Writing an Audio Technology RFP
As networking with regards to AV has become far more main stream, it is important to have plenty of information on your network. The integrator will want to know where each network rack room is, and whether or not in-house IT has agreed to have AV on the same network. Oftentimes, IT will be less than welcoming of AV on their network depending on the bandwidth they have available.
It would be good, while discussing this, to consider what AV may be traveling over the network. If using AVB devices to transport audio, then all the switches would most likely need to be changed to AVB-compliant switches. If the organization determines that they will not allow the AV gear to be on the same network, then it would be up to the consultant or integrator to come up with a stand-alone network. Distances between IT rack locations and rooms are an important thing to know if the AV is to tie into the same network.
Consider issues with the current systems you are using. If you are familiar with using a particular audio system it’s important it are addressed for future projects. Express how the system will be used, and by who. Will the system require local sound lift/reinforcement? Will it only be for far-end conference calls? What type of control do you desire for operation? Do you want a wall-mounted controller, table top dialer, wired or wireless touchscreen, or tablet control? Is there need for the audio to be recorded?
Budget is a tough to address, but best to give a ballpark. It is often hard to give a precise number. It is typically best to express the maximum dollar amount you are willing to spend on the project. This helps an integrator drive the design. With regards to budget, it is also important to provide the key features and functionality that you will not live without, so respondents are sure to include those features within the given budget.
It is important for the installer to know what days and times the space is available for work. In some spaces, the installer would only be allowed to work within the space after-hours. So it is crucial to understand the days and times, and what those limitations may be. If not discussed prior to the start of the project, if overlooked, this could cause many issues.
The installer should determine how much time the project will require to install. If the integrator will be allowed to work within the space during work-business hours, they can find out when the space is being used and work around it. If available only after-hours, then this isn’t applicable.
It is important for the installer to find out if there are any other limitations, such as areas they can and cannot access. If high-reach equipment is provided, it is important for the integrator to factor in whether or not they can drive this equipment over the flooring, or if plywood or other materials are required in order to protect the floor from the hard wheels of high-reach type equipment. The integrator should know where equipment and product can be loaded and unloaded and if there are any restrictions.
The integrator should know the physical space, and have a plan of where cabling should be pulled through, and where each piece of the system will be installed. If conduit is already in place, it’s very important that they ensure there is adequate space in existing conduits for their system wiring. If not, the installer will need to make sure that new conduit is installed for this AV wiring. The integrator should know where certain items (such as ceiling speakers) can and cannot be installed.
It’s important to call out specific products if you have determined them to be useful or imperative to your use of the system. Being as descriptive as possible with regards to how the system will be turned on, operated, and turned off will also ensure a good solution.
Include as much information, addressing as many needs, as is possible. The more information, the better. Share exactly what you want the system to do, and how you want it to operate. This will drive a better RFP.
The Implementation Process
The length of time to install audio solutions can vary greatly, and will depend upon the facility, the location of the room, and many other factors.
Cable runs, conduit required for wiring, and the distance from the meeting room to the rack room where all of the equipment is kept can mean more or less time. Some rooms with smaller systems for this type of technology may end up taking only a few days to a week to install. Larger, more advanced systems could take several weeks to a month or more.
It’s important to make sure you are ready to go with the install prior to the start of the installation phase. It’s important that all equipment that requires programming are tested, and, if possible, programmed prior to the start of the project. This ensures that if there is a piece of gear that is DOA, you will know this prior to showing up on-site – before you rack it up and tie in cabling. In the long run, doing this prior will save time.
Create a checklist and make sure you have all the parts necessary to do the job, including bulk wire, connectors, conduit, equipment racks, etc. After the installation is complete, factor in time for on-site training, and minor tweaks and adjustments to the system after you begin using the technology.