After months of design, development and testing SI5.5 is on the verge of being shipped. The requirements and feature list for SI5.5 were put in place last August and we have been working nonstop to deliver what we believe is the strongest release D-Tools has ever shipped. I am very excited about delivering it to current and future customers.
Like all releases, we began the process by defining our objectives. For SI5.5 we all agreed that we needed to broaden our customers’ ability to sell, design, and deliver every job they manage. In addition, we decided to make changes that would result in easier and more efficient use and management of the software. With this in mind, we decided on the following objectives:
- Enable end user efficiency through speed and ease of use.
- Provide customers a powerful scheduling and resource management solution.
- Allow customers to effectively manage warranty, repair, and other service calls.
- Provide tools to strengthen communication with staff, clients, contractors, and other resources.
I am very happy to say that SI5.5 delivers on all the goals, and more! Over the next few weeks leading up to, and following the release of SI5.5, we will be adding more to the D-Tools News Blog about specific features and usage. The team is working hard to put together videos. blog entries, forum posts and training materials to help you maximize your usage of the software and new features. A complete list of features can be found in our release documentation, I encourage you to review it. In the meantime, this would be a good time to take a high level look at how SI5.5 delivers on our objectives, and how we believe this release will continue to support efficiancy and accuracy in your business process.
Speed and Ease of Use
One of the first areas we looked at was how we could make the experience of working with the software easier, faster, and more intuitive. Si5.5 introduces a new user interface designed to allow for faster navigation around the application; less clicks to perform common tasks; and more discoverable buttons, tool menus, and current project information. We also think it just looks better! Simple changes like embedding the Reporting Center directly into the UI and the introduction of the Current Project Tree will help users perform regular tasks with greater speed and efficiency. Current users of SI5 will immediately notice the improved usability of the application over previous versions.
Powerful Scheduling and Resource Management
D-Tools has always been focused on providing efficiency and accuracy to the process of generating professional proposals and designs that help get and design every job. We have recognized our customers’ want those same efficiencies when managing a job through to completion. With the wealth of specific project data we store, features designed to help manage the implementation of work has always been seen as having a natural place in the feature set. SI5.5 finally delivers on that opportunity with it new Scheduling and Resource Management feature set. The Project Scheduling tool provides a Gannt scheduling tool Project Managers can use to schedule tasks required to deliver on your jobs. And while every task can include both the resources and specific equipment required, it is flexible to allow for tracking of non-install related tasks such as client visits, walk throughs, and other pre/post installation requirements.
In addition to the Project Schedule, SI5.5 includes a Resource calendar which gives Project Managers and Business Owners visibility into the activities of their entire staff. It works in conjunction with the Project Schedule and other tools to help ensure your resources are well scheduled and that scheduling conflicts are easily resolved. A simple drag and drop operation can take a double booked task and quickly reassign it to a new time or a different resource.
Lastly, we made sure to include new and fully customizable reports that help you track the status of your projects and the variance between your labor estimates and actual costs.
Managing Ongoing Service
Providing ongoing service to their clients is an important part of many of our customers’ business plans. It is also a business opportunity many of our customers are trying to take advantage of. Ongoing service can come in many forms: Warranty service of damaged equipment, repair calls, maintenance visits etc. In addition, many customers take on jobs with clients whose systems they did not sell or install. Scheduling, billing, and tracking these kinds of jobs is fast becoming a necessity with all our customers. SI5.5 includes a new Service Order feature which allows customers to create and manage these kinds of jobs. Services orders can be associated to existing projects or created for new clients and can include new equipment or refer to existing equipment which must be replaced or repaired. Service orders are incorporated in the Resource Calendar and have the same powerful reporting capabilities that ship with the entire scheduling solution.
As important and powerful as all these features are, we realized that they are only useful if the information can be quickly communicated to team members, partners, clients and installers in the field. That is why we included Outlook 2007 integration in SI5.5. We have expanded our support for importing and exporting client and contact information to and from Outlook but that is not all. Users can now create emails, tasks, and appointments for all scheduling tasks and service orders. Installation reports, wire labels, and other additional information can be easily attached to all outbound communication, ensuring that your staff not only knows where to go but what to do when they get there. Starting with SI5.5, users can now utilize email enabled PDAs or Phones to communicate assignments directly to the job site.
We are very excited to start out this year bringing these new tools to our current and future customers. The great thing is, these are just the highlights! We have added functionality across the application to help our users work smarter, faster and with more confidence. We believe that once you get a look at SI5.5, it will be clear that it offers the best solution in the System and Security Integration markets.