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Best Practices To Determine Solar ROI Estimation

Are you currently on the hunt for a new technology platform to better engage your field crews, collect data and/or mobilize processes? Take a few minutes to review or learn some best practices for calculating return on investment (or ROI)!

Savvy solar logistics and operations managers know that each initiative they take on requires consideration of upfront and indirect costs, as well as projected savings. However, it is human nature to judge the worth of a solution by its price tag even though it does not always correlate with whether you are getting the most value out of your solar software.

While it does take longer to go “beyond the sticker” and consider other factors (such as the platform’s ROI, pricing model and any associated ongoing costs), it is certain to result in a much more realistic and dependable selection process.

In this article, we will explain the kind of preparation that needs to be done before measuring the ROI of solar field software solutions before diving into some calculation tips to get you started.

Preparing to Measure ROI

When it comes to measuring ROI, you are essentially comparing the size of savings or benefits to the cost of the given solution. Before breaking out the spreadsheet, it is worthwhile to go through some qualitative analysis and gather the base data on both the savings and costs sides of the ROI equation.

On the Savings Side of the ROI Equation

Start by identifying and estimating the financial impact of the challenges that you are trying to solve in your particular business. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Interview key personnel and ask them what their key challenges are, as well as what the biggest time wasters in their area of solar operations happen to be.


    Keep an eye open for areas where information is handed over. Major productivity drains often occur in handoffs between team members or departments, especially if key data is not captured or communicated accurately.
  2. Develop a list of key challenges and prioritize them based on the potential impact it would make if that challenge was heavily minimized.


    Don’t just consider labor savings – think about the “opportunity savings” as well! For example, even though reducing 2 hours of labor per day per salesperson may appear to save the company in salary budgeted, they are gaining more value because that time can be put towards tasks of a larger magnitude (i.e. the salesperson can use the time to reach more prospects or grow existing accounts).
  3. Describe your top 3 challenges in more detail and brainstorm with related teams on how to improve the process, remove unnecessary steps and eliminate bottlenecks. Again, keep in mind that the financial impact of each challenge may come from direct labor, materials wasted, delays or the loss of opportunities downstream.


    Save the list of top 3 challenges and their brainstormed solutions. This will help you better gauge the capabilities of various software solutions later.

On the Solution Cost Side of the ROI Equation

When you’re trying to estimate the true price-tag of the solution, it’s important to consider the following aspects:

  • Subscription Cost: Your solution will most likely be a Software as a Service (or SaaS) platform. These platforms’ pricing models vary, but you will usually be able to estimate the cost of the base solution on an annual or monthly basis. Take a look at this article to see which pricing model might be the best for your company.
  • Cost of Onboarding and Training: These costs are often underestimated and can become quite significant if not well understood. Depending on how user-friendly and streamlined the solution is, the configuration, training and onboarding process can take anywhere from months (for traditional solutions) down to only 1-2 weeks (for modern, cloud-based solutions). If you decide upon a mobile-first solution, these often require even less initial training for the end-user as the user interface and experience is designed similarly to familiar, everyday consumer apps.
  • Ongoing Configuration and Management: Again, this can vary wildly depending on the quality of the solution. Legacy solutions require highly-trained and costly IT resources to make the smallest of configuration changes, while up-and-coming zero-coding solutions (like Scoop) increasingly enable business managers and team leaders to make their own tweaks.

Once you have done the above brainstorming and fact-finding, you’re ready to dive into the ROI calculations. As a place to start, we’ve provided some categories below in expandable boxes that you you to follow below. Keep in mind that these are just starting points meant to stimulate more discussion and thinking within your team.

→ Looking for a starting point for calculating the costs for ROI? Get a copy of our FREE ready-made Excel ROI Calculator Template here! →

Calculating Solar ROI

In this section, we break down the key savings and cost categories that you need to include in the ROI evaluation of any field engagement tool.

Savings Calculation Categories in Solar Operations

1. Savings from Field Optimization

Field work is undoubtedly a major part of what a solar company does, and many key personnel spend more time out on site visits or traveling than they do in the office. For a field engagement tool, a key indication of savings is whether the platform minimizes friction between the office and field.


Savings = hours saved per instance of the process * number instances per employee * average hourly rate of employees involved * and number of employees impacted

2. Savings in Variable Costs

Reporting is a large part of managing your clients. Documenting data, formatting reports and communicating work completed to each customer takes time. If your software can help reduce the amount of resources spent per client on customer reporting, then you will have the bandwidth to service more clients with the same level of quality.


Savings = hours of manual steps saved * number of reports * hourly rate * % of personnel considered high value / experts

3. Savings in Fixed Costs (Administrative Labour, Resources)

Your software should be working for you to reduce overhead and take out manual labour that could be automated. By reducing administrative tasks like manual data entry and the unnecessary routine of printing, revising and distributing information via paper and email, you could significantly reduce your overhead and ensure your resources are concentrated into operations.


Savings = difference in # of clerks required * clerks' wages & benefits


Savings = savings in eliminating paper form revision and redistribution

4. Savings in Unplanned Costs (Downtime, Extra Truck-Rolls)

Based on historical and projected sales and servicing data, you can plan and budget for the number of truck rolls, percentage of downtime, etc. in a quarter. However, even with contingencies in place, many solar contractors often end up with unexpected costs. This could include unproductively idle workers as a result of poor equipment scheduling, or having to pay for costly extra truck-rolls to collect data forgotten the first time around.


Savings = hours of downtime saved * cost per hour * number of critical issues causing downtime


Savings = number of trips saved per personnel * cost per trip * number of field personnel

Top Costs Calculation Categories in Solar Operations

1. Subscription Costs

This is the most obvious and easily understood cost category as it is the price tag that you pay for a given solar software solution. As previously mentioned, these can vary based on the platform's pricing model but we have laid out sample calculations for two types below.


If Per User, cost = subscription cost per month * number of expected active users, rounded up

If Per Usage, cost = subscription cost * number of expected transactions, rounded up + 5% contingency

2. Onboarding, Training, Ongoing Configuration and Maintenance Costs

Although it is difficult to generalize a formula for calculating these, the following are important points to keep in mind:

  • Cloud-based solutions are generally drastically less expensive when it comes to onboarding and ongoing maintenance. To lower the cost and resource burden, narrow your search to a cloud-based solution – which most modern solar software are offered as, luckily enough.
  • Modern enterprise software development firms now follow a mobile-first strategy. In other words, they use a mobile device (often something like a smartphone) as their first canvas for design before they interpret the interface for desktop usage. By focusing on the mobile experience, the vendor exercises much more discipline to create something easy-to-use. Finding a mobile-first software keeps your training costs low throughout its lifetime of usage.
  • Most sophisticated business / enterprise software applications require at least a moderate degree of configuration and setup to complete onboarding. While you want to avoid software that is overloaded with features you’ll likely never use, you also don’t want to select software that is too simplistic and does not have the level of detail to reflex the complexities in your business. Finding a balance between both will lead to optimized costs.
  • Scoop's 80-20 Rule

    The 80-20 Rule: In most cases, users get 80% or more of the value from 20% or less of the features. Find a platform that is really good at delivering the key features that you really need, instead of focusing on rare exceptions that overcomplicate the platform.

Determining the ROI Estimate

As mentioned earlier, ROI is essentially a division of total savings or benefits by the total solution costs. This number is often presented as a multiple.

As a rule of thumb, a solution needs to produce at least 10X ROI (i.e., where savings are 10 times larger than the costs) to be worth the implementation risk. Discuss with your senior management to understand your company’s level of risk tolerance and refine the figure as needed.

Although the calculations can be tedious, performing this due diligence will help you become more confident in the solutions that you vet and ultimately enable you to present the best solution to your executive team. Remember, even if the cost of a solution seems absurd as first, figuring out its true ROI for your solar company could make the greatest difference!

→ We’ve also taken the liberty of putting together an ROI spreadsheet that covers all the above categories. Click here to your FREE copy of the Solar Software ROI Calculation Spreadsheet! →

Scoop® Solar is a unique solution that incorporates mobile and cloud technology to create an intuitive field-to-office experience for your team. By connecting your data and existing software with easy-to-build, easy-to-use work apps™, your team can access, input and sync data from a mobile phone or desktop, wherever they are. Work smarter and lower your overhead with features such as standardized mobile-optimized forms, fully integrated pictures and videos, one-click reporting, built-in API integrations and more. Learn more about our made-for-solar solutions here.

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