“There can be change without progress, but not progress without change.”
Over the last three decades, despite the changes in the names and the faces of the AV “players” and the “play time” that they’ve had in the industry limelight, there has been very little innovation or change in the general structure or mode of operation in the majority of the business entities which make up AV. So if you were to look around at our AV industry—for the most part—we are still playing the same game.
Just think, since the beginning of modern AV time, our industry has been comprised of:
· Manufacturer’s Representatives
· AV Distributors
· AV System Integrators
· AV Consultants
· Rental & Staging Firms
· Media / Press
and more recently, but a significant addition……
· Independent Control Programmers
In each of these capacities, the players’ “roles” have remained virtually the same. Add to this the fact that many AV professionals still conduct business using business models from ten, twenty and thirty years ago. Why are we avoiding progress here when we know that in order to further our industry and develop and grow our businesses, we must continue to innovate and change?
We haven’t been completely stagnant and in some ways we have indeed changed. For starters, the industry itself has grown tremendously and the technology we embrace and deploy has greatly evolved. (Did you say 16mm film or 35mm slide projection for the museum?)
We have watched our trade association (InfoComm International) grow and become an internationally respected organization that has created better access to AV systems, services, and equipment just about everywhere in the world.
On the manufacturer side, we have also seen a number of changes.
In video, we have seen companies such as Sony's presence diminish in commercial AV, while companies such as NEC and Panasonic grew stronger. But where did Pioneer go and why? And where did Samsung, LG, and Optoma come from?
We have seen the “Big Three” — AMX, Crestron, and Extron evolve from much smaller companies and grow into industry giants as well as into each other’s business (although for awhile there AMX was evolving, became Panja, and is now back, even stronger).
In the projection screen world, we’ve seen little change and it’s still essentially Da-lite, Draper, DNP, and Stewart as the major players.
We’ve seen our share of mergers and watched Gentner disappear and emerge as ClearOne and ASPI Digital absorbed by Polycom. As you read this, Cisco is acquiring Tandberg and our two staple CODEC’s, Polycom & (Cisco) Tandberg have competitors such as LifeSize and Sony.
Okay, maybe here is some real change, and potentially a sign of things to come.
So what else has changed? We’ve seen AV System Integrators come and go. The MCSI attempt to take over the AV world fell apart and recently two of the largest AV System Integrators (AVI-SPL) emerge under one roof.
As for the larger AV consulting firms, they have remained more or less stable. Shen Milson Wilke (SMW) is still the largest firm with national / regional firms such as Acentech, Cerami, Sextant, & WaveGuide continuing to prosper and grow. Meanwhile, the larger M/E/P and Telecom firms have picked up in-house AV consulting in order to expand their services and meet the needs of clients. We’ve even seen architectural firms such as RTKL join the ranks as AV consultants.
Finally, our processes for AV projects also has remained nearly the same for Consultant Led Design Bid and Design / Build and the path for procuring equipment, assembly and installation by the AV Systems Integrator are unchanged (aside from modernization of methods).
Hmmmmmmmm..... It just doesn’t make sense that the model of an industry (particularly a high-tech industry such as AV) still looks very much the same as it did three decades ago. I’m not sure what or how, but it would seem the AV industry must evolve in order to continue to exist and grow.
Perhaps Cisco absorbing Tandberg may be the start of this change – for good or bad. It’s very possible this sort of merger and the push in the IT world for Unified Communication Services will push to evolve AV more into the IT model. Also for consideration will be our growth within Building Information Management Systems (BIMS) and access to the “cloud.” Both should open our AV world up and give us the opportunity to expand our presence into other non-traditional AV industries and despite ourselves – grow!
A change in the AV industry structure will affect or possibly dictate how AV systems are procured by end-users. This will have a ripple effect. As this change occurs, AV Consultants, System Integrators and equipment Manufacturer will also have to change their business approach, the services they provide, how they provide them and how they market their services in order to fit into the new business structure which will ultimately evolve. Lines as we know them today will be crossed.
Keep your eyes open – it could happen fast or slowly – but it just doesn’t make sense for change and evolution to NOT occur.“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.”
- Alvin Toffler
Are you ready for the invasion?Christopher Maione, CTS-D, is president of Christopher Maione Associates, a firm specializing in all aspects of AV business, technologies, emerging trends, and marketing strategy. He also serves as an Infocomm Adjunct Faculty, Approved CTS RU Provider, and sits on several AV standards committees. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org