By Phil Catchpole
As the lines between digital signage and traditional audiovisual (AV) technologies blur, they continue to share the common need for physical installation services, referred to here, as the “mechanics” of an installation. A better understanding of the strategies, processes, and management procedures in the mechanics of an AV installation, whether it be digital signage or a more traditional presentation type solution, will greatly improve the quality of the installation and the journey getting there.
The mechanics not only include the components, such as hardware and software, but also system design, procurement, physical installation, project management services and, above all else, people. All AV installations involve the need for a good team. All too often, an installation team is summarized as the customer and an AV reseller. However, the truth is it is rarely a one-stop shop experience. Installation partners often include electricians, general contractors, information technology (IT) specialists, architects, and engineering firms, many of whom are not on an AV reseller’s team. That said, all of these partners need to work together.
The right AV reseller
Though the AV reseller is only one of the team members, this person typically plays a key role. For instance, they not only provide the majority of the mechanics, but also typically act as a sounding board for the customer when flushing out the project’s vision. Excluding the customer, the AV reseller likely knows the goals and understands the vision better than any other team member. That said, how does one identify the right AV reseller for a particular AV project? Although not a guarantee, considering some, if not all, of the criteria below can help.
• Experience—ask for references and past project examples that are similar to the current project. Examine their credentials, ask questions, and verify they have the necessary knowledge and skills to undertake the project.
• Team player—an AV reseller will be part of a team. Whether that means leading or following, he/she is a valuable asset to any project installation.
• Responsive—do they show up on time and come equipped with the right information? Do they reply to questions and tasks in a timely manner? Problems during the selection process should be a red flag when it comes to future problems.
• Innovative—all AV installations should include solutions using current technologies, take advantage of the unique environment of the project, and examine more than one way to achieve the goal. Thinking outside the box helps build a better mousetrap.
• Fiscally responsible—the cheapest price is not fiscal responsibility! Finding solutions that take advantage of alternate components, unique site assets, or taking advantage of manufacturer’s promotions—such as volume discounts—is fiscal responsibility. All costs need to be presented in writing to minimize “price creep.”
• Clarity—often, AV projects include technology that many people have little knowledge of or experience with. Having an AV reseller who can articulate “tech speak” into “non-tech speak” can be important in conversations with all team members. If one does not know what they are getting for his/her money it is important to ask for clarity!
Having a plan and sticking to it
Like any system, an AV installation needs to start with a plan—no matter how simple a project is. Making a plan and sticking to it avoids problems such as budget creep, compatibility, or delays. Everyone on the team should be aware of the plan and know what procedures to take should it need to be changed.