Although there’s been national attention on the construction failings and last-minute and delayed installations at Wrigley Field in Chicago leading up to Opening Night 2015 of the Major League Baseball season, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only project that’s experienced some hiccups.
The lessons integrators and others can learn from the Wrigley Field situation, though, is deadlines are deadlines and clients expect them to be met. We just passed Easter Sunday, which many houses of worship look at as their Super Bowl. Imagine the consternation pastors and religious leaders would feel if an integrator was installing an audio system a few hours before Easter Mass was slated to begin.
“Part of the value you add as an integrator is to be able to manage these projects,” said Bradford Benn of Harman on a recent episode of AV Week. “It gets complicated with large projects because of all the layers involved.
“When you’re talking about Opening Day or Easter Sunday or whatever, those dates don’t change and there’s a lot of pressure on integrators. The thing is, don’t be an integrator who says yes if you can’t do it,” says Benn.
AV Week host Tim Albright of Innovad noted the Wrigley Field project has been plagued by union issues and other complications, including an order that no one works on the site in the late-night and early-morning hours, which is often prime time for AV systems integrators and other unions.
“There’s quiet work that can happen, especially in AV,” says Albright. “It’s not like they were tuning the sound system at 3 a.m.” Benn wondered if there’s an element of gamesmanship on the Wrigley job, noting some neighbors are fretting about losing sightlines from their rooftops because of the installation of video board in left field and one slated to be put up in right field by the All-Star break in July.
Watch the entire discussion from AV Week Episode 189 here or keep reading below.
Benn asked, “How is this project any different than any other one in the world?”
Harry Meade of CCS Presentation Systems notes, “You’re never going to be able to keep everyone happy. You know when you sign on to do Wrigley Field with a hard deadline, you’re going to have issues and people looking over your shoulder.”
Benn sees Wrigley Field as just a high-profile example of what happens on many projects, most of which don’t have media attention focused on them, like Innovad’s work at St. Louis University and others in the area, where Albright notes, “I don’t have Gawker Media writing about [our projects.]”
“What happens in a lot of projects is when it’s behind schedule, there’s a mentality of ‘I can start slipping,'” says Benn. “It takes a little bit of chutzpah to build $1 million worth of audio equipment and stage it in my shop. A lot of integrators don’t have the wherewithal, cash flow or guts to do that. You don’t start slowing down when the project slows down. It takes a lot of conversation to keep things going and know what’s happening.”
When projects slow down or run into problems, says Michael Drainer of Sennheiser, “the creative integrator looks at it as an opportunity instead of a demise. It’s about working with the trades and, in the end, both give a little bit.”
The bottom line, says Benn, is, “if the integrator doesn’t succeed, I don’t succeed. The problem is sometimes an integrator is purchased by price, not skill set.”
Meade agreed with Benn, noting, “we have to have the right people on the back end to make it work. If you can’t get service right, you’ll never get integration right.”
Meade cited an oft-noted statistic about how it’s crucial to hash out differences before a project begins rather than in the middle of it, saying, “something that takes an hour to fix before the project can take four or five hours in the field in the middle of the project. It compounds the time exponentially the longer you let things fester.
“We have to do the same thing as engineers that we ask salespeople to do. It’s not about the system we want to sell them; it’s about the solution we’re trying to provide. We aren’t just boxes. We have to go in there and show people they can do things better with a few changes,” says Meade.
Meade wonders why some manufacturers ask for so much information from integrators, saying that’s not always necessary to simply offer proof of concept.
“In some cases, it’s welcome, but in some others, there might be reasons why I’m using a particular manufacturer’s equipment,” he says.
Been notes he’s been guilty of using an integrator’s spec sheet as a sales tool, but hasn’t shopped the bid to other integrators, as others sometimes do. He stressed the importance of sharing budgets among all parties.
“If we don’t know the price target, we’re all just guessing,” he says.
Albright agreed communication helps all parties involved.
“If I can talk to an integrator beforehand, that’s the best customer service experience,” he says. “The end user just wants the problem fixed.”
Lighting is another key element of an AV installation, says Benn. The other panelists agreed, adding some colorful language to the discussion.
“If the lighting sucks, the room will look like crap,” says Albright. “That’s where our value comes in.”
“A camera aimed at a turd is still showing a turd,” says Meade.