TechTalk aims to pull together information from the experiences of professional AV services providers that can help enrich, strengthen, and empower technology mangers.
The idea of creating TechTalk was one that I have had for the past couple of years dating back to a series of distress calls I received from IT and AV technology mangers from corporate and educational institutions struggling with their existing systems and looking for a place to turn for guidance and support.
The calls became more frequent, throwing us, as AV programmers, into unfamiliar waters. Traditionally, independent programmers had been sub-contracted programmers hired by AV integrators to perform control system programming, a specific need served by an industry specialist. The relationships we built with technology managers and project managers over the course of an AV project made us comfortable doing more of what had, up to that point, been reserved for those who played strictly a supporting role. And while we had the capabilities to provide broader services, troubleshooting and long-term support, it was new to us – and to technology managers – that we could offer more than simply programming.
Technology manger requests ranged from specific needs like combating a system malfunction or failure, to general performance issues or operational difficulties. As the technology manager requests continued, rather than remaining fixed in our direction, my company, Control Concepts, decided to pivot and see how we can help technology managers directly, with support, consultation, and assistance.
Understanding Technology Managers and Understanding the System
In our initial discussions and discovery we found that many AV clients find themselves alone, unsupported, or stuck with a difficult situation after their project has been installed and, ostensibly, completed. Whether technology managers are unfamiliar with what they have, failed to get what they expected, didn't have a good experience, or inherited a complex system, they have a problem on their hands in need of resolution. It boils down to securing support for their users, needing to take responsibility for the outcome, and learning to make what they have work.
To address these needs on a daily basis, a technology manager must have a knowledge database that includes an understanding of the entire system and its components; the importance of programming source code and as-built drawings; basic troubleshooting techniques; and options to remedy difficulties without significant changes in hardware or wiring. Enter the AV solutions provider who is no longer "simply a third party programmer," but rather a resource to guide the technology manager through system challenges. Beyond overcoming challenges – and this is an important piece to consider – the control system solutions provider comes in to the technology manager relationship with the intent of achieving a stable point by helping to identify the root of their current problems and discussing options for a resolution.
Although programming cannot solve all problems, poor programming, which often results from a misguided understanding of user needs, as well as a lack of knowledge of equipment capabilities, does create problems that lead to poor performance and bad user experience. The ability to make modifications, adjust certain system components, or if necessary, reprogram the system, can resolve many problems while working within the parameters of the existing system. Just as importantly, it resolves those problems in a way that is more efficient, more practical, less complicated, and more successful than replacing hardware or requiring significant installation.
Giving Technology Managers Programming Power
On another front, as needs have changed and manufacturers are supporting many technology managers directly, the opportunity for technology managers to learn to design, build, install, and program their own systems has become increasingly attainable and increasingly common. The motivation here is to control implementation and maintenance costs; to become more self-sufficient; to have more control of a project; and, ideally to gain better knowledge of the systems that technology managers ultimately need to support.
What once was a significant hurdle has now become easier to achieve though access to training, simplification of programming or configuration tools, and the all-in-one solutions that manufacturers provide. This is not to say that all design and programming needs can be tackled easily, but having the experience and knowledge and having the opportunity to handle certain types of systems has empowered technology managers to become more autonomous.
A Community Technology Managers Deserve
With knowledge, experience and responsibility for end user needs and user experience, technology managers deserve a community built around support, knowledge sharing, and education. Meet TechTalk. We are a community that supports technology managers in their quest for knowledge, understanding, and solutions sharing. Our aim is to help pull together information from the experiences of professional AV services providers that can help enrich, strengthen, and empower technology managers.
TechTalk will provide a combination of in-person and online learning materials that offer insight for technology managers on design ideas, application consideration, programming approaches, troubleshooting techniques, industry best practices and tips and tricks that won’t be found from any other single industry resource. Best of all, the opportunity to problem solve, learn from others’ experiences, avoid pitfalls and mistakes, and have the support of peers will be a cornerstone of the community.
If you are attending InfoComm14 in Las Vegas, be sure to sign up for our inaugural event taking place on Tuesday June 17 at 5:30pm at Gordon Biersch. If you would like more information about this and future TechTalk activities, please follow TechTalk on Twitter and Facebook or contact Julie Lake directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The technology manager community is an important part of our industry and we look forward to continuing to provide support and serve its needs in many ways!