by Joey D'Angelo
The most critical phase of an AV project is its completion.
The perceived long-term success of an AV project often depends on the how the final stages of it are handled. Whether your project consists of a single room or an entire new building with 75 AV-enabled conference rooms, you have to think about how to "complete" the project. I've seen many companies get themselves caught in an endless loop with their AV integrator when the project is 95 percent complete.
The AV integrator is the last trade to be present on a jobsite, and is therefore subject to the accumulation of delays usually imposed by every other trade that preceded them. You have to look out for this phenomenon, expect it, plan for it, and manage expectations of those that are looking to you to deliver a successful project. If you don't, you will find yourself trying to schedule time for an AV integrator to complete their work around a group of impatient users. Work gets done piecemeal, users try to use the uncompleted systems, and you will find yourself in a classic endless AV loop.
Once you have avoided the endless loop, you need to think about testing the systems and developing a punchlist for your AV integrator. Over the last 10 years, I've worked on over 170 projects, and only twice have I had an AV integrator deliver a flawless system. Bottom line, you absolutely must test your new systems before you let an AV integrator leave. I could write a whole article on how to properly test a new AV system, but here are some general, non-technical guidelines:
Look at the wiring. Observe the cable management and terminations in ceilings, under tables, in lecterns, and, most important, in the back of any equipment racks. All cables should be cleanly managed, properly labeled, and secure.
Test every single source in your system and route their signals (both audio and video) to every single destination in the system. This includes any laptop inputs.
Push every single button on any controllers or touchpanels. Make sure that something happens.
Test the volume controls and muting functions of all sources, mic inputs, and near/far end audio or videoconference systems. This is very important because the first time you have a volume related problem, you will have a very upset, or very embarrassed, user!
If your systems include audio or videoconferencing, try to set up a number of different call configurations. It's impossible to predict all of the different scenarios your users might put an AV system in, but do your best to find them first.
When your testing is completed, take the time to tabulate the results and give this to your AV integrator in a simple to read format, or punchlist. Once this "punchlist" has been delivered to the AV integrator, it is their responsibility to correct any items that are on this list. You should not have to go back and recheck your checking work! If an integrator fails you here, it could seriously damage a working relationship.
ALL OF THE AV TECHNOLOGY YOU JUST PURCHASED WILL BE DIFFICULT TO OWN OVER ITS LIFECYCLE IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THE PROPER DOCUMENTATION.
An essential item that I often find myself putting on a punchlist is close-out documentation. No project is complete without it. All of the AV technology you just purchased will be difficult to own over its lifecycle if you do not have the proper documentation. This would include any custom software that was developed for your project, owner's manuals for every device, warranty information, and, most important, "as-built" documentation. "Asbuilt" documentation is a set of drawings of everything built, including functional diagrams. The functional diagrams should have every single wire labeled, and these should match 100 percent with what actually exists in your AV system. These as-built drawings are important because it will allow you to easily troubleshoot and upgrade your systems in the years to come.
A final thing to consider at the close of any project is one that many end-customers surprisingly forget about: support. Usually this is a prime opportunity for an AV integrator to try and sell you some call-center-based 24/7 remote management or help desk service. This may be right for your company, and, if you think it is, you should budget for it. However, you will need some level of local support for your users. If we are only talking about a few AV-enabled rooms, this support could very well be handled by your own efforts, but if we are talking about a larger quantity of rooms, you will require more support. No matter how simple you make the systems, there will always be users who can't figure it out. Support them by planning for it early on. Have someone who can assist with getting a presentation up on a projector, someone who can arrange a room for various types of meetings, and someone who can help with an audio or a video call.
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 email@example.com.