We featured Tailor-Made Audio and Video in a case study last month. Read it here. John McDermott is back this month following up with his “Top 10 Features of Six”.  Read on for the list! We know you’ll enjoy it….

Author: John McDermott, Residential & Commercial System Designer, TailorMade AV

tailor made logo1v2I have done my time in several positions in our industry.  Currently, I co-own Tailor-Made AV in Windham, NH.  I handle part of the technical sales duties here in both the commercial and residential categories and I also administer our D-Tools server and database.  Here, and with other companies, I have been a programmer, managed installation services, been on the installation team, and heck at one time I was even a cable guy.

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Wherever I worked as an installer, I was what some would call obsessed with finding the “next great tool”.  There are some great ones that have come along over the years, but not a lot of anything that has really made the job dramatically easier on a daily basis.

A while back, after putting away my tools and polishing my sales skills, I came to the realization that it would be some other installer in our ranks that would be graced with the presence of some new hand-saw that cuts a plaster and metal lathe ceiling like it’s a cheesecake.  What tools would I be discovering from behind a desk?

I have tried several ways of designing systems, creating proposals, and integrating them to help the powers that be keep the books clean.  Everything I have tried has been fundamentally flawed in one way or another.  No software out there is perfect, but… D-Tools SIX comes really, really close.

Here are my top ten reasons why I think every respectable company, and more importantly every company that wants to be such, should be making SIX the backbone of their sales force:

  1. The Most Comprehensive Database Available:  Every company you come across that makes proposal software for our industry charges for use of their product database.  I accepted that a few years ago.  I get it.  However, prior to studying D-Tools’ product database I never saw one I wanted to pony up for.  Between the standard library and the extended library, the time savings in fully utilizing the database is invaluable.  The database is kept remarkably up to date considering how gargantuan a task it is, and on top of that the detail found from most manufacturers is astounding.
  2. The Unified User Interface:  I’m not necessarily knocking the way SI5.5 operated.  It was a far better product then other proposal tools out there on its own.  However, when D-Tools touted the upcoming unified interface long before SIX’s release, I was already smitten!  Without having to open a project and use up valuable display space, I can run reports, manage a project’s status, order status, scheduling information, and the list goes on…
  3. Working with Multiple Projects at Once:  This is one I admit I only recently took advantage of.  The ability to copy and paste information from one project to another is absolutely one of the biggest time-savers in SIX.  In the last few months it has saved me countless hours if not days and that has helped me close some big deals.  It’s not just simply being able to copy and paste items.  It’s being able to take one item, an entire location full of items, or even just selected items and drag-and-drop them into another project.  Oh, and it’s not just that either.  It’s being able to drag those items to multiple locations and systems simultaneously.  Have a project that has a system within it that you really liked?  Use it again!  Just drag it from that project over to the room you want to propose it in the new project.
  4. Packages:  There are obvious uses for packages.  Most often, having items you always use together drop in all at once, maybe at a discounted price.  This alone is great!  However, I have found my new favorite use for Packages.  My company recently wanted to tackle the problem of over-complicated proposals.  How do you make the proposals simple enough for the client to understand, but still have enough detail for whoever is ordering your product?  How do you insure that you’re charging the correct amount for miscellaneous accessories like speaker cable, category cable, and hardware, but not itemize them for the client to sift through while their head spins?  A package.  We created a package item with all of our standard cables, speaker cable, category cable, etc.  In each location on a proposal we add this package.  We only check off the items we want to include in this location.  Adjust the lengths of bulk cables.  Check off the little box that says “summarize on client reports” and we’re done.  The client’s report shows a line that says something along the lines of “Miscellaneous Installation Parts”, but your project database, your reports can read detailed cable lengths and items needed.
  5. Custom Fields:  This took a while to really click with us.  For a long time we never used it.  I suppose that would be the case for a lot of companies.  Then one day we had a problem come up.  We wanted to create some detailed sales forecast reports.  What projects are being worked on, what stage are they at, how likely to close are they, and what are they going to be worth?  We created Custom Fields for these details.  When creating a project we fill in what we can, and we add and adjust the info as the project matures.  Then from the project management screen, the user interface can be customized to show these fields, and the screen can be exported to an external program like Excel.  An Excel spreadsheet can be customized to take this information and do many, many things with it.  This has become a huge help in really knowing where we are at all the time.
  6. Working Offline:  In the past, when working from home or remotely, a VPN was required to do so.  You would need to be on your company’s network in order to connect to your D-Tools Server.  VPN works okay, but it’s slow, and if you have to surf the net for research while working you better hope the site you’re surfing doesn’t require much bandwidth.  The ability to work offline takes you off your Server’s grid for a period.  Being off the Server limits your capabilities, but gives you the ability to create your proposal while still researching online and using your broadband connection the way it was meant to be used.  This was a great added feature for those of us who often find ourselves writing proposals from everywhere but our desk!
  7. QuickLinks QuickBooks Integration Tool:  This is an unsung hero!  For a long time before we used D-Tools (when we tried integration offered by another company),  a while after getting into D-Tools and even a while after starting with Six we were timid about utilizing QuickBooks integration.  We tried a few times, but anyone familiar with QuickBooks will tell you that you don’t want to have to go back and fix mistakes.  It just needs to work properly.  Well, we have been hard at work getting our books polished, and having a smooth migration of estimates from Six to QuickBooks was essential.  Once we got off the ground with QuickLinks, it was a snap!  Migrate the estimate to QuickBooks, create your PO’s or whatever else you need to do, and then after your work is completed, change-orders made, etc you simply send the invoice. Now your info in both of your systems is the same, and there is no more, “wait these numbers don’t match” or “this just doesn’t add up” from your bookkeeper.
  8. Service Orders, Work Orders, and Scheduling:  Six has come a long, long way from 5.5 in this department.  You can now create Service Orders for your clients, create Work Orders, Jobs, and schedule all of the above right from the Unified User Interface.  The additional options and clarifications made in the Project Information screens also help this process move along smoothly and carry through the right people.
  9. Visio Integration:  Sure you can create a project the typical way.  Create your rooms, add your products, and add your labor.  Then later you can create your floor plans, schematics, line diagrams, and elevations in Visio.  Why not do both at the same time?  Why not add your items to your project by adding them to your plans?  Why not drag items from your project directly onto your difference Visio drawings?  All of this is possible with the virtually flawless Visio integration that D-Tools has integrated.  Oh, but then there are those that use AutoCad instead!  Oh yeah, it does that too…
  10. Support:  D-Tools has never failed me in resolving the very few issues I have had over the time I have been using it. Also, I have to say nine times out of ten, the issue is my computer or “operator error”.  Most problems are resolvable with a few minutes of your time using the simple online chat window available on the tech support page of d-tools.com.  The staff at D-Tools are friendly, and they really project the “small company” feel.  I know that if I have an issue it will be resolved quickly.  Their team understands that, for many of us using their software, this is our livelihood.  Not getting projects done in a timely manner effects your close ratio and directly influences every aspect of your business.  They are there to help you grow your business, plain and simple.