What Bill Belichick’s Anti-tech Tirade Says about AV

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick criticized Microsoft tablets, the NFL’s in-game communication systems and lack of service. And he had some good points.

Bill Belichick is a 64-year-old man who runs an organization.

His organization happens to be the on-field operations of the four-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, but the head coach and general manager has plenty in common with the CEOs and other executives who struggle with boardroom technology.

Instead of barking at a video display in a conference room, Belichick is spiking a Microsoft Surface tablet on the sidelines during a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Too many of the folks that technology is intended to help end up resenting technology.

In the AV integration industry, this is nothing new. How often have we heard stories about how long it takes to launch a video call or meeting?

The AV industry is battling negative stereotypes. “AV—that’s the stuff that doesn’t work,” is a quote that rings in my head from an IT director who was speaking to somebody from a prominent AV manufacturer.

The Internet blew up after Belichick went on an uncharacteristic rant during a conference call yesterday about technology.

Deadspin, CNET, New York Times and TechCrunch are among those that posted about it.

It’s too tempting not to cover a prominent 64-year-old lashing out against newfangled technology. I mean, Belichick says he prefers “pictures” over video (quotes via CSNNE):

“There are multiple communication systems on the sideline. As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets. I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore.”

But the folks who work for the integration firms that are actually responsible for providing audio, video, communications and automation solutions for organizations shouldn’t be laughing. They should be paying attention.

For instance, he’s probably not wrong that these systems failed:

“The other communication systems involve the press box to the coaches on the field, and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system. Those fail on a regular basis. There are very few games that we play, home or away, day, night, cold, hot, preseason, regular season, postseason, it doesn’t make any difference; there are very few games where there aren’t issues in some form or fashion with that equipment.”

And, when running an organization you can’t afford not to be confident in your infrastructure:

“I would say weekly we have to deal with something. This is all league equipment so we don’t have it. I mean we use it but it isn’t like we have the equipment during the week and we can work with it and ‘OK, this is a problem. Let’s fix this.’ That’s not how it works. We get the equipment the day of the game, or I’d say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game and we test it and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually by game time it is working but I would say not always. And then during the game sometimes something happens and it has to be fixed, and first of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches’ pack? Is it the battery on the coaches’ pack? I mean you know, again, it could be one of 15 different things….

“…It’s basically a problem every week. The degrees aren’t always the same but we’re usually dealing with something. For me personally, it’s a personal decision, I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on because I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process but it just doesn’t work for me and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”

Belichick is your customer. He might not be the person you’re selling to or the person you’re training. But he’s the person behind the scenes who’s angry when the system isn’t intuitive enough for him to use – or when it simply doesn’t work.

While that infamous quote about AV, that it’s “the stuff that doesn’t work,” is simply not true, it is the stuff that requires ongoing support. The NFL, based on Belichick’s description, is doing its teams a disservice by not providing embedded service technicians to quickly address potential issues with systems that, for them, are mission critical.

AV integration firms are doing their customers a disservice when they take “no” for an answer when it comes to service contracts. Video communication is mission critical for most organizations.

The powerful folks behind the scenes that depend on it, like coach Belichick, will be willing to pay for that peace of mind.