If you ask most CE pros, figuring out a way to integrate their various pieces of business software is way more difficult than integrating various hardware components in a client’s home. Finding compatible software for accounting, CRM, proposal creation, inventory management, sales order generation, work order history, timesheets, job assignment, project management and more can be daunting if not darn-right impossible.
That giant challenge is what led to the idea of a single-input software system that basically “runs the business.” Only, many of those solutions tended to require integrators to alter their business practices drastically, not to mention they were expensive.
So who better to understand the challenges integrators face in this area than another integrator? That is the backdrop against which Brooks Swift developed all-inclusive iPoint. The company, which has been out in the market and in use by a handful of integrators for three years, is now stepping out of the shadows for the first time with a major presence at the upcoming CEDIA 2016 trade show (booth #1719).
“We have been constantly developing the software for the past three years. We chose slow growth on purpose. We wanted to make sure it is polished before we took it to the mainstream,” says Swift. Part of that ramp up is hiring new salespeople and a director of training and support.
The software straddles between being a traditional on-site server-based system with licenses/seats, and a cloud-based server system.
“Cloud-only based systems are limited by the toolset of the browser. Most cloud software system must build five different versions for every browser. Meanwhile, users of subscription-based software are at a disadvantage because if you step away or quit in the middle of inputting a project, the data is gone,” says Swift.
iPoint is both traditional and cloud-based, offering both licenses and subscription/maintenance fees that cover quarterly updates.
“Everyone pays a subscription fee because nobody wants to manage a server,” he notes. iPoint charges $3,500 for the setup of the core license. Additional seats cost $299. On the cloud side, there is a $150 per month fee for the core user with $45 per month for additional users.
“We are the most expensive,” Swift says bluntly. “You can never say ‘all’ … there will always be holes to plug, but we have thought of everything.”
Fully Integrated Software for Large or Small Integrators
Swift himself was an integrator for eight years so he realized the need for an all-inclusive software suite. iPoint uses the same user interface for Apple or PC with complete integration for CRM, proposals, billing and invoicing (fully integrated with QuickBooks), change orders, document storage, work order history, notes, media/image storage and project management. The software also includes an assignment system that basically replaces internal email.
Based on the team’s own experiences, the iPoint developers tried to think of every possible need that an integration company might encounter and translate that into the software. For example, in the proposal creation portion the integrator can build his or her own design for the inclusion of images, product detail, etc. There are also modifiers for the dealer to use for anything that can affect the proposal, such as equipment margin, labor costs/ margin, discounts, etc.
The system will even restrict you from discounting products that cannot be discounted to do MAP policies. Any details can be “hidden” from the customer for the printed proposal. There is also a “walkthrough mode” for iPad where the homeowner/end user can interact with the software to help build the system, while the dealer’s internal margin and labor details are hidden. The software can adapt for room-by-room selling or system-by-system selling, whichever the CE pro prefers. Eventually the homeowner can use the software to “OK” the proposal. The software automatically builds a table of contents.
Once the proposal is signed, the system then automatically triggers notifications for invoicing and creates them, even printing the labels. When payment is received, the system auto notifies the purchasing department and warehouse. All along the way, management can track the status.
Change orders are nested within the context of the original design of a project with management approval settings. Salespeople can insert digital images and notes taken on the jobsite to help the technician know exactly where the customer wants a keypad placed, for example.
From a management standpoint, because iPoint is server based integrators can actively see the status of every project in real time, create punch lists, track labor time spent vs. estimated labor, and even reveal how long individual tasks take a technician to complete.
It might sound like the software is suited only for CE Pro 100-size companies. Not so, according to Swift. Users include three-man shops up to 72 users.
“The small companies like the software because of the mobility, while the big companies like the structure,” says Swift.
At CEDIA 2016, the company will be touting its new monthly newsletter designed for integrators to send to their clients.