D-Tools on Key Product Updates, Evolving Market Conditions

CI chats with D-Tools’ Randy Stearns about important feature additions to System Integrator and D-Tools Cloud.

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CI: How did 2021 end up for D-Tools? 

Randy Stearns: 2021 was a fantastic year. D-Tools typically enjoys double-digit growth, but we were up a full 25% last year. Further, we didn’t fall victim to The Great Resignation. We have a really solid and loyal team, which I really appreciate and never take for granted. And finally, our products are doing great in the marketplace. D-Tools Cloud, which we released just over three years ago, is killing it. There will soon be 1,000 companies using that platform. We’re adding 30 to 40 new subscribers a month. 

SI, our flagship product, is also doing great. It’s a workhorse, and customers love it. The average customer lifetime for SI is about nine years, which demonstrates an incredibly loyal customer base. As you can tell, I’m very pleased with how 2021 ended up and 2022 is looking even stronger. 

CI: What’s new with the D-Tools Cloud and System Integrator platforms? 

Stearns: As always, we continue to progress on both platforms. With SI, the product used by most of the CI readership, we recently released version 18. Besides several smaller features including critical performance upgrades and search improvements, we announced two major features. Details are available at D-Tools.com/whats-new-in-system-integrator. 

For a long time, customers have been requesting the ability to quote large projects on a quantity basis, like they would in Excel, which may seem to be a simple request. But because of the very exacting nature of the software, delivering on that request has been a challenge.

Those who use SI know that each item added to a system design has a particular product ID, wire ID, is attached to a unique location, system, position in a rack, connections on a schematic drawing, etc. So, it’s hard to just combine these into a single line item. But the good news is that we finally figured it out, and it is available in this most recent release. Estimating and quoting large projects will now probably take half the time, or less. 

Secondly, customers have been asking us to incorporate inventory management for a long time. We have opted not to build that feature in directly, but we did complete bi-directional API integrations with two excellent inventory management solutions: TRXio and Tracknicity. Now, our customers have a better option for managing inventory while ensuring that data flows seamlessly in and out of D-Tools. 

In terms of D-Tools Cloud, our development continues at a rapid pace. The product is now to a point where it’s well-suited for commercial integrators that specialize in small to mid-size projects (i.e., sub-$100,000 on average). We released several project-management features recently — scheduling, project planning, task management, timekeeping, etc., as well as an integration with QuickBooks Desktop. We also continue to improve the flexibility and customization of our quoting and proposal solution with capabilities like line-item adjustments, fixed-package pricing and other customer-requested features. 

CI: Share your observations on current challenges and the future of the industry. 

Stearns: In speaking with systems integrators, I continue to hear that the market is strong, but they’re being impacted by two significant forces in the marketplace: supply-chain issues and the labor shortage, which are causing them some pain. Supply chain constraints and delays should improve as the economy pulls back from it’s post-COVID frenzy.

As it relates to the labor shortage, it is important to note is that it’s real, and likely long-term. The economy grew at 5.6% last year. This year, while we’re starting off with a little bit of a pothole, economists are still projecting 3% to 3.6% GDP growth. And the Congressional Budget Office is projecting 4% growth, year over year, through the end of the decade. So, this labor shortage problem isn’t going away. 

The way to counteract it, in my mind, is to figure out how to get more efficiency and productivity out of your existing team. There are several ways to achieve that, which my recent article, The Secret to Neutralizing the Labor Shortage, details.

Specifically as it relates to software, software is designed to help standardize operations, improve efficiency, and increase productivity. So, my strong recommendation is that companies exploit the power of those products, which can be achieved through training and taking full advantage of the available features.

All too often, I see companies using D-Tools as simply a quoting solution or a drawing tool, which is equivalent to using Excel as a calculator. It does so much more. So, perhaps instead of looking to add more people — which can be painful, time-consuming, expensive and difficult — look to exploit the resources you already have in-house. 

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About the Author


Dan Ferrisi has been covering the commercial AV industry as an editor, reporter and writer since 2004. He is the former editor of Sound & Communications, and he joined Commercial Integrator as editor-in-chief in November 2021.

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