Long gone are the days of corporate AV that consisted of just a projector or TV clumsily sitting on a rolling cart (a la 20-30 years ago), or when AV was looked at only as a luxury commodity (a la 10-15 years ago). In today’s corporate environments integrated AV systems are not only just as essential as a telephone, but the realization of how much they improve efficiency in both business operations and travel expenses further justifies that they are now considered “no-brainer” investments. Therefore, making sure you find the right AV integrator to partner with is just as important as the technology you are equipping in your conference rooms. Here are a few key factors to take into consideration when vetting some out:
Are you a small local business, a global enterprise, or something in between? Where you fall on this scale doesn’t necessarily have to mirror the size of the AV Integrator you choose, but it could if your AV requirements expand out to regional, national, or global locations.
There are plenty of locally based integrators in every city that can easily satisfy the needs of smaller businesses that have offices established within a local proximity. But if you’re a medium to large sized organization that is spread out geographically, then it may be in your best interests to look at integrators that have a larger location footprint to match.
Complexity of AV Systems:
How sophisticated does your AV solution need to be? Whether it’s just a TV mounted on a wall or a complex touch controlled system with video conferencing capabilities, or maybe you don’t know and need the advice of a professional – you want to ensure the integrator you hire can meet the needs of your organization with the highest level of expertise.
Make sure to sit down with them and discuss their qualifications: years in service, pictures of past projects, client portfolio, testimonials, and how up to date they stay on training/certifications.
The industry standard for commercial AV is the CTS (Certified Technology Specialist) certification, which is offered by AVIXA – The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (formerly Infocomm). It sets a high bar for the technical skills, knowledge, and workmanship of anyone working in this trade. If your potential integrator is a big proponent of this certification (and having their staff qualified with it), then you will most likely be in good hands.
Business processes can be like DNA, everyone has one but no two are alike. So it is time well spent to make sure that both you and your potential integrator are on the same page with how each of you do business. This can really make or break the success of a project, especially the large scale ones.
Ask your potential integrators to clearly define what their lead times will be on all phases of your AV project – from design, to procurement, to install completion. You want to make sure they will have the resources available to meet the needs and deadlines of your organization.
If your business is currently experiencing physical growth (or one day will), then you will want to have this in mind if you are looking to make a long term relationship with an integrator. No one has an unlimited amount of resources, so choosing one now that can scale up in the future with your company’s volume and demands will save a lot of stress and missed deadlines later.
Service Support-SLA or T&M:
After your AV is installed, in use, and doing great things for your business – how can you ensure that it stays that way? Let’s face it, technology is far from perfect. And the more complex the system, the more potential points of failure exists.
An SLA (Service Level Agreement) will always provide a client with the best, most preferred services an integrator can offer. You purchase your coverage upfront in one lump sum for a set term (usually 1-3 years), and particular aspects of the services are defined – such as quality, responsiveness, turnaround, and device coverage. If your technology lives in a high demand/usage environment, then you will want to strongly consider this option.
T&M (Time & Materials) is based on a “pay per incident” basis. Rates, responsiveness, and turnaround times will always be more than with this option. But if your organizational needs don’t require the critical demands of an SLA, then having this coverage should be adequate.
Long Term Relationship:
Ultimately it’s in your business’ best interest to build a recurring relationship with an AV integrator. Not only will this get you better work, service, and rates over time, but it will allow for a more predictable flow of processes… and predictable always equals smoother.
So when you find an AV Integrator that you can align with on trust, service, value, expertise, and business goals – treat it as a partnership, not a “vendorship” – because in the end they will help you look like the hero.