There was a unique vibe in the air at the Harman Developers Conference held in Richardson, Texas, this past July. The topics of discussion were well beyond the typical hardware specifications, software requests, and programming tips. Instead there was a broad range of themes circulating the conference center from user experience to operational benefits vs. system features to AV software as a service (SAAS) to the adoption of mainstream programing languages.
Highlights also included interesting presentation topics surrounding the ideas of providing value rather than satisfying requirements, solving end users’ business needs, considering user-centric solutions, and applying agile software development techniques. It didn’t end there as topics on the impact of voice control, IoT, and automation on AV applications, among others, were also creating buzz.
The day and a half event also provided some enticing conversation regarding the future of the AV programmer. As the AV landscape faces transformation, such as the rise of huddle spaces, introduction of mainstream programming languages, and interjection of configured solutions, the role, skill set, and specialization of the AV programmer is evolving to maintain relevancy and sustainability.
One takeaway from the event is that it seems the days of a niche group of specialized AV programmers focused on isolated AV projects in proprietary languages is diminishing. In its place is the expanding concept of a community of software developers who adhere to best practices, create frameworks, collaborate in teams, and apply IT software techniques. The focus is now becoming one that is more centered around usability, problem solving, and client satisfaction instead of whiz bang tech features. It is this change in mindset that will keep the AV programming community flourishing while providing a promising outlook for the future of this trade.
No different from any other trade, there is a specialty associated with AV control system programming. The need to understand AV signal flow, device communication, system applications, successful solutions to user needs, and troubleshooting techniques is critical to the success of an AV programmer beyond writing code.
Furthermore, with the rise in adoption of the configuration solutions, the difficulty and value associated with AV programming runs the risk of being reduced which makes the need to educate the industry and clients about AV programmers that much more important.
Is it time for the “AV programmer” to establish a new identity? Perhaps the current term “AV programmer” is a misnomer. We might consider that a new name be given—one that better identifies and describes the value an AV programmer provides.
Is there a designation that more clearly exemplifies the experienced and qualified AV software developer of today? One that distinguishes those in the industry who are not fully trained and, or, simply lack proven skills, or from those who might be knowledgeable software developers, but come from a different sector and lack the understanding to solve clients’ needs and provide value to the AV industry. Harman, like some other manufacturers, provides an extensive training program to educate, develop, and validate the skill sets of those who work with their products. The company also provides a lot of supplemental opportunities to acquire practical AV industry knowledge. Programs like these would clearly not exist if software developers from outside the industry who simply know various languages could step in and be equally as effective as a veteran certified AV programmer.
So, what new term might more accurately describe the future AV programmer? Would it be AV control consultants? AV software developers? AV application developers?
But before we consider changing a name or title, we, the AV programmer community, need to take some time to reflect and consider what the future might bring and how we can continue to provide value.
As in other areas of business, there is an important phrase to consider "what got you to where you are will likely not get you to the next step of continued relevance, value, and prosperity." So, how can you take initiative and help propel your trade, your business, your brand, and the greater industry, forward? Below are a few ideas that can help anyone in the AV industry, or in any other area of business for that matter, assess, plan, and adapt for the future.
- Listening and responding to feedback, requests, and needs of users, technology managers, IT managers, and the C-suite is a key first step to understanding, and then adapting to changing environments.
- Participating in communities and forums, attending industry conferences (both technical and business related), investing in training (manufacturer-based and in general), and just thinking “outside the box” will also be vital to identifying the path to future accomplishments.
- Listening to industry podcasts such as those from AVNation or rAVe.
- Reading industry publications like Commercial Integrator, AV Technology, and Systems Contractor News.
- Getting involved with leading industry organizations, such as InfoComm, is one way to engage and network with the community as well as contribute to the industry.
- InfoComm’s Independent Programmers Council provides an opportunity for directing the future of the profession and establishing a collective voice for AV programmers while also networking, collaborating, and problem solving with other industry professionals. To join and obtain more information, visit: InfoComm International Councils’ Interest Form.
The AV industry is one of tremendous growth and opportunity. Now is the time to take the next step and help lead a collective effort toward investing in your own future, as well as the future of the AV programmer.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, Inc., a leading provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry, based in Fair Lawn, NJ. Steve is currently a member of the InfoComm Leadership Search Committee and has served on the InfoComm Independent Programmers Council, Audiovisual Systems Energy Management Performance Task Force, and AV Systems Implementation Best Practices Task Force, and co-authored the white paper Modern Approaches to Control Systems Design.