There is a growing movement of end-user organizations looking to handle all or most of their AV needs in-house. Whether this is due to the results they have been receiving, their need to manage tighter budgets, or the requirements for more responsive support, many technology managers are building AV teams to do design, integration, programming, installation, and service—without the help of integrators.
In the past, end users were clients who would primarily rely upon integrators and consultants to satisfy their AV needs for equipment, design, installation, and service. However, as the demand for technology-equipped spaces has grown along with the challenges of having a disproportionate in-house support staff, technology managers require more flexible, responsive, and value-rich relationships from integrators, consultants, and service providers. Finding it difficult to have their needs met consistently by outside providers, many technology managers are turning to the alternative of “doing it themselves” to satisfy their needs.
State of the Relationship
Fast-forward a few years along this path, and the future of the AV industry will rest firmly in the hands of end-user organizations. Those AV firms who continue focus on transactional business and lead with hardware over service will be finding themselves on the outside of these opportunities.
While the rise in autonomy of end-user organizations is undeniable—and much of the industry is embracing and encouraging the skills development, knowledge, and influence of technology managers—plenty of opportunities still remain for professional AV resellers and service providers to serve this community of clients. The key lies in truly understanding end users’ needs and pain points while having the ability to craft solutions or services that provide value beyond what can be done internally. Simply put, if a client’s perception is that their level of knowledge or capability is as good or better than a paid expert, there’s not much of a future for that relationship.
Despite end-user organizations being equipped with the talent, facilities, and know-how to rival high-quality integrators, consultants, and service providers, it has proven very difficult for any one organization (professional firm or end-user user organization) to have in-depth expertise inallareas of the AV industry, due to the pace of technology advancement, the vast amount of knowledge and information, and the limited talent pool of AV professionals. Nobody in the industry, including end-user organizations, is immune to the challenges of managing AV projects or finding, developing, and maintaining the right selection and quantity of highly skilled professionals to effectively satisfy ever-fluctuating demands for service. Thus, the benefit of working with qualified experts to fill voids and address specific needs can be just what the doctor ordered.
This is not a new challenge nor is it unique to the AV industry. Using specialized service providers or consultants is something that all organizations do to address unique, specific, or niche needs that they don’t have expertise or availability to handle in-house, or feel would be better serviced by an outside resource for reasons of efficiency, cost, or quality.
Enter AV Specialists
Specialty firms have existed for years focusing on serving aspects of the industry that are in high demand or require specific in-depth knowledge or skills. These include design, drafting, project management, installation, control programming, audio configuration and tuning, field engineering and commissioning, documentation, training, and so on.
AV specialists are more than just subcontractors or freelancers; many represent established businesses that are forward thinking, maintain top-level knowledge and certifications, and can help clients in more ways than simply serving as a hired gun.
As end-user organizations continue to evolve and develop in-house AV teams, significant benefit can be found in looking to AV specialists to fill in the gaps, supplement the knowledge, provide added capacity during high demand times, tackle projects with unique complexity or size, and address the niche needs that may not be easily met by an in-house team that is built to address routine projects and everyday demands. AV specialists are familiar with playing this role and have the versatility to adapt to varied situations and needs. The majority of AV specialists have served in this capacity for integrators that face similar situations of expanded needs, so the adjustment to serving an end user with an in-house team will be an easy transition.
Aside from the obvious value in simply addressing outstanding needs of a project or being called upon to resolve a specific situation, some AV specialists can also be hired to help end-user organizations strengthen and grow their in-house team. Through consultation, training, education, and ongoing support, AV specialists should be looked at as a valued resource for end users looking to become even more self-sufficient.
With the influence of the Gig Economy, the days of feeling shameful about using independent service providers or freelancers are long gone. Many entrepreneurs have built highly valuable businesses on the shoulders of partnerships with niche specialists that all contribute to executing business offerings. The benefits of this model can be validated by the success of outsourcing and freelancing websites such as Upwork and Fiverr. As end users continue on the path of independence and empowerment, calling upon industry experts to either help them through the twists and turns of projects or expand their knowledge, capabilities, and skill set should be a highly regarded asset—or secret weapon.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.