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Until recently, solar installers suffered from a fractured set of generic software tools with legacy dysfunction and siloed incompatibilities — some for sales, some for design, some for tracking workflow, et cetera.

However, we are now seeing the arrival of powerful new solar-specific software with cross-platform compatibility that allows solar installers to embrace the solar software stack” to efficiently and effectively scale. Exploring this exciting frontier of digital integration and transformation was the theme of this week’s #SolarTownHall.

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“The ‘hairball’ is where most solar installer companies are starting,” said Blu Banyan CEO Jan Rippingale, referring to the tangled mess of Excel sheets and piecemeal software that businesses often have to jury-rig. “I thought that the solution was already out there,” agreed J.W. Peters, Principal at Solar Power of Oklahoma, who was tired of manually integrating his CRM and accounting. He tried looking for an integrated business software solution at SPI, but was surprised to find that there wasn’t one.

Enter the concept of the solar software stack, of which 17TeraWatts CEO Scott Nguyen and Ipsun Solar VP Joe Marhamati have been vocal advocates. Nguyen said embracing this age of interoperable software packages — synching proposal, CRM, project management, customer experience, internal communication, and accounting/ERP needs — isn’t just good busines ops. In fact, it will drive customer satisfaction and sales success. “The solar industry is moving away from those early adopters to more of the mass consumer,” said Nguyen. The new solar consumer expects that information and services to be at their fingertips. Installers must have integrated solutions on hand to quickly offer a quote, display project progress via on-demand portals, and track installation satisfaction — or risk losing that customer’s attention. “The smoother it is for them to go through the sales process, then the easier it is for the customer to say yes,” added Coulton Main, Director of Strategic Partnerships at SOLO.

A highlight of the Town Hall was a mock consulting session, with J.W. Peters as the “client” being interviewed by Rippingale, Nguyen, and Main on his software needs and concerns, providing a fantastic model for how contractors should guide their search for potential vendors. In real life, Peters said commitment is key: “Be willing to make the financial and the time commitment.” BayWa r.e. Solar Systems’ own CEO Boaz Soifer applauded the mindset. “That’s a disruptive change to the organization,” said Soifer, one that’s necessary for digital transformation before any continuous improvement can take place. Joe Marhamati added that buy-in from your team members and clientele is a must. “We try to have as much employee feedback as possible to see how tools are working. But at the end of the day, it’s really about how happy your customers are.”

Be sure to watch all the way through for our expert panelists’ takeaways for understanding the solar software stack, including why accounting and CRM lies at the heart of the stack; why the “single source of truth” matters; rules of thumb for IT spending; nuances like software API, scalability, and the willingness of software vendors to engage and grow with your solar business.

How can solar installation businesses choose and design a solar software stack that fits their proposal, CRM, project management, customer experience, internal communication, and accounting/ERP needs? What can you do to appropriately deploy these tools of the modern solar company and achieve a “single source of truth” for your operational flow? On July 15 we talked with visionaries in the field of solar software for our expert roundtable — and explored this exciting future of efficiency and integration.

Featured Guests:

Scott Nguyen (@Scott_Vinh) — Co-Founder/CEO, 17TeraWatts
Jan Rippingale — CEO, Blu Banyon
Coulton Main — Director of Strategic Partnerships, SOLO
Joe Marhamati — CFO/VP/Co-Founder, Ipsun Solar
J.W. Peters — Principal, Solar Power of Oklahoma

Scroll down to watch, listen, and share the video and podcast with your colleagues. Thank you all again for participating in our Solar Town Hall events and being part of our solar community!

Read more about the “software stack” in this guest post

Guest Insight: The Solar Software Stack for the Modern Solar Company

Of the many challenges solar companies face in this moment, perhaps the most slippery is managing the integration of technology into core business practices. Solar business strategist Emmett Miranker shares the 17TeraWatts vision for integrating business workflows. Read More »

Missed one of our events? Access all of our COVID-19 expert roundtables in our Solar Town Hall archives, featuring topics featuring topics from jobsite hygiene to innovations for the new normal.

BayWa r.e. Solar Systems LLC supplies solar installers in the United States with best-in-class components, business planning advice, and a community of experts. Learn more at www.solar-distribution.com, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, subscribe to our podcasts and YouTube, and bookmark our COVID-19 resource page. Part of the BayWa r.e. global family of renewable energy companies.