Commercial Integrator Europe Q&A: CEDIA’s Wendy Griffiths

The Region 1 executive director also discusses the introduction of ECS cards.

David Davies

Earlier this month CEDIA released a Home Technology Client Questionnaire designed to be used by interior designers and architects to assist them in bringing ‘greater clarity and definition’ to a client’s home technology brief. The development of this document was the starting point for Commercial Integrator Europe’s recent interview with CEDIA Region 1 executive director Wendy Griffiths.

What was the inspiration for the Home Technology Client Questionnaire, and what are its primary objectives?

It was during a recent Interior Designers focus group that two things became very apparent to us. Home Technology professionals were seen as the ‘AV’ people. The technology needs of the client were not being assessed as part of the project and were not being thought about early enough in the design stages. By introducing the questionnaire, we firmly position the integrator as the professional who can address all the clients’ technology needs, but it also makes it very clear just how simple or complex the clients’ technology needs are. In doing this it will very quickly become apparent if the client needs to employ the services of a Home Technology professional to ensure that their technology needs are met.

To what extent is this document aimed at those long familiar with CEDIA? Or is it geared more towards integrators who have so far been out of CEDIA’s orbit?

This document is aimed at design professionals but can also be used by integrators as part of the analysis of the client’s needs. The reality is that this questionnaire is beneficial to the whole industry by providing a document that allows the homeowner/design professional or integrator to define and understand how they will use the house and address the technology requirements.

What measures is CEDIA taking at this time to enhance its membership and, more generally, industry influence?

As the leading trade association in the market, CEDIA is always working with its members to provide benefits that address their needs but the reality is by addressing these needs we are benefiting the industry as a whole. Some of the initiatives we are working on are:
– making all relevant education available online so that it is more accessible to people and providing a voucher scheme to reduce the cost of courses and allow companies to manage their cash flow;
– working with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (along with other associations) to be part of the development of the standards and best practices relevant to our industry. This is a key initiative as any legislation that gets introduced could have a detrimental effect on the industry if the home technology professional is not taken into account, plus lack of legislation is one of the challenges facing the industry;
– gaining visibility of the industry to both consumers and design professionals and raising awareness of the lifestyle benefits to the homeowner. This is being done through advertising, PR, the Awards programme, exhibiting at consumer and design professional events, and also through our Recommended Wiring Guidelines, which has been distributed to over 10,000 people.

As we move into the second half of 2014, what are the greatest challenges facing CI professionals at this time?

There are a number of challenges, some of which CEDIA can and are addressing, but some are beyond our capability, such as workloads versus time. During the recession a number of companies made the decision to reduce their overheads, mainly through restructuring their staff. As business has started to increase again companies are having to re-assess their staffing levels and need to gain access to qualified people. CEDIA is a route to bring new people into the industry, provide them with education [and serve as] a platform for members to access these people.

In addition, we are seeing a transition from integrators being seen as a solutions provider to a service provider, which does enable a lot of companies to instigate maintenance contracts with clients, but the reality is that integrators need to be charging rates that reflect us as professionals rather than relying on margins on products.

Finally, what is the latest news on other CEDIA Region 1 initiatives?

One of the big initiatives we have undertaken recently is the introduction of the ECS cards, which recognises Home Technology Integrators as a profession with the JIB (Joint Industry Board) alongside other professions in the construction centre. As part of this initiative, CEDIA has become a qualified Heath & Safety Assessment centre, allowing us to address the increasing pressure our members [face] to ensure their staff are properly trained to go on site and also have the necessary identification cards. Frequently these days we get phone calls from members who have been refused access to building sites due to not having a CSCS or ECS card, and this is only going to become more relevant as insurance companies define the pre-requisites for site access.

We are also continuing our efforts to align our education with current QCFs and gain a nationally recognised qualification for our industry.

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