Solar company takes a shine to mobility solutions

Smart Commercial Solar (SCS) uses mobility to keep ahead in a fast paced industry, where government, market and technology are always changing.
Written by Krishan Sharma, Contributor

The business launched 30 months ago and is geared around deploying commercial grade solar equipment to businesses. Despite significant market headwinds that have seen over 230 Australian solar companies going to the wall, Smart Commercial Solar has grown its operations and now consists of fifteen staff, divided into sales and support teams. 

Some of the key challenges for SCS have been in ensuring that a fast growing team remains fully integrated and responsive in a constantly changing market. Founder and Managing Director, Huon Hoogesteger, says that figuring out how to make mobility work best has been critical.

"Communication is the key to keeping our teams across the industry movements and allows us to react quickly to change by accessing and transferring information quickly.  We needed to make sure that we were all connected all of the time across urban and regional Australia."

Founder and managing director, Huon Hoogesteger (left) with the Smart Commercial Solar team

The company's sales and support teams are constantly on the road and the business was intent on using mobility as a means of getting staff to collaborate and communicate regularly. To achieve this, the company connects remotely to installed solar systems while simultaneously video-conferencing with staff, customers, or contractors on site to identify site issues or check specific product details. This helps the company respond to any situation, regardless of distance, time, or skill level of the on-site contact.

"As an example, for an 'off-grid' customer in Mudgee, we connected his laptop into his system (solar), then connected to our office over a tethered mobile, and we were able to re-calibrate his system to optimise his system performance, download his historical performance data and send that information on to a technician overseas for further analysis. Traditionally this would have required a trip from our North Sydney office, at least three hours to Mudgee, on-site for one hour, and the drive back."

Smart Commercial Solar also conducts online training every week with staff allowing sales staff, installers, and managers to contribute to the meetings. Huon says that online meetings works better in many ways than face-to-face meetings, "as the conversations remain on point, rather than drifting into social chat."

While mobile-supported meetings and support delivery have made a positive impact on the overall business, the company is now looking at other ways to use mobile technology and its associated applications to benefit the business.

"Mobility is a cornerstone of collaboration for us. Mobility means all the team remains responsive no matter where they are. And since we are constantly refining and improving the workflow, having collaborative input when we need it in real-time is so important."

Huon says that deploying mobility throughout the business hasn't been without its challenges, admitting that the early stages of deployment was filled with a trial and error process and troubleshooting.

"Knowing what product to use has been a bit difficult. There is a lot of advice out there and some paid services like TeamViewer start out reasonable but get expensive very fast.  We need to be able to share screens, have remote control capabilities, and VOIP, but we're not at the stage where we'd be considering major hardware investments like Polycom.  So our transition has involved doing things like using a combination of mobile for sound quality and standard Skype or TeamViewer sessions for screen sharing."

Hoogesteger also highlighted patchy mobile internet coverage particularly in remote areas as an issue they have had to work around.

"Network coverage can be intermittent for quality video and sound. Reverberation continues to be an issue. I think this market still has some maturing to do. But mobility won't be stopped.  If we can catch up online easily at any time, I don't really want to see my sales team in the office.  We're getting very close to a mobility that works very well."

While decentralising operations and having a flexible workplace has worked out for the company, Hoogesteger says the need for an overarching strategy and a solid process is vital for any mobility implementation regardless of the size of the business.

"Workplace flexibility absolutely works as long as you have built a solid structure around it and unite the team with strong and shared goals — otherwise it is just chaos."

Editorial standards