By Ryan Brown, Media Environment Design (MED) & Kevin Mikelonis, Process DSG

Create an implementation strategy – don’t expect to implement all features at once!
Start your D-Tools implementation off right; start with a plan! Just like you would engineer an A/V integration project before sending your crew out in the field to install the products. You need to know what your objectives are and how you are going to achieve them.

Start your implementation plan by prioritizing a list of D-Tools features you wish to implement from most important to least important.  This will help you create a clear plan of action that your staff can follow during the implementation process.  Your list needs to be placed into your implementation plan with specific milestones and responsible parties assigned to help achieve the milestones.  This way everyone knows what is expected of them, and when they are expected to deliver their part.  You purchased D-Tools to make your business run more efficiently and more professionally; make sure you get started on the right foot!

Flowchart your D-Tools implementation plan by user and task
Once you have created your prioritized list, plan of action and have assigned individuals responsible for helping to achieve your company’s objectives, create a flowchart in Microsoft Visio to visually communicate the plan.  Print this out on a 24”x36” sheet of paper and hang it prominently in the office.  This will allow the entire company to know exactly where you are at with your implementation.  When you complete each task on the flowchart make sure to make a LARGE “X” through that task showing that you are one step closer to your new process.

Identify all of the steps of a project’s lifecycle
Another very important aspect to using D-Tools is knowing how the different tools available in the software will be useful within your project lifecycle.  You should already have some form of project lifecycle documentation (if not on paper it is in your head).  It’s important to have this documented and written down; it’s like a business plan for your integration projects!  Once you have identified all the steps in a project lifecycle you can now clearly understand where D-Tools fits into your business process.  Document your new project lifecycle and include the new steps that D-Tools brings to that process.  This should be communicated to your entire staff.

Go through the Setup tab to configure your database with company specific information.
Once you have created a plan of action for implementing D-Tools into your company’s process, you can now focus on configuring the software to reflect your company.  Go through the setup tab and click on each one of the links.  This is where you set your address, labor rates, company staffing, and perform other tasks critical to using the software effectively.

Calculate the avg. burden cost of labor for your company’s technical staff by department
When setting up your labor rates and entering your labor costs per hour, consider entering your labor cost as the average burden cost of labor.  Burden cost of labor should be the average cost of your technical staff if you are a moderate size company where rough-in, trim, finish, and programming techs move between phases and functions based on the demand of your project cycles.  This allows for you to compensate for the times when a finish technician might be involved with a trim out billed at a lower labor cost.  Just because you pay a finish technician $10 an hour more than a trim technician does not mean you can lock in a lower cost for your trim phase if your finish technician is not doing finish install 100% of the time.  You may actually under estimate your cost if you do not ‘average up’ for phases where higher wage techs may participate.

Another tip regarding your labor setup and analysis is to consult with your accounting department to understand exactly how much profit and overhead your company must make per man hour; “revenue per man hour”. Knowing this amount and knowing your ‘production bandwidth’ – (which is the number of man hours your company actually has available to install systems throughout the year) gives you the ability to effectively analyze project hours.  We recommend using the D-Tools Gross profit report and a D-tools Project Hours by Phase report and divide the gross profit by the total man hours for a job. If this number exceeds the “revenue per man hour” required to cover your overhead and profit, you know that your job is making the money your company requires.  This also gives you the amount of project available to negotiate profitably with your customer.

Identify your company’s distinct product mix.
When building your D-Tools database it is very important to consider the distinct product mix your company focuses on.  It can be appealing to have a large, comprehensive database of products to select from, but through years of working with all types of integrators, we still find it best to have a defined, compact database of your core products.  Having a defined product list to build your database from makes an efficient process of configuring your data.  You know which items to download and you also have a list of vendors you need to contact for your current prices on those product lines.  Maintaining a smaller, defined product database is much easier to manage and maintain.  The quality of your database will be exponentially higher by taking this approach.  Additionally, other areas of your business will benefit from a core products approach.  Imagine the increased efficiency your installation and programming teams will achieve if they are consistently installing the same range of products.

Speakers should be priced as each.
When setting the prices of speakers in your database it is important to have them priced as individual speakers.  Although most speaker manufacturers price many of their products in pairs, when using D-Tools it is important to have them priced individually.  The main reason for this relates to using the Visio portion of D-Tools.  When you are graphically representing a speaker on the drawing, that speaker shape represents 1 speaker (and 1 item in your project Data Matrix).  In order to have both speakers show up on the drawing you need to have a separate data matrix line for each speaker.

Rough-in wire items need to be priced at per foot pricing.
Rough-in cabling in D-Tools has some unique qualities that make it behave differently in your D-Tools file.  If an item is in the “Wire and Cable” category and is assigned to the “Rough-in” phase it’s pricing (for both equipment and labor totals) will be calculated per foot.  When adding a rough-in wire to the project file you will be prompted to specify a wire length.  This wire length is used to calculate the price of the wire as well as the labor cost for its install.  Due to this fact you need to make sure that the price of the cable is priced by the foot and that the labor is also priced by the foot.  For example:

Rough Wire Price per foot = (Price Per Spool ÷ # Feet included in spool)
·         So…If you buy your cable in a 500 foot spool for $125, your per foot price = $125 ÷ 500 or $0.25 per foot.

Rough Wire Labor per foot = # Hours ÷ # Feet in time period
·         If your installer can pull 1000 feet of cable in 8 hours, your labor rate = 8 ÷ 1000 = .008 per foot

Use Accessories!
Using accessories and packages is one of the most effective ways to create efficiency in your sales & engineering process!  This is hands down, the easiest way to create efficiency and become more profitable by using D-Tools.  Not only will you be able to produce proposals more quickly; they will be more accurate.  Put your self at ease and stop worrying about what you forgot to place in the job; use accessories and packages to bundle things together.  I can hear you now: “adding accessories to every product in my database is going to take a lot of time.  Time I don’t have”.  Do not sit down and add accessories to every item in your database.  With each job that you engineer in D-Tools, add accessories to the items you are adding to the proposals.  This will take a little more time to create a proposal than normal, but with each proposal you generate you will be adding less and less accessories to your products.  You will also be sequentially building an engineered database.  This is when you start to realize the wonderful benefits of using accessories; increased efficiency, accuracy and peace of mind.  Work smarter, not harder!

Watch the help videos, get training and read the user manual!
This may sound obvious to you, but ask yourself, when was the last time you read the manual for anything?  Building the bike for your kids on Christmas Eve, putting together that entertainment unit, using D-Tools software.; do you read the manual?  I’m very surprised how often I speak with integrators who have not even opened their D-Tools manual.  There is a lot of valuable information in there!  Another great resource is the help videos that come loaded on your D-Tools installation disc.  These videos demonstrate how to perform many tasks within D-Tools software.

Media Environment Design, Inc. (MED), founded in 1999 and based in San Diego, CA, provides a wide range of services to dealers in the systems integration industry.  MED is the founding D-Tools Certified Partner, having trained and implemented hundreds of integration companies with D-Tools software.  MED exclusively provides D-Tools regional and onsite trainings for D-Tools, Inc.  Our services are designed to help integrators elevate their businesses and to help them become more efficient, effective and profitable. It is our mission to make your business better.

Media Environment Design has developed the MED Professional Services Network; a select group of independent companies authorized by MED to provide the implementation and training services developed by MED.  Our partnerships with these companies allow us to bring a wide range of experience and expertise to our customers.   One of these partner companies is Process Dealer Services Group.

Process Dealer Services Group provides professional services to Electronic Systems Contractors.  From Business Process Development and Integrated D-Tools Software Implementation to System Design/Documentation and Project Management, the Process staff helps integrators expand their highly skilled resources as needed for high demand projects and overlapping peaks in multiple project lifecycles.  Our knowledgebase remains current and relevant by owning and operating an Electronic Systems Contracting Group in San Luis Obispo County, California, Process Digital Entertainment Services, and by providing course instruction for MED’s online D-Tools Training Program, MIT.  Process founder, Kevin Mikelonis is a CEDIA Certified Instructor, and Registered Outreach Instructor.