Getting started with the D-Tools SI platform is exciting but we understand that, like any software implementation or conversion, it can also feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to. This document guides you through the steps to install and implement the software effectively and efficiently.
First, install SI Server Software followed by the SI Client Software (Install SI 2016). Next, begin getting familiar with the platform by reviewing our Getting Started videos (seven short videos totaling about 40 minutes).
By completing the following four checklists, you will start seeing positive, tangible results in your business. The four steps include:
- Build a Solid Foundation – Gather and input company and product data
- Build a Project – Start by re-building a previously completed bid using SI
- Make Your Data Work Harder – Take control of your data, gain efficiency and eliminate design oversights through the use of accessories and packages
- Assemble Project Documentation Packages – Leverage project data to assemble proposal and design packages that include drawings
Step One – Build a Solid Foundation (4-8 Hours)
The SI platform is a data-driven application that can help you generate proposals, create project documentation, run reports, purchase equipment, manage installations, and much more. This is made possible by building a solid foundation of company information and product data. Step one is divided into two sections: Company Information and Product Information.
- List personnel by role with name and email
- Create user groups & permissions (optional at this point)
- Create users and assign to groups
- Enter labor rates your company charges by role/phase as well as labor cost
- Use standard SI phases for products (Rough-In, Trim, and Finish). These phases will automatically be assigned to products added from the online library.
- Use additional labor phases for specialized labor to be added as line items, e.g. Programming
- Add management labor factors to standard Phases to capture project management and/or design labor as a function of base labor
Limiting your catalog to the products you commonly sell and install is one of the cornerstones of success with our application. Do not feel like you need to build a perfect Catalog to start working with SI. You will continue to build your Catalog as you work with the platform.
This section will provide you with the basics of building your Catalog. We will build upon this core data and refine in another section of this implementation guide. Before you begin, please take a tour of the Catalog.
Several techniques are available for adding Products to your Catalog but two have proven to be the most expedient – import from a spreadsheet of product information, or download products directly from the D-Tools Library. Either way, it is highly recommended that you start with a list of your top 5-10 manufacturers by volume and gather price sheets.
- Add From Library – This is an efficient way to download Product information directly from the vast D-Tools Library. We recommend that you work from a list of Products you regularly sell and avoid the temptation to download all products from any given manufacturer.
- From the D-Tools Library you can search Manufacturers and refine by Categories. Select the Products you use and click download. It is that simple.
- There are two methods for adding your cost and sell price information.
- An efficient and accurate way to update your pricing is to Export Products002 Export Productsin CSV format, edit the cost and sell pricing information and import back to the catalog.
- The second option is to use Price Rules to calculate Unit Cost and Unit Price. This can be done by utilizing the published MSRP from the D-Tools Library.
- Importing Products – This method involves starting with a list of Products that you will import and then update from the D-Tools Library.
- Gather product lists and/or price sheets that you have available and save them in .CSV format
- Pro Tip: Creating Products
- Start by creating a simple spreadsheet containing the manufacturer, model, cost and sell price of your key products (cost/price data not shown in example).
- Now follow the Importing Products instructions.
- Next, use the Update from Library feature to update these products from the D-Tools Library. This will fill in additional data fields for products found in the library.
- After updating from the Library, some items may still show Category as “Unassigned”. These items did not match with Library items. Try searching the Library directly for these items. Items can be updated manually as well. Consider using the Mass Update tools to assist you. Reasons for non-matching items include:
- Manufacturer name does not exactly match the Library (Middle Atlantic vs. Middle Atlantic Products)
- Model does not exactly match, which is common with color-dependent items (however dashes and spaces are ignored)
- New products may not have been added to the Library yet but can be requested using the Data Request Form
- Apply Labor Hours by Phase to Products in your Catalog. Products downloaded or updated from the library will likely have a phase and labor hours assigned. You can also use the Quick Filter to narrow down the Products and apply specific labor hours to those products in bulk using the Mass Update tool
- At this stage, all products in your catalog should include a minimum set of data to be proposal ready. Each product needs:
- Description (Short)
- Unit Cost
- Unit Price (Selling Price)
- Labor Hours
- Image (optional)
- Accessories – One of the many time-saving features of the platform is the ability to add Accessories to any Product. Accessories allow you to link a product with the typical installation components it requires. Many scenarios exist where accessorizing Products will save you time and help you build a complete BOM with less effort. In step three we will cover Accessories in detail.
Example: Security sensor with an accessory of the wiring needed for that device, or a Blu-ray player accessorized with an HDMI cable, network patch cable, and a rack mount kit.
Step Two – Building a Project (2-4 Hours)
After completing the setup of your company information and starting your catalog with commonly used products you are now ready to start working with Projects. A great way to get started is to re-create a small project that you previously assembled outside of SI. Working with a familiar project will help you get fast results.
- In the “New Project Wizard” the minimum required fields are Client and Project Name.
- Complete as much or as little information from within the wizard as you like. All settings are available to edit later from inside the Project Editor.
- When you are ready to move on, click “Save” and the project will open in the Project Editor.
- Now you are in the Project Editor. Take a tour before you begin (Project Editor).
- Once you are familiar with the interface, choose the Settings tab.
- Start by adding/creating Locations
- Locations Defined
- Now add/create Systems
- Understanding Systems (see page 30)
- Check your tax settings
- Managing Taxes
- Consider adding a Miscellaneous Parts allowance
- Managing Price Adjustments
- Continue to adjust any settings that are appropriate for your project
- Overview of Settings Tab
- Begin adding Products to your project.
- First select a location and a system from the list on the right side of the project editor, called the Drop Zone.
- On the left side, begin choosing products or packages from the Product Explorer or Package Explorer located along the edge of the window. Select “Add to Project” from the bottom of either Explorer and the products or packages will be added to the project and assigned to the selected location and system
- Continue adding products and packages until your systems are complete
- Save your project by clicking on the disk icon found in the upper left corner of the Project Editor. Consider adjusting your Auto Save settings.
- Let’s take a look at how our project is coming together so far. In the Project Editor, we have some options for viewing project data to assist with analysis.
- Analysis by view
- From the Home tab, select View->Summary Phase. This view allows you to see an installed price by phase, products and labor, cost and price, margin and installation hours
- Look deeper into a phase by clicking a phase name
- On the View menu, click Return to go back to the Phase summary
- To return to your original view, choose View à Item à Items
- From any view where the Item Validation column is present you can hover over the icon to see validation errors (Zero Cost, Zero Price, etc.). Clicking on the icon opens the item for editing so you can fix the problem(s). Here is information on Validation Settings.
- Now let’s run some reports against your project data.
- From the Reports tab, under Quick Reports, choose “Project Summary”. This report provides a snapshot of your project. From top to bottom it includes:
- Product price with Adjustments
- Labor by Phase with hours and amounts charged
- Summary including sales tax
- Profit Analysis
- Now run the Quick Proposal under Quick Reports. This is the default option for generating a proposal report and uses the standard report called “Proposal”.
- Many useful reports exist. In the short-term, finding a proposal report that you are confident in presenting to customers is the most important.
- Under Reports, choose “Client” and take a look at your options.
- Some popular choices include:
- Proposal With Images
- Proposal With Images (Equipment and Labor Price)
- Proposal With Images (Installed Price)
- Proposal (Equipment and Labor Price)
- Proposal (Installed Price)
- For a closer look at options while running reports, see Running Reports.
- For a complete walk-through of projects and reports, see the Proposals and Reports chapters in our training manual.
Step Three – Make Your Data Work Harder (4-8 Hours)
Now that you have familiarized yourself with some of the project workflow and basic reporting features, it is time to re-visit your initial core dataset and make use of product accessories and packages. As we touched on in step one, accessories allow you to link a product with the typical installation components that may be required or optional. Many scenarios exist where accessorizing products will save you time and help you build a complete BOM with less effort. Packages allow you to group multiple products, with or without accessories, and apply a package name to this group of products.
- Create a list of accessory frameworks. This is a standard set of accessories to apply to products by category (video sources, amplifiers, control processors, etc.)
- Apply the accessory framework to products by Category.
- Review our training manual chapter for details on accessories and the accessory framework concept (Database Management & Optimization)
Packages can serve many purposes. Here is an outline for potential uses of packages split into three types: wiring packages, room solution packages, and head end packages. Review our training manual for details on packages (Database Management & Optimization)
Example: A security package including a control panel, keypad, siren and cabling. A multi-port jack for data connections might include the bulk wire, termination inserts, and wall plate, along with associated labor.
- Wiring Packages
- Site Wiring
- Cat6 Shielded/Unshielded (HDBaseT)
- In-Wall Sub
- Landscape (DB)
- See multimedia above
- motion/contact/detector (heat/smoke)
- Access Control
- IP camera
- Analog camera
- Bridge (Point-to-Point)
- Room Solution Packages
- Display Install
- Control System
- Head End Packages
- Rack Packages
- Control System HE
- Distributed A/V HE
- Security HE
- Surveillance HE
- Access Control HE
Step Four – Assemble Project Documentation Packages (4-8 Hours)
The fourth and final step, it’s time to put everything together. Assembling a project documentation package is a powerful concept that is made possible by the fact that all project data can be used throughout the SI application. A project documentation package can be as simple or as comprehensive as you feel is appropriate and/or necessary for your business purposes and project needs. A basic proposal report might be sufficient for some customers. Alternatively, you may want to include a scope of work document that describes the project details or perhaps a company information page that includes your company’s credentials, strengths and achievements. Quality project documentation provides your customer with an indication of the level of detail you put into your projects. Report Groups are a way to combine multiple reports into a proposal or documentation package.
Engineered drawings are a key component of the SI workflow, and our integration with Visio and AutoCAD enable you to quickly create detailed, accurate drawings based on the information in either your product catalog or an SI project.
Consider adding a Visio line diagram and/or an equipment rack elevation. These drawings can be created in minutes and may just be the deliverable that differentiates you from your competition.
- Get Started with the Visio Interface
- Create a Visio Line Drawing
- Create a Visio Elevation Drawing
- Create a Visio Plan Drawing
- Create a Visio Schematic Drawing
For AutoCAD users, we offer a similar integration. Floor plan views are the most robust offering on this platform and make for a great solution to share equipment placement plan views with project stakeholders using the native DWG file format.
Step Five and Beyond
After completing your four step “Getting Started” plan, you may be looking for additional information to keep moving forward. The D-Tools team is here to help. We offer many resources to assist you along the way.