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Why You Need To Make Time In Your Solar Operations For Digital Transformation

Why You Need To Make Time In Your Solar Operations For Digital Transformation


In this article, we provide a practical framework to assess your solar operations and determine if you are ready for a fully-fledged operations workflow automation and management solution. We’ll show you how to free up time for upgrading your software and we’ll share how fast-growing solar operations are implementing a new breed of software dubbed mPMA to “level up” relative to their peers.

Throughout this post, in addition to describing the benefits of automation, we’ll also share practical tools, additional content and savings calculators that you can use to evaluate your solar operations. Finally, you will learn what it takes to automate your operations and why companies are able to fully optimize their solar operations often in 4-5 weeks.

Solar Is Growing FAST – so fast that many companies are straining to keep up


From 2013-2021, the number of solar installers doubled. Despite the highly disruptive pandemic in 2020, the residential solar market alone continued to grow by 7% and the rate of growth is forecasted to nearly double in 2021. Furthermore, the recent two-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) will drive greater solar adoption. In fact, analysts are forecasting an additional 17% increase in solar deployments between 2021 and 2025 because of this extension. There’s strong resilience in solar and demand is expected to continue. By 2030, the number of solar installations is expected to quadruple.

But it’s not all rosy for solar. On the flip side of rapid growth in the solar industry is a shortage in labor supply. Solar installers and service providers of all sizes are struggling to recruit and retain technicians, operations managers, and field crews. Therefore, solar companies’ growth prospects are limited when relying on expanding their teams.

Solar Companies Are Increasingly Looking to Software to Optimize Operations


In a nutshell, the challenge in solar has shifted from sales to execution and it’s no longer about having enough demand. There’s plenty of that – but rather fulfilling projects. Operations leaders in the industry who recognized this problem early on, have already been revamping their solar operations to take on more projects and ensure that projects on hand are completed successfully.

In a bid to expand capacity in their operations, fast-growing solar installers and service providers have turned to a new breed of advanced solar project management software and mobile work process management & automation (mPMA) tools that are designed from the ground up for solar field and office teams.

Unlike general purpose CRM or Project Management tools that require a huge amount of setup and are not designed for field intensive work, these new mPMA centric solar software solutions come with industry best practice solar templates. mPMA also provides the means to streamline workflows, connect business tools and optimize collaboration across field and office and including with outside subcontractors.

Is Your Solar Project Management System Set Up For Growth?


Here are 3 questions to help you get a pulse check on your solar operations:

  1. Solar Installation Project Management Readiness: How confident are you that your solar operations can take on 2 or 3 times more projects if orders were to continue to grow over the next 12 months?
  2. Solar Service / O&M Readiness: What would you have to do to allocate resources to complete 2 or 3 times more service work orders?
  3. Solar Software Stack Readiness: How efficiently is your solar team successfully completing projects and services using the current collection of software and tools? How connected are these tools?


Signs That Your Solar Operations Is Ready for Mobile Work Process Management & Automation Technology (mPMA)

Mobile Work Process Management & Automation or mPMA is a new emerging category of software that allows highly distributed / remote / field-intensive teams achieve unprecedented levels of productivity by employing the concept of Work Apps. Scoop Solar is a leader in this category and has been providing solar installation and service teams with a highly effective solution for automating their solar project management and service processes as well as connecting their other tools such as CRMs, Solar Design Software and Accounting in a seamless technology stack. From our experience, solar businesses are ready for workflow automation with mPMA technology when they tick at least three of these boxes:

  1. Completing either 15 or more solar installation projects or 50 service work orders per month. This is the threshold of growth for solar companies whereby complexity begins to grow exponentially. Essentially the rudimentary or disconnected tools that “got you here”, won’t get you to the next chapter of growth. Teams begin to get bogged down by inefficiencies from manual steps, repeat data entry, time-consuming handoffs or correcting mistakes via rework and repeat site visits. During this stage, there’s a realization of “we need a better system” and teams begin their search for solar software.
  2. You are seeing clear warning signs that your current processes cannot help you achieve growth. Your team keeps telling you that your current processes just aren’t working. Whether it’s missed handoffs, repeat truck rolls or time-consuming manual processes, you know that existing systems will not help you achieve scale.
  3. You are having trouble finding additional talent to fill key roles. With a 26% employee turnover in the solar industry, many companies need automation to keep up with new and existing contracts. Scoop helps solar teams in multiple ways address the labor challenge head on. They can complete more work in less time which means the existing team can take on 35-50% more work.
  4. Despite the above, you feel like there’s no time to implement software. Even though this sounds contradictory, this realization is a clear indication of how your solar operations are closing more business and becoming so busy to the point where it’s hard to find time for anything else. When this happens, operations managers are faced with a choice of turning down business or revamping their solar operations to take advantage of growth opportunities. But with traditionally multi-month (if not multi-year) implementation cycles for all-in-one software (e.g., CRM) this always seems out of reach.
  5. You have a person on the team that can dedicate ~4 hours per week for 1-2 months to work with your new mPMA software provider’s customer success team on lean digital transformation. The role of this person is to provide inputs about your installation or service processes, review software configuration, and participate in training. Keep in mind that Scoop is a solar-specialized mPMA platform and comes pre-loaded with solar Work App templates so it’s reasonable to expect to get up and running in 4-5 weeks and with little (4 hours per week) allocation of time. Getting up and running using generic CRM or project management tools can take 5 months and up to a year (the set up time is 5-10x more compared to Scoop).

How Solar Installers & Service Providers Manage Projects With Scoop


As a leading mPMA platform, Scoop substantially reduces and often eliminates manual data entry, cumbersome manual reminders, work handoffs, and frustrating mistakes leading to rework and repeat site visits. Besides the significant positive impact on productivity, this results in a markedly more positive and rewarding work experience which promotes employee retention and word of mouth to attract top new talent.

Scoop’s unique architecture helps you divide each project into modular units of work based on the concept of Work Apps. Work Apps are used to create self-contained, remotely executable units of work called “scoops”. Each scoop provides a curated list of essential information (without the “additional noise” like you would encounter in traditional CRMs or legacy project management whereby users have to wade through confusing pages of information and fields to get to their work), the necessary instructional steps including even videos and guides and ultimately the required placeholders to upload data, documents, pictures and other work product for each distinct phase of an installation project or service visit. This modularization of work using the unique concept of Work Apps (templates) and the resulting scoops (units of work) has the added advantage that work can easily be outsourced to subcontractors while maintaining oversight and compliance with your company’s best practices. Again, this provides a fresh new pool of capacity for your business to grow beyond what is afforded by the shrinking labor supply – especially as you expand beyond your home territory.

Top 5 Challenges In Selecting Solar Project Management Software


At Scoop, we’ve interviewed hundreds of solar professionals many of whom were struggling to find a system that allowed their field and office, internal and external teams to collaborate seamlessly. Here were the 5 challenges that kept coming up in their quest to choose the right solar project management software:

1. Most project management software is generic.


Most solar companies have ‘grown up’ over the years using a number of general purpose tools – often added without explicit planning but reactively as needs have come up. These solutions are often quite fragmented and involve a combination of spreadsheet-based solutions, CRMs, generic office-based project management tools and typically a few form or data capture tools for field pictures and labor hours logging.

Clearly these solutions were never intended for the specific needs and challenges faced by solar operations and teams, rather designed and built with an imagined broad industry and almost always office-based audience. The problem is that these generic solutions lack features that solar operations and providers so desperately need to streamline and connect their work processes from the initial sales visit to site survey, field PV installation, battery installation, job closeout, PTO, and service and preventative maintenance.  Given the highly distributed and often times outsourced nature of work in solar these processes must be accessible anywhere, easily understandable and executable with minimal training required.

Generic software solutions don’t provide automated handoffs of solar data and documents from one team member to another – resulting in huge amounts of data re-entry. They don’t provide a fully integrated system for taking pictures on site, reporting issues and doing remote pre site-departure reviews – resulting in the need for manual uploads to online folders, missing pictures, and repeat truck rolls.

The mobile apps (if they exist) lack availability in remote locations for crews that may not have access to robust Internet connections. They don’t provide automatic generation of custom client-facing PDF reports or automated client updates & communication, customizable integrations with your solar design and proposal tools, and many many more features that are vital and game changing for solar operations.

For a full review of how Scoop’s mPMA approach differs from legacy or generic tools and how this impacts solar operations have a look through the Why Scoop page.

Solution: Consider searching for solar project management software. The world of IT is increasingly moving away from generic so-called all-in-one platforms (all-in-one being a bit of a myth to begin with) towards highly capable, industry focused best-in-class platforms.  The advantage of solar specialized software like Scoop is that not only on the platform side we have developed solar-specific apps and features for every work stage, in addition, our entire team speaks solar. Whether it’s commercial, residential, O&M, utility-scale or community solar, the entire Scoop team understands solar workflows and processes in companies of every size.  In fact we are able to provide your team with our experience with solar best practices gleaned from years of working with the world’s fastest growing solar installation and service providers.

Get an information kit about solar project management here.

2. Finding time to implement software.

It can feel overwhelming to bring on new technology to any company. Most CRMs and ERPs can take months and sometimes years to implement when factoring in the time and countless professionals services and consulting hours it takes to fully customize these tools from their initial generic state to deliver the solar specific functionality you need for your entire team. Many solar companies fall behind their peers because they are unable to commit to this effort (not to mention the huge capital investment needed) when they are extremely busy with fulfilling projects.

Solution: Go with a software provider that is focused on your industry, understands solar operations. They offer you a vastly accelerated implementation timeline because 90+% of the solar industry’s best practice apps and templates are already available and essentially ‘baked into the cake’ from the start. As reference, Scoop’s solar project management software can be up and running in 4-5 weeks on average.

With our streamlined Easy Launch Program which features your own dedicated solar IT solution specialist, the commitment of resources from the customer side is relatively modest. It involves one person (manager or operations lead) from your team who can spend ~4 hours per week in the first 1-2 months month to work closely with your solution specialist, provide input and get trained with the platform and your account’s configuration process.

Worth mentioning that the Scoop team also often migrates your entire database of existing customers and projects into Scoop from CSV/Excel files that you may export from your existing systems at no additional charge.

FREE: Get a customized project management software onboarding plan that’s tailored to your solar operations – sent straight to your inbox.

3. Feeling like your team needs to abandon existing systems for new software.

Let’s say your sales team is using Salesforce or a CRM that works for them. Prior to implementing Scoop, many solar leaders were under the impression that they either had to stick with their CRM or go with a completely different project management tool and re-establish all working processes. Given the modular and highly configurable architecture, digital transformation with an mPMA platform such as Scoop is much more flexible.  In fact Scoop often acts as the hub to connect dataflow and workflow across the existing CRM (e.g., Salesforce, Zoho, Hubspot), your solar design and proposal software (e.g., Aurora, Sighten, Solo) accounting (e.g., Quickbooks, Sage) and other business tools.  In essence, Scoop helps you orchestrate your entire workflow for solar project management across your chosen best-in-class tools.

Solution: choose a solar project management tool that is compatible with your solar sales, CRM, accounting, design, and other business tools that you use. Upgrading your project management software doesn’t mean your team needs to give up systems that are working for them. Scoop has a library of 500+ integrations that fast-growing solar companies are using to get all their business tools to talk to each other.  Our unique integration service (GLOO™) goes beyond superficial integrations and delivers full-customized field mappings and workflow logic.  Furthermore, Scoop’s GLOO service is fully hosted, monitored and managed so you’ll never have to worry about spending hours troubleshooting broken integrations.

Receive an information kit about integrations for your solar project management tools here.

4. Getting buy-in from your team.

Having experienced the struggle with using generic software, is it any surprise that teams may be resistant to change? However, the fact remains that you can’t growth your operations profitably if your team is wasting precious hours doing manual steps and transferring information from one system to another and dropping the ball resulting in poor customer satisfaction.  So how can we resolve this stalemate?

Solution: it often helps when teams can preview the solar software options and see how it can help them do a better job.  Scoop is an advacned mPMA platform that provides each team member with their own easy-to-user bespoke Work App.  To help you paint this picture and generate buy-in across the team, we have created a series of videos that helps the entire solar team get comfortable with new solar project management software. There’s a video for every team member to see how project management software makes their jobs easier from management (project & operations managers), sales (solar sales consultants and site surveyors), designers & permitting coordinators, field installers, service techs and more.

5. Not being able to find all the functionality you need in one software.

The aspirational “all-in-one software” has and continues to be a myth. When you think about it, it makes sense. No software vendor (regardless of how large and well-known the brand) is going to have the bandwidth, creativity, mindshare, and most importantly focus, to build the best-in-class functionality your team needs and deserves in all areas.

The idea of having an all-in-one solution of course is very attractive and many large software vendors’ sales reps will gladly present this vision. But in practice, the reality often falls far shorter than the promise resulting in months and months of delays, costs and missed opportunities.

Solution: To achieve the spirit of the all-in-one solution, a new approach in IT called iPaaS (short for Integration Platforms as a Service) is paving the way. Using this method, businesses focus on sourcing best-in-class functionality from multiple software vendors and then seamlessly connect all their business tools.

A best-in-class solar software solution helps solar companies connect their CRM, Design, Sales, Permitting, Accounting and other business tools to achieve their “dream tech stack.” Read more about how best of breed solar IT software helps solar businesses achieve growth.

Scoop helps companies get the best possible functionality today, while not becoming captive to any one vendor and thus “future-proofing” their entire technology stack. If a tool does not perform or does not scale as your operations grow, only that component needs to be swapped out, instead of being completely captive to a monolithic all-in-one solution which makes it extremely difficult to change.

Signs That You Urgently Need To Upgrade Your Solar Project Management Software


If you’re feeling like your current solar software solutions are terrible, you’re not alone. Oftentimes the signs are there every day but teams find themselves using time-consuming workarounds to complete tasks correctly. You will likely identify with some of these software pains that growing solar companies are facing:

Early Warnings

  • Payments don’t come on time because invoices aren’t issued when they should be. This is a result of your invoicing tool being disconnected from your solar CRM or project management tool.
  • Client communication is falling behind and doing this manually is not scalable.  This result in more incoming calls and emails from customers.
  • Crews are not updating their work progress on time. Whether it’s logging parts and labor or marking a task as completed, crews struggle to update quickly because they have to use multiple disconnected tools.
  • Everything just feels like it can be faster. Most solar companies are manually transferring information from one system to another or using multiple systems to look for information.

Consequences From Leaving Your Solar Software ‘As Is’

  • Saying no to new projects because you don’t have the systems and capacity in place to take on more projects or service.
  • Work orders are not completed properly/quality checklist items are missed leading to repeat truck rolls. You’re likely also realizing at this point that there’s been less client referrals recently.
  • Difficult to collaborate with subs and contractors, resulting in even more work and manual steps for internal teams to track what was completed.

A Summary of 5 Tips For Choosing The Best Solar Project Management Software


1. Look for a fully integrated project management software solution. Allow your CRM, Design, Finance and Project Management software to talk to each other. Read more about the benefits of integrating all your tools and software together.

2. Shortlist a few managers who you think would be great at leading the onboarding process for software. Remember, Scoop implementation typically requires  only about 4 hours per week for 1-2 months from one key leader.

3. Get your team involved. If you are a manager, bring key leaders in when deciding to implement software. Get an information kit about Scoop’s solar project management software that you can forward to your team.

4. Stop delaying the software decision – with the rapid growth in solar, you don’t want to miss out on taking on more projects or risk delaying the progress of current projects and jeopardize cash flow.  Let’s face it, you are never going to be less busy.

5. Avoid falling for the all-in-one sales pitch and myth (see above).

6. Upgrade your software before onboarding new team members or working with new subcontractors. Avoid wasting time having new team members learn two systems when they can focus on one.

Don’t miss out on growth opportunities when you have the chance to optimize your solar operations now. Delaying the implementation of solar software not only leads to less sales but teams could become disengaged and worse, frustrated with using disconnected tools. Let your solar sales consultants drive sales, let your solar designers be designers, and give your team a strong tech stack that is poised to achieve growth.

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About Scoop

Scoop® Solar is the preferred SunPower® vendor and the leading provider of solar software for project management, data management and workflow automation.
Scoop® is helping solar, battery storage, EV infrastructure companies of all sizes execute thousands of projects & maintenance tasks, connect their software tools, increase efficiency and their capacity for growth. On average, customers save upwards of 40 hours per project and achieve 20-30X return on investment with Scoop.

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