‘Twas a Great & Lousy Year, According to Chris Neto

CI columnist Chris Neto argues with himself over what made 2014 a standout or sour year for the integration industry.

Chris Neto

Commercial Integrator asked some of our industry columnists to articulate short arguments for why 2014 was positive year for the integration industry; and also why it was a negative year.

First up: Chris Neto is an AV Helpdesk consultant. (View his columns on CI here.) Following is Chris Neto’s take on the past year.

Business As Usual: Why 2014 Was a Lousy Year

For those integrators doing business as usual, 2014 was a bad year (though they don’t know it). It’s been discussed over and over again that the “old” AV business model will not be sustainable.

Profit margins are only part of problem. Mismanagement is a major stumbling block in our industry. I have spoken with various industry professionals and I am shocked that business leaders are still burying their head in the sand and hoping it will pass.

The most talked about business model in our industry has been to move to a service-oriented plan and rely less on the boxes. What typically is left out of that conversation is a focus on the people and the process.

It is time for AV integrators to invest in their people and move beyond the “old school” way of thinking.

Investing in your employees can be as simple as following through on promises of technical training. Improving company culture would go a long way in employee retention, which has been plaguing our industry for years.

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Finally, giving opportunities to those who have earned it as opposed to the ones who feel entitled speaks volumes to the rest of the team. Once the team is taken care of, focus on the processes. Bring your team together and brainstorm ideas on how to improve on service delivery?

More importantly, listen. Your team may have the next big idea once everyone is on a level playing field.

Many may have felt an upswing in business in 2014. The upswing should give AV business leaders confidence that our industry is on the right track. Now take those statistics and let them serve as a catalyst toward improving your company from the inside.

Develop and take care of your team, put the right processes in place to deliver the new service model. In return the “product” that you are selling to your customers will improve. It’s very symbiotic and it all has to come together for it to work. Let’s not have another year pass with “business as usual.”

Embracing Huddle Rooms: Why 2014 Was a Great Year

For those integrators who embraced collaborative and huddle space technologies, 2014 was a great year. This area and its technologies have been very active in their development.

As architects and designers work to create open space concepts, the need for these huddle spaces has accelerated. Typically these are three- to four-person meeting spaces.

In the past, this would have simply been a meeting room without technologies. We are now seeing requests to add displays, wireless display systems, electronic white-boards, annotation boards, bring your own devices (BYOD) support and web cameras to be used in conjunction with unified communications and collaboration (UCC) applications.

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The popularity of these spaces has grown mainly due to their impromptu nature of use. Many end users have soured over the scheduling processes typically associated with traditional meeting rooms and video conferencing spaces.

I can see why an integrator would scoff at what is typically referred to as a “hang and bang” simple system. The fact is these rooms are outnumbering the larger customized spaces in many facilities. Don’t be fooled by their size and simplistic appearance; many of these rooms still require AV knowledge to make them successful.

The challenge in these rooms is where to stash the gear. The smart integrator has found the right devices for these applications that can fit inside table bases or in a back box behind the display.

Some have thought outside the box and work closely with furniture manufacturers to provide an integrated furniture solution as part of the overall design. The success and the need for the huddle room will continue well beyond 2014.

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