accounting department’s desk. Instant electronic communications eliminates that hassle.
However, all of the vendors agree that it is up to the integrator to ensure units and software are properly used. That means writing and following policies and procedures and being sure to input data accurately.
“Review your accumulated data monthly or yearly to see if you are charging enough for services provided or should be raising prices,” Miller advised.
Tony Nasca added that integrators should ask potential vendors about on-site installation, training and technical support. The best outlets provide full technical support including 24/7 after-hours support for emergency recovery.
“Our software gets us to our jobs on time. Techs are not waiting for assignments. I think we do a good job of that,” Norris said. However, he added that he always is looking for a system that will integrate and automate the whole package for all phases of his business: fire alarms, access, key cards and more.
“Software alone will not change your business. It is a tool. It has to be set up properly with good policies and procedures and operational tasks,” SedonaOffice’s Michael Marks said. “It is an enabling technology, not a panacea.”