Top 20 Higher Ed Market Integrators of 2016

These innovative, market-leading firms offer advice on how to stay at the forefront of this sophisticated vertical.

AVI-SPL is hosting a series of customer-facing “Technology Day” events at its regional offices throughout 2016 at which I’m thrilled to get a chance to present. I’m always interested to know what motivates professionals to leave their office for a day, so I like to turn the tables and get the audience to discuss some of their challenges.

My expectation going in was that most of the attendees would be from corporate market customers, but I’m finding that almost as many represent universities. It’s also clear that the university IT and technical staff members are the ones with the most probing, action-oriented questions.

After all, there are few markets in which technology is moving as quickly as in higher education. Meanwhile, no market’s customers have higher expectations, in my opinion, than the 18- to 22-year-old students and engaged professors have for their user experiences.

Collaboration is often thought of as a corporate application, but walk through any college campus. You’ll find students sitting on the lawn, huddled in student unions, gathering wherever food is sold … gathered around a phone.

In many cases, they’re just watching something from SnapChat, but they’re also often collaborating about something related to their studies. In Red Thread‘s Boston office the integration firm uses a chameleon-like training facility that enables collaboration formats internally, but also serves to showcase evolving classroom formats to visiting higher education customers.

Whitlock cites collaborative learning and streaming as among its biggest focuses in the higher education market. Students expect to be able to collaborate with a screen and they bring those expectations to the classroom or lecture hall. Speaking of those physical lecture halls, they have a much different role than they once did.

It’s increasingly important for higher education integration customers to stream classroom content and secure classroom capture solutions. Alpha Video & Audio is a firm that leverages its strength in providing broadcast solutions to customers in other markets by solving higher education’s evolving video needs.

Synergy Media is another example of a firm that brings tools that are important in other markets to help it solve university customers’ needs. “In higher education, we’ve focused on innovation centers and distance learning facilities,” says Bill McIntosh.

“In the corporate space, we’ve found a niche in fast-growth tech companies that are very similar to the innovation centers we’ve been completed for universities. The ability to cross-pollinate between higher education and corporations looking to attract young talent has allowed us to successfully service both markets.”

Additionally, universities are understandably focused on their mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) strategies. Being a higher education integration firm requires being a jack of all trades, but one that provides specialized services in each one of those trades, says Tim Czyzak, iVideo.

“We’ve developed a service offering in the higher education market where clients are recognizing that our company has an ingrained knowledge base for that market.”

Southtown Audio Video isn’t a large firm but it benefits from the focus that is so essential in the higher education market. “Our strongest market is higher education as we have the largest state school within 30 miles from our location,” says Heather Sidorowicz.

“This provides us the opportunity to be hands on to provide the client with the right solutions. We are all about relationships.” Those relationships are extremely important, adds IMS Technology Services‘ Michael Shinn. “Our sales strategy is highly customer-focused. We take a complete design-build approach where we take on complete accountability for our design work and are the single point of coordination for all trades and customer. This minimizes or eliminates costly change orders.”

Check out the complete report: Meet the 2016 CI Industry Leaders