As employing audiovisual technology gains favor, more and more large companies with global footprints are realizing that a standardized approach makes sense. It simplifies system usage for employees, streamlines service and support, and can save money. But developing and implementing a global standard with regard to AV technology is easier said than done.
While it may seem a biased recommendation coming from a consultant, most professionals would agree that it's highly recommended to hire a consultant to guide you through this process. Consultants usually have no allegiance to any specific brand or product, they give you unbiased opinions, and will not give you more product than you need since they are not tied to commissions or quotas. For example, if you go direct to a design-build firm that is a Polycom dealer, you may never hear the benefits of using a Tandberg solution - or vice versa. It's the consultant's duty to put every applicable solution in front of you, educate you, and let you make the decision.
Product availability is another major consideration when developing a global standard. It's best to utilize products that are generally easy to procure in every major region of the world. For example if you select a brand new cutting-edge LCD product as a standard display device, you'll want to make sure it's compatible with 120 volts, 220 volts, 230 volts, and 240 volts, as well as 50 and 60 Hz electrical systems.
Unless your company can afford to fly and ship equipment all over the globe, chances are you will need to use several different AV integrators to deploy your shiny new standardized systems. But what happens if one integrator is a Sharp dealer and another is a Panasonic dealer? You surely can't prepare a standards document that caters to every integrator's line, and furthermore you don't want to spend countless hours reviewing possible substitutions. When preparing a standard system specification, don't specify a certain make or model; instead, specify a certain performance criteria.
There are, however, some areas where you shouldn't allow deviation and they are usually associated with how your users interface with your standardized systems. If you are using wallmounted control panel or keypad, use the same one everywhere. If you're using a touchpanelbased control system, the interface should always be the same for every room. In fact, it may be worth spending some time and money with a professional design firm to develop a suitable interface specifically for your users.
With the recent development of AV networking technology, any global standardization should also feature some level of connection to your company's WAN or global network. This will allow you to offer users remote help desk support, system monitoring, room scheduling, and remote software upgrades. Adding these capabilities to your company's network can be a challenge, and I have found that every implementation is different.
Upgrading systems should also be done in an organized and well-planned manner. Furthermore, it should be done if possible in one giant effort, by location. Each system type should be upgraded only when needed, and probably no more than once every few years. You will want to avoid having three types of "type A" systems at three locations. It's recommended that you upgrade your systems in three-year cycles. For example, imagine a "small conference room" standard that features a 1024 x 768 projector with a 4:3 image aspect ratio, and you have procured and deployed this system last year. Year one usually consists of implementation of a standard system type, year two consists of general usage and support, and year three consists of research for possible upgrades, a trip to InfoComm, and the documentation associated with your upgrades. Once a system is upgraded, you should use some standard naming convention to track the system type such as "small conference room block II" and so forth. This way you will always know what equipment, capability, and level of cost involved with each system type.
Another very necessary component of any well-standardized strategy is documentation. You must require all contractors, integrators, and consultants to provide documentation in a standardized format. In fact, this is so important that the instructions for this should be carefully planned right down to the font, filename, drawing style, and paper size. If you have good documentation, then no matter where any of your staff goes, they know how, what, when, and where to get the information they need to solve a problem.
Undoubtedly, there are other things to consider when partaking in this endeavor that may be specific to your organization's own internal practices. Additionally, there are many more things to consider when standardizing your AV systems on a global scale, and this article only touches briefly on just some of the more important items. However, if your company is committed to doing it right, following these guidelines will help you successfully implement your global standards.
Joey D'Angelo is a principal consultant with Charles M. Salter Associates in San Francisco, CA, and specializes in AV/telecommunication systems. Joey is also a musician in a punk rock band where he plays guitar and performs lead vocals. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.