Smart Systems Keeps on Saving
“To anyone who is looking at a software development project, I’d say: At least go in and talk to Stratos. They’re very good, they’re straight up, they’ll tell you if they can do it or not. I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.”
– Michael Gilbert, Operations Manager, Smart Systems
Smart Systems needed a way to capture all the detailed electrical work that new home owners want for their dream projects. When the original software developer went out of business, Stratos Technology Partners stepped in to rescue the project and finish it off.
Smart Systems wires them up
Smart Systems’ technicians install electrical and electronic systems in new homes, from HVAC systems to home entertainment systems, lighting fixtures, electrical outlets and all kinds of electrical, electronic and communications wiring. The team has grown to more than 30 staff, including 23 field workers operating from around 10 vans.
Manual systems led to errors and lost profits
“We originally did everything by drawing plans on paper,” said Michael Gilbert, Operations Manager at Smart Systems. “Clients would walk around with us scrawling on the plans where work was required. The plan would be in black ink and our notes were in blue making the whole thing difficult to see and we’d make lots of errors.
“Then we used Microsoft Visio, scanning the plans and cleaning up anything we didn’t need, leaving the walls and the room names. After that, we’d drag and drop symbols of what the client required directly onto the plan. Once completed, we’d count up everything and transfer it to a spreadsheet for a quote. You can see where human error can creep in.
“The biggest issue was the massive holes in the process; if you missed anything you’d undercharge the client. The client looks at the plan and that’s what they think they’re getting. They don’t necessarily look at all the details in the quote. They just look at the final figure on the quote.
“When the client flagged something that wasn’t done, no one could remember what was said weeks before. The only way to correct it was to go with what the client said. We ended up doing more work than what we were paid for.”
“There was something called PDL Planner that had a drag-and-drop system where you could drop symbols onto a plan and then once done, generate an accurate quote. Unfortunately it didn’t support products outside the PDL family.
“Smart Systems met with the PDL Planner developer from Auckland, and he quoted a price for a new system of our own. We got a quotation from another software developer and although the prices were similar, we chose the latter because it was located in Christchurch and had the backup.”
Stratos saves the day
“We were about halfway through when the software developer went into liquidation. Stratos were able to salvage our code for us and saved the day.”
“It went more smoothly after Stratos took it over. They were straight up, didn’t sugar coat things, and just told us the facts. We had meetings, got it back on track. Then all the testing had to happen.
“The guys from Stratos are great. We like that they are very methodical thinkers. They have an ability to think outside the box, to see from different angles the things we did. We just got on really well.”
Its transformed our business
The solution allows Smarts Systems to manage all the complexities of a modern house. In power switches alone, there are many types of switches, face plates, colours and materials. Smart Systems loads its suppliers’ products into the system and then drops them onto client plans.
“With the new system all the errors are ironed out. What’s on the plan is now what’s on the quote. We were probably undercharging by around 5% on average. In our industry where margins are slim, that’s quite a lot.
Everything is so much easier now
“Saving on costs isn’t the only thing. Everything is so much easier now, and there’s so much more information.
“We don’t need to read the plan to figure out what materials we need; it’s all done in the background. The system generates a bill of materials, calculates the hours the job will require, and tells us what we need to order for it.
“Before this system, we had 4 or 5 full-time staff. Now we have 31 people on our team and yet our administrative staff is still only one person working around 30 hours a week.”
– Michael Gilbert, Operations Manager, Smart Systems
“We no longer need someone to work out the materials and hours required for the job, and try to track it all financially at the end.”
“The system feeds into our accounting system where billing and payments can be handled. It’s probably saved us around two full-time equivalents or at least $60,000 a year, on top of the 5% of revenue it saved a year.”
Stratos also helps with IT infrastructure
Based on the experience using Stratos for software development, Smart Systems were all too happy to call them again when they needed additional IT help.
“We had a networking issue here, and Stratos came around. Inside 45 minutes, the issue was fixed and it’s been hunky dory ever since.”
Stratos is straight up and we trust them
“Stratos have shown us that they’re proactive. They are very accessible, which is really important because if the system falls over, we can’t do much at all. We can’t quote, we can’t do our finances, can’t do our
tracking, frankly we can’t do squat. We’d have to go back to manual processes.
“This is where their responsiveness comes in. Their response times are so fast. They’re on to it quickly. You’re not left waiting.
“They’re very straight up, very good at communicating, and they let you know what they think it is.”