If You Only Read 8 Articles in 2015 …

Need to get caught up on the best of Commercial Integrator in 2015? These eight articles are enough.

2015 was the year of the Microsoft Surface Hub. It was the year of many acquisitions and a few sad goodbyes to fellow AV industry members. It was the year the FCC had something to say on net neutrality.

But that’s just news. The real stuff is in the columns that followed each news story by delving deeper into the issue and asking what it means for integrators. That’s because these issues aren’t unique to 2015; oftentimes they represent ongoing questions that will continue to plague integrators well into the new year.

So as 2015 comes to a close and you begin to plan the direction of your business over the next year, take another look at these eight CI articles from the past 12 months. They just might provide a good jumping-off point to start thinking about the many ways you and your business can grow in 2016.

On Being Part of the Solution

“One thing I admire about the integrators and consultants that comprise the commercial integration industry is that they have the ability to play a role in potentially preventing tragedies like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” writes CI editor Tom LeBlanc.

You might think that mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) solutions are more in sync with what security integrators offer, but the reality is that AV integrators can play a big role, even if they don’t focus on security. The SIA Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), created by NSCA and the Security Industry Association, is one of the many ways integrators can be a part of the solution.

Read it here.

On Making Changes

“How many articles have you read discussing the importance of IT in the AV world?” asks CI columnist Josh Srago. You’re officially out of excuses for not preparing your firm for AV/IT convergence.

Luckily, Srago has compiled the resources, best practices and a few important tips in this must-read column from 2015.

Read it here.

On What You Bring Home With You

The 2016 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference (BLC) is coming up this February 25-27 in Dallas, Texas. For those who missed the conference last year, CI columnist Tim Albright highlights three lessons he took home from last year’s BLC.

Albright discusses how the best leaders make everyone smarter, a lesson he learned from speaker Liz Wiseman, and how NSCA always seems to host a “networking nirvana” at its annual events. There’s still time to sign up for this year’s conference.

Read it here.

On Consumer AV for Commercial Projects … Yay or Nay?

More and more integrators these days are ignoring conventional wisdom and the threat of shortened product warranties to save a few bucks for themselves and clients with consumer products in commercial settings. However, many integrators are saying “no way” to this growing practice.

CI editor-at-large Craig MacCormack asks integrators like CCS Presentation Systems, JD Systems and CompView their thoughts on whether consumer products are OK to use in commercial installations. In a few more years, could your new competitors be TV salesmen at Target or Walmart?

Read it here.

On Opportunities Not Taken

In early 2015, InfoComm International launched a new grant program aimed at introducing students to the AV systems integration business. And while many integrators talk about how important it is to educate young people about the industry and how hard it can be to recruit new talent, when the ICIF program officially launched only five InfoComm members took advantage of the opportunity.

That’s why CI editor-at-large Craig MacCormack says, “Kudos to InfoComm, Shame On It’s Members” in this must-read article about a program that (seemingly) gives integrators everything they say they need to survive in the future.

Read it here.

On the Commoditization of AV

A recent panel at NSCA’s Integration Business Survival Conference & Technology Showcase addressed the reality of how commoditization of AV affects integrators, and the industry took a few minutes for a collective intervention.

“We’re not going to keep commoditization out of our playground. It’s not going to happen,” said Jay Paul of Biamp. It’s a harsh truth, one of six that came out of that panel, which CI editor Tom LeBlanc took note of in a follow-up column.

Read it here.

On Not Going Out of Business

It’s a tough time to be in the business of making money on audio-video product sales. Customers increasingly beat up dealers when it comes to already-thin margins on equipment. Many in the integration industry look to offset margin profits by simply charging more for service.

That, however, is an over-simplified and ineffective solution, according to panelists on the 5th Annual Integration Business Outlook Presented by CI & NSCA. What’s the right solution? LeBlanc highlights how margin and labor rate mistakes could put companies out of business.

Read it here.

On Getting Young People Excited About AV

Answers to a recent survey at the University of New Hampshire — Manchester revealed what college students really think of a career in AV. Some students were unsure of what AV really was (leading to some pretty funny answers) but others said they would be interested in pursuing such a career.

Specifically, one of the positive respondents wrote, “Yes, I would be interested in almost any career involving IT.” Another added, “That actually sounds pretty awesome.” Especially for an industry that has had some difficulty getting students and young professionals involved, this is a good sign for the future.

Read it here.