Take the friction out of solar installations and O&M service to speed up growth (and boost profits)
Solar companies are investing in software to keep up with demand and take on more projects with existing teams. We explain how to optimize software based on your workflows and get the most bang for your buck.
By Scoop Solar Team
Lately, it seems like it’s been a prolonged “busy season” for solar installers and O&M providers. According to SEIA, solar energy accounted for 43% of all new electricity generation capacity in 2020.
The residential solar market grew by 7% in 2020 despite the pandemic and growth is expected to double to 13% by 2021. The ITC 2 year extension is expected to generate an additional 17% increase in solar installations.
Amid this growing solar “gold rush”, fast-growing solar installers and service providers are adopting mobile work process management and automation (mPMA) tools. designed from the ground up to manage distributed solar teams in the field and in the office. mPMA technology enables teams to complete installations and service work exponentially faster by removing friction from solar workflows and data streams.
With the experience of helping major brands in solar, storage and EV infrastructure increase efficiency by 25-50% at more than 15,000 project locations worldwide, we decided to summarize the key lessons for optimizing and expanding your solar business.
Managing growth in solar energy is a challenge
As solar deployment grows, the business bottleneck for many solar companies has shifted from sales to execution and fulfillment. This shifting priority has dramatically increased the demand for skilled operational workers, making it a major challenge for solar companies to find suitable field personnel, project managers and coordinators.
How can solar companies meet this challenge? To increase capacity, companies have three options:
a) Increase the efficiency of their existing teams.
b) Hire more staff.
c) Outsource all or part of their work.
Option a addresses weaknesses in current operations, thus providing the most proactive, immediate, and cost-effective solution. A growing number of solar, battery storage and electric vehicle charging companies are increasing efficiency and scalability through a connected, mobile and automated solar project management system.
When selected correctly, the right project management system not only helps increase the efficiency of the internal team (option a), but also facilitates the onboarding of new hires (option b) and simplifies collaboration with external contractors (option c).
5 software must-haves for faster installations and service
To handle more demand, solar companies need mPMA-based project management software which is capable of the following:
- Automate data flows to avoid confusion and repetitive data entry
How does data transfer between project phases and team members?
Signs that your data flows are not optimized:
- Project managers need to remember to send or point out necessary data and documents by manually emailing, calling, or texting team members.
- Administrators have to spend time manually re-entering customer data in your CRM, design tool, accounting software, and multiple spreadsheets.
Uploading data in multiple places (eg storage systems, spreadsheets, etc.) is cumbersome and prone to errors. With Scoop Solar, solar teams efficiently manage projects from a central hub and set up automated data flows based on their exact processes. This approach to solar software uses global data transfer fields so that the correct images, documents, and other data automatically appear for each role in the solar project.
- Automate and customize workflows to keep projects on time
Are the right people informed at the right time to play their part in project execution or service delivery?
Signs that your workflows are not optimized:
- New installations are delayed due to a missed transfer from sales to operations.
- Sellers are not notified of design changes and cannot determine customer expectations.
- High volume of incoming customer inquiries due to lack of regular automated updates.
Scoop Solar’s platform allows solar companies to set up automated workflows for all phases of an installation project or service. As a result, team members no longer have to remember and spend time manually submitting a task, emailing reports, or providing updates to customers. Instead, this all happens automatically.
- Standardized work processes for flawless execution
Are there standardized processes and checklists for different phases of installation and service work?
Signs that your work processes are not consistent and standardized:
- Design work is halted due to missing or incomplete data volume from the sales call.
- Additional truck rolls are required due to missed steps or photos during site survey, installation or service visit.
- Permit applications are rejected due to missing AHJ-specific requirements.
Scoop Solar allows teams to use a solar plant project management template builder that allows you to customize phases, activities, and other parameters to standardize the flow of your projects. For example, when the field technician or supervisor finishes completing the site survey, they submit it for review while still on site. This triggers the app to verify that all required fields and images are filled in, forcing the technician to fill in the missing ones.
- Connect all tools and systems in one central hub
Do disconnected systems make it difficult to see the real status of projects?
Signs that your operating system has been disconnected and increasing your costs:
- The start of the installation is delayed by manual transfer from sales/CRM to operations.
- Installation tasks and service tickets are difficult to track because they are generated and recorded in various tools or spreadsheets.
- Payments are delayed because someone has to manually remember to issue invoices at the right time.
- Your team wastes time logging in from one system to another and manually re-entering data.
- Streamline the activities of partners and subcontractors
Is it easy to collaborate with external suppliers or subcontractors using your operational tool?
Signs that your current operational tool is too difficult to work with external partners:
- Engaging external contractors requires a lot of manual actions, forcing project managers to take control.
- New subcontractors (and even employees) find it difficult to look up communication and history in every work order.
Teams can easily define roles and access controls to include only information they want partners to use solar software built for collaboration with third-party contractors. Scoop Solar’s platform allows contractors to see history and comments for relevant installation and service orders.
Unite installations and service flows in one platform with Scoop Solar. You can standardize and connect workflows between all your essential tools, including your CRM, design, enterprise, accounting and other software.
When is the right time to change your solar software?
Software flaws are preventing solar companies from reaching their growth potential, maximizing profits and most importantly delivering the impeccable customer experience that will continue to propel them in the market. Slow, manual and cumbersome work processes result in disconnected employees and high turnover.
Let’s face it, with the pace of solar growing, it’s unlikely your business will be less busy in the future. By delaying the implementation of the right solar project management software, the problems you see today will only get worse with growth.
By proactively implementing the right systems, you’ll ensure that new hires or partners come on board and learn the good habits and best practices you’ve put in place to drive growth.
How to evaluate performance issues in your solar business?
As with any other business decision, you need to be able to evaluate the solar software investment by its cost. Ask yourself if your current systems allow installations to be completed on time or will long delays cost you referral opportunities?
It is imperative to understand the costs and risks associated with using your current software systems to grow your business. To help you with this analysis, we have the Solar Business Growth Readiness Assessment. You can complete this survey in less than 15 minutes and receive a personalized report on savings from streamlining your entire solar operations.
Scoop Solar’s software is designed for solar energy
Scoop Solar is recognized by leaders in the residential, commercial and utility sectors as the trusted solution for standardizing and scaling their solar operations. The system helps solar companies automate operational workflows and data flows from sales to design, field installation, close-out, PTO and beyond to service.
Scoop Solar’s project management platform works on all devices and even offline. The native mobile app is also available on Android and iOS.
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