Hunkering Down

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In a time of shrinking technology budgets, it makes sense to re-assess your current technology investments.

We're all aware of the current situation with the U.S. and global economy. We've all been through recessions, but this one seems to be a bit more robust than previous economic downturns. Many companies are cutting costs, and maybe you've already had your technology budget dramatically slashed. If that is the case, here are a few tips that can help you weather the storm.

Tip # 1: Since you aren't procuring lots of equipment or in the midst of any large projects, use the time to update your inventory. Survey all of your AV assets and determine how long you can

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depend on them. Some facilities are used more than others, and some are more important than others. It may make sense to shift assets around to better please your user base. For example, if you have an old projector that you planned on replacing in the next fiscal quarter, it might be wiser to move a newer, already purchased projector from a room that is used less to the more important room.

Tip # 2: If you already have a service contract with an integrator, get them out to service all of the gear they are responsible for. Have them check projector lamp life, clean projector filters, adjust amplifier gain settings, and fine tune systems that otherwise may be neglected in a busy technology deployment environment. Maximize the efficiency of your technology assets so they last longer and perform better.

Tip # 3:
Get your existing systems onto some form of remote asset management system. For example, if you use Tandberg codecs, set them all up on the Tandberg Management System (TMS) so you can remotely administer and troubleshoot them. If you have modern control systems, they can be networked. This will allow you to oversee and troubleshoot more AV-related assets with far fewer "boots on the ground." Most of these software platforms are inexpensive or, in some cases, free. In these tough times, if your company is in a hiring freeze, use the network and software as a "force multiplier."

Tip # 4: There are some costs that can't be avoided. For example projector lamps inevitably expire and burn out. For consumable items, spend a bit more time to find the best deal possible and buy in bulk. If you've already implemented Tip #1, you should have enough data to know roughly how long each consumable item will last. Thus you can make a bulk buy and please the increasingly nervous bean counters upstairs by saying something along the lines of, "Oh we won't need that money next quarter because we were able to procure extra this quarter at a discounted rate." You'll probably be hailed as a hero!

Tip # 5: If you have any projects that were put on hold in the middle of construction, take a look at the possible delays and determine how much (if any) of the equipment has already been procured by an integrator. If you were using a consultant, have him physically verify the procurement status. If certain items haven't arrived, and you can avoid paying restocking fees, send them back. Verification of order status is very important though, because many integrators will simply tell you, "Oh yeah, it's all here, already in our warehouse," when in fact it may not be - as they collect imaginary restocking fees.

Tip # 6: If your department has time on its hands, you can send some of your staff to training programs that oftentimes are offered by manufacturers for free. Extron's S3 technical institute immediately comes to mind (www.extron.com/education). Their programs are world class and can teach your staff everything they need to know to outsmart any vendor, how to easily troubleshoot most systems, and what to look for when problems arise. If your staff has a background in IT, why not bring them up to speed on AVrelated practices? It will likely save you many costly service calls.

Tip # 7: Open your doors to representatives from manufacturers to come in and show you their newest technologies. This is a good way to get a view of new gadgets as they become available. It will allow you to better plan and budget for future procurements once this storm has passed, and also allow you to directly provide feedback to manufacturers. If you've had problems with certain products and would like to point them out, this is your chance to do so. If your users find something they need to complain about, you can say, "We know about the bad button, in fact we told that company about it and they are working on a fix for it on their production line right now!"

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 at joseph.dangelo@cmsalter.com.

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