Programming vs Configuring AV Systems: It’s Like a Good Cup of Coffee

Published: October 27, 2017

You don’t have to be a coffee snob to realize that a drip machine or pour-over probably produces a better-quality cup than an instant coffee machine or “just add water” grounds. But both have a place in most caffeinated individuals’ lives. The same can be said for programming vs configuring in AV systems.

That’s according to Steve Greenblatt, President of Control Concepts, who recently presented at SYMCO Showcase in Boston, Mass.[related]

Greenblatt says it’s a common conversation in AV design — that is, the programming vs configuring debate, not preferred brewing methods.

“The world can support both kinds of solutions. We need to see this as an opportunity,” he contended during a SYMCO Showcase presentation.

Programming vs Configuring: Just Two Different Brews

Configuration is driven by manufacturers, Greenblatt says, because it helps them sell more. To them, programmers cost money, are hard to come by, and have difficult skill sets, so pre-configuring is the answer. End users, however, want to be more hands-on (everybody likes their coffee a certain way).

Configuring AV systems only accomplishes simple tasks (think Keurig machines). It may not be the best, handcrafted cup, but it will work and, importantly, work simply. Programming, on the other hand, is a more complicated process but yields a highly detailed and custom-tailored result (pour-over coffee is finicky but customizable).

Greenblatt asked his mostly-integrator audience to come up with adjectives for each, and this is what they came up with:

  • Programming: flexible, unlimited capability, complicated, expensive, modifiable and scalable, time-consuming
  • Configuring: quicker, limited, not easy to change or scale, can be tedious, becomes more difficult for complex needs

What Works with Configured AV Systems

  • direct functionality
  • limited dependency on logic
  • smaller systems
  • use of approved hardware
  • client understanding of limitations
  • clear understanding of capabilities vs needs

The Importance of Programmers

  • they understand what works based on experience
  • think through possible solutions
  • able to define functionality of a system
  • identify issues before they become problems
  • able to troubleshoot

So while these forms of AV systems are totally divergent, they do converge on one point: neither is always bad. Greenblatt proved this with a simple diagram, noting that programming gains value only by becoming more complex; whereas configuring gains value where it is least complex.

Which Option Works Best for Your AV System Design?

Greenblatt offers some simple steps for integrators to take before deciding between configuring and programming AV systems.

  1. Evaluate the equipment list – Are modules and drivers available for all devices? If not, avoid configuration
  2. Identify desired functionality
  3. Determine client expectations – Systems change often, so client must be aware of what will work in the future – what works for config today might not next year. Do they want it low-cost or future-proof? Will they need to add much more in the future? If so, choose programming.
  4. Evaluate how often AV system design will change
  5. Assess level of customization – Write and sign a document which expresses the intended method (programming vs configuring) so that the client continually understands why you went with the AV system design choice.

Read next: How to Turn a Coffee Bar into a Video Collaboration Supernova

Remember: everyone likes their coffee a certain way, and likewise, each AV system design needs to be inherently different and customized. You need to educate all of your clients on the pros and cons of each.

Though many tend to think along the lines of programming, sometimes, a job can be completed simply. But configuration doesn’t always spell “inexpensive,” either.

Learn more about Greenblatt and the AVIXA CT RU program he offers.

Steve started his career in 1993 at Crestron Electronics as a Systems Engineer where he spent three years. In 1997, Steve’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start an independent programming company, an offering that was not yet mainstream. Over the years, Control Concepts has formed many long-term client relationships through the company’s development and implementation of AV control programming and software solutions for systems in boardrooms, conference rooms, and classrooms. 

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