COVID-19 Update

Integrator of Future Must Embrace Change

AV, IT integrators need to learn how to work together to meet customers’ needs, says a 2014 NSCA BLC panel.

Who knew it was really this simple?

Asked during the so-called Power Hour at NSCA’s Business and Leadership Conference in Dallas what makes someone the proverbial “integrator of the future,” ET Group co-founder Jm Gragtmans didn’t hesitate.

“The integrator of the future is the one that’s still in business in the future,” he said, drawing laughs from many in the crowd.

Fellow panelist David Danto of Dimension Data wonders if AV integrators can truly embrace today’s reality as second fiddle.

“It’s very difficult for AV integrators to see themselves as a subcontractor,” he says. “They want to rewrite all the rules.”

Related: Panelist Reacts to Tough Question

The emphasis on “perfect systems” has been replaced by a need for standard systems, says Danto. In addition, when AV and It integrators work together, it’s important for both sides to respect the partnership and avoid scope creep, he says, as well as reciprocate the partnership.

ET Group provides professional services for Cisco products for Bell Canada—”we’re a pimple on the elephant’s butt,” says Gragtmans—and they’ve been able to sell AV-related products and services as part of that partnership. The company works on the pre-sale side as well as on delivery and support, he says.

“We try to fill all the gaps Bell can’t do themselves,” says Gragtmans. “Bell has no ability to act quickly and no agility. But their customers are demanding that, so that’s where we come in.”

One major problem for integrators today is too many of them try to sell customers products and systems they either don’t need or don’t understand in an effort to increase their margins, says Danto.

“It does no one any good to sell products to someone who isn’t qualified to use them,” he says. “We’ve been building broken rooms that users can’t use and we’re building them for us. I’d rather see these be the exception. It’s not about the technology; it’s about the user experience.”

Paul Depperschmidt of Cisco agrees, saying, “Whatever it takes is what we should provide. AV integration is the last mile. The work is useless if users can’t see it, hear it or control it. AV installations have high exposure and that’s what will make us or break us.”

Videoconferencing, once thought of as a major initiative that would be a huge boon for AV installers “didn’t go the way we’d hoped.” Today, it’s more about installing smaller solutions in smaller rooms, says Depperschmidt.

“That will also help big rooms grow too,” he says. “It will look a little different than we expected. It’s become more of a bottom-up solution as opposed to a top-down solution.”

Related: More 2014 NSCA BLC Coverage