You, Integrated: Are You Integrating Your Company’s Workflow? Part I
If you are reading this magazine, you probably specialize in designing and installing systems that integrate a wide range of electronic gear for your clients. This is a challenging field to be in when you consider how rapidly new tech products are being introduced. You may be called upon to integrate audio, video, lighting, HVAC, computer networks, shades, mobile and wireless devices, security, telephone, access control, surveillance systems and more.
The challenge grows when each type of system may require a different method of control. Learning how to design and implement the right solution for providing a simple user interface to manage all this technology is not for the newbie or the faint of heart.
Since launching BidMagic software over 10 years ago, I have been working with hundreds of technology integrators and gained a wealth of understanding about what they need to make their businesses succeed. The initial goal of our software was to help salespeople create awesome professional proposals in just a few minutes.
I believe that the proposal is the point of sale for our industry, and that the document you hand your prospect is all-important. That piece of paper needs to stand head and shoulders above the other proposals your propect receives. It must position you as the company of choice. It must be compelling so that you win the job with the best proposal, NOT by being the low bidder.
Every job begins with a winning proposal. Once your client signs it, a whole series of events is set in motion. You now have a project to manage with products that must be ordered, billing that must be managed, installation that must be scheduled and more.
After the sale, you need a “control system” that can manage all of these processes. Without your own control system that can integrate your business workflow, you will be as frustrated as your clients would be if the system integration you did for them crashed and they have to manage all of their systems and tasks manually.
I have found that many companies that do a great job building integrated solutions for their customers often have extremely disjointed, homegrown solutions that do not serve them well. Some still create bids with Excel that do not connect with any other steps in their workflow. They jump back and forth between a handfull of software programs that are not designed to work together. This requires data to be re-entered manually from one software program to another.
Merely saving Excel documents in a folder is a poor way of dealing with the ever-changing requirements needed to finish the job you have sold. Things are constantly changing and all users need to be viewing the most current job info. When there is no sync between the steps, there can be lots of confusion about which document or change order is accurate. The lack of a straightforward workflow wastes time and money and causes errors and stress.
The task of designing a successful workflow for your team is very much like the work a football coach does when he creates his playbook. In football you cannot run a play unless you have developed a specific, repeatable plan that the entire team understands. During each play the whole team must be absolutely sure of who has the ball and what they will do with it next.