Inside the Tech Decision Making Power Struggle

Well-educated customers can influence better solutions in the long run but it doesn’t necessarily make the integrator’s job easier.

It comes as no surprise to integrators that technology decision makers in enterprises are evolving.

They have more knowledge about the functionality of their systems. They understand a range of technologies from IT to AV and integration between the two. They want a say in what helps make their companies run.

That has changed the integrator-client dynamic in significant ways.

Let’s say, for example, a video wall in a presentation room, outfitted with audio equipment and connectivity for a range of devices, needs to be installed in an office. The technology decision maker calls upon an integrator to propose a solution for the different needs that the higher-ups have laid out.

The integration firm comes in and outlines their solution, noting the products they will use and the timeframe in which they will be able to complete the install.

Not long ago, this is where the technology decision maker would agree to a price and step away from the project to a certain extent. They would oversee and speak with the integrators to make sure the schedule is being adhered to.

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This technology decision maker didn’t have the knowledge to converse with the integrator. They didn’t understand why the different technologies would work best for the needs, and, in most cases, didn’t care. They understood that to earn their payment and keep their reputation the integrator would build a functional system. That was enough, once.

“[When preparing for our project] I took a lot of time looking for products,” says Mark Lesnau, a technology decision maker for Lowe CE. “I went to InfoComm, I went to tradeshows, I spent hours online.”

When Lesnau was looking for an appropriate solution, even before he chose an integrator, he did his research.

Today, technology decision makers are becoming active participants in the proposal process. They understand the differences in sound quality between a ceiling microphone system and a desktop device. They know the pros and cons of a projection system versus a flat-panel display.

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They have researched and have their own opinions about what will suit their company best. They may not have the expertise to install a system, but they understand the mechanics behind the install and want a say in some of the overall decisions.

When it comes to a good client-integrator relationship, “the first thing is overall trust, and understanding the complexity of the project,” says Jim Stephens, an integrator at Whitlock. “As an end user, you have to understand what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, etc. The designers and engineers have to understand why we’re integrating it. Everybody has to understand that things will be difficult at times. You’re always going to have little hiccups. It doesn’t mean it’s not a great product.”

An extended version of this article was originally published on CI sister site, CorporateTechDecisions.com.