Airtable Use Cases: Sales Pipeline Management, Project Management, Project Estimating
Introduction: ACE Technologies
For over two decades, Ace Technologies has provided systems integration of fire alarms, CCTV, telecom systems, and other low-voltage systems for hundreds of commercial and enterprise businesses. Like many medium-sized businesses that have grown with their systems, ACE Technologies was now at a turning point.
The ACE Technologies team was venturing into an era of growth and increased demand. The team’s operations had scaled, and their projects were becoming more complex, but their systems were stuck in the past. Data management across their accounting, estimating, and project management software was under the stress of missing, incorrect, and siloed data. Vital project data was being dispersed across a myriad of tools and communication channels, and systems that the team knew were imperative to their project’s success were buckling under their own weight.
This success story explores ACE Technologies’ transformative journey with AirOps, as they embraced Airtable as their new internal Project Management and Sales Pipeline Management tool – replacing legacy systems, improving project clarity, and resulting in over $100,000 a year in cost savings for the organization.
The Problem: ACE Technologies Need for Sales and Project Management Clarity
As a low-voltage network integrator, ACE’s projects vary widely, from state-of-the-art fire sprinkler installations to revamping electrical systems for hospitals. But one thing remains consistent within their day-to-day operations: Their team’s internal need for clarity about project and construction details throughout every phase of a project’s lifecycle.
Internally, ACE’s process begins with their team’s sales and project management pipeline. First, a job starts with a salesperson entering data into the system, and the project is then passed to the estimating team. Once the project is won, it moves on to an internal project manager who oversees the work; and finally, the data makes its way to an on-site technician who uses it while on the job site.
The process produces an astounding amount of data. For a project to succeed, everything from client phone calls, estimations, project updates, phone numbers, dates, and contact details must be captured digitally. Moreover, each team needs to be able to view, edit, and update certain data as a project travels through its lifecycle.
Unfortunately for ACE, this process was substantially limited by their current internal systems as project data was scattered across various tools and communication methods.
Since the data was siloed between traditional spreadsheet programs, project management software, time tracking systems, and paper files, data was consistently getting lost along the way.
“[Our old system] was having a lot of [negative] impacts before we realized what the impacts were. We had a lot of issues… and as we scaled, we started to feel the weight of our data issues. Everything from estimating to accounting to timekeeping – each lived in its own system. [We were operating with] multiple systems that were just bandaids… We were having to do double, triple, and quadruple data entry.
[Questions like ] Who are we talking to? What are their phone numbers? Was it 4 of this part or 10? When was that due again? Who signed off on that? … It was taking a toll on our internal team.
[And] It was showing up in so many ways. Lost production. Frustrated technicians. Management chasing data that had been lost… when these things would happen a dozen times a day… we knew it was a big issue.”
And although the problems felt mundane, like missing data and phone numbers – at scale, they started to cause management issues. What should have been a simple piece of information was sending management on wild goose chases looking for old data. These problems then worked their way back up the chain of command as real project issues, hampering work.
Discovering Airtable: Centralizing ACE Technologies’ Data
It was clear to ACE Technologies that their project management system needed to change, but first, they needed to identify the right platform to transition to.
While their research yielded a few options, nothing stood out as the right fit.
“Considering it was 2022, I figured I wasn’t the first organization with this problem. I started scrubbing the internet, looking for a solution… I looked at many of them, but honestly, many didn’t fit us. They either felt prebuilt and inflexible or built for another industry.”
It wasn’t until their neighbor, a self-described “computer nerd” who owned a construction business, recommended Airtable.
“He told me, dude, you have to try Airtable. It didn’t make sense to me right away, but I started looking into the features and knew there was something there.”
After a few demos, the team saw glimmers of how the sales and project pipeline could be brought under a unified database and was enthusiastic about the potential idea of having one tool to consolidate their workflows.
ACE contacted Airtable, asking for integration help, and discovered the Airtable Service Partner directory.
“I reached out directly to Airtable, and they suggested looking at their partner organizations. AirOps stood out because you clarified that you were not a firm looking for easy problems.
It was clear that AirOps was not going to be our cheapest option – but I knew that because we had such unique problems we wanted to solve, they were the firm we needed to choose.”
The Solution: Developing a Sales Pipeline and Project Management Solution
The AirOps team began to work with ACE to understand their current processes and developed a two-phase project.
In the first phase, the AirOps team undertook an Airtable Database Design project that covered four functions of ACE’s internal systems: Sales, estimating, procurement, and project management. The project involved building several custom interfaces and email automations for each team, and focused on bringing all the project and customer data into one centralized system.
Once the Airtable bases were complete, the ACE team migrated to the new system. During the transition period, AirOps provided hands-on Airtable training and guidance to help the team adopt and integrate the system into their current processes.
Six months after the initiation of the second phase, the AirOps team constructed a dispatch system to provide ACE technicians with on-site project data. This intricate interface design, featuring various custom elements, included a mobile phone app.
Leveraging the GLIDE platform, the AirOps team created a bespoke dispatch system, aligning with ACE’s operational requirements and accessing project data in real-time for technicians. The app empowered ACE technicians to access real-time project data, greatly optimizing their workflow.
Revamping the estimating workflow interface didn’t just improve operations; it empowered the estimating and management team with tools tailored to their needs. ACE’s team now had access to an enriched dashboard that aggregated critical data points at a glance. Their revamped estimating workflow interface didn’t just improve operations; it empowered the estimating team to communicate with the sales team clearly instead of answering ad hoc calls about the status of specific estimates.
The estimating team saved between 8 and 10 hours per week, resulting in substantial revenue savings for the business. The cost of interruptions was significantly reduced, and team members could focus on their responsibilities without getting caught up in hours of admin and searching for data.
“Just our estimating team alone saves 8 – 10 hours a week. Internally, wow, it’s probably saving us over $100,000 a year easily. Because when you consider all the mistakes we are now avoiding… yea, it’s pretty incredible.”
My estimators tell me once a week – I don’t know how we did this before Airtable.”
Now, ACE describes themselves as “living in Airtable.”
“We live in there. We live in the estimating interface you built for us. If I open a browser and type A, the first thing that comes up is Airtable.”
Experience of working with AirOps: “Professional Service with Exceptional Airtable Training”
With AirOps’ effective implementation of Airtable, ACE Technologies was able to transform its project management and estimating workflow, and the ACE had this to say:
“[AirOps] have been so easy to work with, which is something I don’t say a lot…working with you has been very easy and partly because y’all understand workflow and production, and not production with a capital P, but production with a small P, [such as] moving information.”
And has even resulted in internal thanks:
“Before the process, I thought I was going to be able to imagine what this could look like. The flexibility you guys have, on top of the flexibility [of Airtable] and the platforms you work with, is amazing. Nothing is fixed, nothing is concrete. And that flexibility is just amazing.”
For people who are considering Airtable, Jason had the following comment.
“Dude, what are you waiting on? Airtable just works. Make the switch.”
Key Takeaways: A Powerful Example of Airtable for Professional Services
As a result of implementing AirOps’ solutions, ACE Technologies achieved several significant improvements in their operations:
- Centralized Information Management: The company transitioned from disparate systems to a centralized Airtable interface that holds all the relevant data from sales, estimation, and construction.
- Time Savings: The company estimates they save eight to ten hours weekly within a single team. Across the board, they project an annual time savings of over $100,000.
- Reduced Errors and Rework: Before AirOps, the company faced issues related to data loss and had to spend time and resources fixing mistakes. The new system has helped them substantially reduce data errors.
- Enhanced Team Collaboration: The ability for team members to access all necessary information in one place has simplified communication and made it easier for everyone to stay on the same page.
- Reduced Context Switching: The new system minimizes the need for employees to switch between different tasks and platforms, thus reducing hidden operational costs related to context switching.
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