Insight from Labuskes: Economies of Scale Provide Integrators with Opportunities to Thrive

InfoComm’s executive director encourages integrators to capitalize on evolving solutions that create more ubiquitous demand.

Of course we’re going to have half-a-million square feet of solutions in Vegas [at InfoComm 2016]. I’m not trying to diminish that. It’s at the foundation. What makes AV magic isn’t the box. It’s the person. It’s the person that’s sitting and using the technology. I think by making it easier to install and reducing some of the customization of the mass use products there are a couple of things that are happening.

One is that it enables the integrators to move up the value chain. Two is it acknowledges and recognizes that the buyer himself or herself is different from who he or she was 10 years ago. Now the person that’s probably making those buying decisions is in an IT that department that’s used to buying standardized scalable solutions.

The point here is not to focus on the fact that now we can install huddle room solutions that are out of the box so we’re not going to have work. The point here is to look at the fact that buyers are buying thousands of these units instead of two for the CEO’s boardroom and the chair’s boardroom.

It’s my sense that some manufacturers don’t think AV integrators are coming along with them as they evolve, and some are marketing more directly to end users. How do you feel about when manufacturers market directly to end users?

LABUSKES: I think a significant, again universal, shift in the last decade is transparency and availability of information, right? It’s almost a cliché at this point on the amount of data and information that we’re creating in a one-year period compared to what was created and stored in a 100-year period previously. I think that the end users are hungry for information.

I think that educated end users are better customers for our integrators. I think that just as we’ve just talked about defining your value proposition to the business owner, every part of our value chain is constantly looking at and attempting to differentiate themselves with regards to the value they bring as part of a link in that chain.

If an integrator is seeing a manufacturer look directly to the end user then I as an integrator would ask, ‘Why?’ Then the second thing I would do is, once I understood the answer to that question is position myself to become indispensable to that manufacturer and to that end user.

I can’t comment on your suppositions with regards to manufacturers’ perceptions. I suspect [that] everybody has their own opinion about the quality of service that’s being provided. I’m sure it’s not homogenous. I’m sure that every manufacturer you’ve talked to, off the record has expressed some doubt about the capabilities of an integrator they’ve also probably in that same conversation held up examples of integrators that are excelling for them.

You can’t paint an entire stop along the value change by those types of comments. If you are, let’s take it with the glass half full.

As head of InfoComm you have a unique view of the industry. Is there anything you really wish all integrator InfoComm members would see that you see and react to?

LABUSKES: I don’t want to position myself as the wise old man sitting at the top of the mountain. I think people that are in the trenches probably deserve a lot more credit than I do in regards to being able to see and leverage opportunities. With that said I guess I’ll build on some of what I just said, that for every challenge there’s an opportunity. It sounds like a Boy Scout quote, right?

What I wished more people recognized was the opportunities being created by the level of ubiquity that AV has. Rather than your question focusing on, ‘Does the simple equipment create a threat?’ let’s look at the just massive investments that are being made in unified communications in collaborations, in digital signage, in telemedicine, in online education and remote education.

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You can’t go anywhere today without video signals and audio signals being reproduced in a commercial environment. The blending of the AV industry with the IT industry just gives us such huge opportunities. I’d love to see people recognizing those opportunities rather than lamenting the bygone days of everything being customized, everything being difficult and everything requiring the unique touch.

That state of the industry could never absorb the scale of growth and expansion that we’re underway with. Once we recognize that scale, then there are two things that happen. One is that the opportunities for the people that are already expert in regards to creating these experiences and providing these communication solutions are light years ahead of the IT integrators trying to come into the field.

Secondly what ends up happening is rather than trying to focus on how AV is more like IT we end up in a situation where AV is so exciting that you have these other tangential markets starting to try to redefine themselves as AV.