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 according to your workflows and get the most bang for your buck.
By Scoop Solar Team
Lately, it seems like it has been a prolonged “busy season” for solar installers and O&M providers. According to SEIA, solar accounted for 43% of all new electricity-generating capacity in 2020.
The residential solar market grew by 7% in 2020 despite the pandemic and growth is expected to double in 2021 to 13%. The ITC extension for 2 years is expected to generate an additional 17% increase in solar deployments.
Amid this expanding solar “gold rush”, fast-growing solar installers and service providers are using mobile work process management & automation (mPMA) tools designed from the ground up for managing distributed solar teams across field and office. mPMA technology enables teams to complete installations and service work exponentially faster by removing friction from solar workflows and dataflows.
With the experience of having helped major solar, storage, and EV infrastructure brands increase efficiency by 25-50% across 15,000+ project sites worldwide, we decided to summarize the top lessons for optimizing and growing your solar operations.
Managing Growth In Solar Is Challenging
As solar deployments grow, 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 labor, making it extremely challenging for solar businesses to find suitable field personnel, project managers, and coordinators.
How can solar companies address this challenge? To increase capacity, companies have three options:
a) Increase the efficiency of their existing teams.
b) Hire more personnel.
c) Contract out all or portions of their jobs.
Option a addresses weaknesses in current operations and is thus the most proactive, immediate, and least costly solution. A growing number of solar, battery storage, and EV charging companies are increasing efficiency and scalability by implementing a connected, mobile, and automated solar project management system.
When selected correctly, the right project management system not only helps increase the internal team efficiency (option a) but also facilitates the onboarding of new employees (option b) and simplifies collaboration with outside contractors (option c).
5 Software Must-Haves For Faster Installations And Service
To take on more demand, solar companies need mPMA based project management software that is capable of the following:
- Automate Dataflows To Avoid Confusion And Repeat Data Entry
How is data transitioning between project phases and team members?
Signs that your dataflows are not optimized:
- Project managers have to remember to send or point out necessary data and documents by manually emailing, phoning, or texting team members.
- Admins need to spend time manually re-entering customer data into your CRM, design tool, accounting software, and multiple spreadsheets.
Uploading data in multiple places (i.e. storage systems, spreadsheets, etc.) is cumbersome and error-prone. With Scoop Solar, solar teams manage projects efficiently from a central hub and set up automated dataflows based on their exact processes. This approach to solar software uses global fields for transferring data to have the appropriate pictures, documents, and other data appear automatically for each role in the solar project.
- Automate and Customize Workflows To Keep Projects On Time
Are the right people being notified at the right time to play their part in project execution or service delivery?
Signs that your workflows are not optimized:
- New installations get delayed because of a missed handoff from sales to operations.
- Sales reps don’t get notified of design changes and can’t set customer expectations.
- Large 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 are freed from having to remember and spend time manually notifying others to hand off a task, email reports, or give updates to clients. Instead, this all happens automatically.
- Standardized Work Processes For Flawless Execution
Are there standardized processes and checklists in place 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 scope from the sales visit.
- Additional truck-rolls are needed due to missed steps or pictures during the site survey, installation, or service visit.
- Permit applications get rejected due to missing AHJ-specific requirements.
With Scoop Solar, teams can use a solar installation 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 is done with completing the site survey they submit it for review while still on site. This triggers the app to check for the completion of all mandatory fields and pictures prompting the technician to fill out missing ones.
- Connect All Tools and Systems In One Central Hub
Are disconnected systems making it difficult to see the real status of projects?
Signs that your operations system is disconnected and adding to your costs:
- Installation kickoff gets delayed due to manual handoff from sales/CRM to operations.
- Installation tasks and service tickets are difficult to track because they are generated and recorded in different tools or spreadsheets.
- Payments are delayed because someone has to manually remember to issue invoices at the correct time.
- Your team is wasting time logging in from one system to another and manually re-entering data.
- Streamline Partner & Subcontractor Operations
Is it easy to collaborate with outside vendors or subcontractors using your operations tool?
Signs that your current operational tool is too difficult for collaborating with outside partners:
- Engaging outside contractors requires lots of manual hand-holding resulting in project managers having to pick up the slack.
- New subcontractors (and even employees) find it difficult to look up communication and history in each work order.
Teams can easily define roles and access controls to only include information that they want partners to see using solar software built for collaborating with outside contractors. Scoop Solar’s platform allows contractors to see the history and comments for relevant installation and service orders.
Unify installations and service streams in one platform with Scoop Solar. You can standardize and connect workflows between all of your essential tools including your CRM, design, enterprise, accounting, and other software.
When Is the Right Time To Change Your Solar Operations Software
Software deficiencies prevent solar companies from achieving their growth potential, maximizing profit, and most importantly, delivering the flawless customer experience that will continue to propel them in the marketplace. Slow, manual, and cumbersome work processes result in disengaged employees and a high rate of turnover.
Let’s face it, at the rate that solar is growing it is unlikely that your company will be less busy in the future. By delaying the implementation of proper solar project management software, the problems you see today are only going to get amplified by growth.
By proactively implementing the right systems, you ensure any new employees or partners get onboarded learning the good habits and best practices that you have put in place to fuel growth.
How To Evaluate Execution Problems In Your Solar Operations
Like any other business decision, you need to be able to evaluate the investment in solar software with respect to the costs. Ask yourself, will your current systems allow installations to be completed on time or will lengthy delays cost you referral opportunities?
It’s 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 put together the Solar Operations Growth Readiness Assessment. You can complete this survey in under 15-minutes and receive a personalized report on savings from streamlining your entire solar operations.
Scoop Solar’s Software Is Designed For Solar Operations
Scoop Solar is recognized by residential, commercial, and utility-scale industry leaders as the trusted solution for standardizing and scaling their solar operations. The system helps solar companies automate operational workflows and dataflows from sales, to design, field install, closeout, 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.
Sponsored Content by Scoop Solar